2015 Ashes – 2nd Test, Day 1

England’s Second Test Venue…..

I would encourage you, if you haven’t already, to read the preview piece by the Leg Glance and the new Ashes Panel (below). They shouldn’t be lost below a thread on the first day’s play at Lord’s.

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Ashes Panel #005 – My Lords…..Poetry and Positions, Regrets and Decisions

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As an aperitif to the main event, the social event of the cricketing calendar, the Ashes at Lord’s – also known as England’s second test venue – we have the fifth instalment of the Ashes panel. Same format, five questions, of varying levels of banality, tackled head on by willing volunteers. Because we had such a short turnaround, I increased the number of people questioned, and once again, as with Panel #004, we have more than four respondents.

So, to introduce them, there is…

Philip Chapman (PGP); Oscar da Bosca (OdB); CricketJon (CJ); GraemeCr (Graeme); Metatone (Meta) and the inimitable poetry of The Bogfather (Bog). Hillel (EoinJPMorgan) was gracious enough to send his apologies for being unable to contribute this time around, but will be back soon.

Thanks one and all, and with all hope for the formatting not being completely horrendous, here we go….

1. We’re on the brink of the Lord’s test. Do you think this will suit Australia more than Cardiff?
Meta Lords will suit Australia more. It probably won’t be as fast and bouncy as they would like, but it will play to their bowling strengths more than Cardiff. On top of that, the forecast is fine weather and that usually blunts the swing there. That brings an advantage to Warner and Smith.
CJ – I think we are entering the realisation ( that the MSM haven’t yet done) or point of recognition that Australia perform with the Kooka on fast pitches and we perform with the Duke on slow pitches. To me it really is as simple as that. England are in a better place for sure but we will know much more about them after Lords and Brum.
PGP – Given that Mick Hunt the Lord’s groundsman has significant previous at preparing “home” pitches, I suspect the pitch will be slow but with better carry than at Cardiff. Will it suit the Aussies more? I am not sure that matters at this point – It will be a flat batting track. Lord’s has significant development work in progress and a full house on day 5 will be helpful.
OdB – As ever it will depend on what the groundsman serves up.  Lords can be a road, but as last year against India shows, they can give us a green seamer.  I think the Aussie batsmen will enjoy it more, it is a quick ground so good shots are rewarded.  I think that their bowlers may struggle, Johnson had issues last time with the slope, and I think that’s where his song was first heard, Starc was dropped in 2013 and will have to learn quickly how to deal with the slope, Hazelwood if he gets it right may be a handful, but they have to get used to it quickly.  They didn’t really seem to cope with Cardiff too well and took an innings to work out the lengths and areas to bowl, if England bat first again and they don’t acclimatise quickly they could be looking down the barrel after 2 days.
Graeme – The Lords pitch is always difficult to predict.  For a number of years in the noughties, the tracks used to have life for 2 days and then suddenly die, enabling some amazing feats of batting endurance from the likes of Sri Lanka.  Mick Hunt now seems to have cracked the art of creating a pitch that lasts for 5 days.  Last year he produced a green-top for the India match, which Broad and Anderson bowled appallingly badly on, but it turned into a good batting surface and retained enough pace and bounce on day 5 for Ishant to bowl India to victory.  I think this year’s pitch will be fairly similar given that he has had a period of hot dry weather, followed by some cool, damp days.  If there is bounce, then Australia will be a handful and Brad Haddin might even be able to catch a ball.  He really struggled when the ball was round his ankles at Cardiff – the Aussie technique of taking the ball at your side does not work so well when there is unpredictable bounce.  Rogers knows Lords well.  Clarke averages 47 there, however, which is a touch below his total average and Smith had a rough time in 2013.  A lot will depend on the toss and which set of bowlers uses the conditions better.  I favour Australia slightly because this is one pitch in the UK where raw pace might count for something and I wonder whether Anderson and Broad can keep their discipline for 2 matches on the trot?
Poetry Corner from The Bogfather…

I’m sure we expect a more even contest there

With even bounce across sloping square

The Aussie bats will like this consistency

I fully expect Smith to make hay at three.


A little damp below, but with more lift and rip

Hazlewood will love it when an opener gloves to slip

But if England’s eyes alight on a short of a length strip

Then we’ll see if our beloved leader can keep a grip.


Whether Mitch J can swing it the right way

Will be very important periods of play

Clarke will lead his wounded hordes

To a series equalling win at Lords.

2. Brad Haddin’s drop of Joe Root was pretty important, yet it is his batting that is really a concern. How long do you think he should be given? [Note – some responded to the question before the news of Haddin’s issues were made public.]
PGP –  I would drop him now and get Neville in – as we have seen with England last year over Matt Prior, you get fresh energy from a new young keeper. That won’t happen as he is one of Clarke’s only mates on the pitch. Which is good news for us.
Meta – As an England fan, going by the stats, I’ll be hoping they give Haddin at least until the end of the series. I expect Lehmann to pick him for the Lord’s game, but if he has another bad game I would think they will pick someone else – particularly if they go 2-0 down. Now if I’d seen more of the alternatives, I might be keener to drop Haddin.
OdB – The remaining 4 tests…..Seriously I am surprised he is still playing with an average of about 14 since Sydney 2014.  Perhaps Brad is a magic name like Alistair that allows selectors to ignore form and look at the other values he brings to the team.  I have never been a fan of his keeping and I think his batting is typically Australian so he will always struggle on English wickets (lots of back foot play).  I think both he and Watson will be retained for Lords, Lehman’s ‘just a blip’ describes how they view themselves and England and changing the team would be seen as a backward step.  I also think both he and Watson will be dropped by the 3rd test.  The problem with dropping them is that once you do it is the end of their careers so it is not an easy decision to make.
Graeme – I would not be surprised if Haddin were dropped.  Unless Broad and Anderson bowl short to him, he appears to be totally unable to play a moving ball.
CJ – We appear to be overtaken by events. There may be other forces in the background but apart from that I am surprised at such a downturn in form at 37. Bob Taylor was still a class keeper at 40 to 42 between 1981 and 1983 albeit in a very different era.
Poetry Corner from The Bogfather…

A single dropped catch happens

His keeping has become leaden-footed yet

If he fails and Australia lose this one

He’ll be replaced for the Third, I’d bet

No longer a danger to make the tail wag

Time to put gloves away in his kit-bag.



It seems that Brad

Will miss the game

For personal reasons

And that’s a shame

Like him or not

To be unable to play

Such a pity to miss

The match in this way.

3. Are you at all concerned about our opening partnership, which, one stand at Headingley apart, appears to be going the way of other recent pairings?
Graeme The English opening partnership is a real concern given that Cook is impregnable.  I think Lyth should be given more time but, thanks to Moores’s safety-first (I need good results so I will stick with the guys I know) approach, he did not get a run in the Caribbean and has been given a difficult baptism against a lively New Zealand attack, even if it was not firing on all cylinders, and now the Aussies.  He seems a decent batsman but, let’s face it, he is doing no better than Carberry who was dropped presumably for having the temerity to outscore Cook down-under.  The worry is that the Aussies seem to be able to tie him down quite easily and he does not know how to rotate the strike…and nor does Cook seem to understand the importance of trying to bat WITH his partners rather than against them.  When things got bogged down, you would often see Strauss try something to break the deadlock, risking his wicket in the process.  Cook will never be unselfish enough to do that even if he had the ability, which I doubt.  For all his faults, Boycott had the ability to pinch a single and play from the other end.  I wish he could pass this know-how to Lyth.
Meta – Very concerned. You can’t keep losing openers quickly and still win matches. If England are to win the series they’ll need one of the openers to stand up. As a Yorkist I’m also particularly concerned that unless Lyth comes good very quickly he is likely to be the fall guy, even if he is outscoring Cook.
OdB – No, I think Lyth got a good ball in his first innings and moved the game on really well in the second (I still can’t believe how naïve the Australians played on Saturday afternoon, just bat a session and a half on a slow pitch and walk away with a draw (only about 2 hours play maximum would have been possible on Sunday)).  Cook just needs to continue his form against NZ, dancing down the pitch twice to Lyon was bizarre, however not as odd as seeing an off spinner bowling the 7th over of a first innings.  Unfortunately the Trott debacle hasn’t let us see enough of Lyth and Cook, but I like the cut of Lyth’s jib and I think he will last the summer and beyond.
CJ – Far too early to say although there is form with Compton, Robson, Root (temporarily) and Trott being experimented with. Lyth was found out on day 1 trying to force to leg when he should have been playing straight. This brings me to the point about being aggressive. There are times to do this, it will not always be appropriate against the new ball. Fwiw I think Lyth looked pretty good in that busy period with Ian Bell last Saturday.
PGP – I think I have said before that my gut instinct is the selectors picked the wrong Yorkshire opening batsman when they went for Lyth – although I would have picked Hales. Lees is a more talented player who can also read a game as his Captaincy of Yorkshire has proved (better than Cook and Root…!) However, he score a ton recently and as he has been picked on weight of runs he should be given more time. Cook scoring some runs will be helpful.

Poetry Corner from The Bogfather…

Who would accept the poison-chalice ?

Of opening with Our Leader

Just as likely to be abused by Alice

And fed into the farm animal food feeder.


If so daring to outscore or upset

He who must be eternally lauded

Tho’ if one of them were to run him out

I for one, will have applauded.


In truth our top order

Is in need of some vigour

For e’en a small partnership

Can seem like mortis (rigor-).

4. Despite a wonderful team performance, there are murmurings that Root should bat at three. Do you agree, and if so what do you do about Gary Ballance?
OdB – Madness, he averages 90 odd at 5 in the past year why move him?  I have concerns about Ballance, I think his average was inflated by mid-range bowling last summer, however they clearly see something in him and I admired his nuggety 60 at Cardiff.  It looked awful, but runs are runs, however you get them.  Bell is more of a concern, his first innings was all the collar up, bristling with intent bollocks that he thinks makes him look like a better batsman, to me he looked like he was going to get out at any minute, and the dismissal against Johnson in the second, backing away a la Clarke v Broad leaving all stumps visible.  Like Haddin and Watson, if he gets dropped it’s the end of his career, and I can’t think of any attacking no 4. batsman eligible for England with a good record against Australia who could replace him….
Graeme – Root looks good at 5 so why move him?  In his earlier days, Sobers batted all over the place, even opening during the Tied Test.  However, once Worrell put him at 6, he stayed at 6 for the rest of his career, even though he was the best batsman in the team/world.  You can influence a lot of matches from 5.  Ken Barrington played a lot at 5.  As for Ballance, while his recent performances have seen a tailing off from last year, he should be given a few more games.  However, if it becomes clear that he has an issue against the short ball, as appeared possible at Cardiff on that pudding of a pitch, then he should be replaced…and I would favour James Taylor rather than Bairstow.  I am not a great fan of Ballance, his extraordinary trigger movement seems to render him a sitting duck for the full, straight delivery but his record – admittedly against attacks without much in the way of threatening quick bowling – is good.  I would rate him on a level with solid county pros of yesteryear such as Luckhurst, Tim Robinson, Kim Barnett, David Lloyd.  He will score against normal bowling. 
PGP – In the second panel discussions I said I felt that Root should bat at 3, I still think that – but with Ballance’s first innings runs at Cardiff and Root’s apparent desire to stay at 4 or 5 then this is a bit of a moot point. As an interim, I think we would be doing a favour to Ballance if he was pushed to 5 with Bell at 3 and Root at 4. Alternatively Bairstow has been ripping the door down to get into the team. Then there is the option of putting Ali at 5 and playing Rashid.  Technically Ballance is in a bit of a mess – although the time at the crease last week will have been a huge help for him. His head position is key and he needs to get his head moving towards the ball earlier – but that takes confidence, so his issue is a little chicken and egg.

My belief is that the England batting order is a little odd with three blockers up to, then Bell, then Root – then a series of stroke makers in Stokes, Buttler and Moeen. I would prefer to see the order a bit more evenly spread personally.  I also feel that Buttler should be relieved of the wicket keeping shackles, give the gloves to Bairstow, this would give my ideal world order of Cook, Lyth (I would have Hales but that is for another day) Root, Buttler, Bell, Stokes, Bairstow, Ali. Yes I know Buttler is at 4 – but I think he should be given the KP role. He is going to be a superstar, it is time to let that happen – and it evens out the batting order somewhat. Please don’t say “it is too early” rubbish, now is the time.

Meta – I can’t see the benefit at this moment to shuffle the order. Ballance scrapped hard in the 2nd innings and got a bit of reward. Why risk Root’s purple patch when Ballance could be coming back into form? Of course, one might argue Bell may be a better bet at 3 (stronger technique, balance out the R/L a bit more as well.) Or one could call up KP. (As if.) Anyway, realistically, Root is the golden goose and you don’t touch him.

CJ – Ballance at 3 for me, Root at 5. Make the most of the talents you have. A classic case of symptom and cause being mixed up. I think Australia would have been well served leaving Smith at 5 even if it made Watto at 3.
Poetry Corner from The Bogfather…

Nooo! Leave our Joe

To take Root at five

He works so well

With 6/7/8

Giving our innings drive

So there should be no debate.

Perhaps at four in times to come?

When Bell has left the crease

Then Ballance at five

May be where he’ll thrive

And all this conjecture will cease.

Then perhaps Hales could cement

A spot at three to raise the pace

Maybe Bairstow or Taylor too

To provide competition for every place.

5. As is our media’s trend, we are going overboard about the new management set-up of Strauss, Bayliss, Farbrace and Cook. I’m a notorious curmudgeon and think this is giving them too much credit. What do you think?

CJ – This is more about the absence of Moores. you could almost see he and Cook looking at each on the balcony for inspiration. Farbrace and Bayliss appear to have advised him to take responsibility. There appears to be a welcome embargo on Broad and Anderson ruling the roost ; it is quite possible someone has had a little word in their ear. Their bowling was the difference for me during the Cardiff gig.

Meta – Well Strauss didn’t do anything remarkable. Neither did Cook. So the first pile of nonsense from the media is trying to include them in the halo. Bayliss & Farbrace did do something amazing – they got Broad and Anderson to bowl a proper length – which was in recent times beyond Flower, Saker & Moores. (Who for all their faults are not the worst coaches out there.)

That said, it’s easy to imagine Australia winning the toss at Lord’s, Warner and Smith hitting big scores, England beaten by an innings and FCBS (Farby, Cooky, Bayly & Straussy) looking a lot less clever.

Graeme – Something has happened because they are not playing the way they did last year or earlier this year.  The bowlers are no longer testing the middle of the pitch; the batsman are trying to take on the opposition bowlers;  catches are being held; there is less of the Andersonian adolescent petulance.  Obviously the credit does not belong to Cook because he has been there all through.  You have to wonder what has changed.  Saker and Moores must be prime suspects.  Can you credit Cook for the field placements at Cardiff – the guys waiting for the drive?   This is not Cook’s method.  Something must have changed behind the scenes, somebody must be giving him good advice, supporting his fragile ego, winding back the stupidity and obstinacy of Broad and Anderson.  I wonder if Strauss is not being active behind the scenes….

PGP – Farbrace and Moores were at significant odds during the last 6 months, from what I have heard. The way the Odi team was turned around and the way the test team batted in the Cardiff test suggests a much happier mood around the England teams. Farbrace has to take a huge piece of the credit for this – I also think that Root may be a catalyst to this too.  This is probably a question to ask at the end of the summer. or may be after the trip to Pakistan/UAE or maybe after the trip to SA.  Our next few months of test cricket is bonkers. One of the advantages of playing a young team now is that however the next six months go their group experience will set them up for a long time. I am also worried about Broad and Anderson – as we will miss them when they are gone…

OdBI discussed this with a friend (who attends a test with me each year), he thought that we have had a potentially good test team that just needs direction, and that the ODI narrative has been usefully transferred to the test team.  I think Giles Clarke is a see you next Tuesday who has had a malign influence on this team, was behind various sackings and useless appointments, and I still rail against the ‘outside cricket’ jibe.   It doesn’t help when people like Selvey describe bringing on a spinner for the last over before lunch (a tactic as old as the game itself) as ‘the instinct that gave Moeen the last over before lunch on the final day in which he claimed Warner’s wicket and kick-started the Australian slide to defeat’.  Sorry I thought it was standard practice and a poor shot by Warner who should have gone forward rather than back.  It is clear that Bayliss has had an influence on the fielding and the manner in which we approached the second innings was a breath of fresh air, particularly Lyth and Bells’ counter attack of 49 in 5 overs.  A Flower / Moores side would have been batting on the Saturday morning and got to a 450 + lead by lunch (possibly declaring for 6).  That would not have been enough time to win the match, so I think there is a positive influence.  Strauss is a tough one, I liked him as a captain until the whole twitter/texting nonsense.  He overreacted to texts and ignored potential bullying (whatever Broad says, someone was clearly feeding KPGenius from the dressing room).  Calling someone names on live TV he was unfortunate to be heard, it is the gloating reaction of the MSM that is distasteful not a private conversation overheard by accident.  As for his actions since becoming Director, Cricket; sacking Moores was great, not rehiring KP was always going to happen as he wouldn’t have been given the job otherwise, but retaining Morgan was a brave (and correct) decision and he has reaped some immediate rewards for this.  He is establishment but you have to be to join the ECB, I will wait and see over the next year before I make my mind up on him.  I believe Cook has already retired as captain, they will remember to tell us at the end of the summer.  It looks like Root’s team already, and if Cook gets another home series win under his belt good luck to him, shame about the last 18 months of ordinary performances, was it the previous coaches, or Cook, or both?

The problem is, until we win at Lords (or don’t lose), then it is a bit new coach, same old fallibilities, win one test convincingly, lose the next poorly.  Headingley day 4 (pick a year, any year) is fresh, and if Australia put us under pressure how will Cook cope?  I think we have a potentially good test team (see how we do against SA and Pakistan later on this year to see whether there is the potential to be great), and if Rashid is brought in at 8 and Ali moved to 4 (when Bell retires/is sacked due to media pressure) then we have a team that covers all bases.  Wood has been a revelation, he bowls fast, and a good length, almost like Harmison used to do twice an over.

Poetry Corner from The Bogfather

Early days, lazy days

Of media puffery

Just a new phase

Of ECB bluffery

We’ve been here

So many times before

Near every write-up

A predictable bore.


It does seem that

The coaching team

have brought about

A new regime

Yet we outside

Must still press

For it’s our England

Nothing less.

Even the Captain

Seems to have read a new book

Though I think Bayliss

Spells out the words for Cook

And as Our Leader can’t think for himself

Farbrace helps him pick one from the shelf

As to leave Alastair in wonderland

Is unfair on someone so dim

So keen is he to please Strauss’s band

He’ll do anything they say at a whim

So no need to tell you all to keep an eye

As like Dmitri, a proud curmudgeon am !.

Where else do you combine analysis and poetry? A tremendous effort by all concerned. As always, happy to see plenty of comments but please keep the first day’s play’s comments on the relevant thread.
My thanks to all of you for your time and effort. It’s a cracker!

The Ashes: 2nd Test preview

Brad Haddin won’t be playing in this match for personal reasons – there’s nothing else that need be said about that except to wish him well.  Cricket is just a game.

Few realistically expected England to arrive at Lords 1-0 up, and even fewer to have been so dominant at Cardiff, a venue where Australia were thought to hold all the cards before the game.   Reports indicate that Shane Watson will be jettisoned from the team, and if so it is hard to escape the feeling that it will be the end of his Test career.  It seems exceptionally harsh to do so after one match, given he was downright unlucky in both innings but especially the first.  Selecting Mitchell Marsh for the first Test would have been a perfectly reasonable choice; but having gone with Watson, to then drop him after a single outing carries the whiff of panic about it, both scapegoating him for the team’s failings and effectively an admission it was the wrong call in the first place.

Furthermore, it is hard to see a way back for Watson now, meaning a player who is likely to be somewhat disgruntled is in the squad for the remainder of the series with little chance of selection ever again.  It’s the kind of muddled thinking that we’ve seen all too often from England in recent times.

Peter Nevill will make his debut as ‘keeper for this match, and by all accounts is a batsman/keeper rather than a wicketkeeper/batsman.  Lords has made more than one highly competent wicketkeeper look foolish with the ball moving after the bat, so it will be a tough challenge for him to start his international career there.  Perhaps many England supporters too will hope he has a decent game.

It seems likely that Starc will play, demonstrating that Cricket Australia now operate a Mitchell quota system.  There’s been little said about continuing to bowl him so extensively at Cardiff, but there must be question marks about his fitness over five days.  The enforced retirement of Ryan Harris was clearly a blow, but the ineffectiveness of the seamers has produced ripples of concern about the depth of the Australian bowling stocks.  More than anything, it is a response to the result on a very slow pitch rather than a real problem, Starc, Hazlewood and Johnson remain a major threat.

The same can be said for the batting, and it is striking how a single result can change the perception and the reading of the two sides.  Australia’s batting is now fragile, Warner is having difficulty with the pitches and the swinging ball (as an aside, it is quite impressive how Warner can so consistently say the wrong thing – why on earth would he come out with that?), Chris Rogers’ failure to score a century is reaching crisis proportions, Clarke is all over the place against Broad, Steve Smith’s technique is questionable in English conditions, while for England Cook has become a great captain, Root is the best batsman in the world, Bell is back, Stokes is devastating, Wood is the heir to Simon Jones and so on.

It’s nonsense of course, Australia’s batting isn’t necessarily their strong suit, but little has changed since before the series began except that they played appallingly in one match – more than anything, getting in and getting out is something batsmen view as the ultimate crime, and they did it spectacularly across the board.  What has changed is that they’re under a little more pressure to perform than before, because defeat at Lords and the prospect of the team unravelling comes into view.  The records of the players involved means there is no reason why they shouldn’t come back with a vengeance, and although the Lords surface is likely to be fairly slow again, it’s usually an excellent batting wicket and one they should find to their liking.

For England, it is likely they will name an unchanged side.  Moeen Ali was the big doubt, but Adil Rashid’s endless wait for his debut will continue, as he has been ruled out by injury.  That Moeen was set to miss the match clearly means he isn’t going to be completely fit, and thus his selection is a considerable gamble.  From this distance it’s impossible to know how serious it is, but for a player to be considered unfit to play, and then magically sufficiently fit when his replacement is unavailable hardly seems like good management of resources.  It should also be remembered that if the injury flares up during the game, England will not be entitled to a substitute fielder, and one would imagine Australia will be very aware of that – of course the same applies to Starc.

Although England’s batting performed very well at Cardiff, they have been prone to falling over in recent times, and not always in hostile conditions.  Early wickets were lost in the first Test for not very many, something that they have become rather prone to, and they aren’t always going to recover from that.  Cook had a quiet game with the bat, and despite Root’s heroics, he remains instrumental in drawing the sting from the seamers.

It’s extremely hard to call this game.  It will likely go near the distance, as Lord’s is the epitome of a chairman’s pitch.  Australia have a slight hint of disarray about them, but that will be swiftly put aside if they play well here.  England have the opportunity of opening up some major cracks in the opposition, but they will have to play better than they did at Cardiff to do that.  Should they do so, then all bets are off for the remainder of the series, and the howls of protest from Down Under will be loud and long.

I’ve said before that you don’t know a team is past it until it actually happens, and they often spectacularly implode when it does (viz. England 2013/14), but equally one defeat doesn’t for a second mean we are there yet.  For that reason, this Test is completely pivotal.  An Australian victory sets the expected balance of the world back on its perceived correct axis.  An England victory, and it’s crisis point.  It will be a fascinating five days.