At least, it seems like they’re doing this on their own. No match involving Group Captain Strauss and co. has ended up being a damp squib, not even the matches with the cricketing minnows.
So what if that’s meant they managed to lose to Ireland when defending 300+, limited over cricket’s meant to be about these nerve-jangling affairs, not teams fielding seven batsmen and batting away the contest before the other team begins their chase.
A few wickets and a million runs from a handful of batsmen later, and the first Test of this Ashes series petered out into draw. A post-mortem of events seemed like the most appropriate way to term my summary, given the crowd at the Gabba on the final day.
- Group Captain Strauss winning the toss and electing to bat first. Nasser Hussain could learn from this.
- Peter Siddle’s hat-trick, because any Test match hat-trick is a pretty awesome achievement. And on his birthday of all days! I’d probably be too busy thinking about my cake to focus on bowling at the stumps.
- Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook batting like Michael Hussey and Brad Haddin hadn’t put on a 307 run partnership to put Australia 221 runs ahead after their first innings.
- Australia looking like England of the 90s in the field, dropping lots and lots of catching opportunities.
- David Gower copping one on the foot, courtesy of Nasser Hussain in the Sky Sports commentary box.
- The pitch didn’t particularly offer much for the bowlers.
- As previously mentioned, the turnout for the final day was particularly disappointing. Just because you don’t have match winning bowlers any more, there’s no need to act like Indian ‘fans’ who only turn up when Tendulkar and not one of their other world-class batsmen is batting.
As for the two teams:
- Not getting overly flustered by the early departures of Strauss and Maximus Trottimus in the first innings is a bit of an achievement in itself, compared with England performances of old.
- Ian Bell looks a lot more settled at the crease this time around, although he was unable to cash in after England ran out of batsmen, thanks to Peter Siddle’s birthday burst.
- Could consider themselves unlucky not to get Hussey out before he reached his hundred, but they didn’t really look like getting the Hussmeister out again until he eventually pulled Finn down someone’s throat.
- Strauss, Cook and Trott didn’t look like batsmen with pressure on them, this can only be a good thing as they all made BIG runs in the second innings.
- Graeme Swann struggled to make an impact in this Test, so he’ll be hoping to bounce back in Adelaide.
- Lost the toss, but ultimately didn’t suffer for it as Siddle’s heroics left them with a manageable first innings total to nullify in batsman-friendly conditions.
- When it almost looked like they weren’t going to generate a big lead, Hussey and Haddin dug them out of a potentially deep hole. With a bit of luck, they took Australia to a very good position.
- Bowled like complete wankers in the second innings to undo the Huss/Hadd work and failed to really put England under and pressure. When Marcus North is looking like the most dangerous bowler on the field, you know you’ve got problems.
- Mitchell Johnson was once termed a ‘once in a generation bowler’ by Dennis Lillee. What the moustachioed former pacer meant by this is beginning to seem a bit unclear, given the number of wides he bowled in the second innings. This really upset Brad Haddin, who didn’t like a lot of these wides being classed byes, since they went against his name. The inclusion of Doug Bollinger and Ryan Harris in the squad for the next Test certainly means the Australian attack is under pressure to perform or face the chop.
Roll on Adelaide, where I’m hoping Strauss can be the ringleader in a cricketing exorcism.
The only part of the England line up which hasn’t experienced any chopping and changing (bar Captain Strauss sportingly letting someone else have a go) for some time is the two names at the top of the scorecard. Nonetheless, as with every other place, there is always speculation as to whether one or the other member of the opening partnership is up to the job.
Andrew Strauss managed to overcome his doubters in 2008 (Napier), and was the leading figure in support of the team returning to India following the Mumbair terror attacks that year, claiming that it was their “duty to the game”. A century per innings in Chennai put him in a good position to succeed Kevin Pietersen following his fallout with former coach Peter Moores, and it certainly invigorated Strauss’ batting, with three centuries in the tour of the West Indies, followed by a man of the series performance in the 2009 Ashes series. Unlikely to be challenged for the captaincy for some time, there isn’t much point trying to question his position.
Alastair Cook meanwhile, has been taking his turn as the opening batsman in the firing line for what seems like an eternity. While he may have scored several centuries in the timespan since Strauss’ last ton (Lord’s 2009), his form has been remarkably scratchy for a batsman of his calibre. His struggles against Pakistan’s opening bowlers are a cause for concern, given that an opener should be able to somewhat cope with swing due to their exposure to the new bowl from the off. If he can stick around for the first 20 overs in Australia however, it’s possible that he could hang around for longer than he tended to against Pakistan’s notorious M pairing, since legend has it that the Kookaburra ball, unlike the Dukes one used in England, loses the ability to swing after that long.
Despite his troubles, I believe that Cook’s place is more or less secure, given his recently found ability to produce a hundred when the doubts start to set in, which one imagines he picked up from Paul Collingwood during a nets session or something.
Jonathan Trott is also capable of deputising, but this should only be a worst case scenario sort of thing, as he looked more and more comfortable batting at one down this summer.