Tag Archives: The Ashes

Bad news, folks

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.

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A glimpse into the future?

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.


Fourth Test Post-Mortem

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.

Highlights

  • 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.

Lowlights

  • 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.

England

  • 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!

Australia

  • 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.


Third Test Post-Mortem

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.

Highlights

  • 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.

Lowlights

  • 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.

England

  • 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.

Austalia

  • 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.


Perth Preview

Sorry it’s been a while, the time between Tests threw me into some sort of lull where I retained a somewhat normal sleep pattern.  It turns out that Horlicks does affect your mood when you wake up the next day, or so it would seem.  I wonder what would happen if I drank it during the third Test and didn’t go to sleep.

Malted milk drinks aside, the third Ashes Test begins tonight, huzzah.

For once on an Ashes tour, England don’t have much in terms of selection or performance issues, apart from the obvious omission of Stuart ‘do you know who my dad is?’ Broad who went and tore a stomach muscle, the careless boy.  The selectors seem to be ignoring the potential influence of the Fremantle Doctor on swing bowling and going with a like for like replacement in fellow beanpole Chris ‘I play for Surrey’ Tremlett.  No problems with that, this formula worked in the previous Test and Tremlett was probably the best performer in the games the second string bowlers got.  What I’m not sure about though is the suggestion that Tim Bresnan is above Ajmal Shahzad in the pecking order.  That Bresnan offers runs down the order shouldn’t be a contributing factor to being picked in a four man unit.

Australia meanwhile have been experiencing a whirlwind of speculation about what their lineup would be.

The most high profile story amongst it all is definitely the calls for the greatest McDonald’s ambassador since Alan Shearer to make a return to the Australia side.  This is somewhat understandable, given how being called an Australian spinner these days invites as much ridicule as performing artists who put ‘of X Factor fame’ on their business cards.  The brevity of a spinner’s Test career is also akin to a TV talent show winner’s period of fame – Nathan Hauritz bringing a period of stability before disappearing makes him the Will Young of Australian spinners.

Thank God then that Shane Warne (and Liz Hurley) diverted the news stories away from such nonsense with a return to form in off-field antics.  The whole thing smacks of desperation (the comeback that is), although English folk are no better – remember the calls for Mark Ramprakash to be recalled for the Oval last year?

With that in mind, the question is whether Australia opt to play Michael Beer or an additional fast bowler, something which wouldn’t be the worst idea at the WACA ground.  Steven Smith will come in for Marcus North (something about his form going South), which means they still have a batsman who can turn his arm over should spin be required.  I’d have made a Bollinger to Beer pun about the decline in quality of Australia’s bowling attack, but I’ve seen enough of them this week.

Furthermore, Mitchell Johnson arguably has more riding on him in this match than he did in the opener at the Gabba.  That duff performance saw him dropped, only for him to be brought back into the team for this Test on the basis of him performing rather well in his three Tests at the WACA.  This may be either the match where he turns it round like he did at Headingley last year, or his reputation diminishes somewht.

Methinks the key battle will be England vs themselves, all too often they’ve had moments where they let the opposition back into the series.  Shake that monkey off the back and it’s a big step to the urn returning to England.  Not that they it leaves that glass box in the museum at Lord’s, but there is that big crystal replica, I suppose.


Second Test Post-Mortem

It would seem that we have officially entered bizarro world, folks.  England are a Test up after two matches in the series, and bar one injury, have a pretty stable lineup, while Australia have a batting line up which is pretty much made of filo pastry held together with saliva, and a bowling attack likely to change again when the Perth Test starts.

Highlights

  • Shane Watson and Simon Katich’s comedy running which left Katich heading back to the shed without facing.  Neither of them had appeared to call, comical.
  • James Anderson bowling like he can cope with Aussie conditions, on the contrary to what a lot of people suggested.
  • Michael Hussey displaying something which might resemble what you call ‘form’.  Usually he follows up career saving innings with very little, so this was a pleasant surprise.
  • Kevin Pietersen doing a Steve Harmison and getting a well set Michael Clarke out with the last ball of the fourth day.  Clarke was probably too busy thinking about what film he was watching that evening (Sleepless in Seattle).

Lowlights

  • The general vibe about Australia at the moment is doing my nut in.  Yes, they’re not as good as they used to be.  All great teams have this problem when the good players go, get with the times.

England

  • Kevin Pietersen’s revival has been the main story to come from England’s performance in this Test.  He’d been threatening to make a big score for a while, and what better time to finally do it?
  • Graeme Swann looked more at ease with the Australian conditions, taking the crucial wicket of Hussey in the first innings before claiming a five wicket haul to wrap up the game in the second.
  • Now face a trilemma over which of the three reserve seamers is to replace Stuart Broad, now out for the series.
  • A shout out to Alastair Cook, who has transformed into Optimus Prime crossed with Batman, or so it seems.

Australia

  • Ryan Harris bowled better than Mitchell Johnson.
  • No one else was of much use though.
  • It still took England five days to win the Test.
  • Maybe the batsman coming in for a knobbled Simon Katich will be super awesome?
  • Erm, at least things have become so bad now, that anything Australia manage might be better than this shower.  Poor Xavier Doherty, I’m not sure this is how he imagined his career panning out.

So the ghosts of 2006 have been put to rest at the Adelaide Oval, nice going folks.  There’s a bit of a gap between now and Perth, so plenty of time for speculation and other Ashes related crap until then.


Kevin Pietersen finally arrives at the party

The party in question is one where international cricketers score runs. Pietersen had been absent from said party since the tour of the West Indies last year.  Of course, all the old excuses were there, he was still getting ready, he’d lost his invitation, but he’d be there soon, he was sure of it.

And yet the likes of Stuart Broad, Imran Farhat and Harbhajan Singh managed to get there before him in that time.  Hopefully they left him some of the metaphorical buffet of runs for the future.

Nevertheless, better late than never, KP wasn’t going to let the opportunity of a good batting track and some indifferent bowling/fielding pass him by this time, and he’s currently 213 not out, a score he might add to unless Andrew Strauss declares in the morning.

One can only hope that he kicks on from this and goes back to being like the cricketer he was before the whole breakdown in relations between him and Peter Moores after the tour of India in 2008.

He didn’t say anything daft in his interview with Nasser Hussain at the end of the day either.  That’s a start.


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