Ashes 2nd Test: Day Three

When it’s all going hideously wrong, the temptation to cling grimly to any floating wreckage nearby is a strong one, and four wickets for England’s bowlers in the evening session has given rise to curious assertions that England are back in the game, a triumph of hope over experience.  In reality they are, taking the kindest, most sympathetic view possible, not totally out of it.  Since Australia’s lead already far exceeds England’s miserable first innings total, this is taking blind hope to unprecedented levels.

England weren’t in the worst position at the start of play, and a good batting day would have begun to transfer some pressure back onto Australia, with the usual third innings jitters a possibility.  Instead, England collapsed hideously to 142-7, and only got even close to saving the follow on thanks to Craig Overton making an unbeaten 41.  Irony of ironies – the England tail wagged this time around.

The batting order’s insistence on doing the same things and hoping for a different outcome is magnificently stubborn (perhaps the only way that adjective could be used about them) and once again it was poorly executed shots that did for them rather than brilliant bowling.  The pitch didn’t do much, and in the daylight there was little swing.  Only Malan could be said to have been got out, and whatever the merits of Australia’s bowling attack, the same level of carelessness that’s been present in England’s batting for a long time was once again to the fore.  When they come off, it’s certainly thrilling, but an inability to play the situation is becoming a real hallmark of this team and there’s so little evidence they are learning.

It is perhaps this, more than anything else, that justified the pessimism before the start of play, and highlights the increasing fear that this tour could get truly ugly.  Again.

Smith’s decision not to enforce the follow on was perhaps understandable given the time left in the game, but the principle of doing what the opposition would like least must surely apply – England would not have wanted to bat again, under lights, under the pump, and under pressure.  In defence of the decision, it’s unlikely to make that much difference to the outcome either way, for by the close of play a lead of 268 with six wickets remaining is the kind of marvellous position teams dream about, but it did at least offer England the chance to give Australia a bloody nose.  And yet even with the wickets taken, the same old flaws were there:  England still bowled too short, still bowled too wide.  At 53-4 it might seem a peculiar criticism, but both Anderson and Broad were consistently shorter in length than their Australian counterparts, and while it hardly went too badly on the field, it doesn’t suggest that the plans are either thought through, or alternatively that the bowlers want to apply them if they are.  There is no doubt at all that when Broad, Anderson and Woakes kept the length full, they looked extremely dangerous.  They usually do – which is why so much hair is pulled out at their continuing refusal to do it on a consistent basis.

Apparently, tomorrow morning is another “vital” first session.  It really isn’t.  It would need to go catastrophically wrong for Australia to allow England to have any kind of realistic sniff of a win.  It is of course just about possible that England will skittle the hosts and then bat out of their skins to chase down a total almost certain to be in excess of 300, but that’s barely enough to encourage even wildly unreasonable optimism, let alone genuine confidence.

The worst part about England’s predicament is that so much of it this series to date has been self-inflicted.  Australia are some way from being a really good side, but they have, to use the appropriate cliche, executed their skills well so far.  England haven’t.  Assuming they do, and in spades, it means that Australia will be bowled out for around 100 in a magnificent display of attacking bowling, while the English top order compile a couple of centuries to take them home in one of the top 20 run chases of all time in Test cricket.

That’s the miracle scenario.  And that says it all.

 

 

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Did You Think I’d Crumble? Did You Think I’d Lay Down And Die – Ashes, 2nd Test, Day 2 Review

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Memories, of the way we were

As usual, the problem with writing a match review when you’ve not had a chance to catch up with the highlights, and you’ve slept through most of the morning, is a difficult one. We’d expect you to have done some of that work yourself, and if not, you can always read the always accurate, always agenda-free newspapers for your daily update. Of how England could not take all of the remaining five wickets despite getting rid of Handscomb early; of Shaun Marsh, he of four test centuries previously, unexpectedly made a fifth; of England not being able to shift Cummins until he made another 40 odd; and of how England lost Stoneman as the sun went down and the pace went up; and for the one piece of fortune England have had all tour, a shower that came up from the south as a piece of drizzle, but dropped a lot more and ended the night session.

I hope you appreciated the Live Blog this morning which was set up to take us all through the stress and strain of the opening part of the England innings. We thought, well I did, that we’d be witnessing a wake. That England would be a lot down for not a lot. But there are a couple of things we need to discuss here. First up, this is Adelaide – the wicket is a little more spicy and the conditions a little different, but Adelaide doesn’t misbehave unless it is damp, or it has had repeated 40 degree heat on it. This looks like an OK wicket to bat on to me – a tailender staying in untroubled sort of confirms this. The game is about temperament and technique, and England have few excuses not to make it through tomorrow’s play without a collapse. Of course, pretty much all of the England cognoscenti on here and on social media believe a collapse is inevitable. Let’s have some faith (fool).

This is an especially key passage of play for Alastair Cook, who looked much more stable than previously. No-one is confusing him with David Gower, but it’s a start. Stoneman looked pretty good before getting done by a full one – noticeable that the Aussie pacemen concentrated on it being fuller than their England counterparts – and although there aren’t whispers yet, the Surrey/Durham man needs to cash in because he looks like he flows when he gets going (as he did for his county this year) and has more about him than some of his predecessors.

The rain, which we should never celebrate (!) came just after Stoneman’s dismissal, and wiped out a potentially awkward hour or so. England will definitely trade the half hour in mid-afternoon for one in the night. James Vince faced a rocket yorker first up which he played very well (as a really average club player, imagine facing that, at night, at 90+ mph first up – we can be over-critical) but not much else.

The word on the street was that England bowled too short, again. The word on the street was that they also had no luck, again. The word on the street is that Woakes is a popgun on these sort of surfaces. The word on the street was that Overton wasn’t bad, but that Moeen was. The word on the street is that England’s body language sagged as Shaun Marsh took control and no wickets looked like falling. The word on the street is that England are in dead trouble.

Let’s see if there are better words on the street when we all wake up tomorrow.

On an admin tip, I doubt very much we’ll have a live blog tomorrow as it is a working day (and I’m not going to get away with that at work). The Adelaide Day/Night test may be a spectacle and bring more people’s attention in Australia but it is a pain in the rear for us cricket bloggers. We’ll do what we can to update as and when. But as usual, feel free to comment below on the cricketing action as and when you can.

A little self-congratulation

Eagle-eyed visitors may notice that we passed another milestone. At the bottom of the right hand column on the front page we have a hit counter (it discounts our hits as admin) and we’ve passed 900,000 in our third full year as Being Outside Cricket (we started in February 2015). We’ve seen a number of our old faces return as an Ashes series takes place, and welcome back to you all. We also had an uplifting editorial last week, where we were positive about how the blog will progress. As usual, your energy feeds ours.

Next stop 1 million hits (combining BOC and HDWLIA since the last Ashes – 246k for that year – we are well over that already). Coming from nowhere, it’s something I,and the team, are proud of. One of the rules of blogging is never divulge your stats, but stuff it. We ain’t going to make any money out of it!


For all Day 3 comments, use the usual method below. If you are interested, in 2006 we had Australia 28 for 1 in response to our 551/6 declared, and we all know how that ended up. I know, different times, different teams, different games. It’s what keeps us interested.

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Picture from the old main stand…..

 

Australia vs. England: 2nd Test Day 2 Live Blog

Well we’ve just woke up here at BOC, and it appears that England have just had a nightmare. Having been put in to bat, Australia have declared on 442/8 and leaving England with a tricky 28 overs to face tonight. And without further ado, here’s the live blog:

0906 Starc bowls the first over, getting over 93mph. Bowling very full, but no swing and England play it safely with two singles.

0910 Hazlewood from the other end. Again fast and full from Australia, England score 5 runs and no real drama for England.

0916 Starc’s second over, and it looks like he’s warmed up. Stoneman gets a leading edge on the first ball and it goes in the air past backward point for four. Stoneman also plays and misses on the third ball before getting off strike with a single. Cook blocks out a yorker to finish the over.

0921 Hazlewood’s second over, and there’s an LBW shout first ball despite it pitching outside leg. Stoneman’s bat splinters whilst blocking out another yorker. Another LBW appeal whilst pitching outside leg on the last ball, which will always happen until the ball swings or Hazlewood bowls from the other side of the wicket.

0927 Starc’s second ball of the over and Cook plays and misses at a swinging ball well outside off stump. Some light relief at the end of the over as an Aussie fielder is wrongfooted by a ball hitting the edge of the square and gifting Stoneman a couple of runs.

0931 Cook gets a four off his legs on the first ball of Hazlewood’s over, then Stoneman flashes hard at a wide delivery which goes over the fielders at point all the way to the boundary. 11 runs from the over.

0936 I’m surprised Australia haven’t tried any bouncers so far. Whilst obviously bowling full is a good tactic, I’m curious how well  players can pick up the short ball under lights. That said, Cook comfortably guides a waist-high delivery with a controlled pull.

WICKET Starc bowls a full delivery at Stoneman’s leg stump, and the batsman is trapped deep in the crease playing across the ball. He goes for a DRS appeal, but unfortunately for England it shows 3 reds so they lose a review. England 29/1.

0940 Quiet over from Hazlewood at the other end. A shout for caught behind from the keeper after a glance from Cook’s pads. Vince to face his first ball from Starc at the other end…

0944 Vince blocks out the first ball, a full yorker on the stumps. Starc draws him into a play and miss outside off stump, but Vince survives with six dot balls.

0946 Cummins replaces Hazlewood, and it’s a huge appeal from Australia first ball as Cook is squared up and the ball glances off his back thigh guard to the keeper. Before another delivery can be bowled, RAIN STOPS PLAY!

0957 Bad news for England, the covers are coming off.

1003 And they’re back on again.

1018 And back off again…

BT Sport had a feature on Ben Stokes in New Zealand, which seems like a moot point. Also a mute point, as Graeme Swann was talking in the studio during the rain break so I had turned off the sound. It seemed like they were seriously talking about his return and hyping him, but with his lacklustre performance in his first game and the legal process dragging on I doubt he’ll be ready in time for an Ashes return.

1027 Umpires have just inspected the field. Apparently play has to resume by 1040 am in order to play again today. Fingers crossed!

STUMPS England are 29/1 and 413 runs behind. Presumably play will begin 30 minutes earlier tomorrow, personally I think I’ll just have another lie-in.

Australia vs England: 2nd Test, Day One

It seems to be a tradition these days to make definitive statements after the opening salvos as to who is on top and which way a game is going.  It’s obviously somewhat dull and trying to repeat almost every game that at this stage no one really knows who has the upper hand, but it’s nevertheless still true much of the time, and it’s true here too.  209-4 is a nothing sort of score that could be a good foundation, or it could fall away to as little as 250 depending on how the “crucial” (yes, again) first session goes.

Of course, if you put a side in to bat, you’re hoping for better, but this was a marginal decision either way, and it’s at least possible Australia would have batted anyway, in which case they’d hardly be shouting their delight from the rooftops at this point, particularly when the two most obviously dangerous batsmen – Warner and Smith – are already back in the hutch.

England took only four wickets, one of them a run out,  but they also maintained decent control, with Australia managing only 2.5 runs an over.  Clearly the Australian media will be piling into their batsmen for being negative.  Then again perhaps not.  England definitely bowled poorly early on, and given the limited shelf life of the Kookaburra ball, red or pink, they probably threw away their best chance of making serious early inroads.  It’s an age old story of England bowlers being at their most effective when they pitch it up and keep it tight on off stump, yet instead bang it in short and wide.  Given the 900 Test wickets between the two attack leaders, it is ever the most inexplicable weakness of England in the field.

Post rain break they were much better, forcing the batsmen to play, and inviting them to drive rather more often, and thus looking vastly more dangerous.  England lacked a little luck, beating the bat often, turning around Smith in the crease before, finally, taking wickets.  They could easily have had more too; Marsh looked reasonably secure late on, but Handscomb led a charmed life, and it is immensely to his credit he survived to the close while looking all at sea.

There is some swing, but not a prodigious amount, and there is some lateral movement, but it’s not jagging about by any means – in other words, a not untypical Adelaide wicket.  England have slightly missed an opportunity to really put a dent in Australia, but they’ve not had an appalling day, and a good one tomorrow will put them in a strong position.

It was highly noticeable that England piled in to Australia verbally all day.  Good on them too, Australia have been quick to sledge England both on and off the field, so England giving it back is exactly the right approach, and one the hosts shouldn’t be surprised at.  It indicates that England have been genuinely annoyed by how much has come their way.  It may yet become unedifying, but unless England are to supinely accept the so called banter that’s intended to undermine them then this is exactly what’s going to happen.  Any handwringing about it should have happened at Brisbane, and since it appeared to cause Smith some discomfort, more will unquestionably follow.

The new ball is only one over old.  England do need to strike early, and strike hard, but they are quite capable of doing that, and if they do then Australia will find themselves under pressure.  That’s not being over-optimistic, it’s a recognition that England’s position is far from the disastrous one some would have people believe.  

It’s game on, and it’s fairly even.  It could have been better, but it could have been worse.  Test cricket: it’s not played over one day.

Day Two Comments from all Insomniacs Below

Australia vs. England, 2nd Test Preview (ish)

Well, I believe we’ve covered the extensive fall out from the Brisbane Test, so much so, that I think there is very little to add on that front. In the build up to tomorrow mornings very early Test, we’ve had the shy waif that is James Anderson, complain about bullying and intimidation from the Aussie bowlers, because naturally butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth (just ask Ravi Jadeja). It also gives the Aussies a little more motivation to bowl short at the tail, so cheers Jimmy, way to go. We’ve also had the fun and games of the YJB alleged friendly headbutt, not that any of us has been remotely interested, in what was a complete non-story (save watching Director Comma squirm a bit).

There are rumours that Moeen might not be able to bowl with his finger injury, which being reported by the media, means he’ll be a batsman only and that spinning duties will be handed to Joe Root, which rather begs the question around why Mason Crane was called up in the first place. Still it sounds like he should come back with a nice tan at least. As for the make up of the bowling unit, I’d still be surprised if Overton replaces Ball. England are praying and hoping this day/night game allows ample opportunity got the ball to swing even if it’s the kookaburra ball. If not, and the pitch is predicted to be as quick as the Aussies say so, then England’s hopes of an Ashes victory could evaporate before our eyes.

As for us, I’m afraid there won’t be much of a live blog, unless Danny is mental enough to get up at 3:30am to lead the charge. We may well try to post in the morning if any of us fancies an early start on Saturday.

For those watching the game, please do comment below and hopefully one of us will be up early enough to add our own views….

Unsung Hero

Getting older is crap. It’s better than the alternative, no doubt, but you start to lose people and that’s desperately upsetting. Today I lost a brother, a teacher, an icon – a man I played with, drank with, had fun with. It wasn’t unexpected, but then it wasn’t his time either, it was years before it should have happened. 

Here’s the thing: his name doesn’t matter to those who didn’t know him, but it does to those who did. And that matters immensely. So I’m not going to name him. Those that know, well you are honoured. Those that didn’t, you have your own people you honour. Tell them. 

The bald facts: there are probably no other cricket clubs in the world but his who can work out their statistics back to the 18th century. Not even the MCC can calculate averages back to 1771 – for the very good reason that they weren’t even formed. But this club can. This club knows its first centurion in the early 1800s, this club had the challenge of analysing 200 year old scorecards to try to work out who wickets should go to in the era where only the catcher was referenced. This particular club has a greater statistical record than any on the planet, and oddly enough, barely anyone realises, and God knows Wisden should be paying attention. 

Every club has its greatest run scorer, and its greatest wicket taker. But when that record stretches back 250 years, then people should damn well pay attention. Because this guy holds a record that means something.  He knew he wasn’t far off, even before it was worked out, but some few had done the history and organised the spreadsheets.  The day he broke that record is one that Sky Sports didn’t cover, nor one that the ECB recognised. But for those in the club, and actually those in the county,  they knew they were in the presence of someone who had a place in cricket’s history, because he’d done something remarkable, somewhere that had been there long enough to make it more than just exceptional.

He’s not on Cricinfo, he’s not a Cricketer of the Year, but he’s one of the finest cricketers I ever played with. And more than that, he’s one of the finest people I’ve ever known. The reason his name doesn’t matter is absolutely not because it doesn’t matter to me, because I will treasure it forever, it’s because there are equivalents who matter to you. And that is the name that really counts – the one you played with, or watched, or shared a beer with. 

They count. They are our fabric of life, and he was part of the fabric of mine. I am ever richer for having known him, ever better a cricketer for having played with him. 

I think that’s the tribute I’d want. 

1900 wickets @18. A gentleman.  And some are truly blessed to know who this is about.

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

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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 English Attack? I’m not that bowled over

First of all, apologies about the length of time that I have been absent from writing, I have been absolutely snowed under at work and at times, much to my chargrin, writing does have to take a back seat on such occasions. TLG and Danny (who assures me that he has returned to normal sleeping patterns) have both covered the fall-out from the Gabba Test in some detail and as a result, I don’t want to cover in too much detail that which has already been written. That being said, it is unavoidable at these times not to touch on the events in Brisbane as this could well prove to be a pivotal Test in the series.

As TLG so succinctly put, it only takes one glance on Twitter or in the media to see that many fans are divided into those who think that we’re going to collapse to a catastrophic 5-0 defeat or those that feel it is but a blip and this ‘new and young’ English team will turn it around spectacularly. I must admit that I am more on the pessimistic side than the optimistic side and have been ever since the Test squad was announced, though this is also probably due to experiencing 2 whitewashes out of the last 3 Ashes series in Australia. As someone said who is much wiser than me “it’s not the losing that hurts, I can deal with that, it’s the hope that kills me”.

From the little bits that I have read in the media, the main gripe of many of the journo’s has been around the batting, which is undeniably weak. Indeed many of Katie Price’s numerous marriages have looked less flimsy than our middle order at times. This however, is not exactly a surprise, we have had the same issues since the expulsion of a certain famous South African born batsmen, and no matter how many times Director Comma may have tried to gloss over this, very few people are fooled any more. Alastair Cook has been in what feels like terminal decline for the last 3 years. Root, although without doubt England’s best player, has seen his conversion rate from 50 to 100 decline alarmingly over the past 18 months. Moeen and Jonny B are just as capable as scoring a quick ton as they are getting out cheaply to a ropey slot. James Vince has spot at second slip with his name on it and Stoneman & Malan are pretty new to International Cricket. As I have mentioned, this has been mentioned many times before, so shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone and as such I want to move the focus away from the batsmen and over to the bowling unit.

The bowling is where myself and TLG differ in terms of our assessment of our bowling attack. For me, the English selectors (and they merit a lot blame here) have got this horribly wrong again. The folly of choosing 5 right hand over, medium pace seam bowlers on pitches that historically don’t tend to swing is right up there with picking 4 very tall, sometimes quick but not very good fast bowlers as England did in 2013/4. The bowling attack looks anything but balanced, it looks slow, ponderous and pretty predictable. Now I’m fully aware that there might be the odd howl from individuals that these are the best bowlers that England have and we don’t have any other options, and I agree to an extent in the spin department (although I really wouldn’t have picked Mason Crane); however I think they’ve again missed a trick with regards to our fast bowler make up. It can be rightly argued that Jimmy, Broad and Woakes are the best overall bowlers that England has, but this again misses my point as only Stuart Broad has a decent record in Australia, if you remove the 2010 Ashes series, which any bowler worth their salt would have made hay against that particular batting attack. Jimmy struggles when it doesn’t swing and Woakes has looked pretty toothless in all his Test matches away from home. As for Curran and Jake Ball, they are the A-typical English medium pacers who have limited success in anything but helpful swing conditions. It confounds me massively that one of our quickest bowlers in Liam Plunkett, seems to have been to consigned to the dustbin that is white ball cricket, when he is someone with the pace to trouble what is a mediocre Australian batting line up once you take away Steve Smith. This would not certainly be a long term pick, but it fits in with my personal opinion that it is vital to have a balanced attack in Test Cricket (be it a left armer, a pace bowler, a swing bowler and someone who hits the pitch hard) just to add some variety to the attack when the ball isn’t swinging.

I also feel it is quite pertinent to ask why an older Liam Plunkett (and a young lad from Sussex who has only played a handful of County games) are the only true fast bowling options that we have in our system right now? Do you remember when Steven Finn could bowl fast before David Saker got his hands on him? Or Mark Wood before the England medical department got their hands on him? Can you remember anyone else who has been in contention in the last few years that has been a truly quick bowler? I’m struggling. So what is it that is preventing our system from developing quick bowlers that aren’t of a certain type – is it Loughborough? Is it the counties who would prefer to play a medium pacer on a stodgy pitch? Is it the pitches in England, as the two historically quick cricket pitches at Old Trafford and the Oval are anything but quick these days. My guess that it is a mixture of all three. I wouldn’t trust the guys at Loughborough to make a cup of tea let alone manage our new crop of fast bowlers, which combined with a horribly long county season (which is about to get even longer) means that there is a very real issue of burnout and injury for anyone young quick pounding in and bowling at 90MPH. The ECB also have to take a fair share of the blame too. There have been too many occasions where either a green seamer has been prepared for Test Matches to provide England with the competitive advantage or a road of a pitch with little bounce has also been prepared to ensure the Test lasts 5 days (yes Mick Hunt, I’m looking at you). The result of this? Well you can see it in our bowling attack for the first Test Match at the Gabba, a group of hardworking individuals who are great in English conditions but do not have either the skill or the know-how to bowl effectively on different wickets were completely out-bowled by a far superior Aussie bowling unit.

I hadn’t actually meant for this piece to be that negative, so apologies for this, but I absolutely feel that this will be a recurring theme until something is done about it. I believe that in a series where both teams have flakey batting line up and which I believe would be decided with the ball prior to the series beginning, the England selectors have once again not learnt from their previous mistakes.

It might turnaround in Adelaide, where the ball should certainly swing under lights and where perhaps the English bowling attack has the best chance to make inroads into this Aussie line up; however if we end up losing in Adelaide this could be a long and painful series. Something we have all endured before…

Standing At The Limit Of An Endless Ocean

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
From 2006, not 2002. Pre-digital camera in 2002…..

Dmitri here. I wrote a blatant filler post (actually lifted from How Did We Lose In Adelaide in the early days) about the visit to Brisbane in 2002. Given we have analysed the last test in great detail, and Sean may well have more to say tomorrow, I thought I’d put on the metaphorical pipe and slippers, sit back in the proverbial armchair and do my best impression of Rowley Birkin QC and give you my memories of the 2002 test in Adelaide.

But before I do, can I remind those that filled out the Ashes Panel question last time that if they want to do it again, can I have the answers by mid-evening tomorrow. I would have chased up today, but I’ve been on a day trip to Madrid. As you do. And as I had to get in because one thing today and 2002 have in common is genuinely how amazed I am at my fortune in life. But, the questions were on one of the posts on Monday, so pick them up and have a go. And if you didn’t participate, feel free to send me answers on dmitriold@hotmail.co.uk .

OK. Memories of Adelaide 2002. Self-indulgent but I hope you enjoy them:

  • Accommodation – That was fun. We were due to be in Adelaide for just the first three days of the test before flying home, but I managed to wangle a few extra days off and so we were going to try to see the whole test. Thing was, we hadn’t booked anywhere in Adelaide. Three days before we sat in an internet cafe, and no luck. The nearest was Mount Gambier. A phone call at a tourist office and we found somewhere in Glenelg. We had to do all sorts to get the key as we didn’t arrive in Adelaide until 10pm the day before the test. The cab driver was brilliant. The accommodation, less so. We wandered down to The Jetty Bar, karaoke was on, and a local was signing Gary Glitter. Not cool, even then.
  • Tickets – We then were due to pick the tickets up from, we thought, the ticket office at the ground. We got there 45 minutes before the day’s play, and found out that we were actually meant to get the tickets back in the city centre. Then, in a brilliant piece of customer service, they let us in without tickets, and someone then collected the left behind tix and brought them to our seats. We missed the first 15 minutes.
  • We didn’t miss the Langer “catch” off Vaughan. Absolutely bleedin’ hilarious, made even more so when Andy Bichel claimed one off at least the second bounce a little while later. England started well, but lost Trescothick before lunch.
  • We had a walk around the ground, and as you do, I started talking to an Aussie called Michael (and his less talkative mate Bernie, and it wasn’t the Winters) and found a great rapport on talking cricket. I ended up meeting them both by the same floodlight for each of the four days (when I returned in 2006, I went to the same place, to see if he was there – no joy). On the third day he said he really rated Harmison and said he’d win us tests some day. I laughed. He knew more than me.
  • On day 1 we had four blokes with 4x shirts sitting in front of us. When they weren’t spouting nonsense they were playing cards. The nonsense got too much. That night in the Jetty, I got talking to a local and said I was sat behind some absolute muppets in 4x shirts, playing cards. I think you can fill in the rest. We made our excuses and left.
  • It’s a great shame that Vaughan has chosen the low road of being the reactive, go with the wind moron he is now, because the 177 he made was stunning. Sure Langer can moan, but the shot making, the sixes, the domination of the attack was amazing.. His dismissal off the last ball of the day was cataclysmic.
  • We heard Great Southern Land by Icehouse at lunch. And then Beautiful Day by U2. By the end of the test I never wanted to hear them again.
  • The second day was less memorable for the cricket, but Sir Peter still raises the lunchtime interview. I had not had a cigarette (I was a smoker then) for all of a couple of days and I was feeling spectacularly grumpy. England had collapsed, I’d been surrounded by even more idiots, there were jokes falling flat, and I had had enough. Sir Peter set his video off, and I just ranted. Yes, unbelievable. After it was finished, I stormed round to the floodlight, begged Michael for a cigarette (and he provided the strongest ciggie I’ve ever had) and then we settled in for the Australian reply.
  • The Saturday was to be the last day in the flea pit in Glenelg. We had booked the Holiday Inn for the Sunday and Monday. That was because we’d got our flights changed, at no cost, out of Adelaide on the Wednesday, not the Sunday. Watching Australia give us a pasting was not particularly fun. Ponting made 150-odd, Martyn 90-odd and Hussain trolled Steve Waugh. But we conceded 500+ and had a dodgy end of day to end it three down (I believe, not checked the score).
  • That Saturday was the hottest day I have ever encountered. 41 degrees C. Jeepers. I fried. And then, during the tea interval, there was a race taking place on the field (it is on the tour video, with a local, who clearly knew one of the runners, calling him a a maggot. Must be a term of endearment) and it was the stupidest thing I’d ever seen.
  • That Saturday night we found out what thongs were in Australia. It was hot in herre.
  • Sunday was an interesting day. The forecast was a shocker. Rain was due, and when it came, it would set in for a day and a half. England needed to survive. We did rain dances. Extend your holiday and want it to rain. Love being English.
  • “Was this the greatest catch of all time?”     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWqOAMlAFF8
  • Stewart made a half century but post-lunch the rain started, and with England 8 or 9 down, they went off. We rejoiced. We should not have done so. Steve Bucknor wasn’t going to let England get away with this. While the drizzle eased a little, it didn’t stop, but Bucknor brought them out. Then they went off again – but no, out we came again and Australia sealed the win. Within half an hour the heavens opened. It absolutely hosed it down all day the following day. There would have been no play. We were 30 minutes away (if you were there and remember it differently, please tell me).
  • I’ve never watched Hard To Kill again. It entertained us that Sunday night.
  • Monday was the Bradman Museum / Exhibition. We also booked a Barossa Valley tour the day after although I’m a beer person rather than vino. The Bradman museum was dull. Kept wanting to say he was the best player of medium pace bowling of all time, but that might be like going to the Vatican and saying eff the Pope. We made our excuses and left.
  • The Barmy Army do that night at the Prison was an eye opener. We were in and around them at times, and watched the end of the game with them, but the do was everything I feared. We did have a lovely picture taken with Dermot Reeve though. A career highlight.
  • A night in a 5* hotel in Adelaide to finish our stay was somewhat melancholy. It had been the holiday of a lifetime – Brisbane, on to the stunning Port Douglas (I sent an e-mail home saying now I knew what true relaxations was) and the Barrier Reef, then staying with Sir Peter’s friends in Sydney before Adelaide was top stuff. I wonder if cricketers know what joy that brought to me even though we were losing. That’s why the heart is in it, even when we get told to do one by the powers that be. When a day’s cricket at the SCG, to see a New South Wales team with lots of top players, is an afterthought it tells you how much I loved what we did.
  • The test at Adelaide also brought my favourite ever photo. It has me in it, so you can’t see it, but it is shortly after we have lost. The people around me, in all shapes, sizes and actions, with the scoreboard. It’s on my system as “We’ve Lost”. It’s cracking (in my eyes).

OK – that was my walk down memory lane, and as a little break from the 1st test analysis. Hope you enjoyed it and I’ll do one for Perth 2006 for the 3rd test. I think I’ve written enough about Adelaide 2006 to last a lifetime.

No Ifs, No Butts

Disaster.  Doomed.  5-0 on the cards…

Ah yes, the usual kneejerk response to any England Test result.  And it might even be that is what transpires; but it should not be deemed inevitable.  A 10 wicket defeat is ultimately something of a hammering, but England did compete for the first three days, and more than that, they were on slightly in the ascendant.  Had they managed to get Steve Smith early, and gone on to win the match, as they surely would have done, then doubtless the press would have been full of thoroughly premature articles about the Ashes coming home.

Of course, it goes without saying that winning or losing colours the coverage completely, it couldn’t be anything else, but a five Test series allows for fluctuations after all – one bad Test doesn’t mean things can’t change.  England’s weaknesses were on full display in this match, a bowling attack that struggled to take wickets without the new ball, a brittle batting order, and sans Stokes, a tail that rolls over in the face of fast bowling.  In contrast, Australia did a good job of covering up their own weaknesses – their less than outstanding tail performed well, the top order batted well in one of the two innings – while making use of their strengths, the fast bowling to some extent, the superior spinner to a greater one.  It’s never the worst idea to look at what went right for the winning side just as much as what went wrong for the losing one, and ask whether that’s likely to continue, especially given Australia’s unusually strong record at the Gabba.

Although England’s inability to take a wicket second time round is troubling, it’s also the case that the primary reason for defeat was failing to set any kind of reasonable target.  The mentality of a run chase is very different when a side is completely confident of success; it’s certainly not terribly surprising to see a team romping to a small target even if they struggled in the first innings.

The difficulty arises in trying to sift England’s structural problems and those that sit in the “one of those things” category, and a single Test doesn’t always offer insight into which is which, and to what degree.  Many of England’s failings in this game aren’t new at all, but the matter of degree might be.

If England were to win this series, so the wisdom went, Cook and Root would have to have successful series given the inexperience of the rest of the top order.  True as that might be, that inexperience is a self-inflicted wound given England have messed around with their batting for so long.  It is entirely their own fault they’ve arrived in Australia with so many question marks around positions 2, 3 and 5; at least two more Test novices than is normal.  Yet as it turned out, those inexperienced ones did reasonably well, albeit without any going on to make a really defining score.  That too has been a hallmark of England recently, and the inability to make big hundreds is always going to make it hard for England to put real pressure on Australia.  Cook failed twice in this Test, which can happen to any batsman, but in his case the greater concern is how he appears to be batting.  He looks adrift technically, much closer to the Bad Cook than the Good Cook of recent years and a live Test series is no time to be trying to put a technique right.  England will certainly be hoping that it is just a small adjustment, or that he merely felt out of sorts, but his recent record is one of diminishing returns – a statement that has been dismissed repeatedly, but which even his media supporters are starting to mention, albeit to to deny it.  There has never been a better time for him to prove the doubters wrong.

Root on the other hand was dismissed twice in similar fashion, lbw to a ball swinging in to him.  This could be a vulnerability, or it could just be getting out to a decent ball on two occasions.  He remains England’s best batsman by a distance, just like his Australian counterpart.  England need him to show that next time out.

Where England are certainly wasting a batsman is in the number seven position.  In both innings Jonny Bairstow found himself with the tail, and on both occasions got out trying to force runs.  It’s obviously the case that England miss Ben Stokes, but that doesn’t mean England have gone from the strongest lower middle order to the weakest overnight – England’s number seven will be a highly capable batsman irrespective. Before the Test England swapped Moeen and Bairstow around, saying that the latter would bat better with the tail, to seemingly almost universal approval from the great and the good.  Perhaps it is the case that such appreciation ought to be a warning sign, for the arguments in favour seemed weak at the time.  Moeen has been quite adept at smashing bowling around the park and farming the strike late on in an innings, in contrast to Bairstow who has been most effective in building longer innings.  He’s never shown too much aptitude as a late order hitter, at least.  It may be a waste of Moeen’s talents to have him throw the bat given minimal support, but it seems an even greater waste of Bairstow’s.  This will surely be corrected next time out, effectively conceding the error.

Whichever way around it might be, runs from the tail are always sought after, but England’s isn’t especially appalling, not with someone as capable at eight as Chris Woakes, nor someone who does score runs (however ungainly they may be) at nine as Stuart Broad.  But few would be talking about the tail if the batsmen had done a better job.  There is one thing that shouldn’t take up any more time, and that’s Moeen’s “controversial” dismissal in the second innings.  The thickness of the damn line is neither here nor there, and no batsman pays any attention to it.  What they do know is they have to keep a part of their foot behind it.  He didn’t, he was out.  Move on.

On the bowling side, first time around at least, Anderson and Broad did reasonably well, maintaining control and taking wickets.  In the second, they didn’t even look like taking any.  The match position may go some way towards explaining that, but not entirely, and certainly they looked far less effective with the old ball than the new in either innings.  But a bowling attack cannot rely on just two bowlers, no matter how good they might be, and England’s support bowling was relatively poor, which creates a vicious circle of making the better bowlers look poor too.  Again, it may be wise not to read too much into a single game – Moeen for one frankly described his bowling performance as “rubbish” when he was asked about it, and raising the performance levels is more than possible for any of them.

One thing that shouldn’t be thrown at them is the problem of the similarity in style of England’s seamers, given was always going to be the case anyway.  Woakes is a first choice seamer, and only Jake Ball is in there in place of Stokes, who even though might be a very good bowler, is still a right arm, fast medium one, just like the others.  The loss of bowling options before the series was a blow, but they were all right arm, fast medium too, even Finn these days.

In contrast, if England’s bowling is not completely hopeless, Australia’s pace attack is not the West Indies circa 1984 either, no matter how much the Australian press want to claim it is so, and nor were they even dramatically faster than their England counterparts in this match.  It was Nathan Lyon who really excelled, and who really made the difference, on a surface surprisingly suited to him.  Moeen’s disgust at his own performance can unquestionably be seen in the context of how Lyon did.

With the 2nd Test in Adelaide a day/night one, much is being made of the potential for England to gain swing, particularly James Anderson.  This may prove a vain hope, for recent matches there in the same conditions have been high scoring and with a flat pitch, but it is also quite probably England’s best chance of winning. At 1-0 down, there’s nothing wrong with targeting this one, and backing themselves to get more out of it than Australia do.  The alternative is to assume Australia would beat England in all conditions, which seems unduly defeatist, even for England supporters expecting the worst.

What can be said is that the 2nd Test is pivotal.  Lose that one, especially if they lose it badly, and a hammering is well and truly on the cards.  But win it, and we have a proper series.  England can undoubtedly play better than they did in Brisbane, Australia can undoubtedly play worse.  The nagging worry is the obverse is equally true.