Swim The Ocean In A Hurricane

Hello All. I’ve missed the birthday, the Outside Cricket Day and KP sacking day while cavorting across South America. Hope you all celebrated accordingly. Paul Downton should be our media’s greatest embarrassment. I’ll never tire of reminding them…. Good luck Kent.

A lot of water has flowed since the Alastair Cook 244 not out that made me throw my hands up in despair at both the press and the twitterati and think that the efforts we (I) make to bring some sort of discourse to cricket talk is like throwing shit at the wall. The fact is that the Ashes brought some form of motivation to write that had been missing for quite a while. We threw ourselves into the series, with live blogging, reports and comment. When the series was gone, and the Ashes a dream, that some thought it more important that an individual shove it back down the throats of critics than stop to properly analyse the stuff we’ve been banging on about since the 2013/14 tour shouldn’t really have surprised me.

I have grown progressively tired of cricket. There is something to be said that throwing yourself into something so completely, as I have for the past four years, is bound to leave you in a state of exhaustion or despondency. They call it burn out. Chris’s excellent piece this week about the rain delay, and how cricketing educations were formed in either watching old highlights or listening to excellent discussions on the TMS radio feed, just remind me what we’ve lost. In fact, I keep saying “we” as if I’m talking for a lot of us, when I really mean “I”. I’ve lost the innocent love for the game, the need to watch the sport to enjoy it, and maybe it is being a blogger that does it. That I feel I have a position to justify rather than just to write and comment on what I see. I’ve devoted so much time to this place that sometimes my evenings at home revolved around watching the comments come in and react to them, or to monitor what happens on Twitter. It became a madness, an obsession. You might even call it an addiction.

What drives me is complacency. What drives me is stupidity. What drives me is injustice. What drives me is that I enjoy (ed) writing. What didn’t drive me is any sort of fame. Any sort of recognition from the cognoscenti. Any sort of patting on the back from a respected source. I still think my old stuff is my better stuff. I still think that the pieces like the ones Chris wrote this week deserve the attention because they come from the heart from a bloke who shares the same values as me – writing from the heart, the soul, rather than from some cynical need to be recognised or wanting the glory. But I will be associated with being pro-KP until the end is nigh, and anti-ECB to the extent that I have to employ a cleaner to scrape the bile off the screen.

As these days pass, and I’ve been away for 11 days in Colombia and Peru with work, so about as far away from cricket as you can get (although an England captain was born in Lima), it is worth reminding yourself why cricket, a sport that is doing its best to alienate the people who kept it going for the last 20 years, is something worth saving. Moments picked from the cluttered memories of yore. How I played a Kent Cup Semi-Final, dropped the bloke who scored 80 and won the tie for the oppo, and then being picked up by Dad to tell me Gordon Greenidge had made a double hundred and chased down 340 to win the Lord’s Test in 1984. Or sleeping on a grass bank at Croydon and missing most of the first innings that I would ever see Kevin Pietersen play. Of being there when Ramps made his first class triple century, scratching through the 290s like a man who had never wielded a bat before. Of that walk down Vulture Street in 2002. There was watching the end of Botham’s 149, but loving the 118 at Old Trafford much more, and recalling Jim Laker’s mis-commentary still when he gets to that hundred. There are memories across all formats – how I stayed outside not to jinx the run chase in the War at Edgbaston ODI against Pakistan – or how me and my new student mates stayed up all night to watch the 1987 World Cup Final on my portable colour TV.

As I sit here now, I look across my living room to the bookcase full with cricket books. I’m reading Ben Stokes tome at the moment – it isn’t as bad as I feared and has an interesting take on how teams perform when they’ve clinched series that contrasts somewhat to the insulting bollocks the media and their acolytes put forward to us mere idiots – but there are tons of secondhand books that I’ve ordered off Amazon. I want to know more, I always want to know more. I look at the DVR recorder, which has the ODI series between India and South Africa to watch knowing I can programme it from a Lima hotel, or a Barranquilla airport, to record the cricket just as long as Sky sticks to its schedule. I look at Sky Cricket Channel and think of the missed opportunity from my selfish eye. I’d be replaying the entirety of test matches like Edgbaston 2005, Bridgetown 1999, and more besides, but they prefer pre-made packages of greatest evers and masterclasses. Who prefers practice to playing the game? I’m not a freak of nature like AB, so what can I learn? That might just be me.

As we move forward on the blog, I want to relive a golden memory of cricket. It wasn’t perfect, of course it wasn’t, but there’s now a shroud of defeatism wherever I look, and that includes myself. I have to admit, I couldn’t give a stuff about T20, I have a whopping cold, inherited from some dodgy aircon in Lima, and it’s taking some shifting. I’m hardly likely to be up with the lark to watch something like that Auckland farce the other day. But I’m told that’s what I want to see more of. The tests don’t start until the end of March, and I might be slightly more committed by then. You don’t have to be Einstein to realise that the readership here are not too interested in the T20 stuff either. I’ve tried to work up enthusiasm but I just can’t. A World T20 maybe, but only if it isn’t being used to silence critics of the ECB policy. Does the near 500 runs of the other night compare to Lara’s 153 to win v Australia, to Sachin’s might and majesty, to the obduracy and sheer all round genius of Jacques Kallis, of sitting in the sun watching Colly and KP put 300 on against Australia and we still lose. Not even close.

But what keeps me alive, what will make me post again, what will raise my ire and make me do this to myself is the sheer fucking complacency, and I apologise for the swearing but the blood boils, of people like Simon Hughes. This man is a copper-bottomed disgrace to the people he purports to represent – the readership of the Cricketer and the fans of the game who listen to his punditry. Earlier on I mentioned complacency.

If this had been written by Tom Harrison, we’d be raising hell. It’s risible to call the organisation that insulated itself by throwing its lot in with the Big Three “fearless”. People who stick up for the current county system are “domestic sport’s unruly skirmish” – what as opposed to the perfect order and beauty of the ECB in the wake of the 2013-14 Ashes when the unruly “outside cricket” mob had the damn cheek to criticise the bloody idiots, and when Hughes was one of those in the vanguard protecting the morons. But the tin hat on this particularly stupid introduction has to be “this is the new regime’s diligently researched and meticulously constructed attempt to eradicate [county debt]”. They’ve set up this T20 competition to save the counties. You have to be having a laugh. Let’s leave aside the diligent research and meticulous construction that haven’t really been shared with the “obsessives” that this is meant to save. Hughes has laid down his cloth for the ECB, and whether they care or not, and I suspect they think he’s as laughable as we do, they’ll use it. One of the main organs reporting on the game has spoken. Even in his introduction he’s been sold a pup by the ECB. We don’t know the team names yet, and I’ll bet we’d all have guessed where the 8 teams would be located (maybe a toss up between Bristol and Cardiff).

You know, we’ve been in Wisden, we’ve been contacted by a couple of journos, we are aware a number know about us, we get good traffic, we have a presence online. Did anyone think to talk to us, or to get the views of people on here. I think we’d have dealt with it properly and given all the information due consideration and respect. After all, what unites us all is a love of the game. We want the best for it. We have ideas. We have been told on many occasions to be more constructive. That we have a voice to use but we spoil it by not being obsequious and respectful enough. That’s what those at the top want. People to tell them how great they are. One day they might actually ask one of the most frequented cricket blogs out there what our views might be. Hell, they might even get some constructive responses. There’s as much chance of that as there is of me being editor of the Cricketer. Shame on this stupidity.

I’m not the answer. Never pretended to be. I have a voice, a view, and so do you. I’ve lost the desire to raise it, and instead of wondering why people like me, and others, feel the way we do, by asking what ails us, what makes us shrug our shoulders and why we turn off when we should turn on, the powers that be and the majority of the media pay us lip service and tell us what we should like. Sport where results don’t matter, but bodies watching and paying do. Sport where history doesn’t matter, but manufacturing events do. Sport where complexity and ebb and flow are anathema, and don’t matter, but where momentary wizardry, flash pyrotechnics and noise mean we will enjoy ourselves. I don’t call that fear. I call that recklessness.

Ah well. 1700 words on a semi-return. When I said I’d had enough that late December morning, I had. I still have. People who should know better said it was Cook, my hatred for him and my inability to give him due praise was the answer. I know who they are. It wasn’t. It was people who should know better who have let the ECB off a 4-0 drubbing to an ordinary Australia team and put Cook’s excellent innings on a pedestal to do so. I never thought I’d never post again. I just thought that I needed a break. Six weeks or so of not really writing hasn’t refreshed me one bit. It’s just been a gap in my rage. I liked the ODI side, I loved their spirit, their energy, their flaws. Then I remember the Ashes and the anger resurfaces. Maybe it doesn’t matter any more. Maybe it is time to call it quits. Right now, I think we are on a precipice.

All the best.

Peter

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Picking over the Bones: Final Ashes Panel

In the early hours of tomorrow morning, the One Day series between Australia and England will get underway.  For all the protestations about how vitally important the short form of the game is, it’s hard to believe many will remotely care about the outcome.  Even mischievously using the women’s Ashes rules, England are currently 18-2 down, which does at least make the point that winning the ODIs and T20 by a landslide still doesn’t make up for the thrashing received thus far.  Should England do reasonably, doubtless that will considered evidence that all is well; should they do badly, then England will finish the four year cycle exactly where they started it in the one day rankings.  Exceptional work all round.

With that in mind, we have the final Ashes panel drawn from the members of the blog.  Our contributors are Gareth, a long time supporter of English players, but not necessarily the England team – being from Edinburgh may explain that.  He can be reached on Twitter @G_Funk81.  Joining him is CricketJon, and Silk who also contributes frequently in the comments section.

So gents, I have some questions:

  • How do you feel about the outcome of the series? Did you expect it, or has it surprised you?

Gareth: The outcome itself did not surprise me, I had predicted 5-0, however the manner of the defeat was not what I expected. If I think back on the series, with the possible exception of the evening session in Brisbane (I think) when Root and Stoneman were given a working over, and perhaps England bowling under lights (albeit with the game gone) I cannot really think of a gripping period of play that really had that edge-of-the-seat Ashes feel. Rather than being blown away (as is often the case) it was more a case of being ground down, inexorably and inevitably, at the hands of Steve Smith. Death by a thousand depressing, tedious cuts, drives, pulls and whips through midwicket.

Silk:  Please. I’ve blanked it out of my mind already. I’m sure the NZ series, with a refreshed squad and a new vision will do fine.

CricketJon: I saved this question until last. The outcome of the series fills me with sadness. Not because a team lost 4-0 because that can happen in sport. Its life. No…..its the missed opportunities, the promises made after the last Ashes tour and the sheer lack of self awareness from the people running the English game. In other sports and business (and never the twain shall they meet…ah wait) the buck stops at the top.

Did I expect it? Well I wasn’t surprised. I would now class this team as a group I would be happy to idle away a summers day on (on the telly) but gone are the days of losing several hours sleep (and the consequences of doing so) to watch an away Ashes series.

  • Who is to blame, primarily?

Gareth: I predicted 5-0 the moment I saw the squad. Therefore I would say it is the fault of the selectors. Now, that being said, I do not think there was a squad they could have named that would have won the Ashes, but I’m sure there were several  possible squads that could have been less predictably dire. Any follower of English cricket could have predicted James Vince’s batting average and modes of dismissal before he got on the plane. Why couldn’t the selectors?

I notice in the aftermath of (and often during) the series that county cricket took a lot of stick from pundits and journalists. Certainly those top-performing county cricketers such as Leach, Robson, Northeast, Porter, Collingwood et al should be ashamed of the fact that the circumstances of their upbringing, choice of county or “character” (the go-to word when they just don’t like someone) led to them combining for a disappointing total of no runs and no wickets in the series. Moeen Ali exceeded that on his own (barely)!

Silk: I don’t really want to think about that. It’s just too depressing.

CricketJon: To answer this objectively one has to look at selection, coaching and the gap between the four day county championship and test cricket.

The selections raised eyebrows for me not for the first time because of the public endorsements of players by Michael Vaughan and his “interest in ISM”. The press, such as they, are do very little to entertain the myth regarding conflict of interest on this matter. It suggests that Whittaker listens to so called pundits, some of whom change their mind far too frequently or make it up as they go along. This may be a generational shift in how the press operates but I cannot see why that should apply to selectors.

The coaching set up at Bluffborough is more concerning. We hear stories of great athletes at the input stage (Bunbury week) and observe over coached bowling dry partially injured players unfit for 5 day cricket at the output stage. [ Maybe that’s why they want to reduce to 4 day Test cricket? The gap would be less exposed. ] The sheer lack of upcoming talent to replace Broad and Anderson is stunning given the huge financial resources. I do not know if the volume of inputs has reduced substantially because fewer teenagers watch cricket now (and we all know why that is) but the output is unequivocally poor.

The four day county championship now suffers from an identity crisis. Once a fiercely fought  competition for over 100 years in the pre-digital era to that of a feeder to the Test team  (2000-c2015) it has now become a background element shunted into disparate fragmented components of the season that would be imaginable in the days when Richard Hadlee and John Lever would take 110 wickets a season. It is not difficult to see how this fails to prepare players for Test matches even in English conditions.

The governing body are responsible for all three aspects.

  • Which players did better than you expected, and who did worse?

Gareth: Dawid Malan managed to do something that the other batsmen all singularly failed to do and adapted his batting to suit the circumstances. I’ll be honest and admit that I really didn’t think he had it in him, but I take my hat off to him and really hope he can kick on from here and establish himself as a fixture in the middle-order. He seems a phlegmatic sort of fellow, and I like the cut of his jib (and the flow of his cover drive). I’m already hearing talk of moving him to three, so I look forward to our collective suicide by face-palm in five Tests time.

The list doesn’t so much taper at this point as combust into flames and hurl itself into an abyss screaming “bring back Martin McCague”. I had high hopes that Chris Woakes would cement a long-term spot but he was ineffectual. I don’t think eight and nine-over spells did him many favours though.

I’m continually perplexed by pundits who express surprise at Broad and Cook’s lack of effectiveness. Had they not been watching for the last twelve months?

I know we should be getting stuck into James Vince, but he really didn’t perform worse than expectations, and an average of 26, with two half centuries, is actually a lot higher than I expected. He should never have been picked in the first place, and probably wouldn’t have made my own personal squad if I was purely picking a squad of sixteen English cricketers called James.

But Vince’s tour’s is akin to a silver feather run lovingly down the brow of a sleeping Baby Jesus when compared to the catastrophe that was Moeen Ali’s tour. An absolute disaster, but he’ll survive because he’s “a free spirit” and English cricket has invested too much in him, and spent too much time besmirching alternatives (Leach is a chucker and soft, Rashid bowls too slowly and is soft etc) to drop him.

Silk: You don’t really want me to answer that, do you?

CricketJon: Malan did better than I expected and Bairstow did worse than I expected. It was a struggle for Moeen but the inflexibility of the Master Strategists made provision for him to be picked even when injured. How ridiculous. If someone is unfit such as he was in the first two Tests then someone should replace him. Alas there was no Plan B.

  • Which players should be moved on, and who should replace them?

Gareth: If Broad is going to bowl cross-seam, then take the new ball off him. Too valuable, especially abroad, to waste. If he’s not happy being first-change, bin him. I’d give Woakes a go with the new ball in NZ. Toby Roland-Jones will hopefully be available to fill that vacant “fourteenth right-arm FM bowler” slot.

I’d personally take Moeen out of the firing line for his own good. If they want the (conservative) batsman-who-bowls option, I think Samit Patel would have done no worse. Adil Rashid took thirty wickets last winter, which I thought would have been enough to say “let’s work with him and try to build him up” but his time may have passed. I think Crane may have to wait until Stokes returns to provide that balance England crave. If they think Patel is too fat and Adil is too Rashid, there’s always Scott Borthwick for the batting part-timer role.

In terms of batting, I think they should tell Root to bat three, Bairstow to go to four and drop the gloves, and tell the pair of them that England are now in the business of winning Test matches, not Making Sure Joe And Jonny Get To Do What They Like Best.

Bairstow is probably the second most likely batsman to make a hundred. You diminish his chances of doing that by batting him at 6/7 and making him keep for two days. Foakes seems like a real blue-chip prospect, so let’s see what he can do.

As for Root – get him in at a 12-1 stumble rather than a 30-2 crisis.

My team for NZ – Cook, Stoneman, Root, Bairstow, Malan, Livingstone, Foakes, Woakes, Broad, Anderson, Crane

Livingstone makes it purely because he can turn his arm over (as can Root and Malan to be fair) a bit. I’m keen on Joe Clarke also, I’d take him as spare batsman. With Hameed and Gubbins in the wings, Stoneman needs a score. I’d tell Crane not to worry about the first innings – he’s there to mop up the tail, get overs and hopefully bowl well on days 4 and 5.

Silk: I almost think we are all of us ghosts. It is not only what we have inherited from our father and mother that ‘walks’ in us. It is all sorts of dead ideas, and lifeless old beliefs, and so forth. They have no vitality, but they cling to us all the same, and we cannot shake them off.

CricketJon: Vince is not a number 3 and given his selection for NZ I direct you to part of my answer to question 2. I do not know who should replace them because I have a full time job and do not have the time to analyse talent. I should point out however that Mr Bayliss does have a full time job but he, by his own admission, knows very little about county cricket. We therefore, in light of this worrying news, defer to Mr Whittaker and his line of engagement with pundits who change their mind (“it’s just an opinion, Mr Vaughan?”) too regularly. This does not have the molecular structure of a successful operating model. If there were shareholders involved in this as a private enterprise, then action would be taken. It does not apply here which I shall detail in the last question.

  • How did BT do with the coverage?

Gareth: If I never hear Graeme Swann again it will be far too soon. You can just tell he thinks Tim Lovejoy’s stint on Soccer A.M was the cultural highlight of all mankind’s achievements. Boycs was awful too.

Silk: No idea. I was listening on Radio 4 LW.

CricketJon: Whilst it made a refreshing change not to have to listen to Sir Horseshit talking about golf, alcohol, bbq’s, DK Lillee and how the best road in London is the one that leads out of it, it was significantly more toe curling listening to Graeme Swann constantly rehearsing for some hitherto unknown stand up. The Australians, Gilchrist and Ponting were unsurprisingly erudite and generally factual and objective (something which is only possible if they don’t work for Channel 9) whereas Boycott either became a bore or I had forgotten just how boring and dogmatic he was. Alison Mitchell was very credible and Matt Smith was an ok frontman. No material problems with Damien Fleming. I despise Michael Vaughan on the grounds that he simply makes it up as he goes along and caveats this M.O. with “it’s just an opinion”. He is nothing more than a 2017/18 lounge lizard. Cant believe I once adored him.

  • Were England that bad, or were Australia really good? 

Gareth: I thought Australia’s bowling was as good as we expected. Smith was outstanding, and most of their batsmen chipped in at key times. As I said previously, there was a grim inevitability about the way they ground England’s attack to dust. You cannot help but respect their preparation – they clearly saw what happened in the sub-continent last year where you can patiently accumulate 600 plus against England’s attack.

Silk: Stop asking me these questions. Why do you torture me so?

CricketJon: When Shaun Marsh spooned the ball to mid off at Brisbane, I was chuffed with just how well England stayed with Australia bearing in mind this was quite a few guys first tour. Brisbane isn’t easy. Its 30 years since anyone won there. It was the high point of the tour in terms of the outcome of the series. The rest of the match is history.

What really boils my piss is that two guys with 2.6m Test wickets between them were entrusted by a young captain upon winning the toss to take advantage of the conditions in Adelaide. The correct decision. Root was let down. They bowled the wrong length and if any proof was necessary look what happened throughout the match when they altered the length. We keep being told they are experienced warhorses and similar claptrap. Where does this rainbow end? I can understand human error, it happens, they are not robots but lack of concentration and application? The match was lost there and it was galling to see when Malan and Root batted so well in the fourth innings on the fourth evening just what might have been possible.

We have 4000 backroom staff or whatever the current number is. With the amount of time that gets forever lost in Test cricket (what other sport are you allowed to just piss off after 83 overs and short change the punters?) there was ample time for someone to send a message to the bowlers in the first half hour. Maybe they did and the bowlers weren’t listening? As David Brent would say “They wont remember”. I do.

  • How do England make sure it doesn’t happen again in four years’ time?

Gareth: Sack KP again?

I think they have to identify what was lacking and look at a group of about 8-10 players that they feel, in 4 years time, will, with careful nurturing and gradual integration into the side, provide the necessary tools to overcome Australian conditions. And look at skill levels alone, not what a nice bloke Liam Dawson is in the dressing room or claptrap like that. The skills? Pace bowling, reverse swing, skilful spin bowling and nous, ability to bat and concentrate for long periods and adapt.

Sounds simple doesn’t it? But isn’t that what selection is about?

Some of the short-termism of some selections made by England in the last 18 months (hello Liam Dawson!) shows just how non-existent the planning process was. Dawson (and Ansari before him) was never going to make the Ashes. Was he just there to have a dig at Rashid?

Silk: There is no health left within me. I am bereft.

CricketJon: Tear up the operating model and bring in people that have no conflicts of interest, are not obsessed with 20 or 10 over cricket and the money it brings and sadly bring it down to 3 Tests which is where it is eventually heading anyway.

  • What about the home Ashes? Who will win that?

Gareth: I have it too close to call. It really does depend on if James Anderson maintains his standards – England have little else but Jimmy remains a master of his craft. If Aussie can keep those three quicks fit they will be a handful on any surface (bar Melbourne!).

Silk: Please, make it stop.

CricketJon: Much rests on the pitches and overhead conditions. Please note that in 2015 the two tracks that were most like Australian conditions resulted in Australian victories.

  • England have a tour of New Zealand next, should they be worried?

Gareth: Very much so; they’re not Starc, Cummins and Hazlewood but Southee, Boult and Wagner are no pushovers, and if I were any of those three I’d be looking forward to getting stuck into Vince. New Zealand also have their own superstar batsman, and a good settled team ethos. They are consistently more than the sum of their parts.

Silk: ARGH. <thud>

CricketJon: Yes without a doubt.

  • Any Other Business?

Gareth: I know we give Peter Moores absolute pelters and rightly so. But he did identify Liam Plunkett as someone who could bowl bouncers with an old ball on garbage surfaces (Headingley 2014 etc). I was thinking about that as I watched Tom Curran run in. Using the old ball is a skill in itself, and one which England have lost sight of.

Silk: I would very much like to thank everyone at BOC who have put some much effort into following this crap, and writing about it. To write so well, and with such effort, about such crap is a magnificent effort. The long-suffering England support deserves you, but those Inside Cricket do not. More power to you.

CricketJon; Yes. I have said it already on this website. The debate should be opened as to precisely who the game belongs to. Furthermore the following (and previously written) questions need considering. It applies to any form of democracy and governance and the source of the five questions is the late and remarkable Tony Benn:

1, What power have you got?
2, Where did you get it from?
3, In whose interests do you use it?
4, To whom are you accountable?
5, How do we get rid of you?

Any difficulties arising from answering those questions raises an enormous red flag.

My thanks to all for their time and effort in answering my questions, and as always, comment below is very welcome.

Ain’t That A Hole In The Boat? – The Second Ashes Panel

australia-celebrate-the-ashes-whitewash_10piscrajeyf61qj64a1ovgr5r (2)
Round 2

Dmitri – Good day. By the time you will be reading this three of the four members of the writing council will be in the midst of an editorial board meeting. So we have left the Second Test Ashes Panel with you for your delectation. We’ve lost Danny from last time, which might be just about forgivable if he’d stayed up to watch the end of Day 4 (only joking, he was a stalwart throughout), but we have six of the remaining cast members, including more poetry from the Bogfather. So thanks to Silk, Sri, Ian, Scrim, MiaB and TheBogfather (no space) for their contributions, their rapid responses, and excellent and varied insight. Really enjoyed it people.

 

Question 1 – So now the Brisbane result is in, what has it shown you about the relative strengths and weaknesses (and some perhaps not highlighted by the mainstream media)

Silk – I’ve not seen anything the media haven’t seen. Though Handscomb’s weakness against Anderson was unexpected (to me). Australia’s batting looks a lot less weak after Day 4 than it did in the middle of Day 2, with Marsh proving a good selection and Bancroft in the runs second dig. Worryingly, Hazelwood appears to have dusted the cobwebs off his bowling after a poor day one. Khawaja and the keeper aside, all looks rosy is Aussie world.

England’s batting was a lot better than I thought it might be. The bowling as ineffective as I feared it might be. The problem is, for England to win I thought we had to knock Aus over, cheaply, repeatedly, as our batting, while capable of 300, didn’t look capable of 500. On this display, Aus have nothing to fear.

Sri – I think the assessment that Oz batting is still Smith and Warner is still true. Likewise OZ bowling was expected to be good and it has proven to be good. 

However, Lyon’s impact was underestimated by me and maybe by the english mainstream media as well. He made a big difference by getting critical wickets. Seems to have improved significantly and with England’s Moeen who seems to have been injured a bit, the gap in this department and due to under performance of woakes, OZ could negate the advantage England had when they started their second innings. Lyon makes the OZ bowling stronger and if Moeen continues to struggle with injuries England will be weaker. 

However, the problem for England is really the support bowling and I certainly didn’t expect woakes especially to be so ineffective.

I still think England can outbat Oz. Their batsmen have got starts except cook and anyway my expectation was that cook would score around 210 runs if he plays all the tests. 

Scrim – Bowling depth seems to be England’s problem, not Australia’s as was (and still is) claimed by many in the media. Depth both in terms of quality, and diversity. There is no feeling that any Australian bowler is weaker than another, and between them they have tools at their disposal that England didn’t: genuine pace, a left armer, some reverse swing, and a spinner bowling brilliantly.

Despite having an omnipotent deity coming in at 4, there are still some question marks over the Australian batting line up. Khawaja and Handscomb will be desperate for runs.

MiaB – We knew already. Brittle batting. A pair of good batters on each side but Smith and Warner comprehensively did for Cook and Smith. The English bowling is useless without a Selvey green seamer track 

Ian – Weaknesses in both teams but more in the England team.   Steve Smith who is used to the pressure of captaincy is able to not let it affect him whilst of course the change bowling is a big strength for Australia too.

Rhyme Time from TB…

But the ‘roos fought harder than team Root

Was it battle plans pre-scored or radical idyllic thirst

A close shave became full beard fear, however hirsute…
Lack of forethought and testing preparation
Sent England to an eventual slaughter
A Stokesless fire, soon died in chilled perspiration
Spent pop-gun attack, enduring hid injuries, became pure plasticised mortar…

(Don’t know what he did with the formatting, but I’m not messing about with it after midnight)

 

Question 2  Adelaide at night? In favour of day-night in the Ashes, or are you a reactionary old fuddy duddy?

Scrim – 100% in favour of day-night tests. Given the importance of getting bums on seats and high TV ratings, both commercially and because ultimately cricket is played for spectators, it makes perfect sense to play when people aren’t at work. Can you imagine the Premier League scheduling Chelsea vs Arsenal at 1pm on a Thursday afternoon?

I love that they are being played at my home ground, Adelaide Oval. I haven’t been home for a day-night test yet, but from what mates tell me, the atmosphere is amazing. The evenings are usually beautifully balmy in Adelaide in December, as opposed to oppressively hot during the middle of the day.

In terms of the on-field action: as long as there is a statsguru filter for it, who cares? Test cricket is played in all sorts of weather conditions, with all sorts of different balls, on all sorts of surfaces and that is one of the most fascinating things about it. Artificial light isn’t that much of a stretch. The best players will exploit and adapt, as they would to any other playing condition.

MiaB – As reactionary as they come. Only on a 1938 Durban track or 1930 west Indies track do you want dew to influence the result. 

Ian – I like the concept of D/N test cricket but more as a television viewer than somebody attending the test.  Depending on your timezone I think its great to get home from work and have a few hours test cricket to watch.  Although I wouldn’t be massively keen on attending a test in the UK or Australia that didn’t finish until late evening.

Silk – Fuddy duddy, if it changes the balance between bat and ball. The toss is already too big a factor in Tests. If day/night makes it more of a lottery, well, effectively you’ve got 2nd tier tests, which no one ‘properly’ wins, because of the lights.

If it’s just as easy to play under lights as it is without them, I’ve no problems with it.

Sri – In Favor. Loving T-20 can’t call myself a fuddy duddy 🙂

TB with the formatting nonsense, in prose..

My reaction is nary a thought now considered

As Test cricket is left to seek a reason for being
By the moneyed moguls of short-term, cash-cowed, highest-bidders
Bereft of history, a cleft wreaked by the me, me, me, unseeing
And once pink balls become coloured clothing
I will lose my true love, be in complete loathing.

Not a clue what he’s done..

 

Question 3 – Put that Steve Smith innings into context. Tell me an Ashes ton you thought was better.

MiaB – Maybe Greg Chappell’s 112 at Lords in 1972, the Massie match. Or Cowdrey’s 102 at Melbourne in 1954. Both innings head and shoulders beyond what anyone else managed.

Sri – Mark Taylor’s performances in England especially the century he made in the second innings in a losing cause when everyone had given up on him because of his poor form which then turned the ashes around.

Silk – The 235* was very, very good. England were under the hammer, and it needed fight. On every other tour we’d have lost that Test by tea. But the pitch was very very flat that day, as the other batsmen showed. Smith had batsmen falling around him, and stood tall.

Obviously for sheer panache, history, soaring while everyone around you stutters, etc., the 158 was remarkable.

Ponting at Old Trafford (158 I think I recall) was brilliant. I saw all of that one live. England bowled with genuine threat that day, and Punter saw them all off until very near the close.

Smith’s is up there with KP and Ponting of the ones in Tests I’ve followed. Butcher’s 173 doesn’t really count, does it? Dead rubber and all that.

Ian – Great question,  I’m trying to think of similar hundreds in similar circumstances where somebody batted the whole way through to finish unbeaten or was last out and the best I could come up with was Trott’s debut hundred.

Scrim – Maybe Ricky Ponting’s matchsaving 150 in 2005 at Old Trafford, falling just a few overs short of stumps and leaving Lee and McGrath just a few overs to bat out to keep the series level? I almost cried when he was given out.

It’s hard to put Smith’s innings into historical context just yet. It was brilliant. But it might not even be his best century this year – his 2nd innings in Pune still edges this one, I think.

TB – The formatting alien…

Relatively dismissive except for Steve Smith’s missive
To bat, to score, to crush and endure
He may not remotely excite the eye
But his results are team and Test batting so pure.
Now for an Ashes innings you ask
Such a flashback of winning memory task
I could go for Botham, either ton in ’81
Or KP 158 in ’05, edge of seat fear and fun
Yet my longest standing memory of a ton v Aus
Was not in an Ashes, but the Centenary Test, because…
Twas my first experience of radio under the bedcovers

McCosker, jaw-strapped and bold, daddy Marsh ton as game did unfold
Randall 174 v Lillee, Melbourne ’77, e’er since been a TMS lover
From doffed cap and backward roll to Knott lbw and 45 run loss, 100 year story told…

 

Question 4 – Lots mentioned that Alastair Cook’s form may be in decline. What are your thoughts on this Damascene conversion?

Ian – I have thought it for a while and your 7 in 110 or whatever it is highlights this.

Silk – It’s obviously in decline, as I think you, and some others, may have mentioned once or twice previously. That it’s being mentioned now as because (a) it’s too clear to pretend away now and (b) pretty obvious to continue throughout the series. What isn’t being said is that he’s only once had any sort of form in Australia, so this is hardly a remarkable turn-up for the books. No punter with any knowledge would have bet on him averaging more than 35 in this tour, even if on form.

MiaB – My TIMA method showed it quite clearly. Just glad that folks are catching up with the new cricket guru

Sri – Reality cannot be staved away for too long. Even hardcore supporters have to comprehend that cook is great against pace attacks that are mediocre but not against genuine pace and swing. Can’t blame the fans much. The english media? the less said about media the better. Most are highly biased and have their own pot to stir.

Scrim – Unsurprisingly, mainstream Australian opinion on Cook is rather different to  mainstream English opinion. We remember English players pretty much solely on Ashes performances, and apart from one two month period in his career that we all try to forget, he has been a walking wicket vs Australia, home and away. My thoughts on the change of tune? I wouldn’t mind if he is there in 2019, can’t they keep blowing his horn a bit longer?

TB – Poetry causing mayhem..

I do believe we’ve heard this somewhere before? (here, and how!)

Tho’ unbelievably, never from the MSM floor (until, vague hints, now…)
We’ve discussed this and been cussed by those insiders so devout

Perhaps the ECB web weaved now sussed, as Cookie hooks or snicks, so all will be out?

 

Question 5 – I was quite underwhelmed by the Aussie pace attack for much of the test match, yet now they “blow teams away”. What were your thoughts?

Scrim – It wasn’t the 13/14-style carnage that was promised, but on what was a slow pitch by Australian standards, I thought they did really well. They bowled them out twice for a combined 500 (with a fair bit of help from Lyon). Once the pitch quickened up a bit, the last 15 wickets fell for 250 runs, including 10 from short or shortish bowling. Hazlewood, in just his second first class game back from injury, found his rhythm in the second innings. Cummins was a constant threat. Starc struggled a bit, but still picked up wickets and did actually blow the bottom half of the English team away twice, and rocked Root with one in the grill. There’s more to come.

Silk – Starc is over-rated. He’s impressive, but he likes tail-enders, not batsmen. But Hazelwood is just an excellent bowler, not relying on pace, so he’ll be dangerous at any stage (as he showed against Root), and Cummins has something about him. Able to raise his game suddenly, just as it seems England might get away.

You can’t turn off. And England, Cook aside, switch off far too much. Ali does. Bairstow does. Root’s poor conversion stats show he does. Vince did, first innings. Say what you like about Cook (I’m not a fan of the man, though I don’t think he’s an awful person) but Cook the batsman stays switched on, once in. That’s his greatest strength, I think.

Plus, Australia have Lyon, and I told Mike Selvey, when Moeen Ali came on the scene, that he was not the answer to England’s loss of Graham Swann. He ignored me, but I had my say. For once, I was actually right. If you’ve got a spinner who can keep you in the game, you are, well, in the game.

Ian – It isn’t a vintage attack but its certainly good enough to do the job.  Hazlewood will take more of the top order wickets whilst Starc can finish the tail quickly.

Sri – Good attack given the poor quality of bowling attacks in the world now but not great. With Lyon, Starc, Cummins and Hazelwood they have a great balance and have to be one of the better attacks around. On their day, any bowling attack can blow teams away at home. India have often done so. The test for the Oz attack to be considered great would be away in England or India.

MiaB – The opening bowlers ripped out the English top order in both innings. They fulfilled the job description. 10 out of the 20 went to them. Compare the English attack.

Unaligned Bogfather..

The mind games were set by the press beforehand both there and here
The Aus attack was at last fit to blast as one, so Eng did fear
And even tho’, the pitch was slow, their plan did unfold
Stifle the upper order, bounce the tail into disorder, so over did England roll….

 

Question Six – If you have BT Sport – what did you think of their coverage. Try not to focus on Lovejoy.

Sri – No clue. I like Swann’s bowling but never liked his character off the field. Considered him a big hypocrite.

MiaB – Pass

Silk – Nup. TMS only for me. (I like Tufnell. In small doses, at least. Am I weird?)

And to those who watched it…..(Ed)

Ian – I made do with watching BT sport on the app and thought it was ok    Pleased to hear Ponting but I wish that they showed a bit more originality in their choices because of how many commentators they share with TMS.   If I’m bored of TMS I want to turn on the TV to hear somebody else not somebody I heard 5 minutes ago.

Scrim – Pretty good for a first try. It was good to have an even balance of Australians and English to keep cheerleading in check, and to commentate from the perspective of both teams. They picked three good Australian commentators. This was the first I’d heard of Alison Mitchell and she was really good. I don’t think Vaughan is as bad as many here think. Swann was unbearable at times.

I don’t like Boycott, never have. He has some good insights, but as one BOC reader perfectly put it, he always sounds like he’s in an argument with a neighbour. He also didn’t seem to appreciate having to commentate with a woman (or maybe it is because Mitchell isn’t a former player). He commentated together with Mitchell on day 1. It seemed quite awkward. Boycott was disagreeing with her at every turn, and I don’t remember them paired together again after that. Maybe Danny or someone else who watched a lot can comment on whether they did and whether they improved together.

Finally, TheBogfather

No BT, but am thankful for their choice
Of LoveJoy and ShinyToy, expending their voice
Leaving TMS with only occasional interruptions
Of their verbal self-loving commentary corruptions…

 

That’s all folks. We will run a panel for the third test, which will also be a little more relaxed as I think there is a small gap between the two tests. Apologies if the formatting is a little awry – it did not scan over to Word as well as the previous panel. There are a couple of numerical errors which I’ve not totally rectified, so be gentle with the respondents who reacted to these questions in a remarkably short time. My heartfelt thanks to the contributors. We will no doubt delight in the responses at the quarterly Editorial Board meeting this evening.

Comments below, as always…

The End of The Road – Preview and Possible Live Blog – 5th Day

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Day 5. In a new world this won’t exist, so I suppose we had better appreciate them while they are still here. This Day 5 comes to us with very little in the way of suspense. 56 runs to win, 10 wickets in hand, a bowling attack that never looked like taking a wicket, an off field controversy, and all around the England team are naysayers and doom-mongers wittering on about the wheels falling off. Welcome to the Ashes, welcome to the tumult that follows it around.

So, for another four year we can put away the tedious cliche that is Gabbatoir. This was a wicket England could certainly work with and for three days, give or take a session, they were well in the game, putting up a competitive, even at times, leading display. There were plaudits being thrown around for Joe Root’s captaincy, how innovative and proactive it had been. Today I heard Lovejoy effectively say he wasn’t cut out to be captain and should never have been given the job (and, I presume, the pay rise that comes with it).

There was a moment last night on commentary that Lovejoy said that there wasn’t anyone out there leading them in the field. There weren’t enough voices. Bairstow is in’t the most vocal of keepers; Moeen Ali is too laid back; Stoneman is an introvert; Vince is quite; and best of all “Alastair Cook wouldn’t say boo to a goose”. I don’t know, I read too much into things, but if you could put into microcosm what has gone wrong with English cricket since the final days of the Flower regime, this was it. It was his gang that no doubt made all newcomers feel welcome (and others, I know), and if you were particularly vocal in this your face didn’t fit and you were briefed against or sacked. Lordy, I would keep my gob shut in that atmosphere. When the time comes for you to be vocal, who is going to take any notice if you are new or been quiet for years. In the main, not always, England have won a test match since the last Ashes when in front from the start. If we fall behind, there have been a couple of fightbacks, but we fold. It was said about the last tour that this was a team at the end of its tether, with itself, and the individuals that composed it. This is a team which seems to be slightly fearful. They responded well to the early exchanges but as the game went on, they got worse. A lot worse. Not Karun Nair worse, but bad enough.

There will be a lot to chew over in the next few days, and you know we are very responsive to defeats, with plenty of constructive comment, and also poking fun and pointing out the inadequacies of fanboys/girls who somehow think that not cheering hard enough causes this, while the media reaction will be fascinating. Management and the players allowed low expectations to fester last winter as some sort of reason for failure being fine and dandy, but it doesn’t wash when most of the pundits think Australia has two batsmen and a load of filler. Chris Woakes, by acclaim, was the most improved cricketer of the last 18 months, but he’s now back in the spotlight after one anonymous game. Jake Ball was thrown in, more in hope than expectation and now there isn’t a pundit who thinks he will play in Adelaide.

So when David Warner and Cameron Bancroft come out to bat in a couple of hours time, it will be interesting to watch how England play. A display of fight, getting in their faces, trying to inflict a wound or two would signal intent. Just turning up, hoping it is all over in half an hour will be a disappointment.  Lovejoy believed the team never thought for one minute that they could bowl out Australia for fewer than 170, and it came across in their body language (what a load of old bollocks – if they nicked a couple of wickets early no-one would have mentioned how they came out on the field – confirmation bias at its worst) from the start.

I haven’t yet got the chance to see the highlights of yesterday. I’ll load them up onto my phone for the flight to Madrid on Tuesday (a day bloody trip to Madrid) and perhaps comment afterwards. So I’ve not seen the stumping or YJB’s shot. I’ve read enough about them. But between Brisbane and Adelaide we will recover some energy, comment on what we see and hear and importantly, get the second Ashes panel convened.

For those who filled it in, and want to participate the questions are as follows:

  1. So now the Brisbane result is in, what has it shown you about the relative strengths and weaknesses (and some perhaps not highlighted by the mainstream media)
  2. Adelaide at night? In favour of day-night in the Ashes, or are you a reactionary old fuddy duddy?
  3. Put that Steve Smith innings into context. Tell me an Ashes ton you thought was better.
  4. Lots mentioned that Alastair Cook’s form may be in decline. What are your thoughts on this Damascene conversion?
  5. I was quite underwhelmed by the Aussie pace attack for much of the test match, yet now they “blow teams away”. What were your thoughts?
  6. If you have BT Sport – what did you think of their coverage. Try not to focus on Lovejoy.

Please DO NOT answer the questions in the comments, but send them to dmitriold@hotmail.co.uk . If we get too many, I’ll pick the best of them. I don’t expect too many.

Now to the Live Blog. I’ve not spoken to Danny, who might run it tonight. I have to pack the border collie off to my brother very early tomorrow and had very little sleep last night, so I’m going to bed before the day’s play. If we run a blog it will be below. If not, please put your comments below. Our thanks for our friends, old and new, for making the Live Blog and Review such a success. We are glad we can provide such an outlet. Hope you enjoyed it too.

Pray for a miracle.

0004 Broad bowls the first over, Warner scores 3 and Australia only need 53 more.

0009 Anderson from the other end. Warner gets a single and Australia need 52.

0016 Another 2 overs gone, another 6 runs scored. 48 required.

0032 Woakes and Ball have taken over now, 37 needed.

0047 Slow going, 30 more runs needed.

0050 Bancroft edges a Jake Ball delivery through a vacant second slip. Another 4 runs on the board, and that’s 25 more required.

0102 Single figures needed now…

0109 And that’s it. Cameron Bancroft hits a looping drive straight over a short mid off to the boundary, and AUSTRALIA HAVE WON BY 10 WICKETS.

0131 Bayliss: England need to score hundreds. Stunning insight there.

0132 Overton next in line in the squad it seems, and he’ll be watching Mark Wood’s progress in the Lions.

0133 Bayliss says the Bairstow incident is blown out of all proportion but also that he needs “a stern talking to”. A bit muddled.

“Day 3 At The Gabba….” – LIVE BLOG and Preview.

 

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It’s a parallel universe, and in that wonderful place it is Day 3 at the Woolloongabba and England are batting. They are 165 for 4, with Joe Root on 64, Dawid Malan on 44. Australia have posted 302. The pitch is not easy to score on and the bowling side has two opening bowlers with 900 wickets between them.  In that parallel universe the headlines on the Courier Mail would be “Pommies Holding On For Life”. Or something much more crude.

England are in a really decent position, having reduced the hosts to 76 for 4 but seeing the late session play go the way of the home side. At this point they are in front, not by far, but ahead. Day 3 is set for a terrific contest in an interesting test match. One little aside, amazing how Trent Bridge 2013, played on a slow, low surface, was slated as a terrible wicket to diminish the terrific game that unfolded, yet the Gabba gets a pass. We’ve missed attritional, fighting cricket so much that when we see it, we go mad. This is classic test cricket, fascinating, enjoyable and slow to unwind. Great.

The Editorial Committee discussed what we would do about tonight’s proceedings. We are concerned for Danny’s wellbeing as he has stayed up all night for the first two days’ play and we can’t commit that he will do a third – even though he has told us he will (he has been promoted to Editor this week, I’m sure he is thrilled!). While there is no work for us tomorrow, I’ve got a bloody Heathrow run so won’t be up all night. Others may be in late from their evening’s entertainment. It’s a tough life.

But we also note that the Live Blogging went down quite well despite everyone else seemingly doing it. We can’t bring the corporate heft of ESPN Cricinfo, the legendary voices of TMS, the pageantry and self awareness of the Guardian or the ever so enjoyable Guerilla Cricket, but we can bring our own brand of, well, whatever our brand is, to the Ashes cauldron caukdrib  ( Puts on Frank Muir voice – a caukdrib is a pot used to cook liquids at low temperatures….). So we’ve decided to live blog tonight, for as long as we stay awake.

FOR AS LONG AS WE STAY AWAKE.

It might catch on as a motto.

So, you know the form. Chip in with your comments below, and one of your loving, charming hosts will be updating you from here.

So for post number 1, Dmitri is kicking it off….

2121 – The latest weather radar from the Bureau of Meteorology….

Brisbane Radar 24

21:28 – A couple of things. Who is the person who has his/her hits from Santa Caterina province in Brazil? Always mystified me that one. And secondly, if your column is a regular dose of snark, make sure you get his name right in the photo caption.

Cook

This never happens to John Cena.

2201 – We’ve solved the Brasilian conundrum – welcome Mark. We’ve also got the first of Oliver Holt’s Holiday Snaps for today.

Read Martin Samuel’s nonsense in the Mail as well. He won’t be happy with a 1-1 draw at home to Leicester. Shame.

22:41 Been editing the live coverage for transfer on to my records. So…. many….. betting….. adverts. I am a nerd and I keep a lot of cricket. Broke my heart that I didn’t get the VHS all onto DVD as I had tons of Lara, Thorpe, Sachin (though he wasn’t my fave) and others. Up to date now and feel a bit better.

22:44 While we are looking at our viewers from afar, who is the one in Santiago, Chile? And the Dallas Metro area. Everyone very welcome. It really amazes me our little old blog has this reach.

23:01 Day 3 in Brisbane on my visit. Hungover from a long day in the sun and lots of beer. England capitulated, not totally, but enough to allow the Aussies a big lead, and then they accumulated for the rest of the day. The Saturday night was the Manchester derby. Watched it in an open air bar with a bloke who came from Deptford, like me. City won 3-1. Feeding goats or something or other.

23:04 Day 3 in Brisbane on the 2010/11 tour. Hussey and Haddin completed their 300+ stand after one of the unluckiest bowling sessions I’ve ever seen England have. Australia post big lead. Strauss has our hearts in mouths with a very close LBW shout leaving it. The next two days went down in legend.

23:07 Day 3 in Brisbane in the book I have out – the 1982/3 tour. Kepler Wessels had completed a century on debut the day before and almost carried his bat, making 162. England trailed by 122 runs, but Graeme Fowler dug in, we lost just one wicket in getting to 71 and England had half a shout.

23:30 Day 3 last time out in Brisbane. We’d been skittled. Warner and Clarke made tons, set us five hundred and plenty, and we were two down at the close, including Johnson getting Trott. Meanwhile Shiny Toy and Lovejoy are on the screen together, with the latter saying Woakes’s shot is “the worst of the Ashes so far”. My eyes roll.

23:42 The KP ESPN advert is drivel. He’s becoming a worrisome parody.

23:57 Game ready to resume, darker clouds above, James Anderson bowling, Dmitri on the keyboard for a bit. Danny is awake, and the first ball of the day goes for two.

0:00 No, not a clue.

0:02 Broad at the other end. Gilchrist finding out bantz with Boycs isn’t a long-term plan. Marsh square cuts Broad for four to get off to decent start.

00:07 Boycott getting on my nerves already. OK, we get your point. We don’t need to hear it every ball you frightful old bore. Marsh gets three behind point and completes a half century. Not sure why people thought he was a dodgy selection. He’s hit and miss, I know, but he does hit.

00:17 Anderson gets Smith to woosh at a shot outside off stump. First legit play and miss today? Meanwhile a usual suspect on Twitter goes all pseuds corner re Adam Gilchrist. It’s me. I find it if I was an ice cream I’d lick myself stuff. 175 for 4.

00:21 WICKET – Out of the blue Marsh checks a drive and lobs up a catch to Anderson at mid-off for 51. Broad gets the wicket, Marsh looks at the pitch with some disgust implying it held up for him. Marsh, Caught Anderson, Bowled Broad 51 – 175 for 5

00:24 Broad induces a thick edge from Paine, but no hint of a chance. Paine looks edgy, trying to push a single the following ball. Wicket maiden completed.

00:31 Woakes on for Broad after his wicket maiden. New ball due soon so sort of understand it, but isn’t the moment now? Woakes gives up a single to Smith first up, but then keeps Paine on 0 for the remainder. Vaughan does the Lehmann has scored a ton more recently than Paine stat as if no-one has heard of it. Jake Ball into the attack.

00:37 Jake Ball gives Smith a cracking ball at his throat and the captain is lucky to survive as the ball drops into no man’s land. He gets off strike with a single next ball. Paine gets a chance and plays a lovely cut shot for 4 to get off the mark.

00:43 Woakes and Ball now bowling short to Smith and Paine. It’s dull to watch, there’s funky field placings, and this sort of thing gets the pundits salivating. Smith, despite that one iffy little moment, really looks like he doesn’t give a toss. “Test match cricket at it’s finest”. Cut out the bloody hyperbole, Shiny Toy.

00:48 No slips. I can hear Botham chuntering. Shiny Toy moans about Aussie papers not being balanced. Should have seen the report of your ton in the lead up to the 2002 Ashes, Vaughan. They belted you for being rubbish, scratchy, all over the shop.

00:50 5 minutes to The Leg Glance. And we have Lovejoy. Says something to do with Bodyline. I want to cave my ears in for hearing it. Poor Alison Mitchell. Now a Tufnell joke story. Lord heaven above. Doing a Tuffers impression. Paine moves on to 6 during this low-grade variety act masquerading as cricket punditry.

00:55 And as Lovejoy completes his first over by at last concentrating on the action, I complete my stint and hand over to the incomparable Leg Glance for the next however long he stays awake period. Dmitri signing off…

01:00 TLG here.  Well now, in common with half the country, Friday night is “wander to the pub night”, and you know what?  Ashes cricket is made for that – head out, amble back, turn the cricket on.  Oh and then England take a wicket a few moments later.  Perfect.

Since you ask (you haven’t) the chicken wings were fabulous.  Oh yes, cricket, I should mention that.  So far Tim Paine is failing to go anywhere, while Steve Smith is clearly going to be That Player England Can’t Get Out this series.

01:05 I need to point out the total absence of any cricket when I’ve been on writing duties so far.  If there’s a tropical downpour in the next 10 minutes, don’t be at all surprised.  So, where are we?  England are keeping decent control here, but they could really do with another wicket to put Australia under real pressure.  I’d fancy England would be thrilled with a lead of 50. Especially given Australia have to bat last – but 5 wickets down means a lot of work to do, and the naturally pessimistic England fan has the phrase “tits up” going through his (Or her.  Hmm, on reflection it probably just is “his”) head.

01:13 Graeme Swann and Alison Mitchell on commentary together is like listening to Joe Pasquale and Eric Morecambe doing a double act.

01:18 Joe Root slips in for an over as England await the new ball.

01:24 WICKET! Anderson strikes in the first over with the new ball.  A typical Jimmy dismissal really, a touch of swing, the outside edge, and Bairstow does the rest.  Tim Paine on his way, and it’s 202-6. 100 between the teams.

01:30 WICKET!  Broad nabs a sharp caught and bowled to remove Starc for 6.  Doesn’t even begin to describe it as two balls before the latest assorted Mitchell plays an extraordinary shot – straight driving Broad back over his head for six to get off the mark.  Broad got his revenge quickly, so the Brisbane crowd will thoroughly appreciate that no doubt.  209-7

01:35 England had kept the lid on nicely this morning, but hadn’t looked especially threatening, at least not until the new ball.  Then two quick wickets and all of a sudden it’s all happening.  Smith is still there though, and while he is England still have a problem.  While we’re at it, Australia are scoring at 2.52 an over, compared to boring negative England’s 2.58 an over.  We all love the Brisbane Courier Mail.

01:48 Steve Smith is playing a completely different game to anyone else.

01:57 Some concern over James Anderson.  He certainly reached for his side, and he’s been replaced by Jake Ball after a short spell.  He’s not gone off the field, but there are only  a few minutes to lunch.

02:01 And that’s lunch.  Australia are 213-7, still 89 adrift.  And perhaps the most notable thing about this match so far is that unlike the last two series, we’re into day three and we don’t know where this game is going.  It’s competitive, hard Test cricket.  Marvellous.  Steve Smith scored just 17 off 66 balls that session, while losing partners at the other end.  England get loads of stick for bowling “dry” but sometimes it’s exactly what is needed, and that was fine bowling.

02:09 My travel advice is to steal the mini-duvets off Emirates.  They’re so warm.

02:16  Just the 48 runs in that session.  Test cricket, absolutely.  Amusing given Australian whining about England’s run rate?  Oh yes.

02:17 Typically in a Test match, the side batting second need to have a runs advantage going into the second innings.  So England are currently in a very decent position.  If they can get a reasonable lead, especially so.  But equally the third innings of the match is full of pressure, for a side can lose the game in a session.  How this pitch will play is as open a question as it was on day one, for if it gets better then England have an issue.  If it gets worse then Australia have a crisis.  And how good is it not to know?  Test cricket.  You jut cannot beat it.

02:40 Jake Ball opens up after lunch.  Not exactly putting to bed those James Anderson fitness concerns.

02:47

Not sure what’s more unlikely – England fibbing or the English cricket press being cynical about what they’re told.

02:55 Let’s call this a quiet start to the afternoon session.

03:03 Aside from 4 overthrows via Cummins’ back (accidental), and one Steve Smith straight drive, it’s still quiet so far.  But not terribly threatening from England either.  It might be time for Moeen.

03:06 I’m a captaincy God.  The Bearded Brummie is on.

03:13 England have let Cummins play himself in.  Danger.  In other news, the Rugby League World Cup semi-final is little over an hour away – the titanic battle between England and Tonga to decide who has the privilege of being stuffed by Australia.

03:23 Australia aren’t exactly rattling along, but this partnership is becoming  problem.  The gap is now down to 61, and England simply don’t look like taking a wicket.  Smith is closing in a 100 and looks serene, and Cummins looks secure. Anderson has gone off the ground – for bowling boots?  Let’s hope.

03:29 Anderson is back on the field.  And that’s my lot too – handing over to Danny who hasn’t seen the sun in several days.

0331 Danny here. Sad and almost completely true comments from thelegglance. Almost an hour after lunch, Broad finally gets the ball back.

0336 And Anderson from the other end, all eyes looking to see if there’s any sign of injury from the highest rated Test bowler in the world.

0352 Still nothing to report, although Broad & Anderson have at least kept it tighter than the other bowlers. The ball is now 25 overs old and I worry about England finishing off the tail…

0403 Smith drives through the off side for four, and brings up his century. That’s his 21st century, and his 6th against England.

0417 Still awake. Still no wickets in the session.

0431 WICKET About 10 minutes left in the session, and England finally take a wicket. Cummins plays a loose drive to a wide, full ball from Woakes and he edges it to Cook at first slip. A very useful 42 runs from the Australian bowler, and Hazlewood comes in.

0442 TEA Australia are 287/8, just 15 runs behind with 2 wickets remaining, and crucially with Smith still at the crease.

0518 Quiet start to the evening session, 7 runs from the first 4 overs and England’s lead is just 8 runs.

0528 WICKET Moeen Ali bowls left-hander Josh Hazlewood, who was trying to hit it on the leg side but completely missed it. Australia 298/9 and 4 runs behind England’s score.

0539 Smith whips a short delivery from Jake Ball to the fine leg boundary and Australia go into the lead.

0605 WICKET In the first over after the drinks break Root is bowling to Lyon, who inside edges a ball to leg slip. Smith finishes the innings on 141* and Australia have 328 runs with a lead of 26 runs.

0630 WICKET Hazlewood bowls a quick bouncer to Alastair Cook, who top edges it to Starc at long leg. England are still 15 runs behind.

0642 WICKET And Vince has gone as well, squared up on the back foot by a quick Hazlewood delivery and edging it to Smith at second slip. England still 9 runs behind, and 2 wickets gone.

0649 Fast bouncer from Mitchell Starc and it hits Joe Root on the helmet, breaking a piece off. England’s doctor comes out and gives him the concussion test, but Root dons a new helmet and carries on.

0713 Root turns Lyon behind square for a single, and THE SCORES ARE LEVEL with England already 2 wickets down.

0720 Cummins works Stoneman over with an over of short bowling, 10 minutes left for England to hold on.

0732 STUMPS England survive the last over against Nathan Lyon, and finish the day on 33/2 with a lead of just 7 runs.

Ashes to Ashes – The Ashes Panel, 1st Test, Part 2

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Continued from yesterday, the second set of questions, answered by the Super Seven.

Question Four – What do the Ashes mean to you as a cricket supporter?

MiaB – As a cricket supporter of English nationality, the Ashes are still the major event in the calendar.  But, if you look back, it is interesting how few series there have been where both sides were packed with star quality.  They tend to be rather one-sided – eg 1928, 1948, 1956, 1974 and just about every series between 1986 and 2005.  Most of them have been about ordinary teams with one or two stand-out players – 1970, 1972, 1978, 2010, 2015 particularly come to mind.  The Ashes tends to produce absorbing rather than exciting cricket.

Ian – I try not to think of them as the be all and end all but I just cannot help it.  Ashes series have been constant through my cricket watching life starting in 1989 and so many of my most memorable cricket memories good and bad involve the Ashes.

Scrim – I was born and raised in Adelaide. All my Ashes memories up until I was 19 years old were huge wins for Australia sprinkled with some dead rubber losses. It had been drummed into me that beating England was really all that mattered but I didn’t realise how true this was until that winning feeling was finally taken in 2005. I was there under the scoreboard, Day 5 in 2006, probably about 30m away from Dmitri, when they were as good as won back. That was a day of cricket spectating that will probably never be matched.

I live in Norway now. A beautiful, but cricket-free land. I follow English cricket a bit more given that it matches with my time zone. “Knowing my enemy” a bit better, and being starved of cricket only makes me want it more. My 2 year old alarm clock of a son and I will be watching as much as possible.

Danny – Historically, it was a chance for England to measure themselves against what was almost certainly the best Test team in the world. Now? It’s still the highest profile Test series here, so it’s something I can talk about with people who don’t normally follow cricket. Apart from that, it’s nothing special.

Sri – Good to follow as a person with interest in the game wherever it is played but obviously not critical to me.

Silk – Everything?

And….TheBogfather in rhyme….

Slightly away from the question, as to write my true feelings about the Ashes would take many a while and lines, so here’s more a view of why I love Test Cricket as a whole…

In my dreams…
all cricket is played in creams
no emblazoned added ad
or name and number so sad
just ‘whites’…

On my screen…
test matches reign supreme
a battle of wits and skill
not a formulated drill
five-day delights…

On boundary I’m sat…
watching intrigue ‘tween ball and bat
how I desperately yearn
for pace and turn
not flat-track bullying and all that…

On my mind…
supreme contests of skill and thought
unrefined
every game within a game
no two, ever the same
mind games and beauty combined…

On the field…
chances taken then some spilled
with boundaries and dot-balls
loud silence then some roars
intensities follow being bestilled…

then it rains, on come the covers
no duckworth-lewis to smother
still time for a result here…
for the brave to advance
with skills true and askance
final over, final ball, we cheer…

a drawn Test, but what a game
The Ashes would never be the same again
If the idiots that rule our game have their way
Never seen again, another edge of seat last day…

 

Question Five – A brief outline of how you expect the series to go. Who will win? Who will make the runs? Will it be a rout? Fire away.

Silk – There are so many uncertainties. I can genuinely see 5-0 either way. I can imagine a series where Khawaja, Bancroft, Marsh and Paine all average less than 20 with the bat, Woakes and Broad are all over them like a rash, and the Aussies collapse. I can also imagine a series where Khwaja and Handscombe absolutely put England to the sword, alongside Warner and Smith, Anderson shows his age, Woakes proves he can’t cut it, Ball and Coverton are disappointing and Broad, well as he bowls, can’t stem the flow.

I can see England bowling a perfect Australian length and bundling Australia out on day 1 at Brisbane. I can also see England bowling too short, and completely losing it once the shine as gone off the ball. I can see Ali bowling all you can eat run buffet and Joe Root brought on as ‘a partnership breaker’ when Warner is on 191.

Obviously one can imagine Starc and Cummins destroying England in a session, but one can also imagine both going down with knee injuries on the first day, and England winning by an innings.

Ian – I keep switching my mind between an optimistic 3-2 defeat to a pessimistic 5-0 so lets go for 4-1 Australia.   Runs from Warner,Smith and Khawaja.  England’s runs probably won’t be as prolific and could be shared around.  Root might be affected if it isn’t going well and I worry about Bairstow contributing if England are kept in the field for days.

I expect like a lot of tests involving England lately that they won’t be particularly close games.

Danny –  5-0 to Australia, I fear. For England, I expect Root and batsmen 6-8 score the majority of the runs, whilst Cook gets a couple of fifties and everyone else struggles. For Australia, I think Warner, Smith and Khawaja will all average 50+ in the series, as Australia regularly post 350+ scores which England can’t quite match.

Sri – 3-2/3-1 in favor of England. I expect Oz to win in Adelaide and maybe 1 of Perth/Gabba if they win.

MiaB – Two flimsy batting line ups and two injury-prone attacks: it will be about which team stays fit.  If injuries do not intrude, I think Australia will shade it.  However, because these are not sides who are good at attritional cricket, I think each match will have a result.  So, like the last series, I expect 3-2, but this time in favour of Australia.

Scrim – Australia will win. Home conditions and too much bowling firepower, and too many things that have to fall into place at the last minute for England. If Australia win the first two, they’ll win the next three. This is the most confident I’ve felt about an Australian win before a ball has been bowled since 2005. 

Adelaide could be a bit of a shootout. It will be low scoring, and the ball will swing. It is a must win for England if they are to have any hope.

Telling you that Smith will get some runs is like informing you about the Pope’s religion. Apart from Smith, Khawaja looks in good form – close enough to 300 runs at 100 in two low scoring matches at the Gabba in the past couple of weeks. Forget about any weakness vs spin. He’s been a monster on fast pitches for the past few seasons.

TB, Take It Away….

Not expecting a rout but definitely a defeat
3-1 to Aus with one saved by a storm
Frenetic batting mixed with non-moving feet
Inability to take 20 wickets the norm..

Root our top scorer, Cook one score above 50
Mo’ and Bairstow will erratically flow
Woakes with the wickets, Jimmy nulled but thrifty
Broad goes in the fetlock, Crane’s future value grows…

 

Question Six – Finally, and a specific one for this test, Brisbane…. too much emphasis on it, or a real indicator of the series to come?

Danny –  I think England’s best hope of confounding my expectations and actually winning the series is by somehow winning at Brisbane. Right now the Australian fans and media are largely focussed on the England side (and their own selectors), and that pressure could force England players into making mistakes during the game. If England do manage to beat Australia in the first game, the Aussie press will start attacking their own players and management instead of the poms and that might push them into even worse errors than picking Paine.
In terms of the series, I think the day/night game in Adelaide is probably the more significant one. The pink ball, twilight hours and what will probably be a relatively lush pitch could all potentially help England’s bowlers compensate for their batsmen’s inadequacies. If England leave there with the series 1-1 (or even 2-0 up), they at least have something to play for in Perth beyond survival. As it is, I fear the series will be over before the Boxing Day game in Melbourne.

Scrim – Definitely an indicator. If England are able to get a foothold in the Brisbane test, as they did in 2010, then things will be very interesting. However the last couple of Ashes series have disappointingly been full of thrashings one way or the other and I feel there is a good chance England might be on the wrong end of one here.

MiaB –  It is not the same ‘Gabba so I would not read too much into the result of the first test.

Sri – Too much emphasis. It is a 5  test series and thus a first test loss will not hurt england but a first test draw/loss will hurt Oz.

Silk – Huge, huge test. Huge, huge Test. Good toss to lose, I think. Batting on both sides is brittle. You’d be mad to bowl first at Brisbane, but if the side that does bowl first makes early inroads, I think that could be the series, right there. If either batting lineup fails, and let’s face it, there are huge doubts about both, I think heads could go down. Right now, Australia have more to lose. England are a mess, but Australia have picked 1, 6 & 7 on a hunch and will be under huge pressure if they all fail and bring the rest down with them.

I’ll go out on a limb here and at, at a risk of repeating 2003, Root should bowl first if he gets the chance. Get Bancroft, who failed in County Cricket, early doors and the Aussies will be very nervous indeed. If Marsh is batting before lunch on day 1, I think England will win the series.

Ian – I think Brisbane is vital,  England draw or win then they might just do ok in the series but if the Gabba is a heavy defeat then it will be here we go again and 5-0 might just be inevitable whatever moves England make to try and ensure this isn’t the case.

For the last word, or prose, it’s our main man, the Cricket Laureate, Boggy…

Definitely an indicator of how the series will unfold
Depends on how easily England will fold
A close defeat with confidence intact?
Or a complete humbling, some early bags packed?
We need the old 1, the new 2 and 3
To give us hope up front
Or maybe come May we’ll see
Selfey calling for the recall of some old CNUT…

 

There you have it. If you like what you see, and want to take part in the Adelaide test panel, leave me a note below or by e-mail, otherwise you seven get the gig again. My thanks for all their efforts, and I don’t know about you lot, but I’m quite up for this.

We’ll be talking about what we intend to do tomorrow night, and also details of a new way of accessing our posts, in the next 24 hours. In the meantime, comments below and remember, these are volunteers, so play nice!

 

Ashes to Ashes – The Ashes Panel – 1st Test, Part 1

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Just A Little Piece Of History Repeating?

In the build up to the Ashes I sought participants for the Ashes Panel. When we did this in 2015 we had a good number of respondents, keen to answer a set of questions on the upcoming series. 2015 is a lot different to 2017. The petrol of anger we felt on here isn’t there, so much. The temperature surrounding the series isn’t there, it just isn’t. You can see it in the posts, the responses, the build up. Pietersen is in the rear view mirror. We’ve got to accept the Cook we have because there is no-one better in England. We have the media we have. But what I love about the blog is that this has always been a participatory experience. We like to hear from you, but wonder if you’ve got the time and inclination.

I was pleasantly surprised after the post yesterday to receive answers from people who didn’t indicate they wanted to play a role. So now I have too many responses (I usually want 5). We have 6 from commenters and one from one of our writers. For that reason I am doing this in two parts. Questions 1,2 and 3 today and 4,5 and 6 tomorrow. I would also like to hear from those who didn’t comment Above The Line in the area reserved for you.

Chris, Danny, Sean and I will do our best to keep up with the events of the Ashes. This is the first time we’ve had the Ashes overseas on the blog and so we know how big an event it can be, and how it can involve us all. What we want to be is honest, direct and interesting. That’s what we’ll give to you – and I think you might well give it back.

So, without further ado, let’s get some of the questions up. Our respondents are:

  • Man in a Barrel (MiaB)
  • TheBogfather (with no spaces)
  • Ian
  • Danny – our scribe, co-editor and all round top contributor
  • Sri Grins – from a neutral perspective
  • Silk
  • Scrim – our Australian exiled in Scandinavia

 

Question 1 – Australia have thrown a surprise with dropping Renshaw, bringing in Paine and recalling Shaun Marsh. From an England perspective does that make you more hopeful / or if Australian make you more pessimistic?

Scrim – More pessimistic, definitely. It gives the feeling that whatever plans were in place have fallen apart. I do sympathise with the selectors. There is very little batting or wicketkeeping depth in Australian cricket at this moment.

The glass half full perspective is that SMarsh at 6 can’t do much worse than every other number 6 since Mike Hussey retired 5 years ago, and Paine is a good keeper who can’t contribute any less than Nevill or Wade with the bat. Australia has managed some pretty good results while getting next to nothing out of 6 & 7 for quite a while.

MiaB – Dropping Renshaw is an odd thing to do.  Wade was not doing so well either as keeper or batsman so if there is wicket-keeping expertise on the Aussie selection panel, then it seems fair enough to me to bring Paine in.  A bit of a risk but a reasonable one.  Bringing back Marsh is frankly deranged.  I cannot understand why they have dropped Maxwell.  However, given that Khawaja is potentially in the mix, with a great record against an English-style attack on home soil (no turf available down-under) the Aussie team is probably a little stronger as a result.

Ian – About the same to be honest, Renshaw averages 36 as does Marsh but over a longer period but Marsh has never nailed down a spot so not much difference here.  The keeping was a question mark for Australia whether they went for Wade, Paine or anyone else so again I don’t see much difference to the outcome here.

Silk – Far more hopeful.Marsh has never been good enough, and Paine isn’t even considered first choice keeper by his State side. Baffling.

Sri – No change. I think the selections are not too way off. Unlikely that other wicketkeepers would have one significantly better. Shaun Marsh is not too bad a call either. He tends to make runs in 1/2 tests before he starts failing.

Danny – Yes. More so with Marsh and Paine’s inclusion than Renshaw being dropped, although having an Australian opener born in Middlesborough would have been fun. I think at least once or twice in the series that England will manage to break through Australia’s top order, and I can’t see Marsh and Paine successfully fighting back the way England’s lower orders have done so often.

And…TheBogfather, in true form, in poems…

I suspect Paine may become a middle order pain
Marsh no more than bog-standard once again
Not sure by dropping Renshaw that they’ll ensure any gain
But still think the Ashes, Australia will regain.

 

Question Two – England’s batting line-up have done OK in their warm ups, but are you at all reassured / convinced that they have it in them to post the large scores?

Danny – Not really. The conditions in the warmup games were particularly conducive to batting, and the bowlers very inexperienced. Obviously it’s better that they played well, and there is an argument that Australian conditions with little seam or swing might help them, but I find it hard to believe in a batting line-up where three of the top five have sub-40 career first class averages.

Silk – They’ve done well enough to convince me that scores of around 300 are not beyond them. In a normal Ashes in Australia (think 2006/07) totals of that kind are nowhere near enough. But this Aussie line-up looks brittle as hell. I am not sure we will need many to win 3 tests.

Sri – Yes. I feel quite confident that they will post scores in excess of 350-400 (10 innings 7/8, 9 innings 6/7, 8 innings 6, 7 innings 5/6, 6 innings 4/5)

MiaB – To post big scores, Root has to be on top form, Cook and Bairstow have to recover some form and Ali has to knuckle down a bit.  They might do it once or twice but it is hard to see them doing it consistently.  Stoneman and Malan actually look as if they might be able to make it – Malan looked particularly encouraging.  Whether they can do it against the extra pace of the Aussie attack is another matter.  In other words, I don’t see this English team doing the steam-roller that Strauss’s team did.  They will be more akin to Nasser’s team in 2002-3.

Ian – I think we can get the large scores sometimes but think we might still be 40-3 far too often for my liking so as usual if England post a decent score it will be because of a late middle order effort rather than from a solid start at the top.

Scrim – I am somewhat convinced. I’m sure Stoneman, Vince and Malan have taken some confidence out of the games. Any batting line up with Root only needs one or two others to stick around a while to build a competitive score.

However apart from 10 or so overs from Nathan Coulter-Nile, they haven’t faced anyone genuinely fast, and they haven’t batted on a pitch as fast as the Gabba or the WACA will be. If the Australian fast bowlers are on song, it probably doesn’t matter what kind of confidence the English rookies have built up to now. 

Take it away TBog

I think we can be assured
We’ll be consistently 50-3 on the board
Our top order undernourished in class
A tall order for our mid-order to 500 pass
And if Root has a poor series (he’s due…)
Then 300 may be the best we can do
Then with scoreboard pressure, 2nd innings
I don’t see us in a position to be winning…

 

Question Three – How do you think the respective bowling units will go? Is this Anderson’s redemption tour? Can Starc lead the line? Who is the surprise package?

Sri – Starc will do well. Anderson will be average. Not too bad a tour but unlikely to have an excellent tour.

Moeen Ali [as the surprise package].

Silk – Completely impossible to tell. There’s simply not enough info. to go on, particularly given the recent injuries suffered by the Aussies, and the massive inexperience of half of the English attack.

If fit, the Aussies have as good as an attack as they’ve ever had (albeit with only 4 men – 4 being usually enough for them). But impossible to say how Hazelwood will go, and whether Starc and Cummins can last a series. And, indeed, what fresh idiocy Hohns and co have up their sleeves? Chadd Sayers in Adelaide?  Barking. Jhye Richardson would worry me. Not Sayers.

For England, I expect Broad to do well, Anderson to do not so well (but still average in the low-30s), Moeen to go very badly, Crane not to play (unless we’ve lost the series by Sydney) and then …. what?

Woakes, for me, is the crux of the entire series, bat and ball. His batting could well be the difference between 250 a/o and 370 a/o. He’s got scores in him, and can bat with Bairstow or Root to get us to big totals. But he’s never batted in Tests in Aus, so no idea whether he can translate form from other tournaments into the Ashes.

Bowling I rate him similarly the Massie and Alderman. Unplayable in England. Cannon-fodder elsewhere. But his pace is certainly up on what it was earlier in his career. If he bowls well, I think England will win the series. Perhaps comfortably. If he bowls as he’s done on previous tours … England are in trouble.

I don’t rate Ball. Coverton will go alright, if given the chance.

Scrim – Australians have been dreaming of this bowling lineup for a long time, and it’s great to see it finally coming together just in time for a home Ashes. Even if Starc can’t do a Johnson, Hazlewood is world class, and the glimpses of Cummins that we have got are so exciting, even on slow subcontinent pitches. Throw in Lyon coming off great tours of India & Bangladesh and you’ve got a well balanced attack. Even if there are injuries, I’d love to see Chadd Sayers play under lights in Adelaide, Jackson Bird always plays well, Jason Behrendorff is finally fit and is a test-ready player, and Peter Siddle at 8th or 9th choice is still bowling well and always brings out his best vs England. Woakes’ comment that Australia lacks bowling depth was either ignorant or daft.

From an England point of view, I feel like Woakes will be important. When he played that dead rubber test in 2013 he looked like a bits and pieces all-rounder. When I saw him again in the 2016 English summer he looked like a real bowler. He’s started his tour well and might surprise Australian fans. Broad’s form might be a bit concerning for England. Anderson will find conditions will suit him in Adelaide, but apart from that he is unlikely to get the assistance he needs to thrive.

Ian – Australia will take 20 wickets more often than England as they will get more opportunity to do so,  Starc will go well as there is weaknesses in the top order to exploit and I think he can gain plenty of cheap wickets against the tail.  Anderson will go ok in that I think he will do better than 06/07 and 13/14  but I don’t see him having a redemption tour.  I’m not sure about being a surprise but I think Moeen will go well as he will be attacked and away from the subcontinent thats probably the best thing for him.

MiaB – I strongly suspect that Broad will not last the full series.  Beyond Broad and Anderson, the English attack does not pose much of a threat in Aussie conditions.  If Ashwin did not manage to contain Australia in Australia then it is hard to see a less accurate bowler such as Moeen playing the containing role.  Which means that Anderson will have to do his full share of the overs as a stock bowler.  I imagine that Anderson will do well in the day/night match but gradually lose potency over the series. This is where Stokes will be missed – he has that element of threat that eludes Woakes.  If Starc stays fit and gets his line right against Cook, he could get 30 wickets.  I want to see Cummins in action.

Danny – I think England’s batsmen will make the Aussie bowlers look like superstars. As for England’s bowlers, I don’t think any of them will do particularly badly. I expect them to average 25-40, with maybe the 4th bowler (Ball/Overton/Whoever) to go for a bit more.
Anderson will do okay, I think, but I doubt he’ll be anywhere near as effective as he has been at home. He averaged 14.10 this summer but with a Kookaburra ball on Australian pitches I think he’ll be more of a containing bowler who relies on batsmen getting themselves out, particularly with an older ball. Starc I suspect is being overhyped, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Josh Hazlewood actually took more wickets. Which isn’t to say that Starc isn’t very good, just that I don’t think he’ll cut through England like a hot knife through butter. At least, I hope not.
As for the surprise package, I think there’s a chance Stokes might play in the last two or three games of the series. The press seem to think he might not be charged, in which case I reckon England will fly him over and after a token suspension  of 2-3 games (like Warner in 2013), he’ll be back in the side.

Boggy finishes off the first instalment of this Ashes Panel…

I expect bowling to hold the key
As much from a survival of the fittest view
If Starc and co remain in full flow
Then sufficient runs we’ll fail to accrue
England will have magic spells or bowling dry hell
Our samey seam strategy may gift a run spree
Our back-up bowlers may get cricked necks as well
As Smith’s eyes light up with glee…


Part Two will follow tomorrow. My thanks to the participants who put great effort into responding and producing some food for thought. We might even have a go at the questions ourselves, following Danny.

We’d be interested what you want to see from us during the series. We will endeavour to carry out the usual match reports, and also we’ll try our hand at a live blog on certain days / sessions. This will commence with the first day of the series (I have the day off for Thanksgiving the day after). There’s always something about the first day of the Ashes. Been there for two – Days 1 at Brisbane 2002 and Lord’s in 2005. Both memorable, both ending with England on the wrong end.

Enjoy, let us know your thoughts and suggestions. And we’ll do our best despite all our challenging schedules!

Dmitri.