Just to tide us over until I get home tonight and can look and revel in the majesty of the press (incidentally, my Mail Online at work has no new pieces since Saturday night so I’m not up on Newman’s latest, for instance) if the mood so takes me, I thought I’d give my reactions to events of the past four days and the immediate aftermath.
In the middle of the 2013 series Australia had two really good first days – the Old Trafford and Oval tests. These were slightly contrasting wickets and yet Australia filled their boots in the first innings having won the toss and batted. At OT, you know who made a century, while at The Oval, I believe you know who added two half centuries. I just want to put that out there because it is amazing the likes of Samuel were invoking his name, and even Andrew Miller was snorting derisively at people mentioning his name on cricinfo, yet we are all supposed to be moving on and even, hell, yes even forgetting who he is. Dave Kidd’s remarkable piece of weapons grade buffoonery in the Mirror entilted “We Need To Talk About Cooky” (with Kevin crossed out) spoke volumes of a media completely in tumult. Those people just won’t let go, constantly invoking his name, going on about him incessantly. Of course, those people are the media. Not us. There’s not been that much KP stuff prior to this weekend, has there? Kidd’s “Players Thrive Without KP The Forgotten Man” bye-line is a classic. If this weekend was thriving, God help us.
It is important not to over-react. The way media types were jumping on the “look how many times we are three down for not a lot” bandwagon as if this was a shock revelation says it all. That Cook, who has only just started being of any benefit with the bat after his two year slump, is now absolved of all blame is not such a shock. In a reverse Whitaker, it appears to be Ballance’s fault, and it also tolls on the Bell. The other opener has been such a problem for so long now, it’s taken as a given we’ll have another soon. However frightening Ballance’s technique is at the moment, and how Bell’s regression is a terror-strewn binary nightmare, both were seen to be OK after a sixty in Cardiff. The Twitter mouthpiece of All Out Cricket (The Official Magazine of the Professional Cricketers Association) was ramming it down doubters’ throats. “Drop Moeen, Drop Ballance, Drop Bell blah blah blah” (love that underneath my Twitter column for that it has “Translate from Indonesian”) as if doubting these players was erased by a half decent 60. We aren’t doing it because we enjoy it, Jo. We do it because we aren’t blind to trends, to technique, and to the relative abilities of the teams we are up against.
I don’t want to pick on that individual particularly – although that Tweet rankled – because in the main I agree with sticking with people for a while. But this England team set the bar with Cook’s wilderness period, and now Bell, with a 143 of great quality not three months ago, in the firing line there is the obvious implication of one rule for one etc. That’s the problem with our selection process. We have journos and pundits saying they can’t drop Bell without dropping Ballance and vice-versa. Why the hell not. Since when has our selection process, that has trust as its prime factor over ability, had any logic in it? If we have only one replacement that they think can come in, then drop just one player.
I am rambling, as usual, but I want to leave this piece with a couple of thoughts. First of all, we weren’t as good as Cardiff made us seem, and we genuinely aren’t as bad as this performance made us look. But we found out some harsh lessons that the “experts” chose to avoid. Steve Smith is a class number three and for all this was a featherbed, he made 215. He looked supremely in control when I saw him even when not at his best. Don’t insult him Swann. Don’t talk rot. Then there’s the Johnson can’t bowl at Lord’s codswallop based on the 2009 model. It’s six years on, and he was devastating. I don’t think we have a thing about him, I think we have a thing about left arm pace. Thirdly, Anderson was atrocious. Yes, atrocious. But he’s another sacred cow in this team, and that’s our issue.
Let me go back to Dave Kidd on Thursday:
“Pietersen’s new chums in the bookmaking industry make England even money to reclaim the urn. If Cook continues to lead as he did at Cardiff, they may soon be red-hot favourites.”
I don’t call the Australians “the cockroaches” for nothing. They may have been displaying distress signals, but they are never killed off. That’s the sign of a resilient, formidable team. Not a “win one game, ain’t we just the best, shut up haters and doubters” mob.