Posted by: nestaquin | August 10, 2009

Ashes 2009: Vernon’s View

Leading the ChargeSome comments are just too good to leave in the clutter below the line so I’ve taken the liberty of giving the one below, by Vernon, prominence. Thanks mate. Impressive stuff.

One of Australia’s biggest challenges now is the long break before the next test. In SA, there was a similar break before the third Test and in that time they lost something. The time off will not help Johnson, who must play in the Kent match. The time gap will also serve to dull the impact of Australia’s win at Headingley.

I think Toots is not just being an optimistic and faithful England supporter when he says things can turn around at the Oval. Dominance by any side in this series has been temporary. The lack of history with this Australian team means that any sessions England can dominate will not be seen by the players as aberrations but will be seen as real signs they can win.

The time gap will presumably help Haddin’s finger, which may be important. I thought he did not quite look like himself when batting.

Siddle bowled much better in this match particularly his first spells. I was afraid his successful roughing up of the tail in the first innings would make him believe that it was the only way to go, and so it proved. His bowling against Broad and Swann was disappointing but familiar. One of his strengths is to stir things up when there isn’t much happening by getting all huffy and puffy but he must learn to balance that when it’s not working and there are other options available on a helpful wicket.

Broad could have easily been out 20 times yesterday but he is winning the psychological battle, which has him well placed when England really need him. Australia’s hostility towards him has resulted in them changing their game not the other way around. I am sure Watson yelled something to Broad after catching him three-quarters of the way to the boundary and Broad acknowledged it with his bat. I think Australia needs to change their approach to Broad.

Speaking of Watson, I wouldn’t give up on him as a bowler yet. I would bowl him in the Kent match. He may prove useful at The Oval.

The Australian team could easily remain unchanged for The Oval but I think there are question marks over Clark. Not necessarily big question marks but they are there. He used to bowl between 132km/h and 136 km/h and in this match he seemed to bowl between 126 km/h and 130km/h. I know pace isn’t everything but affects the margin for error. He has his height and experience of course, which are valuable but to think he is the same old Clark is probably wishful thinking. Would it be so outrageous to consider including McDonald for Clark if a spinner was deemed unnecessary? Probably, but it did come to mind especially as a longer batting lineup may be helpful given Australia is 1-1 (I can’t believe I just wrote that).

I thought it was interesting that Ponting opted for Clark after lunch yesterday and not Hilfenhaus who had 4 wickets already and was unlikely to be fooled into bowling poorly by Swann. Was Ponting giving Clark a chance to redeem himself after the pre-lunch slaughter? That is, does Ponting have doubts about Clark?

Would you give Hussey his last chance at the Oval? Probably because bringing in Hughes would cause a reshuffle, which maybe unwise.

If we disregard the Australia’s bowling to the lower order for a while (assuming that they cannot keep making the same mistake forever), the bowling to the top order has been OK at times and poor at other times but I think that has been because of a lack of form. And that seems to have been corrected now (although form is not permanent of course). Maybe Siddle’s patience has improved also.

The batting has been pretty good except for the 215 at Lord’s which was horrible for shot selection. I thought the bowling was just too good at Edgbaston when they were bowled out for 263 although North suggested that they learned a few things about playing the swinging ball from that.

I know statistics do not tell the whole story but the batting and bowling stats tell such a different story to the current 1-1 scoreline that you wonder if they can be dismissed lightly. If Australia wins 2-1, and then you think it could easily have been 3-1 with Cardiff, then you would say that the batting and bowling statistics reflect that differential. Not sure what I am saying here – maybe just that notwithstanding the usual vagaries of cricket, Australia are in reasonable shape and that is not just because of the last match.


  1. Stats are great though, and while Australia seem to have taken all the wickets and made all the runs, as this game proved it’s not how many but when that is most important.
    All this talk about England’s batting today, but the fact is in 4 tests they have scored over 375 in the first innnings in three of them (each at over 4 an over) and restricted Australia to under 300 twice – and on both occasions it was Australia’s middle order that imploded after a decent start.
    As I see it, this result gives Australia 2 main advantages. the first is that it will put Ponting in a happier place, which can only be good for his batting. The other advantage Australia have now is that England must do all the running to create a result and as England’s tour of the West indies showed, that’s not one of Strauss’s strong points as captain.
    While I’m a much happier bunny today, there is still much work to do.

  2. Vernon – I echo Nesta’s view on this contribution. Needless to say, I find myself concurring with you!

    The stats are interesting. If Aus win at The Oval, I think we’ll hear a lot about Aus being dominant over the series with England maximising their results through plenty of luck with the tosses and conditions. If Eng win, the narrative will be about England winning key moments and driving home advantages while on top and playing pressure cricket when it mattered. If it’s a draw, the narrative will be about a close series with Aus shading the best of the 1-1 because of more solid batting and more hostile bowling.

    The glory of the game is that all three could be right come stumps at The Oval!

  3. Good stuff, Vernon.. I have enjoyed your detailed contributions very much. I found myself gritting my teeth while AU bowled yesterday morning, even though in my head, I knew that they would bowl at least 25 overs otherwise Headingly would have to refund money, and no cricketer is going to play that game. That Test was short enough already. But in my heart, I wanted slaughter, I freely admit it. I wanted it all wrapped up , bails flying, in an hour.

    It was this that made me think that Clark was slowing himself down , and not being slowed down by age or injury.. . however, that’s just my assumption and yours is just as good.

    Hussey. Such a conundrum. I have no view on it as my emotions in regard to Hussey are all over the shop currently.

  4. Toots,

    In response to the discussion on the previous post, thanks for the link on VVS doing well for Lancs.Always good to see a player like Laxman doing well. I agree totally with your post some time back on the benefits of county cricket.It resurrected Zahir Khan’s career for one.

    Back to The Ashes:

    As Headingley was a short test, two extra days have been added to the gap between the tests.Both Australia and Eng are professional test sides and they would know how best to utilise this time.I don’t think Mitch will lose his momentum, though if the Oval turns out to be as batsman friendly as people seem to believe, I doubt if either team can pick 20 wickets.

    Some people are saying that Australia won’t mind a draw and retain the urn.But a 1-1 series will see SA on top of the test rankings and I am sure Punter doesn’t want that to happen.

    England, on the other hand, will see a 1-1 scoreline as a win (and rightly so).So, I feel it is Asutralia that needs to do all the running at the Oval.At least, I reckon Strauss would expect Australia to play for a win, and thereby give Eng a sniff at victory as well.

    The Cardiff and Edgbaston draws are credit to Eng and Australia respectively, for avoiding defeats.There is no point in dominating a test match and not being able to finish things off.

    Australia are in more than reasonable shape to beat England at the Oval.But we have seen this team play a bit inconsistently.The opening stands have not been that great, and there are only so many occassions that No.5 and No.6 can repair the damage.Both Clarke and North are due a failure.That doesn’t mean they will fail; Eng will still have to bowl disciplined lines and discover the ideal length and bowling combination pretty fast.

    Just read a story on cricinfo that Freddie was available for Headingley but was ignored.The majority of Eng fans (including Toots here) seem to think that if Freddie can walk, he will play.Flower and Strauss seem to disagree :)

    But with the Headingley mauling fresh in memory, I think Freddie will be brought back for his last test match and the team would want to make it memorable for him.

    • Kumar, I think the difference between who is playing for a win and who is playing for the draw will be there to see if a declaration needs to be made on the 3rd bat. Even if the pitch can take a bit of spin on the 5th day, who would declare near the end of day 4 with a lead of only 300ish? You are right that Australia would play to win, but at 1-1 Ponting now has first option to pull up sticks or slow the game down. A drawn series is no consolation if you do not already have the Ashes.

      • Jim,

        I agree with you.But I will be disappointed with Australia’s performance if they decide that its better to pull the shutters down before Day 5 tea.I also reckon Punter can be swayed into a challenging declaration.

  5. Punter won’t declare until he is 600 ahead with two sessions left. To be remembered as the man who lost The Ashes twice would be unbearable.

  6. There are strong suggestions that a wicket that will guarantee a result should be prepared for the Oval (contrary to traditional Oval wickets) – here’s hoping.

    Most sides would fancy a go at that England batting line up – what was it, 16 runs from 3, 4 and 5 in both innings…..

    Delighted to see that MJ is returning to form as well – he will hopefully have the last laugh on all those idiots who were heckling him earlier in the series.

    Be interesting to see what the bowling attack will be for the last test – I agree that Siddle’s bowling at the tail second time round was nothing short of brainless and he would be the one I would drop – for either Lee or Hauritz depending on the conditions.

    • Well it would seem to be the Victorian way. Hodge 200+ and dropped – McDonald – half century and dropped – Siddle 5-for and dropped?
      Seriously though, given the circumstances it might be the correct squad move, if they think they need a spinner. He’s still quite raw. A good partnership breaker, when the team is a bit flat, but still requires he’s bowling partner to be going well to have any other kind of impact. Does not seem mature enough to hold down an end if the other end is under attack.

    • Where is the suggestion of pitch doctoring? I’m not sure it’s possible and seldom works and I’d be amazed if it were attempted.

      The Oval is not as fast as it was, but it still provides good carry and full value for strokes. The new ball’s hardness can produce wickets, but once a batsman has presented the full face of a vertical bat for the first ten overs or so, all strokes become available to him with full value offered. As ever, Flintoff’s bounce will be England’s best weapon, but Swanny’s finger spin will get the ball high enough to keep close catchers interested. For Aus, Hilfy’s line will offer a consistent threat with his effort ball likely to be a real bouncer and so likely to push the batsman back in his crease. If MJ is first change and doesn’t find his line quickly, he will go for plenty, which is why Lee is likely to play in place of Siddle, as his greater pace will keep the slips involved throughout and provie some insurance for Punter.

  7. oh well.. Ponting, of course wouldnt be the first AU captain to lose the Ashes twice.. Billy Murdoch.. (Talbot? can’t remember,) did it. the Punter will be remembered for the 5-0 hiding, and for setting the bar for Ashes in AU. No one ( in AU) expects anything less, now, it has to be 5-0 every time, and thats a huge goal to set future Au captains, but not an impossible one.

    What would be unbearable is poor Flintoff, with a ruined knee forever and no Ashes win. A highly likely scenario.

  8. Punter quite often doesn’t throw the ball to Hilfy when I wish he would. He tries to get the other guys wickets to help their confidence.

    It is a very interesting period for both teams. I wouldn’t say that either bowling attack is looking in top shape still, even though the Aussies bowled far more like a team than the English players did.

    I’ve stopped reading English press, the overtones of panic in some of the outlets make me feel ill. It is all so unnecessary, but understandable considering how many pundits felt the Aussies were there for the taking in this series.

    Still all to win.

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