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.
Mental Disintegration isn’t the kind of place where you find folk being kicked while they’re down. Given the circumstances however, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to indulge in the art for a bit.
For the first time in my existence on this spinning stone, England have retained the Ashes on tour Down Under. I’ve seen a fair share of false dawns in international cricket, hopefully this achievement isn’t going to be one of them. There’s still a Test to play in Sydney and it would be quite disappointing if it became apparent that certain feet had been taken off of the momentum gas pedal.
- Bundling Australia out for 98 is fairly nice.
- Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior keeping their heads in the middle of a miniature crisis following a few quick wickets, pretty much making the difference between a good innings total and a match winning one.
- Peter Siddle showing that someone in Australia is still putting up a fight, both with bat and ball.
- Everyone on Twitter being up in arms about Aleem Dar checking to see if Mitchell Johnson had over-stepped having already given Prior out. This has happened before, folks.
- Ryan Harris pulling up with a stress fracture in his tibia. When you’ve putting in the hard yards despite everything going to pieces around you, the last thing you want is your body going to pieces too.
- Ricky Ponting spending an eternity remonstrating with Aleem Dar after Kevin Pietersen wasn’t given out after a referral. Given how the replays showed no sign off an edge on Pietersen’s bat, it was just toe-curlingly cringeworthy. His punishment was fairly lenient given that he’s the captain and all.
- We’ve entered an interesting moment in time where England have a selection of seam bowlers who probably wouldn’t look out of place in the Test attack. Whilst they might not necessarily deliver spells as memorably devastating as Harmison & co. used to, they’re certainly proving to be somewhat effective when given the opportunity.
- I had my doubts about Tim Bresnan and he went and dispelled them, so hats off to the burly Yorkshireman. Him and Tremlett went from being back ups at the start of the tour to looking like our best bowlers.
- Jonathan Trott, oh Jonathan Trott. He’s now played a big part in Strauss getting his hands on the urn on two occasions and averages over 100 against the Oz. He also had a nation wincing when he managed to edge a delivery onto his knee, ouch!
- Whereas the Australian side of ten years ago was hewn from granite by killer robots, this one seems to be random bits of plywood and MDF glued together by blind puppeteers.
- That point alone says it all about their current situation, to be honest.
So much for kicking them while they’re down, perhaps I’m just more polite than I thought. Suppose everyone else is doing it on my behalf.
So the collective feeling of English optimism was quickly sent running for the hills with its tail between its legs in Perth, and my body clock was utterly wrecked by the fact that the WACA’s in a different time zone. What a nice sequence of events it proved to be.
- Paul Collingwood’s über awesome diving catch to get rid of Ricky Ponting in the first innings. Not that I saw it live as I was in the kitchen making a cup of Horlicks and bemoaning the lack of a slip in the position which Ponting had edged through at the start of his innings.
- Shane Watson’s hissy fit when he was out for 95 in the second innings. What made it all the more amusing was how adamant he was that he’d edged the ball first, despite his unsuccessful referral of the decision saying otherwise.
- Chris Tremlett bowled rather well.
- Australia’s bowlers spared us a whole day of watching the tailenders struggle.
- Reality slapping us all in the face and reminding us that our batting lineup isn’t always going to look invincible when Mitchell Johnson suddenly finds an iota of late swing.
- Collingwood getting out to the last ball of the third day ranks up there with Michael Clarke in terms of setting the tone for the next day.
- Getting tonked so soon after a comprehensive win can be pretty hard to stomach, although I was probably too tired to care at the time.
I suppose that it was inevitable that all the voices of dissent would emerge from the woodwork after a match like them, so I thought I’d join in.
- The bowling attack is suddenly under scrutiny, and it can’t entirely be blamed on Stuart Broad’s injury, since Chris Tremlett didn’t look out of place at all. What was worrying was James Anderson lacking the same degree of control which he had achieved in Adelaide, whilst Steve Finn’s bowling suddenly looked fairly attractive to Australian batsmen, resulting in him going for around five runs an over.
- The only highlight for Graeme Swann was the wicket of Hussey in the first innings – from then on, it was all downhill. Not that you can really be that critical of him, the WACA pitch didn’t have much in it for the spinners, hence Australia’s five-strong seam attack.
- The batting went from god-like in Adelaide to quivering field mouse-esque in the first session of the second day, a transformation from which they didn’t recover.
- It’s not necessarily cause to start panicking over, although given how relatively comfortable Ian Bell’s looked, perhaps it would be a good idea to move him above Collingwood so that he has more batting partners to eventually run out of. Or just tell Collingwood that he’s at last chance saloon, that tends to bear fruit.
- The talk about ‘resting’ Finn for Melbourne has left me raging over comments in the media. Quit with the euphemisms and admit that he bowled bobbins and that possible alternatives are being lined up – see it as character building. Whether Tim Bresnan would cause Australian batsmen to lose sleep is anyone’s guess.
- Battering us has probably done the series a world of good, given how many fans in Australia seem to get turned off of cricket the minute Australia look a bit turd.
- Mitchell Johnson was back to his best, making the decision to rest him in Adelaide look a masterstroke. The ‘resting’ of Steven Finn is probably England’s attempt for similar results.
- Mitchell Johnson’s form doesn’t necessarily guarantee that he’ll play as well in the next Test, nor will he have the Fremantle Doctor over his shoulder. But then I said something similar about Michael Hussey being crap after career saving centuries, so I’m willing to believe whatever happens in this series now.
- What’s more remarkable is how Australia managed to win as comfortably as they did with the likes of Phil Hughes and Steve Smith in the top six. Correct, some genius thought that bits and pieces cricketer Smith could do a better job at #6 than in-form Brad Haddin. And with Ponting and Clarke not necessarily batting well, it’s been largely the likes of Watson, Haddin and Dr. Cricket, Michael Hussey getting all the runs.
Suddenly this series has exploded with unpredictability. Good for Test cricket, bad for people who make relatively safe bets.