Sean B, aka the Great Bucko, kicked my arse on Twitter last night. Feeling a bit sorry for myself, he prompted me to raise an Ashes Panel #010, and despite the shortness of time, a number of you came through for me, and here it is. A million thanks, people.
We have Sean B, Hillel (big thanks, I know how busy you are), PGP Chapman (sans end of piece rant – I’m sad), Paul Ewart and Colonel Blimp (David Oram). And at the last knockings, it’s Man In A Barrel too!
We put this together at short notice, so forgive errors and maybe the questions, but let’s play ball….
1. Michael Clarke’s form? A permanent dip or just temporary? And do you think it is the difference between the two teams?
– Firstly England have bowled very well at Clarke in this series. Secondly, class is permanent and as we have seen from Ian Bell, it only takes one really good innings to turn it around. What I would say is that he is more upright in his stance than previously (seems to be a bit of a current trend) and while this is fine and symptomatic of a player with a bad bad – think Athers in his later career, it means that his head is starting from a marginally different position, which through the delivery will a batsman’s alignment with the off stump. This is emphasised by the moving ball – the way to counteract this is by moving guard across half a stump – but for an experienced player that may also feel a bit wierd. I also suspect he is trying a bit too hard. Who knows what is going to happen – but I don’t believe he is the difference between the sides – actually I think that is Moeen – who is quietly bowling ok and scoring lots of important runs with the tail in a way that is demoralising the Aussies. In most cases Eng have also cleaned up the Aussie tail pretty well – which we have struggled to do in the recent past.
Clarke clearly also has issues with the teams he is being given – I am not sure that is because he doesn’t get on with Lehman or the selectors or what that is all about – that is hurting his (and the team’s) mental state.
Hillel – Michael Clarke’s dip in form is certainly temporary; it is flippant to suggest a batsman of his calibre has been found out, and neither (as with Tendulkar’s eyesight) does there seem to be a sign that he has lost his touch. His two vital 50’s in the World Cup is testament to the latter. Let us also not suggest he is by any means the difference between the two teams, for if Australia have been hosting an out-of-form batsman in every Test this Ashes, so too have England in the form of Adam Lyth. Nonetheless, I worry for Clarke: he looks morally beaten by years of being underappreciated by so many of his country for his efforts. There is also evidence that even if he recovers, the Australian selectors may not see a future in which he plays a part. I fear that even though this is a temporary dip in form, Michael Clarke’s time is up.
David – Hard to tell. But Clarke’s lack of runs is a symptom not a cause of the Australian ague. Form and fitness oscillate for all cricketers, and he may yet reach the heights again. I just hope not in this series! Interesting how sharply he is reputed to have rebutted the question about his ‘hunger’. Methinks the lady doth protest too much! Isn’t it amazing though how in a short period, and after a couple of bad results, the man’s entire playing and captaincy career is being reevaluated? A great batsman can become a bad one overnight if he’s out of form or unfit – but career wise we’ll always acknowledge he was a mighty fine player. But a great captain can’t become a poor one overnight. The point is Clarke’s only ever been a decent one, good not brilliant, with a few innovative field placings, and some bloody awful bowling changes. And he never completely had the dressing room. Wins in the next two Tests may yet elevate his status even higher than those who have previously (unrealistically) lauded his ‘genius’ – but defeat and I think his time, and maybe even his legacy, could well be done.
Paul – Who knows? It feels like he’s coming towards the end but I’d imagine he’s still got a couple of good innings in him. Big game players tend to come good even when their body’s giving up on them. Remember Steve Waugh’s one-legged century? I’m not sure it’s the difference between the teams. This has been a crazy series. I wouldn’t single Clarke out: what about no’s 5 and 6?
Sean – I think it’s semi permanent now, which despite not liking the guy, is sad because he was a very good batsman (though I wouldn’t say he was one of the greats). It’s been clear for sometime that he has been hampered by his back and this has affected both his movement towards the ball and ability to sway the short ball. His footwork also seems to be hesitant, which is another reason why he has struggled this Summer. It reminds me a bit of when Vaughan returned after his knee injury – he still knew what he wanted to do but didn’t have the body to do it. I’m not sure it’s the difference between the teams as some of our batsmen aren’t exactly pulling up trees, but a fit and in form Clarke would add value to any side; however don’t be surprised if he pulls himself together for one last hurrah.
Barrel – I hope it is a temporary dip simply because he is such a graceful batsman to watch when on song. If he were in form, the Aussies would surely be well ahead by now because we know that he has the skill and determination to graft on a difficult pitch against an attack which is short of true greatness.
2. I can’t abide discussions on pitches, but popular demand suggests we need to talk about it. What do you think we’ll get at Trent Bridge?
– I think it will have some grass on the pitch – so similar to Edgbaston. here’s hoping for a similar result!!
I think it will be a good toss to lose on Thursday (much like in the previous game).
Hillel – England seem to have realised that swinging pictures work to their advantage, especially with an in-form Steven Finn returning to the attack. To change the formula that won England the last Test would be dangerous, not to mention highly unnecessary. Furthermore, the momentum (dare I breathe the word) is with England, and even the ECB will realise that to prepare negative pitches now (pitches that detriment Australia, rather than advantaging England), will be inexcusable. The pitch will a traditional English pitches, Trent Bridge will swing as usual and that should suit Mark Wood perfectly.
David – Not so keen on pitch discussions myself! I’ve never ever met or seen on TV someone who genuinely could read a pitch accurately ahead of a game. And once the game is underway many experts still manage to make the wrong guess. “This’ll take turn on days 4 and 5” and it doesn’t. “This pitch will deteriorate” and it flattens into a road. Likewise groundsmen. I’ve thought for over 30 years that Mick Hunt is an appalling preparer of cricket pitches, but does manage a beautifully maintained lawn. He has no idea what sort of track we will eventually get for a Test, regardless of whatever the weather has done (but never fails to use it as a handy excuse) but occasionally ‘Mike’ does get lucky – but mostly it’s crap. I have just as much faith in the other Test grounds. I hope Trent Bridge is something similar to Edgbaston because Rogers apart, they are hopeless against the moving ball.
Paul – Talk is it’ll be like Edgbaston. As long as there’s something in it for both bowling attacks I’m happy. I don’t like doctored pitches and Cardiff was doctored.
Sean – You’ve discovered my real bug bear, as I on the other hand, hate to see doctored low and slow wickets designed to nullify the opposition rather than play to your own strengths (I could go on all evening about this, but fear not, I won’t). They would literally be batshit crazy to produce another wicket like the one against India last year, as then it’s a win the toss, win the game scenario and I also think Stuart Broad would spontaneously combust! I think the wicket will have a bit in it, especially if there’s cloud cover overhead but equally it’s not going to be a raging green seamer either. If the pitch is similar to Edgbaston then that would suit me fine.
Barrel – I guess it will be a slow Trent Bridge pitch with a bit of grass on it to appease the journos, Nass and Strauss(y). It won’t have the bounce of Edgbaston so it will just be a tricky pitch which doesn’t help anyone really.
3. The loss of Anderson. A crucial blow or one we can get over?
Philip – Well he will stop playing at some point. So we have to get over it. Yes we will be fine. If Finn hadn’t bowled so well in the last game I would be much more nervous, but we will be fine (if I tell myself enough times we will be fine, I will eventually believe it). Whether Wood, Plunkett or Footitt play they all have extra pace and will do well at Trent Bridge – what we do need is smeone who doesn’t go at 5 an over to bowl with broad – we have to accept that Finn is likely too as is Moeen, so who ever plays has to be able to do the dot ball holding roll.
Hillel – On the surface of it, a terrible blow – despite all of Finn’s heroics, Anderson played a huge part in victory at Edgebaston. However, scratch a bit deeper and England should (the famous last word) be alright. Broad has been bowling superbly, and has until now gone largely unrewarded for his efforts; it is almost certain wickets for him are imminent. I need not go into detail about just how well Finn is bowling at the moment. There is room to suggest Mark Wood’s record at Trent Bridge means that he can replace Anderson there as well, despite the fact that he is not a like-for-like replacement as someone like Jack Brooks might have been. Where England will be hurt is if Anderson remains injured for the final Test; with England unlikely to go with the experience of Jack Brooks, they could find their attack rather depleted.
David – Yes and yes. It may well be fate that Finn has come of age just as Anderson has acquired his free pass bus. We only see the pivotal moments for what they are in the rear view mirror. I hope Jimmy comes back at The Oval, but we really need to be thinking hard about life after Jimmy. How all that effects this Test though is anyone’s guess. And we’ve all been doing a hell of a lot of guessing in this series!
Paul – Could be a McGrath moment, could be nothing of the sort. I’ve given up predicting anything in this series. It’ll give the Aussies a boost, that’s for sure, but it’s up to them to take advantage. I’d expect them to bounce back but, like I say, it’s a crazy series.
Sean – It’s a massive blow if the pitch has something for the swing bowlers (but not if its a featherbed). We don’t have another bowler like Anderson in county cricket that doesn’t bowl at late 70 mph (Rushworth as a prime example). I think they’ll go with Wood if fit and he does have a good record at Trent Bridge in his first class career, so I’m taking some solace in that. The unknown is how much of a boost that has given to the Australian dressing room knowing they won’t have to face Jimmy on one of his favourite grounds.
Barrel – I suspect it will be crucial. Although Broad is bowling well, Finn is only one match into his “comeback”, Stokes is variable, and it looks as if Wood has had a cortisone. Given that you should only have 3 cortisones in your career – learned from Simon Jones’s memoir – this is a very bad sign. I suspect Wood will struggle in this match to fill Anderson’s workload.
4. I’m a bit concerned about Jos Buttler’s batting. Are you?
– Yes I am concerned, but I think Jos is a massive superstar and will score runs. At the moment he doesn’t seem to have a clear plan of how to play, plus, I suspect, he is lacking some form. Personally I would swap him and Johnny B in the batting order and play him just as a batsman (as said previously) and tell him to treat the match as if it was a one day game. Focus on the ball and not the match situation.
Jos, like Root and Moeen is just one of those players you have to back.
Hillel – Not particularly. Jos Buttler did score good runs against New Zealand (only three Tests ago!), and stick with him for long enough, he’ll do so again. It’s worth mentioning as well that whilst Jos should be performing, England’s success will not (or should not) be decided at the number 7 position.
David – Very. He’s looked a hapless shadow of himself. And his thinking has been wobbly too. Not reviewing (however OUT he thought he was, it was an obvious tactical necessity with his LBW with only the tail to come) was schoolboyish. If there hadn’t been more obvious guys to drop he might have been axed by now. Get out and play your natural game Jos. Hit the bloody thing!
Paul – Not especially. Better judges than I say he’s the real deal. If so he’ll work it out. It might be that he should be moved up the order in the longer term.
Sean – Yes it’s a concern, like a number of our other batsmen, though he has been noticeably better with the gloves. They’re not going to dump Jos (yes Ian Healy, that’s Jos not Josh) as he has been identified as the heir apparent and without doubt is a talented batsman (his test batting seems to mirror his county batting in that he blows hot and cold) but I still think we’ll see a significant score from him before the series is out. One thing I’d be tempted to do would be to send Moeen in ahead of him, as Moeen has looked in form with the bat this series and it seems a waste to have him continuously batting with the tail.
Barrel – Yes – he hangs his bat out to dry when there is any pace directed at him.
5. Your prediction for this match coming up?
Philip – England to win – no idea why. probably in 4 days. England play well at Trent Bridge and it is Broad’s home ground – he is due a hot streak and I think he will be MoM
Hillel – I’m not sure even the Oracle of Delphi would dare voice a prediction on the next Test, in light of how the previous three have gone. At a push, I’d suggest England.
David – Defeat. It’s obvious isn’t it?
Paul – I’d be surprised if Australia don’t bounce back at Trent Bridge: they’ll be hurting. I can’t help feeling that they have a deep well of confidence that England sides, 2005 excepted are unable to match. That may, however, be nothing more than mental scarring as a result all those defeats in the 90s and the subsequent whitewashes in Oz.
Sean – Seriously, who knows, such has been the inconsistencies of each side during the series. My heart says England due to the dreaded M worded being bandied about by the pundits, but head says Australia will get it together and perform well at Trent Bridge. I do think whoever bats the best in the first innings will win the game as neither side’s batting line up has been able to cope with scoreboard pressure. On the other hand I am hoping for a number of Celebrappeals, a terrible Broad review in his first over, Mitchell Johnson to injure his ankle by stepping on a cricket ball and Moeen to mankading Michael Clarke, but that just might be me…
Barrel – Draw – rain-affected
Thanks to the contributors, once again, and to Sean for unknowingly rising me from a bit of a stupour. Great answers, showing that this gang aren’t some sad pathetic bunch, but passionate about the game. I might be a broken record on this, but until those arrogant little —— think that cheerleading is not the only way to follow this sport, and actually stop and read some of this stuff, then I’ll keep banging the drum. Well done all. Of all the things I’ve put on this blog, getting you to participate in the panels is one of the best. I thoroughly enjoy them!