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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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-).
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.
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.
Nooo! Leave our Joe
To take Root at five
He works so well
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.
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…
OdB –I 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.
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
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.