If I had to pick my biggest jip with cricket, it would probably be how quickly the atmosphere surrounding a triumph in one format can be flattened by your team getting battered in a different form of the game. England, emphatic Ashes winners, are still in Australia (home of some crap Test cricketers) playing more cricket, only not as well as when the kits were white, or off-white in Australia’s case.
It’s quite a rare thing for sportspeople to suffer – it’s not like Rafael Nadal’s fans are ever in uproar following a dominant performance at Roland Garros because it turns out that he’s quite shit at playing table tennis with a desert spoon.
Some folk just like a good moan. And they’re in for a treat if England carry their ODI form into next month, because the World Cup begins. Yes, the supposed biggest prize in world cricket, and they’re currently a bit toss. You couldn’t coach timing like this from out of a textbook.
Such was the eventual feeling of this Test being a baked good stroll for England, I forgot to come up with anything decent to write for this post-mortem. Not that I was any better prepared when I wrote the other four, but I like to get my excuses in early and whatnot. Perhaps I could land Cricket Australia’s press release writing gig if I play my cards right.
A lot of talk after Melbourne was how retaining the urn was for nothing if Australia managed to level the series at the SCG, so it was nice to see England not only avoid bottling it, but also absolutely eviscerate Australia like they enjoyed doing with the roles reversed over the last 24 years. Three innings defeats in a series, that’s absolutely mental!
- First and foremost, if a Sydney Test wasn’t already something you looked forward to, its transformation into a McGrath Foundation event has made it stand out even more on the Test cricket calendar. I will not get tired of seeing this ground awash with pink everything – pink sightscreen, pink stumps, pink hoardings etc. As far as sporting association with charities goes, this is up there with Livestrong.
- Michael Clarke won his first toss as captain, so there’s something for Australia to smile about if they like.
- The billion billion billion billion puns and play on words regarding Michael Beer, who made his debut in this match. My personal favourite was Jim Maxwell on Test Match Special declaring, “And now here is the Beer before the champagne,” after Australia’s ninth wicket fell in the final innings.
- England not particularly worrying after Australia put on more runs in their first innings than they probably should have. In the past, that would have set the tone for the rest of the match. It didn’t this time.
- Shane Watson’s run out in the second innings, he’s like the run out gift that keeps on giving.
- Did Phil Hughes think he’d caught that ball off of Alastair Cook? Well I’ll probably never find out, but it certainly upset the ex-pros in the Sky commentary box. I’m almost certain that I could hear the steam coming from Sir Ian of Beef’s ears, but then I was quite sleep deprived by then.
- If that wasn’t enough, there was then utter confusion over the life given to Ian Bell by the UDRS after it seemed that he’d nicked behind when he was 67 runs into his innings. The Bell boy had it referred, not that he looked certain that he hadn’t touched it. Now this is where things got interesting, as hotspot was unable to produce concrete evidence of a nick on the inside edge of Bell boy’s Incurza, meaning that somehow, he wasn’t out. Snickometer, which isn’t used in the UDRS, showed the faintest of sounds as the ball passed the bat, raising the question as to why snicko isn’t used alongside hotspot.
- Alastair Cook continued to carry the form of a batsman who looked like Optimus Prime crossed with He-Man. He’s made owning a turntable seem utterly pointless what with all the records he’s been breaking. A second double ton looked a near certainty before the inevitable Twitter jinxes led to him wafting at a wide one, bugger.
- Ian Bell finally got an Ashes century after some three trillion half centuries against the Oz. It’s unlikely that we’ll be seeing him batting at #6 against Sri Lanka come the northern hemisphere summer. Almost fell to the same Twitter jinxes as Cook, but the UDRS madness spared him the same fate.
- Matt Prior batted like he had to be somewhere else, but only after scoring a hasty hundred of his own. Not quick by Adam Gilchrist standards, that would be like sprinting with a jet pack on, Prior’s innings was more of a brisk walk to the shops when they’re closing in 15 minutes and you need two pints of semi-skimmed.
- Paul Collingwood decided to call it a day, and who can blame him? It’s not often that you play all five Tests of a series when you’re in horrendous form, so if you feel that the light’s fading, what better time and place to retire from Test cricket than at the SCG after battering Australia. Fair play Colly. Dismissing Michael Hussey with his final delivery in Test cricket will always be a highlight of this series.
- The only criticism I could have of Group Captain Strauss in this match is that he was too conservative when all that was left in Australia’s batting lineup was the tailend, which meant that the likes of Mitchell Johnson ensured that they got some 70 runs more than they probably should have. Other than that, can’t really fault him – he got to a fifty at a canter and learned from his mistakes in the second innings.
- Michael Clarke’s been touted as a future Australia captain for years now, though I’m not sure he’d wanted the first Test under his watch to be in such circumstances. With Australian cricket seemingly in dire straits, the poor sod had been handed a virtually impossible task. It’s no wonder he keeps talking about how he expects Ponting to return to the side once his finger’s better, he can’t wait to give the skippership back. Seems more likely to be the next Kim Hughes than the next Steve Waugh.
- Shane Watson’s tendency to become bogged down when he starts finding fielders instead of gaps reminds you that he isn’t really an opening batsman. Add to that the fact that he’s been involved in a number of tone-setting run outs and you start to wonder if you really want him alongside Phil Hughes and his apparent technical gremlins at the top of the order.
- The bowling attack still looks nowhere near being 100% decided, which goes to show how hard the times which have fallen upon Australia are.
- The only bright light for Australia in this match was debutant Usman Khawaja. You might have heard that he’s the first Australian Test cricketer of Pakistani descent, but they say he’s also quite alright with the willow as well. Having only seen him in the tour match at Hobart where he didn’t really do much, he certainly looked a lot better in his first innings here, playing his shots with confidence and not looking anywhere near as jumpy as say, Ravi Bopara did in his first Ashes Test. He certainly has the flair associated with #3 batsmen, so it will be interesting to see what happens if and when Ricky Ponting returns to the team.
Anyways, time flies when you’re enjoying yourself, and with the series now being over, I’m going to have to find something else to write about in this blog. Does anything else happen in cricket?
What with Ricky Ponting finally succumbing to his broken finger (a handy excuse besides the run of shite form and desperate captaincy), the reins have been left in the hands of Michael Clarke for the final Ashes Test. Some of the reactions to this reminded me of events which happened a little closer to home (Kent, before you ask).
After popularity in the early days, the recent luckless runs following the retirement of all the Oz greats, support for Ricky Ponting’s captaincy became as thin as it seemed to for Tony Blair back when he was busy taking us to whatever war the USA were going to. It looks like these parallels are set to continue, with Michael Clarke being a slightly more aesthetically pleasing Gordon Brown of some sort.
Not that I don’t think that Gordon Brown got an unfair rap as PM, but he just couldn’t get people to like him, and I’m currently aware of more people hating Michael Clarke than having favourable things to say about him.
I wasn’t entirely sure if I could stretch this analogy any further, but then after hearing that Andrew Hilditch reckoned their seamers had bowled well recently, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Australia having two captains taking the field in the near future.