Mainly decent reactions thus far to the first Ashes panel, so the pressure is on for me to keep up the questions. I’m sorry, but I lapsed with question 5, and one of my respondents wrote a wonderful piece on it which I will produce at the end.
So, we have, in no particular order for this panel, Andy In Brum, a legendary Twitter presence and lover of our press @AndyinBrum; Mr Steven Melford, another Twitter follower and occasional poster @drmelf; Keen retweeter and technician extraordinaire, @pgpchappers , better known as Philip Chapman (usually the first to retweet my posts), and cricketjon, who posts here quite regularly and has stood up to the task. I’m waiting on one more, and if they get back to me, I’ll add it on.
The rules are four out of five of you respond, I put it up, and the next batch of questions will be out to the third round of panelists towards the end of the week.
Reminder – Ashes Panel #001 can be found here – with PaulE’s new answers added in!
So, here are the questions and the responses…
1. Many are saying we are riding a crest of a wave after the ODI series. Do you feel it out there? Does it compare to 2005?
Andy – No, the ODI side is so different in personnel, attitude & captaincy that they’re completely separate. Also the 2005 ODI series was against the Aussies, this one wasn’t, so I’m not sure how it’s relevant. Also 2005 came off a fantastic 2004 & winter tour against South Africa. This time we’ve had a fucking awful start to 2014, an ok middle & a fuck awful end, we’ve only managed to draw with NZ this year. 2005 had a pack of excellent quicks, good batting & a captain who knew their players, trusted them & knew how to win games.
DrMelf – When you’re on holiday at the seaside for a fortnight, and it’s been pissing down for 13 days, a small break in the clouds will always be exciting. The ODI series showed what we are capable of and it was great for fans. However, I am worried there are too many ‘old guard’ in the test team to embrace a new mentality. I hope Bayliss & Farbrace can push the guys to rediscover their fire. Compared to 2005? It feels like the enemy is ourself as much as it’s Australia. If we are two down after the first couple of tests I expect big changes.
PC –To be honest no it doesn’t compare to 2005. We haven’t just beaten SA and the Windies away and the team is nothing like as established. We are also not playing against one of the greatest ever teams. My view is that the England team now doesn’t have the strength of personality of the 2005 team and as a mentally weaker team are more likely to mirror the opposition behaviour than have the ability to set the tone themselves. With that in mind I don’t think it in anyway compares to 05, personally. The fantastic New Zealand attitude rubbed off on this England team in the one day series especially and, if that continues, then wonderful we are in for a treat. Not likely though. Also remember we were outplayed in the second test.
However we are in a hugely different places to where we were after the world cup so that is good news. If we have a big start in Cardiff then it might be interesting – although I think the Balmy Army may have to sing Land of my Fathers rather than Jerusalem to start the day. Realistically, I don’t think we have enough to beat the Australians.
Looking back to ’05 the other key difference is that hardly anyone will be able to watch it, the kids will be worrying about their teams football transfers and they won’t know or care who Ben Stokes is as it isn’t on free tv or covered that well by the mainstream channels. That is a bit more bah humbug than it was meant to be!
Cricketjon – I do not think this is like 2005 at all. Back then we hadn’t played them since the difficult winter of 2002/3 and the team had moved on considerably in the period between 2002/3 and 2005. We had, at least, experienced a Sydney Test which was the first one without Warne and McGrath in several years and won due to some quality batting from Vaughan in the third inns of the match and a swansong from Caddick on a dying pitch. in the 2.5 years that followed, the captain had changed and a fit, available and increasingly experienced bowling line up had grouped together with much success. Dare I say it, KP had added some venom to a reasonable batting line up.
In that era there wasn’t a lot between the composition of the ODI team and the Test team. The ODIs were an appetiser to the main event and quite a good one although the cynically scheduled NatWest Challenge served to fill the pockets of the peeps in charge ( a sign of things to come?) On this occasion, the make up of the teams is different as is the captain though we had to burn some fuel for such separation to take place. The 2015 World Cup was the crystallisation of the chaos that ensued before and in a similar way to 1996 we have new thinking in Planet ODI ( observe inclusion of Neil Smith as pinch hitter at 3 against India in seaming conditions in May 1996 as a knee jerk reaction to Jayasariya and Kalithawana in dry conditions two months earlier). The recent announced ICC regulations will reset the dial and provides another opportunity for England to assess how to play to those regulations notwithstanding that applies to all other teams as well.
In short there may be some carry over of “intent”, “euphoria” and “bonding” but there’s no credible way of arguing otherwise that the teams and captain differ greatly. If England do play well ( and they might) it is less likely to be down to the warm gloss painted by the ODI players no matter what is reported afterwards. Little is reported of what Dermot Reeve advised them in his one day assignment but the hell for leather performance cannot be entirely coincidental. The rewiring spoke of is of a different nature for Tests.
2. Alastair Cook is seen as a key man for England, and he does appear back to some good form. How do you think he’ll go in this series?
Andy – Batting wise I’ve no idea, hopefully well, he’s looked like he remembers how to hold the bat, is still & scored runs, last year he didn’t. Captaincy wise, a burning paper bag full of dog shit could do better.
Dr.Melf – There’s no question that Cook(y) is looking better with the bat than any time in the last two years. We need his runs, so I hope he does well. However, Australia will clearly target both his batting and his captaincy. If they get to him and he personally starts the series badly? I think he will be a huge liability. As an individual he has strength but I think he lacks the aggression we need to bag this series.
PC – I believe he has already agreed to step down after the summer if the team looses, so won’t be under any personal pressure to succeed as captain. That will be to his benefit. His form is good. His technique is looking stronger than it has for ages so he is in a good place. His hip alignment is much better, hence his impact, really good to see, but I have no idea why it has taken so long to sort.
With Harris looking unlikely to start the first game and him being a good player of the quick stuff, he should do well, an attack of Johnson, Starc and Hazelwood may not be as intimidating as Harris, Siddle and Johnson at their peaks, as it was in Aus last time. Cook (and the rest of the batsmen) will certainly benefit from not having the accuracy of Siddle and Harris thundering in at him. Cook’s Ashes record is mixed and it is time for that to change.
Cricketjon – It is instructive he is in good form and telling that he had to venture outside of the bubble to make the changes to his game. The Australians will target him and have a better chance of frustrating him than the West Indies or New Zealand. Australia’s availability of a quality first change bowler will be the reason. How he overcomes that is both a matter for him and a matter of fortitude. His record is excellent against average attacks and less so against the quality attacks so much rests on him setting a precedent. All this with the pressures of captaincy. We shall know even more about him come the end of August than we do now and yet we have learned much in the last 18 months.
3. Stuart Broad has been clear in thinking that Steve Smith at number three might be a vulnerability. Do you think he is right?
Andy – Yes, get to him early with a swinging ball of course he’ll be vulnerable. Not that I have anyfaith that broad or Jimmy will pitch it up in the stumps to get any swing.
Dr.Melf – This has been a big problem position for Australia in recent times. On paper you’d agree with Broad(y) which is why England historically would never make this gamble. But Smith looks a like the kind of guy who loves proving people wrong, so I think he’ll rise to the occasion. He will be helped if Warner has a great series.
PC – No.
I think Smith’s technique is fine and we don’t play on uncovered wickets any more, we play on low, slow roads. His form is not a fluke it is a sustained period of excellence. Smith will score runs. If Rogers and Warner get a few starts it will be very messy for England. To be honest I would move Root to 3 to relieve Ballance of the pressure and to get his impetus into the top order, which would be a similar move to Smith batting at 3. But not many agree with me on that!!
Cricketjon – The media have pages and screens to fill and rent a quote Broad isn’t going to deviate too far from his tape on a loop monosyllabic responses. Number 3 is clearly more challenging than lower down the order and Warner may give him cause to test his skills early on. He looks like someone to me for whom (from an ugly stance) everything comes together perfectly at the split second it needs to. I do not know whether Broad is right or not but sides do have this habit of sending in their best player into a difficult position. To answer the point a different way, I wouldn’t want us sending Root in at 3 this summer, the burden is on Australia to demonstrate why they think this benefits the endgame at the expense of every other option.
4. If you’ve been reading the blog, we’ve been walking down memory lane. Give me an Ashes memory….
Andy – Sunday, day 4 of the Oval test 2005, Oz in a strong position with both openers getting tons. Freddy & Hoggard with a fantastic spell to get the last 9 wickets for under a hundred. That spell was as vital in saving the test as KP’S fire works the next day. Plus the Aussie players all wearing sunglasses to pretend it was really bright & all the England fans putting umbrellas up to pretend it was raining. Now that’s banter. Oh and meeting twatto in 2009, a really nice man to random fans.
Dr.Melf – Lunch at my grandparents in 1981 (aged nine). My dad and my grandad cheering as Bob Willis(y) scythed through the Aussies at Headingley. I walked in after his fourth wicket to ask “what’s going on?” My dad replied “something absolutely amazing”. The oven was turned down and the roast was eaten late. #Hooked (#skatingonthinice – ed.)
PC – Sydney 2003. England bat first. It is my first Ashes test live and Lee opens the bowling with absolute thunderbolts. The Australian team is without Warne and McGrath, but Gillespie, Lee, Bichel and McGill was more than useful attack to a beleaguered England team! Vaughan was out early nicking off to a ball I can confidently say no other batsman on the planet at that time would have got within a foot of. Butcher walked out at three and batted astonishingly. He ground out a 100 when he could have been out at any time. Hussein got a pair of 70’s and Alex Stewart made runs In the Aussie innings there was the hugely emotional Steve Waugh last ball of the day 100, then we had Vaughan’s match winning second innings 180. An unbelievable innings. Followed up by Caddick’s last appearance for England by bowling out the Aussies. (should get you to write an Ashes Memory on that. ed.)
Oh and Harmison struggled to hit cut strip…
A brilliant 5 days and a brilliant holiday!
We had lost the ashes, but I was unbeaten in my part of that tour!
Cricketjon – Ashes memory. Hmmm. Sitting inside a damp rented house as a 12 year old with my mother watching ( on free-to-air) Botham’s 118 at Manchester in 1981. When he was dismissed, the number 3, Tavare ( batting to orders because he was a dasher in the county game) was on 69 not out! My memory is of how dark it was that afternoon both in Birmingham where I watched it and at Old Trafford. For those who see those shots on the recordings now and think ” yeah ok, he was good but so what?” they need to realise that people didn’t play like that in those days. He truly was exceptional. It is fair to say that having top edged Lillee twice into the Old Warwick Road end he was millimetres from an Andy Roberts ball in the mouth repeat. He had no fear and he brightened up a very dark day and dismal rioting Britain ( sorry – don’t do royal weddings).
5. Let’s go for it. If he were selected, which won’t happen, how do you think Kevin Pietersen would have done?
Andy – If he was fit, a few infuriating 20’s or 30’s & probably a big fuckyou score & a vitally important wicket. But no thanks or appreciation.
Dr. Melf – Kevin loves a good script. Particularly when he’s the romantic lead. He is fit, playing well with a point to prove. I genuinely think he would have “mullered them” this series. I also think it’s a shame that a sport in desperate need of some exciting stories has been denied a fantastic narrative.
PC – The short version….
In short, 3 or 4 50’s and an epic, match winning 100 at some point. Because that is what he does. Also a crass interview with Jonathan Agnew about playing for the team, great to see Rooty batting so well and wanting to get 10,000 test runs. The jumpers aren’t mentioned.
Cricketjon – He would have done ok. A 300 in division two doesn’t make him a genius nor indeed was he disengaged in Sydney ( well no more so than anyone else in the team and that is the critical point, no-one else was demonised for it ). This isn’t about KP anymore because the ECB always continue to supply us with new material but there is no doubt they could have handled the matter better ( I suppose aplomb is a bit much to ask). His absence means that Root can take over with only a slightly soiled sheet of paper when the time comes as distinct from the reams of pungent toilet roll currently wrapped around Cooks pristine whites. Root can take it forward without the legacy issues, as far as I am concerned, let Cook deal with the legacy of KPgate since he was undoubtedly involved in the shenanigans. What goes around comes around, it’s just a shame for the paying fan.
What I strongly object to is the rewriting of history that ECBTV propagates. The absence of KP in the Billy Joel remix flies in the face of what would have been a 2-2 drawn series in 2005. Lest we forget.
So, many thanks to those who participated. I think this is working thus far, and would love to keep this going as best we can. I’ve always wanted to get you lot writing stuff, and so far, so good. And my god, have we got an ecelctic mix for the third set of questions. We have a poet, an Aussie or two, and a couple of other regulars.
I mentioned Philip’s epic on KP as a long-form answer for number 5. Instead of a separate post, I’ve added it below. Enjoy or wail, your decision.
Here is PC’s Long version of the KP question…
An alternative view of a hero/villain’s return [delete as appropriate]
After being frustrated by the Welsh rain the Australian team humbled the “new era” England team with a very aggressive brand of cricket at Lord’s. In fact England were really struggling with Bairstow already called up for Jos Buttler whose split webbing had got infected.
Gary Ballance at three had made a no impact in Cardiff and made a pair at Lord’s. As the selectors sat down to agree the squad for Edgbaston, a mysterious force comes in and hypnotises the selectors, including Jonathan Agnew who sits in on the meetings so he can tweet the decisions really time.
Somehow they agree to select a maverick former player to come back and “rescue” the team, in a selection that harked back to the days of Brian Close. Steven Davies another Surrey player was discussed, but it was felt he “wasn’t quite ready” no one was totally sure what that meant but Aggers assured them it would keep the journalists inside cricket happy and the sages would nod wisely.
When the announcement was made on Sky news the following day Shane Warne was interviewed saying “ow look, this is the best think that could have happened”
No one was sure what this meant either, but the Guardian cricket columnist suggested foul play. He then wrote a lengthy blog on the retrograde step and how Davies, an openly gay cricketer, was the future, in the “comment is free” section below the “line” there were accusations of click bait, but these were censored. Boycott mentioned something about rhubarb and his mum.
Fast forward to the morning of the third test. A fight had broken out in the dressing room, someone had already started kicking off about the new stash and a misspelt name. New hi tech Adidas woolly jumpers were thrown off the balcony and Afrikaans was heard outside the rooms. Paul Farbrace was laughing with Trevor Bayliss and ignoring the fracas. Peter Moores was interviewed about the jumpers and said they should talk later about them, but a lot of scientific stuff had gone into the design – especially so they would look great on kids from the right kind of family. There was absolutely no mention about data, I repeat no mention about the data, even for Sky. The BBC wrote another apology letter.
Meanwhile out in the middle Alistair Cook had elected to bat, said some form of waffle to Mark Nicholas about being delighted to have a world class player back in the dressing room and said Root at 3 KP at 4 and Bell back to 5.
Piers Morgan had self combusted in his private box and even his wife was said to be relieved. “there were three of us in a very crowded relationship” she was overheard saying by a Mirror correspondent.
Back in the middle Alistair Cook had started nicely, but lyth was out early from a snorter by a bowler called Mitchell. The tourists had named a 4 man Mitchell attack, with Lyon for support. Clarke said they had thought of playing Siddle, but he had refused to change his name to Mitchell so it didn’t happen.
Just before lunch with England on 69-1 The heroic skipper inside edged a full ball onto the stumps for 27 off 98 balls.
There was a hush around the ground.
Cook departed to polite applause, then the booing started. First it was the Aussies in the crowd, then the Yorkshire fans who felt Lees or Rashid should be playing not a past it, cast off Saffer with a didgy knee.
Finally a small portion of the crowd got to their feet and cheered, only to be removed from the ground by Andy Flower and Giles Clarke dressed as the ECB security guards.
First ball. The Aussies were on their toes, with a funky field of three midwickets and 4 slips.
The new batsman knocked the ball into the leg side and called for the “Redbull” run. Root responded and there was a cloud of dust as the ball broke the stumps as Root leapt for his ground.
It goes upstairs.
Fortunately Colin Graves had stepped into have a chat with the third umpire and the Yorkshire hero was adjudged to have made his ground.
In the sky commentary box Michael “Slats” Slater was incensed, letting out a strange wailing noise through his nose. David Gower was non-plused and Bumble was going nuts about his car and it not starting. Nobody was watching anyway as the sky coverage had just been put up to £250 a month to pay for the football.
Back on the pitch Root and the South African born batsman made it unscathed to lunch.
“Honours even, my dear old things” said Blowers to his adoring fans whilst eating some cake in the TMS box.
After lunch Root started playing well and moved to a nice fifty with a cover drive. Ed Smith suggested he looked like Michael Vaughan in his pomp. At the other end, the 100 test veteran was strangely becalmed. The online ball by ball commentary suggested he was facing a more hostile environment than he received in his native South Africa for that memorable first ODI series there, after his failures in Zimbabwe.
40 mins after lunch there was a crack like a rifle shot which awakened the post lunch slumbering crowd. A split second later the ball was removed from an advertising board. The ECB marketing machine was furious with the batsman for damaging their sponsors logo, who had moved to 40 before anyone had really clocked what had happened. Not that the Waitrose chief executive minded – he was watching at Lords as Edgbaston was too far north for Waitrose.
Ruing the decision not to play a left arm spinner, Clarke (who had earlier pulled his hamstring setting a funky field) asked Warner to have a bowl and he promptly got into a fight with Joe Root, who was soon out hooking at Mitchell Johnson.
In strutted Ian Bell, showing he was up for the fight all collar popped and positive intent. He knew the Aussies were scared of him.
At the other end his partner at the crease raised his bat for a well-crafted and chance-less half century. Bayliss and Farbrace are on the balcony clapping whilst the Skipper doesn’t look up from his hymn book. Broad was too busy tweeting and Jimmy was in the match referee’s office still talking about Ravi Jadaja.
After tea it was like the apocalypse had arrived at Edgbaston. Clarke had set the field for a barrage of the short stuff for both Bell and the newly recalled batsman. While Bell bobbed and weaved, fearful that he might get out without playing enough trademark cover drives at the other end, as the Mitchell’s charged in the ball was deposited further and further into the stands.
The crowd was going nuts now and as his 100 came up the ground stood to applaud the returning king – with many saying “he always was a player of great innings, I still don’t think he is a great player though”.
At the close of play, England are 331-3, Root with 67, Bell with 48not out and the other player with 158 not out.
James Taylor was seen crying over at Trent Bridge as once again his county runs weren’t enough.