Ashes Panel #009 – Through Tired Eyes, And Scrambled Brains….

australia-celebrate-the-ashes-whitewash_10piscrajeyf61qj64a1ovgr5r (2)I hope you appreciate this. A quick summary. At mid-day yesterday, I developed an awful headache. Pain right behind my eyes. Had them before, and they take a couple of days. I’ve been popping pills and at the moment I feel OK. But my job incurs a lot of laptop time, and the eyes don’t recover and the pain returns. At the moment it is tolerable. I’m sticking up the Ashes Panel results for the latest round.

Due to my limitation on laptops during the evening, I won’t be pursuing the remainder of you not in this loop for a panel session until after the Trent Bridge test now. If those of you who are on the panel (and those who haven’t volunteered) and would like to answer the five questions then feel free in the comments, or you can e-mail me them at dmitriold@hotmail.co.uk .

I sent the latest out to seven panellists, and I think I have a full house. I have Oscar De Bosca, Andy In Brum, CricketJon, Metatone, MD Payne (ironic name given how I feel), Dr Melf and Keyser Chris. As always, many thanks for their time and effort. There are some superb answers coming your way….

1. What the hell is going on? Your views on Edgbaston 2015.
Dr. Melf – No idea! This series is playing out like the Rocky films. Expect an enormous Russian to be prominent in the next test.
MDP – It was certainly the most unpredictable Test match I can remember. I’ve been surprised at the ineptitude of the Australian middle order and Michael Clarke being a walking wicket at the moment. Very pleased for Steven Finn after his well-documented troubles and Jimmy Anderson proved that in the right conditions he is very hard to handle.
Meta Oddly enough, in some ways the insanity fits a long-standing pattern. Very few Ashes Tests are close results. Somehow whoever wins seems to do so by quite the margin. Possibly due to the psychological pressure of the contest. (Although the pattern is also increasingly evident in other Test matches too.) Still, gratifying for an England fan of my generation that for once it wasn’t England doing the batting collapsery. It was weird just how bad Steve Smith looked after looking so good at Lords. I guess lateral movement really is a foreign country. Also weird (but gratifying) is that Johnson and Starc couldn’t do an Ambrose & Walsh and pull the game back after being let down by their bowlers. Again, this was a home pitch and the Aussies didn’t look comfortable…
Andy Brum – 2 very weak batting line ups, with England having 4 batsmen who got some luck & played conditions better, and England’s 3 main seam bowlers bowled better & used the conditions better.

Plus edgbaston has an atmosphere conductive to supporting England, not the smug up its own arse Lords. That’s due to the type of fans who go & also I think the ground is fantastic when it comes to keeping & reflecting sound in the ground.
Keyser Chris –  Absolutely no bloody idea! It seems more down to individual form (or lack of) from both sides, as opposed to bad tactics & captaincy. I still don’t think the pitches have had anywhere near as much impact as is being made out. Edgbaston was good, but really only a bog standard English seamer, nothing more.
Cricket Jon – Firstly what a wonderful advert for entertainment. After all, we are, are we not in the entertainment business? (This reminds me of Downton stating post WC that he was not aware of social media. Stop and imagine the Chief Executive Officer of Disney Pixar et al uttering the same? ) I digress but not for an impetinent reason. The last knockings of Flower, Saker, Cook,Bowling Dry, Big Cheese and all that have been exposed. Firstly before this summer and now even more so during this summer.

It was a great Test match in that the crowd genuinely gained the team some home advantage. Birmingham Tests are unique in that it is the only insight for an Australian cricketer to see how it is for England players at ALL five venues in Australia. I have lots to say about the game but I shall confine it to the following for this queston – in most circumstances you do not come back from 136ao after winning the toss.

Oscar

Madness.  My one test a year live and I get those first two days (we genuinely thought when Warner went that we may see the denouement within 2 days).   Two bald men fighting over a comb springs to mind..

There are issues with both sides, our openers cannot seem to put on more than 50 exposing the #3 too early, but we have a middle order prepared to (or forced to by circumstance) counter attack and each member (barring Buttler) has put their hand up so far and responded well.  Their top 3 is excellent but their middle order is woeful.

I thought their bowling was better before the series, but Starc appears to be the same Starc that was dropped in 2013 after Trent Bridge, and whilst his ODI form is excellent, he appears to lack the consistency for the longer format.  Hazelwood looks like he could be a great bowler, but appears to be a bit too slow to trouble batsmen in form.  Lyon is excellent.  Johnson was worrying me until day 3 at Edgbaston, where he appeared to let the crowd get to him…More of that please Trent Bridge crowd.

Our bowlers appear to be equal (or a little better) in our conditions, Broad has bowled excellently since the start of the NZ series, none of this faux ‘enforcer’ nonsense, good lengths, good pace, the occasional short ball.  I was worried about Anderson (see last Ashes panel), but that was because I felt he had lost a bit of his nip, his brain remains the same, and that pitch with those conditions shows that you don’t need to hoop it round corners, just a smidgen of movement one way or the other and you create doubt.  Finn was a revelation, before he took his first wicket I noted to a friend in the stands, how smooth he looked coming into the crease, and his action seems nicely geared (and more importantly repeatable).  Ali has regressed to bowling darts (or at least 3-5 mph too fast), we were behind him on Thursday, and I noted that not one delivery got above the batters eyeline, so whilst he gets good spin, it doesn’t seem to be in the air enough to drift and subsequently grip.  However he is a batsman who bowls, and he just needs to gain more experience bowling (so that he worries more about taking wickets than conceding runs).  It was a great game of cricket, but it didn’t seem like a test match until day 3.

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2. Ian Bell to three has been a move many have been crying out for. Is this a semi-permanent feature or just a blip before loads of people turn on him again?
Dr. Melf – I think it’s now number 3 until he retires or is dropped. I liked his aggressive approach at Edgbaston and I hope he can continue this for the remainder of the series. Even though his scores were not huge, he had a big impact in both innings.
MDP – I would hope it’s semi-permanent. His positive intent in the second innings took away any lingering doubts of defeat and hopefully his performance in the match will be the start of better things.
Metatone – I hope it’s a feature for at least a year. Bell looks a better bet than Ballance and he has the experience too. What’s not to like? Still, people will turn on him the moment the going gets tough – he’s too prone to strange concentration lapses for that not to happen – not to mention that he’s a convenient target for the “Cook above all” brigade to point to when things aren’t going well for the Deer Hunter. That said, I think England has gone too far with central contracts – Bell might well have gotten more out of being in CC than in some Tests this year. We’ve made “being dropped” too big a thing and there’s no way for players to get the game time to get back into form.
Andy Brum – The sledgehammer of internal justice, I Ron Bell, is a giant amongst men, however, he does get out to stupid infuriating shots, so yes he’ll always get the brickbats, but we’ll miss him when he’s gone
Keyser Chris I think he is at 3 for a while now, certainly until the start of the series in the UAE. And he should be. I hope he doesn’t get turned on, but if Cook doesn’t score many more runs & we lose the next two Tests, I can see unnecessary pressure being heaped back on him in the press (if you know what I mean…!)
CricketJon – I am still seeking clarification as to whether Bell actually did volunteer for no3 after Trott went home from Brisbane. For all the criticism he attracts, he seems to comes up trumps when his place is at stake. Whether he was a tad down after losing the vice captaincy and it affected his form, that is in the past and he responded here with the responsibility. I respect the way he took the attack to the Aussies in both innings. There is positive and there is reckless and he was positive. I think he will always have critics until he hangs his boots up but as a Midlander and an appreciator of his technique, I know I shall miss him. A bit like Gower, you cannot have scored c8000 runs if you are not uber tough (we are talking the top 0.1% of professional sportsmen) although to be fair Gower faced better attacks, had a better record and was burdened with captaincy in very difficult series.
Oscar – Bell should have been at 3 since Trott retired.  He wanted it, he deserved it and he is probably the ideal player for it.  He has a lovely technique, complete range of shots and knows how to defend as well as counterattack.  He will also always get out playing silly shots, for me the classic Bell dismissal is a chip to cover and him then looking at the bottom of the bat.  To steal a Jarrod Kimber line, Bell is the beautiful woman who you know you shouldn’t love as she’ll let you down.

I think we have to accept that it is ‘just the way he plays’, I accepted that regarding another England #4, I will accept it with our new #3.  I am glad to say that I was wrong regarding his eyes, and it was just a run of form as it was quite dark even with floodlights on day 1 and he seemed to see everything (apart from the fielder when he mishit off Lyon).  Ironically Bell at #3 would allow a ‘Compton’ like opener (if Lyth were to be dropped for the next series), as the problem with Compton and Cook is that they took so long to score, you could be 20/1 after 15 overs.  Bell at 3 negates that concern.

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3. Who do you think should come in for Jimmy Anderson, and by the time you reply to this you’ll probably know who has, so what do you think?
Dr. Melf – I think Wood has to come back. It would knock his development and confidence if he was replaced.
MDP – I think the replacements chosen were probably the correct ones. Footitt has been knocking on the door for a while so his inclusion wasn’t unexpected. I’d be surprised If anyone other than Wood is picked, though.
Metatone – Wood is apparently coming in – and if he’s fit I think it’s the right choice. Once upon a time Onions might have been the correct replacement, but we never really gave him a proper chance. We’re crap at developing bowlers. Test cricket is a step up and Wood has at least a bit of experience to come into this match with. He bowls faster than Jimmy, but does get some shape. Of course, as in so many positions, we failed to use the WI series to look at alternatives (Footitt springs to mind) so really we don’t have much choice.
Andy Brum – I’m guessing wood as he’s next off the rank. I haven’t followed County cricket enough this year to make an informed decision on Footit and woakes would be my first choice if he’d played one or two more CC games, he’s very very good at red ball bowling, plus more batting,
Keyser Chris – My first thought was Onions as he deserves the shot (caveat – I haven’t a clue if he’s getting wickets or even fit at Durham at the moment. I know Rushworth & Stone were getting plaudits though). If not Onions, then pick the best opening bowler in the CC, so Finn can be left as first change. A bit of pressure for that player, but try to keep replacing like for like should be the thinking. As it stands, Footit & Plunkett have got the call. Plunkett seems to be selected on pace. I’m guessing England are hedging bets in case Trent Bridge is low & slow yet again. Footit I am glad to see. Left-armed & in form. About time a lesser county player in that form was looked at. But it will be Plunkett.
CricketJon – Wood for me. Lets not get funky. There’s two Tests to go in a critical series and there will be plenty of opps for the newbies in due course unless Moores comes back(!) There is less swing thesedays at Notts (post new stand) and we need bowlers of international class even if they dont swing it as distinct from hoopers at county level who may freeze at the opportunity when TB doesnt swing. Let the Lehmann/Sutherland/Conn axis who continue to attempt to hold the moral compass propogate the funky stuff and then they can fly home without the urn uttering whatever they like. We aint falling for the 2013 media campaign this time, well, I hope not.
Oscar – Wood if he is injury free, otherwise Plunkett (with the proviso that they tell him not to bowl short and to forget every conversation he ever had with David Saker).  I don’t watch enough/any CC to know whether Footit is the answer, but I heard Woakes mentioned, and my first thought was ‘If Woakes is the answer, the question must be, which bowler would Australia most like to see bowling at them?’.  It appears that Anderson will stay with the team at Trent Bridge and that can only be a good thing, it is unfortunate timing, but we always had to see what an Anderson-less England team would be like, and now we have the chance.  If we win at Trent Bridge, I would like to see Rashid given his chance (in a dead rubber), however my solution would be to drop Bairstow for Ali which would be unfair on Bairstow but we would have potentially 6 bowlers to choose from, which can only be good for a captain.
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4. Are these just two really poor batting teams, with the less poor one as a result of home advantage?
Dr. Melf – I think both teams overall have weaker batting lineups than previous years. This weakness is compounded with some players who are woefully out of form. To go back to the Rocky analogy, it feels like each team is just going for the knockout punch and is willing to be smacked in the face. Time to try some jabbing….
MDP – Sounds about right to me. Both teams certainly are having problems with the bat. England’s batting line-up is looking the stronger at the moment, despite Cook, Lyth and Stokes not in the greatest form. The Australians look in trouble the moment they go two wickets down – their middle order look devoid of confidence and their back-up players don’t instil much fear, either.
Metatone – I think it makes sense to look at Lords and Edgbaston as two tests where conditions heavily favoured one team. In each case the “home conditions” team dominated with the ball. The difference is that in dry conditions if you don’t dominate with the ball you concede 600. At Edgbaston if you’re under the cosh you concede about 280-300. However, in each case the “home conditions” bowlers scrambled the minds of the opposition. The Aussies did it with pace and we did it with lateral movement. As such, while both sides are flaky and prone to collapse, I wouldn’t call them “poor batting sides.” Rather, given the teams involved, each pitch was a poor pitch to make a contest…
Andy Brum – Yes, plus advantage of not being full of over 30’s who haven’t won a series in England.
Keyser Chris – Quite possibly. England have got their wins with their bowling, plus crucial runs from the Middle order. Australia used weight of runs & extra bowling rest to blast us at Lord’s. How Mitchell Johnson didn’t keep the bombardment up on day 2 at Edgbaston may have cost them – he won’t make that mistake again. Get the chest guards out, England! Australia seem to have the better openers & tail, England have a better all round bowling attack & middle order. Home advantage will probably just get us over the line at the Oval.
CricketJon – In a word yes. Both teams appear to have no more than two batsmen who apply themselves and the rest is like a random-numbers-generator. Interestingly the 2009 series was a 3-2 victory to Aus in “batting collapses”. Aus collapsed at Lords, Brum and Oval whereas Eng thankfully confined their two collapses to one Test, the infamous defeat at Leeds.
Oscar – Yes, see answer to 1.  Australia have a great top 3 and nothing else, England have 3 top players (Cook, Root and Bell) but the capacity for the others to improve (Stokes, Ali and Buttler).  Not sure about Lyth, whilst I agree with LGL regarding his dismissals being nothing to do with technique, I think some players have the character/mental strength for test cricket and some don’t.  I fear Lyth is more Hick than Trescothick, he may be excellent in CC, but his shot selection belies scrambled thinking.  Only M. Marsh and Nevil are young enough to improve for Australia, Rogers is retiring, Clarke appears shot, and Voges has done nothing to suggest he will be there for a long time.
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5. So, to Trent Bridge. I’ve given up trying to guess what might happen. Help me out here……
Dr. Melf – For no understandable reason Australia will win by a huge margin. Everyone who played well previously, will have a shocker. Those who have yet to show up, will have an absolute blinder. It may be done and dusted in a day, or maybe not.
MDP – The loss of Anderson is huge for England, his control will be badly missed. I wouldn’t expect the Aussies to bat so poorly two Tests in succession, Smith will come back strong and Voges, Marsh could be due a score. I wouldn’t mind betting England’s win/lose sequence will continue, leaving the series all square going to the Oval.
Meta – I started banging this drum from before the series, but events since then have only confirmed my belief – I can’t tell you what is going to happen until we see the pitch.

The Aussies will come back strong, they are not a team who is going to lay down and die because they are 2-1 behind. Add in that England’s other bowlers didn’t look very scary in the period where Anderson had gone off injured. Add in the way England under Cook seem to lose concentration after every win – the WLWL pattern. All that points to an Aus victory.
And yet the result depends on whether the pitch favours bounce or brings lateral movement. If it’s a good seamer I’d be prepared to bet on a close England win. (Close because of the upheavals in the bowling attack.) If it’s dry and flat, Aus will win by a big margin, bouncing us out along the way. But it’s hard to see either team mastering the other’s conditions in time for this Test.

Andy Brum – A pitch more shitter than the Indian test.
Keyser Chris -Trent Bridge will be low & slow for the 3rd year running, especially if they haven’t insured against loss of earnings. Surviving the Johnson bombardment & keeping Smith and Clarke out of the runs will be the likely route to victory. I think one of those two will get big runs though, and we will sorely miss Anderson’s great record at TB. Australia to win by 3 wickets… So it will be down to a nail-biter at the Oval.

 (disclaimer: I have Oval day 5 tickets, so this may cloud my thinking…!)
CricketJon – I havent the faintest idea now! Winning the toss and, separately, having the momemtum appear to be dismissed now as peripheral advantages so all I can say is lets wait and see. What will add some extra spice is the scrutiny of the “lose to win” propoganda that Aus media were trumpeting as they went nearly 4-0 down in 2013. Clarke could be under a lot of pressure. Personally, I cannot wait.
Oscar – Who knows, as long as we don’t get the same pitch we had last year I will be happy.  I don’t believe in momentum, it is a concept that hacks in the media use to describe something that they don’t comprehend fully enough to analyse and explain.  England now know that on a flat pitch, the current bowlers will struggle against the Australian top 3, they also know that on a more ‘traditional’ English wicket that has movement off the seam, the Australians will be all at sea, so that should give them confidence if the pitch suits.  For Australia this was a crushing defeat (made worse by the manner in which Bell and Root cruised to the total), they know that they could have lost within 2 days, but England were abject at Lords, so Australia should be able to pick themselves up.  A lot of talk about the loss of Anderson being a 2005 McGrath moment…hmmm in 2005 England had lost at Lords (but had crucially taken 20 wickets), and were 0-1 down in the series, here we are 2-1 up so whilst the loss is crucial, I would back Finn, Wood, Broad and Ali to take 20 wickets if we have a good test wicket.  For the series (and the sequence of WLWLWLWLW) an Australia win would be great, however I don’t give a shit about the series, I want to win 4-1 if possible.

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Ashes Panel #009 is in the books. With that. Good night.
I won’t be around tomorrow as I’m participating in my office Fantasy League competition and it’s auction night. I used to be the champion manager, but lost my way, and now doing this for sentimentality’s sake for one year. It’s great, because I despise the Premier League.
Hopefully I’ll feel better and we can do some previews for the 4th Test. Or maybe just the one.
Cheers all.
Dmitri, Lord Canis Lupus or just plain stupid…..