Australia’s batting disorder, Watson’s travels, something about buckets and Lehmann acting like Kevin Keegan
It’s the first morning of a Test. It’s time to try and come to terms with yet another new Australian batting line-up. Some batting orders are etched in stone. Australia’s are spelt out in magnetic letters on the door of the fridge.
Obviously Mitchell Starc returns, because he plays every other Test for Australia, but the real disruption is caused by James Faulkner’s inclusion at the expense of Usman Khawaja. Faulkner has never hit a first-class hundred, so he can’t really bat higher than seven. Brad Haddin therefore moves up to six and Shane Watson, who was at six, moves to three.
It’s impossible to get any kind of overview of Australia’s batting order in this series. There’s just too much information to process. However, Shane Watson’s journeys up and down the order highlight what’s happening quite well.
At the start of the series, he was definitely – DEFINITELY – the opener. Darren Lehmann was vocal about this. David Warner even batted in the middle-order for Australia A because his future was at number six.
In the third Test, Warner played one innings at six and was then promoted to opener. Shane Watson slipped down to number six, pausing briefly at number four for an innings. Six was definitely – DEFINITELY – the logical place for him to bat, being as he’s an all-rounder.
In the fourth Test, Watson batted at six and played one pretty decent innings. He is now moving to number three, which is definitely – DEFINITELY – the best place for him.
Meanwhile, Clarke has batted at four, five, five and four in the four Tests; Steve Smith has oscillated in response; and number three has been Cowan, then Khawaja and now Watson.
Imagine there’s 11 holes in the roof and you’ve got 11 buckets. When it rains, you position the buckets to catch the drips, but several of them fill up in no time. After a bit, you think to yourself that it might be better if you swapped Bucket A with Bucket B because the latter is larger and Drip A is much faster than Drip B. Unfortunately, Bucket B is still not big enough, so you swap it with Bucket C. Meanwhile, Bucket D is overflowing so you swap it with Bucket B, but then neither can cope with their respective drips so you eyeball Bucket E and wonder where that might best be placed.
Eventually, you just have to accept that you need bigger buckets. Or someone could try and fix the roof at some point.
Darren Lehmann does a bit of a Keegan
We imagine Darren Lehmann has a card with everyone’s name on and that he keeps all of these cards in a stack which defines the batting order. Every now and again, someone nudges him and he drops them all.
“Help me pick them up,” he wails.
“What order do they go in?” asks the nudger.
“IT DOESN’T MATTER,” he shrieks, on the edge of tears.
This tearfulness was implied by a recent radio interview, in which he yearned for something similar from Stuart Broad this winter.
“From my point of view I just hope the Australian public give it to him right from the word go for the whole summer and I hope he cries and he goes home.”
His reason for saying this is because Stuart Broad didn’t walk when he edged it in the first Test. In the middle of his whinge, Lehmann says that he doesn’t advocate walking, but apparently this was different because the ball ended up at first slip.12 Appeals
The watercolour vivid intrigue surrounding this week’s Test squad is about as good as it gets when it comes to writing about England selections. Predictability is good, we suppose, but it’s not much fun to write about.
Mike Carberry has been called up to England’s Twenty20 squad. That makes sense. He’s been the standout opener in the short formats this summer and has proven himself in all formats over many years. Why wouldn’t they select him?
The most interesting question is whether we refer to him as ‘Mike’ or ‘Michael’ in future posts. Any preference?35 Appeals
So it looks like either Finn or Tremlett will replace Tim Bresnan for the fifth Test, unless England decide to play a second spinner, in which case Simon Kerrigan will get a game. Or, if they can’t make their minds up which way to go, they might end up picking five bowlers, including Chris Woakes as an all-rounder.
That’s the way we’re reading it anyway.
If you’re not going to pick Monty Panesar, then you should at least pick a Lancastrian, so this is okay. Kerrigan hasn’t played a great deal of real cricket this season – what with having been sentenced to one season in the second division and all – but he’s done well in the first division in years gone by.
Monty is apparently a bit wobbly. It seems he’s divorced his wife and gone a bit wayward in response to that. He was already on a final warning with Sussex prior to his pissy fit and now they’re looking to sack him.
Chris Woakes’ first-class record is extremely good and on the face of it, he promises both runs and wickets. However, whenever we actually see him play, he always strikes us as being one of those all-rounders who isn’t likely to deliver either. His batting’s improved loads, but he’s not an exceptional batsman, while his bowling errs towards relentless steadiness.
He’s kind of like an expensive futon which doesn’t really work as a sofa or a bed. It’s not the best of both worlds. It’s an unsatisfactory version of both worlds which occupies less space.20 Appeals
In the spirit of being a half-arsed website with no clear direction, we thought we’d bring you the news as gathered by looking at a couple of scorecards on Cricinfo.
First of all, if you haven’t seen it before, we can confirm how the internet’s foremost cricket website (Cricinfo, not King Cricket) distinguishes between two players who possess exactly the same name.
They use a two. Textbook.
On an entirely different scorecard, Yorkshire’s Gary Ballance has three digits next to his name in a match against Australia. If you’ve read any articles about Lions squads this year, you’ll get the vibe that Gary Ballance is going to play for the full England side before too long. This probably confirms it.
Was Gary Ballance born in southern Africa? Of course he was. Everyone should be pleased by this. England supporters get a good, solid batsman and those who hate England get to continue plundering a rich library of jokes which has been built up over many years.8 Appeals
I finished work at 8pm – the moderately-late shift. Not as late as the 10pm but later than the 6pm. Arriving home, I was greeted by my girlfriend and her mum watching the football.
“Hello,” my girlfriend said. “The football is on.”
This was a surprise. Tuesday night is Holby City night. This is a well-established tradition. Holby City, followed by the second half of the football on ITV+1 while she has a bath. Am I giving away too much information? It’s ok. It’s only the internet.
Anyway, I had dinner – mashed sweet potato and salmon – and the football continued. The reds scored, then one of the reds kicked one of the greens and saw red, then the greens scored twice.
The news came on afterwards because nobody could be bothered to change the channel.
I was tired so I went to bed and read my book for a bit.
Send your match reports to firstname.lastname@example.org and on no account mention the cricket itself, although you could perhaps find yourself in slightly closer proximity to it than in this particular report.6 Appeals
We don’t really buy into the concept of the dead rubber when it comes to Test matches. In a long one-day series, a situation can arise where bowlers are running in with a figurative cup of tea in one hand and a biscuit in the other (clasped awkwardly between two fingers so that they can still hold the ball), but a Test match is a thing in itself. With five days invested, surely players care a great deal about the outcome – it’s not like real work, after all.
The same goes for spectators. If we’re going to follow a sports match for pretty much a full working week then we don’t expect to watch B-teams. Our difficult relationship with squad rotation has been repeatedly documented on this site and its predecessor pretty much since the outset. The strategic implications intrigue us, but the fact that bowlers are disproportionately affected irritates us immensely.
There will be suggestions that England should rest bowlers for the fifth Test. This has merit, but at the same time, what would they be being rested for? An Ashes Test is the thing. You don’t rest people during the thing. You rest them so they can be there for the thing.
Pyjamas are for rest. It stands to reason.30 Appeals
Dirk Nannes has written about second XI cricket over at All Out Cricket. He draws attention to Greg Chappell’s decision to limit Australian state second XI teams to just three players over the age of 23 back in 2009.
Chappell’s thinking appears to betray a belief that older players who aren’t going to make it into Test cricket contribute pretty much nothing to the national side. This is clearly big swinging donkey balls.
Test cricketers don’t develop in hermetically sealed foil packages, waiting for the top to be ripped off before emerging naked and hairless, dripping some kind of embryonic goo. They are forged in grass crucibles under the heat of old men’s angry, over-competitive swearing.
To methodically rip all of the older players out of the system is a moronically confident vote in favour of natural talent that seems to almost entirely disregard a human being’s ability to learn.17 Appeals
Well that was – actually, what was that? It’s probably a bit early to be committing to specific words, so let’s not. England have won the Ashes. That’s a functional way of saying it. You can add your own emotions internally. England won every Test in which Ian Bell scored a hundred. Shermination complete.
It was seat of pants airborne travel for the editor working on the Channel 5 highlights show with the fourth day of the fourth Test pushing on past 7pm. Chapeau to them and chapeau to Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan – the latter taking second billing thanks to a couple of key wickets and some might fine lower-order whoppery in the morning session.
We’re not sure how confident England were that Australia’s middle order would showcase how Simon it is, but that’s kind of what happened after Bresnan’s stemwinder of a delivery dismissed David Warner. The resilience seemed to just drain away as if it had been floating in the toilet bowl waiting for someone to flush.
It’s not all bad news for Australia though. In Rogers, Clarke and Harris, they’ve unearthed some talented young cricketers for the future.32 Appeals
We’ve almost certainly written about this 12 times before, but cricket is at its best when the value of a run is greatest. A drop of rain is more gratefully received in the Outback than in the Lake District.
It’s hard to judge what would be a decisive lead going into the final innings at Chester-le-Street, but it feels like every edge and every leg-bye are crucial.
The new ball seems disproportionately important too. In its youth, the ball is zesty and enthusiastic and pings about in all sorts of weird and threatening ways, while middle-age appears to bring only pudding-y predictability.
When England bowl, it will surely be a case of how much damage they can do and how quickly. Once the ball has been subdued by the realisation that life is pointless and infuriating, they won’t get much more out of it and will instead have to wait until they’re allowed to trade it in for a new baby (analogy implodes).27 Appeals
When did Ian Bell turn into a big, relentless steamroller? He always used to be a two-seater sports car. He was sleek and flash, but entirely impractical when you came to do the big shop.
These days he’s not just practical, he’s reliable as well. His big engine chunters away as he flattens mile upon mile of tarmac for the benefit of his team-mates. If they later run out of fuel, he goes back and gives them a tow.
In the last Ashes series, Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott scored incredibly heavily. But that was different. That was about ensuring they made as many runs as possible. The 2013 Ashes has been more about whether a batsman can make any runs at all and for the most part it hasn’t happened – unless The Steamroller’s been at the crease.
We’ll tell you what: Ian Bell was not due a big score today.5 Appeals