22

Looking back on looking forward at Australia’s Ashes side

Bowled on 28th August, 2013 at 11:15 by
Category: Australia cricket news

Everyone’s reviewing the Ashes. It’s a bit tiresome, so we thought we’d instead review our preview. It amounts to much the same thing, but don’t tell anyone. The subheadings link to the original previews should you wish to do what pretty much no-one does and read more than one page of this website in a single sitting.

Australia’s openers

We implied that Shane Watson could be a dangerous batsman as well as a figure of fun. He was both. We expected Chris Rogers to do well. he did. We thought Ed Cowan would ‘do a job’. He did. He carried the drinks.

Australia’s middle-order batsmen

We didn’t really feel it necessary to say much about Michael Clarke. Using logic, we deduced that Phil Hughes would pretty much do nowt. He pretty much did nowt. We were fairly non-committal about David Warner and Steven Smith and actually, we stand by that. While Steve Smith played a couple of decent innings, he still looks a bit of a mess at times and overall 345 runs at 38 shouldn’t be much cause for celebration. We don’t even remember Usman Khawaja playing now, so can’t comment on what we said about him, which mostly seemed to revolve around aeroplanes anyway.

Australia’s wicketkeepers

Brad Haddin averaged 22, but his child-minding was excellent.

Australia’s spin bowlers

We said that even though Nathan Lyon wasn’t the best bowler in history, he was the best option for Australia and if they could stop fantasising for five minutes, they would realise that he would do a better job than any of the alternatives. But it was easy for us to spot that, what with having access to all these resources which are unavailable to Australia’s coach, selectors and media. If they’d had access to a bike pump; dense, carpet-like head hair; unopened post; and a smoke alarm with a flat battery; maybe they too could have spotted this not-at-all-blindingly-obvious fact. Lyon performed competently and Australia need to acknowledge that this is the absolute best possible outcome as far as their spin bowling is concerned.

Australia’s seam bowlers

We reserved judgement on Ryan Harris, but he was actually very good. We thought Peter Siddle would do a good, solid job. He did. Unlike the world, we suspected that the younger seam bowlers wouldn’t do a right lot. They didn’t do a right lot. James Pattinson, the saviour of Australian cricket, took seven wickets at 44. Mitchell Starc was a real mixed bag but somehow emerged with 11 wickets at 32. Jackson Bird looked steady in his one Test, which Australia lost.

Conclusion

A decent series for Michael Clarke (age 32 – spinal age, 71), Chris Rogers (36 this week) and Ryan Harris (33). There were contributions from other people, but the foundations for progress might start showing signs of subsiding before too long.

22 Appeals
18

The players England are sort of maybe half-interested in for proper cricket

Bowled on 27th August, 2013 at 13:53 by
Category: England cricket news

It’s one-day squad announcement day! It’s when we get to find out some of the players that England are sort of maybe half-interested in for proper cricket at some indeterminate point in the future!

But actually, it’s not as clear-cut as that. A one-day squad is actually a blend of potential future Test players and also those who have already been tarred by the coarse and unforgiving bristles of the ‘short format specialist’ brush.

A bit of labelling

Take the stand-in captain, for example. Originally a short format specialist, Eoin Morgan became someone considered for Tests for a period and now no-one’s quite sure where he stands. Michael “Mike” Carberry arrives at the same place from a different direction. He’s easing his way back into England squads, but how far will he ease?

We’re not exactly sure where Ben Stokes stands either and there’s unexpected uncertainty surrounding James Tredwell’s status what with all the pish bowling and pish spraying that has afflicted back-up Test spinners in the last week or so.

We get the vibe that they have Boyd Rankin in mind primarily as a Test bowler, but we could be wrong.

Luke Wright is a one-day specialist.

Fact-finding

Then there are players whose selection smacks of general fact-finding. Jamie Overton has 19 one-day wickets, but has attracted a bit of excitement. Chris Jordan has 47 one-day wickets, although we seemed to find ourself mentioning him quite a lot earlier in the season, back when we were on top of county cricket.

On that subject, we’ll catch up with the County Championship at some point, we promise. But not today. By the flaxen locks of Mullally, not today. Have mercy on us, people.

18 Appeals
21

Test standard boos before celebratory booze

Bowled on 26th August, 2013 at 09:49 by
Category: Australia cricket news, England cricket news

The moment, when it came, was hugely exciting. Connoisseurs of booing had spent quite some time nervously anticipating it. A full series build-up and then a full day’s play where the prospect of a home win grew ever more likely. Just what would it sound like when Megatron finally turned up to spoil the party?

Before the sunset

After four days sitting in a comfortable armchair, sipping tea and watching repeats of Morse, England finally flung off their cardigan, kicked off their slippers and played some cricket on day five of the Oval Test. It was infuriating for the implication of what might have been.

Kevin Pietersen in particular showed that he is a better player when he moves quite some way towards the foolish end of the responsibility spectrum. Dead-batting his way to 100-and-odd ball fifties is no good to anyone. In contrast, when he calls on his full range of strokes, playing them only according to the field and bowling, you see why he’s so good and you also remember how he hands over a malleable bowling attack to the batsmen who follow him.

A 3-0 Ashes win is an excellent result, but England have been a reactive side. Australia have been proactive. It is wrong to cite the result as being justification for England’s approach, because a proactive England is not the same as a proactive Australia. Combine Australia’s approach with England’s ability to actually win and you’d have a decent cricket team.

21 Appeals
32

Even the highlights were boring

Bowled on 24th August, 2013 at 09:26 by
Category: Australia cricket news, England cricket news

Over rates and now run rates. England are in no hurry. Whatever the motivation, it doesn’t make for much of a spectacle.

A team batting for a draw can make for riveting entertainment, but it’s tension that makes the cricket so compelling. When a team is batting for a draw in their first innings, there is no tension. Quite frankly, if this is an actual policy from England, they deserve to lose.

The generous assessment is that they’re responding to circumstance; that they truly feel this is the best way to play on a slow pitch, chasing a big Australian total, with a 3-0 series lead. However, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that justifiable caution has spread like a virus inside the minds of the batsmen, cannibalising all other thoughts.

Stuart Broad spoke of throwing punches and ‘damaging players’ before this Test. Perhaps the second part of that was meant literally and England are hoping Australia’s bowlers develop stress fractures. The psychological damage inflicted could only possibly result from sensory deprivation.

32 Appeals
15

What do you make of Steve Smith’s batting?

Bowled on 23rd August, 2013 at 00:00 by
Category: Steven Smith

Steve Smith's massive bat mostly out of shot

We’ve been struggling with this for months and we’ve still not reached any firm conclusions. We asked an Australian friend for his view and he just said: “He’ll be fine,” which didn’t really help clarify things.

We’re probably verging towards this: In good conditions in the first innings, Smith’s head’s good enough to score runs; but in poor conditions or in the second innings, his method makes him a bit of a liability. But this view is by no means set in stone.

Appearances can be deceptive

We feel like we’re being misled by his hideous technique. Steve Smith appears to have a bat with a handle significantly longer than is the norm. It’s probably just that he wafts it around eight feet outside off stump when the bowler runs in like it’s a magic wand and he’s trying to make the point fielder disappear.

When the ball arrives, things pretty much sort themselves out, unless he’s pulling, in which case he for some reason does it with a high left elbow. It’s all a little odd, but odd’s not necessarily bad.

General physical weirdness

Maybe it’s just Smith in general. His double-elbow chicken dance bowling action is weird enough, but actually pretty much everything he does is weird. Even when he was whocking a six to reach his hundred, he sort of half fell over afterwards. Everything’s kind of clumsy and with there being no clear distinction between chin and neck, he really doesn’t look like an athlete.

Have you seen him run? Does he have a bad hip or something? He moves like an elderly woman. Watch him setting off for a quick single or trying to skip up the steps back to the pavilion. There’s an enormous discrepancy between the amount of effort he puts in and the return he gets on it. A huge, full body convulsion seems to result in him getting his foot about half an inch off the floor, like all the energy has dissipated somewhere along the way.

He scored some runs though and that’s happened a few times now. At some point we’ll come to terms with that.

15 Appeals
4

Shane Watson’s muscle and skull

Bowled on 22nd August, 2013 at 10:19 by
Category: Shane Watson

One of the reasons why it’s been so enjoyable to watch Shane Watson’s hapless summer is because he generally looks like the kind of batsman who can rifle a long series of chanceless fours. Yesterday, he actually did this. His drives were crisper than neglected bacon blackening under the grill and his pulls were as percussive as Stomp.

There were a couple of wobbles. He was given not out LBW early on. If he had been given out and it had been reviewed, it would have been ‘umpire’s call’ and he would have been on his way. It’s odd to think that moment could just as easily have further contributed to his general air of front-legged uselessness. Instead, things turned out rather differently.

Later on, Broad hit him with a bouncer.

“I got lucky, because it hit me on the muscle, not on the skull.”

Those were the only two options.

4 Appeals
14

Investing in poor debuts

Bowled on 21st August, 2013 at 18:59 by
Category: Chris Woakes, Simon Kerrigan

How much does the ability to handle debut nerves have an impact on whether or not a player might one day thrive in Test cricket? Answer that question and you go a long way towards deciding how much attention to pay to the performances of Chris Woakes and Simon Kerrigan.

We’d say that in general a debut shouldn’t be considered representative of a player’s ability. That said, it is something that needs to be overcome. Concede ten an over and you won’t be getting a second Test without first making a very compelling case in some other form of cricket.

Every player is different. Some arrive in Test cricket fully formed, secure in their abilities; others build confidence over time. The former are preferable in many respects, but frequently the latter surpass them once they’ve found their feet. You invest in players and with the potential for poor returns in the short-term, it’s important to be certain you’re investing correctly for the long-term.

One thing we’d say is that Shane Watson was struggling up until he came up against the debutants and afterwards, he wasn’t struggling any longer. That’s quite important when you look at what’s going on in this Test. Woakes and Kerrigan have a debt. Will they get a chance to work it off.

14 Appeals
12

Australia’s batting disorder, Watson’s travels, something about buckets and Lehmann acting like Kevin Keegan

Bowled on 21st August, 2013 at 09:36 by
Category: Australia cricket news

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.

Watson’s travels

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.

Buckets!

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
35

Mike Carberry seems a sensible Twenty20 selection

Bowled on 20th August, 2013 at 09:09 by
Category: England cricket news, Michael Carberry

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
20

A can’t-make-our-minds-up England squad

Bowled on 18th August, 2013 at 16:52 by
Category: England cricket news

Chris Woakes and his adapted web slingers

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.

Spin thoughts

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.

All-rounder thoughts

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

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