Posted by: nestaquin | August 9, 2009

Ashes 2009: Quick Quibbles

barmyarmyRicky Ponting

The next Test at The Oval will more than likely be the Australian captain’s final Test in England. He won’t receive the send-off he deserves from the London crowd or ECB administrators and that reflects very poorly on English cricket as a whole. In his last Test in India, where he is also routinely feared and despised, the Nagpur crowd rose as one to give him a standing ovation on the final day. Unlike your average English supporter of today, the Indian public generally understand and respect the history and traditions of the ancient game.

The BCCI also thanked him publicly and personally for visiting their country at the presentation of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and the relationship between Australia and India is stronger because of it.

He is the most successful leader in the annals of cricket and unarguably one of its finest warriors with the willow. His innings in this Test at Leeds was yet another excellent example of why he is a true great of the modern era. On a seaming bouncy pitch with the new ball swinging both ways he boldly attacked the bowling completely destroying the opposition’s lines, lengths, confidence and plans. It was an audacious knock in the circumstances and one that few in England will ever appreciate because of their collective blind hatred of a man that always puts the team and BaggyGreen above himself.

Jimmy Anderson

In contrast, Jimmy Anderson appears more concerned about his run of innings without ducks than the overall success of his team. In the first innings he tweaked his hamstring by sprinting for a near suicidal single to get off the mark and yesterday, when sent in as nightwatchman, he did the same only to expose Cook and Prior to Johnson’s final over. Selfish doesn’t even begin to describe his actions.

England Selection

I’ve read many times in the last couple of days about England’s positive selection in this Test. Apparently choosing five bowlers was an attacking option but as the scorecard clearly shows it was a terrible decision. Bowlers need something to defend and by weakening their already tissue-thin batting they virtually sealed their own fate before a ball was bowled.

Ravi Bopara and Ian Bell

Is there a reasonable argument why either of them should be retained for the final Test?

Day Three

Although in a completely hopeless position what is left of the England batting need to show some fight and make Australia earn their victory. Unless something truly remarkable happens Australia now effectively lead the series – if you believe otherwise you don’t really understand the system – and England need every bit of confidence they can muster before the final Test.

Australia won’t be playing for a draw at The Oval for the fate of the Mace depends on the result,  so if they can regroup, England will have opportunity to redeem themselves.


  1. It really was a sensational innings by Punter and indeed by the Captain. Well supported by a very straight and watchful Watson too.

    The booing etc hadn;t bothered me (not that that matters) until he reached 50 in that knock and it very surprisingly and poorly came out (mixed with applause). l don;t recall too many boos at someone reaching 50 before let alone such a crucial and fine one.

    Anderson doesn;t look fit to me this test at all after bowling very well previously. l’d be more worried about Broads histrionic tendency to sledge his teammates. Much food for thought for him in this series that could make him a much better player (or not).

    Bopara looked loose and lucky in the First Test and it remains his top score. Lack of concentration. Would be a concern striding out at 5 or 6 with runs on the board though. Front-runner.

    IF ENG get talisman Fred back and Anderson is fit they will have a swing at AUS at the Oval. They must solidify their batting though. Strauss is far too monumental a wicket in this line up.

  2. Bell and Harmison….

  3. I have seen varying comments on the Anderson single. I recall Mark Taylor batting with a nightwatchman and causing a run-out (through a poor judge of a single, not deliberately, of course) to keep the nightwatchman off strike. The logic being that the nightwatchman protects the next batsman, not the batsman who’s already got his eye in. The commentators at the time said that it was in contrast to the English approach to nightwatchmen, which was to keep the set batsman off strike.

  4. I don’t understand nightwatchmen at all, unless they are taking the strike in the last over when a wicket brings Stumps. I suspect Dave has a point and nobody would hve noticed had England been 343 ahead.

    Inexperienced sides have poor days, even matches. After the 51 debacle in the West Indies, England played some very good cricket in the rest of the series – they may well do so at The Oval, they may well not do so.

    Bell out: Ravi one last chance, mainly because there are few alternatives.

    I’ll be amazed if Punter does not get a standing ovation at The Oval. There’ll be a few boos mixed in, but very few I suggest. We’ll see if my countrymen repay my faith, but remember that the cameras can pretty much show what they want, depending on what story they want to show.

  5. England played poorly because they were made to not because they are hopeless. Australia played expert Test cricket and England had neither the resolve or the technical skill to stand toe-to-toe.

    When bowling, Hilf and Clark bowled from one end searching for the top of off with every delivery. It was relentless and hardly a bad ball was bowled. At the other end Siddle and MJ bowled with menace and there was just no relief for any of the batsman.

    Similarly, when batting Australia used one batsman as a foil for the other. North and Watson played straight and cautiously rotating the strike at every opportunity while Ponting and Clarke unleashed their strokes.

    It was glorious Test match cricket and now that Australia have found their groove they’ll be just as good next Test.

    England need to improve because I doubt Australia will fall too far from the standard they’ve worked hard all series to achieve.

    At the moment it appears that it is Strauss out, all out. He needs some support because as we all know that when the BaggyGreens smell blood they have all the mercy of a hungry Great White.

  6. Anyone else see this from Justin Langer?!

  7. no mercy, nesta… . never in my wildest dreams did I expect to see Harmison bowling again in the Ashes, but here we are, you wouldn’t credit it, and I would like to see some Harmison blood shed.considering the filth he bowled in his innings. Bit of pink on the grass. Some Broad blood , too.

    before anyone begins to complain, I never claimed to be Mother Theresa.. when they are broken, break ’em again, I say.

  8. I liked it, Jal. Nothing remotely over the top in it.

  9. Mitch looks like he’s contemplating a bit of a scar on little Stuarts phiz.

  10. ye gods.. what a fabulous catch

  11. It is surprising that Australia continues to make the same mistake when bowling to an aggressive lower order.

  12. I haven’t seen Broad and Swanny and, of course, it’s easy to play with the pressure off, but I’m yet to be convinced that bowlers as relatively inexperienced as Siddle and Johnson (and even Hilfy, much as I admire him) can maintain the level of Test cricket Nesta describes above. That’s why this series will be in the balance at The Oval with Australia favourites, but it’s no foregone conclusion.

    • You might be right Toot but I am referring to a very specific malady, which I think is isolated.

      Lower order batsmen are entitled to: swing hard; have luck; play and miss often; miscue; and smile while doing it all. The Australians clearly get very frustrated and angry and the red mist sees them bowling short, full, wide and rarely a proper line and length. Further, when the batsmen are clearly intent on slogging, why would Ponting not have a few fieldsman back on the boundary, including straight?

      It has happened numerous times in the last 8 months or so and they have not learnt the lessons in my view.

      • It isn’t just the Australian bowlers. All sides have trouble with lower orders now. Look at McDonald and Johnson in South Africa, they smashed the ball around in a hopeless position. Habie Singh has a habit of getting stuck in, the Kiwis will all have a go.

        • But yes, it is boring to watch the Aus bowlers bowl beautifully at the real batsmen then lose the plot against the tail.

          I agree with Tooting, they are an inconsistent bunch.

      • Yes Vernon. Your point is a good one and I have seen and, as you can imagine, rather enjoyed some of those stands. I feel that it can be generalised a little to some bad sessions coming along from time to time – I won’t expect them in 2013 if this young attack stays together.

        Lou – the recipe for the tail is 90mph bouncers and yorkers and / or wrist spin. Which side has much of either these days? And the pace option isn’t as scary with helmets, body armour and more practice with bowling machines. I do love tailenders having a go though.

  13. By “maintain” above, I don’t mean that they will collapse, but that the bowling, when under pressure, will have ordinary sessions.

    • Definitely Toots. Any bowler can be upset from excellent aggressive batting but without KP and Flintoff there doesn’t appear to be anyone in the England top and middle order that can sustain it long enough. Perhaps Swann at four and Broad at five might be the answer!

      • We need a bit of Swanny’s and Broad’s attitude at 4 and 5. They hit the bad ball bloody hard and a few good ones too! They make a great pair at 8 and 9 – shame they arrive too often at 250-7 instead of 400-7.

  14. your account of punter greatness is true. he had taken the australian cricket to the pinnacle. It is true that we indians despise but who doesn’t when he did what few teams have dreamt off. The only instance when he erred in India but which all the people hardly recall and i am dying to know, why would you bowl clarke and hussey when you have india on the mat and over-rate should be the last thing on your mind. i don’t buy his explanation and the australian board would have always taken a series draw rather punter missing an inconsequential sereies.

    • Venky, I don’t understand the incident you mention either. What I do know is that there were many strange decisions made by the Australian brainstrust on that tour not least the crazy batting in Mohali and Cameron White’s selection over Jason Krezja.

      • If I remember correctly, Ponting was off the field for the first couple of overs after the break and Michael Clarke was in charge when White was bowled.

  15. Just read the Langer dossier. He does a lot of Media work here and always comes across as a decent bloke. The stuff is quite well written, but really, I reckon my twelve-year-old would make the same points. Next he’ll be telling us that Harmison is mentally a bit weak.

  16. I haven’t been able to watch it this morning, but was the batting as chancy as it reads on cricinfo? It reads like they were just swinging at everything and a lot of it was in the laps of the gods.

    Anyway, why can’t Broad who obviously has some talent do good things when it actually benefits his team? He never wins matches with this sort of performance it is always saved for a hopeless cause. Having said that, they could save or even win from here, but it will take a miracle.

  17. I was disappointed with AU in that morning session.. I wanted savagery, mongrel, bastardry, and a few crunched bones.

    Still.. one has to think of the ticket buyers, I guess.

    but.. phooey.

  18. Cricinfo has it about right Lou. After Swann wore a hot one from Siddle Broad and he met mid-pitch and then teed off. It was good fun and caused Siddle and Clark to lose their line and length. There were plenty of near misses and the crowd got some value for their money.

    Ponting should have brought on Katich after Clark went for 32 in two overs but he is a belligerent bloke and expected his quicks to clean up their own mess.

    In the context of the series I doubt that the partnership will mean much except Stu Clark could be the man Hauritz or Lee replaces for The Oval.

    • The partnership may not mean much, but it shows that my point about good and bad sessions from both teams is borne out. It has guaranteed that England will take something from this match – England didn’t look like they took much from Cardiff, but it turned out that they did.

      An innings defeat is an innings defeat, but there is some heart in this side, even if it shows at the wrong time.

  19. This particular bunch of Aussies are crap at bowling at the lower order. They drive me nuts.

    It is like they have learnt nothing from playing the Saffers. Dropped catches are a big no/no, remember Melbourne? It is like they relax too much.

    So much for going for the jugular.

  20. Anyway, good on Swann, he has had such a duff series with the ball, he must feel loads better having lamped a few.

  21. The reports that Clark had lost a yard or two of pace seem to be correct at this stage. Got a lot of swing in the first innings (for the first time I can remember) which along with a good line and length was very effective on a spicy wicket.

    I don’t know if he can rely on getting the same amount of swing again. So, the question is, at this slower pace, can he still be as effective as he once was on flat wickets?

    I see nesta may think not.

    • Vern, I’d drop Clark for The Oval and bring in Hauritz, however, if Lee is red hot in the tour match you’d have to consider him too. As Clark showed in the first dig, hungry cricketers are successful cricketers and Lee is burning to regain his place permanently.

  22. Yes, I see that too. It is a shame.

  23. Has Katich bowled in this series? I think Punter wants MJ to get more wickets to cheer him up, but really just get them out.

  24. Clark sounds like he is bowling on the legs! What has happened to him?

  25. Clark was trying to pin Harmy LBW by zerioing in on the pegs but waas missing by a few inches.

  26. alrighty… pretty good example of how kinder and nicer the AU cricket team is than me!!… Job done, onto the Oval. laters, Nesta.

  27. What a comeback for MJ! The press won’t know what to write about him. They’ll probably just ignore him like they did Hauritz when they couldn’t slag him off anymore.

  28. OK, cheers, about the Clark info.

  29. Over all, England played idiotically. They ought to don a red fez and play the Sheikh of Araby and call themselves the Tommy Coopers, and I hope AU revs up a bit of big time mongrel and has ambulances lining up at the Oval to cart a few , or more than a few English cricketers off to the infirmary .
    laters, all.

    I shouldn’t have to remind you, toots, to count my posts and TIME my posts, please, I cant be doing with that shite myself, but I know it’s important to you.

    Ditto, Rajneesh. Who is inexplicably missing, probably because AU was playing so well.

  30. Tooting, I am not sure what England can take out of this. It is just after lunch on the third day.

    Apart from the obvious one that they can’t play worse than this.

    • It’s not much, but tailenders whacking bowlers all round the ground often turns a potential follow-on into a decision to bat again as momentum can be carried despite being 200+ ahead. Okay – clutching at straws and congrats to Aus but what looked like an all-time bad defeat is now just a very bad defeat. As I insist of writing, these will come along with a developing team.

  31. I went to the movies, came back and saw the scorecard.Congrats Australia and on to the Oval then.

    Had the 108 run partnership involved a top/middle order batsman, Eng would have taken some thing out of this defeat.Broad and Swann caused a bit of delay, but they are not in the team to score hundreds are they?

    VVS Laxman’s career actually took off with a glorious 167 (255 b) in a losing cause at Sydney in Jan 2000.India’s situation in the test was quite similar to Eng’s in this test.Laxman was about to be dropped from the team, and he went at the Australian bowling (McGrath,Fleming, Lee, Warne) like a man possessed.

    Australia won by an Innings and 141 runs.India gained a batsman, who would serve her well against the same opponents for the next 9 years (and counting).

    I would be happy for Eng if the fightback from Broad+Swann resulted in something like that, for the future.But I don’t think it will.At least, some one should sit down with Broad and do some serious talking.The kid’s got some talent, but lacks the right attitude.Some how, whenever I think of Broad and ‘talent’ in the same sentence, the spectre of six 6s come to mind.

    Congratulations once again to Australia ! Test cricket of very good quality after a longish interval from them.They have to sort out the Hussey situation soon.That’s the only straw I can find.

    I hope some how things contrive to bring Lee into the team at the Oval :)

  32. Kumar

    Lee will get a chance to stake his claim and Hussey will need to perform in the one dayers and in the Champions Trophy if he is to get a chance at some cheap runs against the Windies this coming summer.

    The Oval will be a nice place to bat and it wouldn’t surprise if Hussey gets in and scores a fortunate ton. He needs too or his run in the BaggyGreen will soon conclude.

    Australia fell in love with VVS after that knock in Sydney. It was a sublime innings against a world class attack. So memorable that I’d forgotten the result but not the innings! It was also very different than today’s ten over slogfest. VVS left the ball beautifully, defended purposefully and pounced on anything full or wide with breathtaking panache.

  33. Blasphemy! Comparing tail-enders swinging at anything with a Laxman innings.

    It’s almost enough to make me cry.

    • Sublime Laxman – Almost the only player who has beaten us endlessly who l feel no enmity towards. Style and substance against Aus.

      • I love watching Laxman. It was a big thrill for me in the first IPL when he and Gilly opened the batting for Deccan. My two favourites in one team. I didn’t even care that he didn’t play well, it was my dream players batting together at last.

      • I see your Laxman and raise you a Martyn

    • Lou,

      Please credit me with enough sense not to compare Laxman with Broad/Swann (though neither is a genuine tailender) :)

      I was comparing the status of the match, and what ‘getting some thing out of a defeat’ means.If Bopara had scored a scorching 150+ yesterday, it would have turned his career forever, and Eng would have had some take away, inspite of the defeat.

      • Kumar – the great VVS is scoring plenty for Lancs these days! ( No better batsman to watch in my lifetime especially as hi best knocks have come against the very highest quality of bowling. Nesta will confirm that on a previous blog for whcih we wrote, I would go on a little too much about VVS!

      • I’m with you man, I liked Laxman aesthetically as well, but that Sydney innings was the genesis of his career. I saw that futile raging against the dying of the light, and now I know it wasn’t so futile after all. Great innings, greater significance – the birth of Mr. Nemesis.

        • RK, have you morphed into a couch potato? Why the vegetable reference? It has completely gone over my head!

          • Nesta – you must have missed one of Pepp’s more unpleasant contributions in which I was referred to as a nutter and Rajesh as a vegetable – a “witticism” that was then repeated ad nauseum. I took my insult as part of the rough and tumble of blogging and it seems that our fellow contributor has done the same. More than the comment deserved and a fine riposte from you Rajesh!

            • Thanks Toots. I’ll investigate and deal with it appropriately.

  34. I am serously over the booing at Punter. People at the ground say it is fun, but it just sounds like sour grapes and looks very poor.

    • Far from selected cameras or microphones…Was very poor. Botham was genuinely upset/ashamed at that on the commentary.

      • If there’s booing at the ceremony, that’s unacceptable. Headingley has let itself down before as a crowd and I am confident that The Oval will not.

      • Japal – PS I’m sure there was booing (it is Headingley), but Botham decides whether to be outraged, upset whatever and fits the evidence around what he wants. He was a fine bowler until 1982, a goodish batsmen for a long time and a fine charity fundraiser, but as a media man, he is hopeless.

  35. Thanks to Giles Clarke and a few ex players in the media denouncing it, and the constant questioning of the Australian players by the very same media for their views on the matter, this booing thing seems to have evolved over the last two tests. Lets not forget Ponting received a very generous applause when he passed 11,000 runs and again when he passed Boarder’s total. I’ve no doubt he’ll be booed for most sessions at The Oval, but I’ve also no doubt Ponting will get a decent ovation come the end.

    • Jim – He’ll get a bit of panto booing (and a bit of nasty stuff too) but he’ll be applauded all the way to the wicket for his last Test in England. In this, I am confident. I am there for the first day and hope to get the chance to join the applause if Aus bat first (and, if it’s like this Test, even if Aus bat second!)

  36. Im so glad that everyone here recognises Ricky Ponting’s role in starting off aggressively. He’s a legend, and is deserving of the BSB (Australian version) title. He’s been the finest batsman of the last 10 years, and his aura alone is enough to scare the bejesus out of bowlers. Which is exactly what he used to shut England out, before Messrs. Clarke and North did their shut out job.

    Man of the Match, hell, man of the decade – R.T.Ponting

  37. Interesting that India treated him, despite genuine grounds for some grievance. What on earth he has done to deserve that from England I do not know.

    I guess only Bell will be dropped, but what’s the point of bringing someone in for only one game? Did they discover anything about him they didn’t already know? Arguably Bopara is suffering from having to bat a few notches too high – that’s what he says himself, anyway. But collectively of course, 3 4 and 5 scored less runs for their 6 wickets than Broad and Swann hit off one Siddle over.

    Given that state of affairs, I am not immediately inclined to agree with Tooting that there are no other credible candidates. I suspect England have been way too conservative in not booting a few non-performers out, simply to shake them up a bit. Who knows, there might have been the odd surprise discovery.

    Especially during the end of Vaughan’s time, people were speaking as if by some extraordinary coincidence there were exactly 5 test class batsmen in the English cricketing population, and to drop one of them is simply a statistical impossibility.

    So, a now a collective match average of 2.6 for the premier batsmen, then. That isn’t bad luck. It’s bad planning.

  38. GM – It is bad planning and why I have disliked the Team England Bubble from 2005 onwards when it needed a new paradigm to build a new team.

    I really think that much of the crowd’s booing was because it rattled Punter (the reaction to the Gary Pratt run out in 2005 showed the crowd that Punter boiled inside). It is distasteful and I’d rather it didn’t happen, especially on his last appearance, but we’ve had years of Merv Hughes and others sledging and intimidating England players and McGrath and others talking of targeting the captain. The crowds have seen this and read it and have got involved in targeting Punter.

    I know Nesta is going to write about sledging soon, but its “etiquette” is really only understood in Aus. I recall defending Sreesanth here because he had been less than generous after a match in which Hayden and Warne were sledging him. I can’t understand how I’m supposed to know (never mind a boy from rural India) that the horrible stuff – and in some cultures, taboo stuff – is said on the field, but five minutes later, the bails are removed and we’re all mates.

    When bowlers go right up to batsmen and shout things in their faces (both sides have done it, but only MJ and Siddle look serious) it only needs a bit of spit to fly out and a batsman to flash in reaction and there’ll be hell to pay – it’s going to happen, just wait.

    So my reading of it is that Aus players have bullied some players and targeted the captain for years and now the crowd are targeting the Aus captain. I understand why, but don’t expect much agreement with my view. And I believe that hostilities will be suspended at The Oval and a great career acknowledged.

  39. The Leeds crowd not only booed Ponting at the post match ceremony but kept chanting ‘Michael Vaughan’ ad infinitum while Strauss talked to Atherton.

    Additionally, the English players never came onto the arena to publicly shake hands with their opponents after the match and left their skipper to do the honours for them. It was something that I can never recall seeing before.

    How, why and when did English cricket lose their usually impeccable sporting manners?

  40. Nesta, interesting details. I wonder what’s behind all that.

    Toots, Thanks for the explanation. I can accept that the Aussies probably deserve whatever gets thrown at them. wasn’t sure if it was due to that Pratt incident or something else. Just booing seems particularly unimaginative and more insulting to the game, than to Ponting.

    I also don’t understand the Aus sledging “etiquette”. I noticed the Indians seemed to take it very personally, which to me would suggest you need to tone it down a bit, unless you want trouble.

    I suspect this “on the field/off the field” stuff works only in a culture where the players all go to the pub after the game, and both teams to the winner’s pub after a final. (Not disparaging that necessarily, but at least when I played a bit, years ago, the beer culture and all that went with it was a very strong element. Maybe it’s less so now, but I remember it was also noted which opposition players didn’t turn up to the pub when they lost. So there’s this whole cultural thing which doesn’t necessarily exist elsewhere.)

    That said, I should add that although I thought Haydo’s sledging of Boycott in the commentary box was out of line, I also confess to smiling quietly to myself after remembering the hours of boredom and frustration as a kid, watching him bat.

  41. The English fans response to Punter has been nothing short of disgraceful and an insult to the great traditions of the game.

    Sledging and what goes on in the middle is a different argument altogether.

    Hopefully Ponting will stick it to them at the Oval in the best way possible – by scoring a double ton and bat them out of the game, series and kiss goodbye to the ashes for another generation.

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