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Who is Michael Beer?

Who is Jason Krejza? Who is Xavier Doherty? Who is Michael Beer? Those post titles sum up Australia’s spin selection policy pretty well.

Michael Beer is a blah-de-blah-de-blah. Who even cares? What’s the point? Shane Warne said he thought he might be okay last week and that seems to be why he’s been picked. That and the fact that he’s called ‘Beer’. Everyone loves beer. Then again, he’s an Aussie beer, so he’ll presumably be piss-weak.

Australia are still looking to exploit Kevin Pietersen’s weakness against mediocre left-arm spinners. Clearly Xavier Doherty didn’t exhibit exactly the right level of mediocrity.


England v Australia, Adelaide 2010 match report

Dandy Dan writes:

Some months ago myself, Price and the so-called ‘Will’ (from String’s Oval match report) organised a weekend of watching some comedy Scottish football and staying up through the night to watch something happening on the other side of the world.

Unfortunately, whilst Price was able to catch a train up from the big smoke without too much hassle, the so-called Will had to cancel his attendance due to flight disruption. Then the football was cancelled.

Having met Price at the train station, we went straight to the first decent pub, in fact the first pub, that you can get to when leaving Edinburgh Waverley, The Guildford Arms.

Whilst in there, I stood next to a gentleman whom I recognised. It took until the end of my first pint to realise it was ex-England rugby player, South African Mike Catt. Later, as we were putting on our coats, Mike came over to us and said to me ‘I recognise you’.

It turned out Mike Catt wasn’t Mike Catt at all and was in fact the father of one of the children in my class. We shared a slightly uneasy conversation, both aware we hadn’t realised who the other one was for the best part of an hour.

We reached our next pub, The Conan Doyle, from cricket bat and stumps in an unusual place and £1 a pint of Guinness fame. Unfortunately, The Conan Doyle has had a bit of a makeover since then and at least £1 has been added to the price of all drinks to pay for it. Disappointed by this, and the slightly pretentious crowd it was now attracting, we retired to The Windsor Buffet.

It was at this point that Price and I took it upon ourselves to document the rest of the evening, as best we could, using Venn diagrams.

Now, before the report shares any of our diagrams for public approval/consumption, a point needs to be made. The several pints of ale we had consumed up to this point might have hindered the statistical reliability of the diagrams.

Our first diagram concentrated on that moment in time.

It's taken us ages to edit this match report

It occurred that due to the so-called Will’s lack of presence, we’d missed out on the opportunity for a historic three-way Venn. Fortunately that was rectified shortly after.

We've saved all these images

For whatever reason, the subject matter then changed somewhat to a trip abroad some years before.

We've resized them

Some more ales down the line, we thought it would be a good thing to document Price’s recently failed relationship in Venn form.

So we aren't doing captions

After this we noticed that ‘Evil Pub Dog’ was terrifyingly interested in what we were doing.

Not even for the dog one

Whilst I was in the toilet, Price took it upon himself to produce his own Venn. Alas, the many ales we had consumed had taken their toll on his ability to communicate through mathematical diagram and he produced this frankly incomprehensible effort.

And what would you say about this anyway?

After this, we decided to retire to my sofa and fall asleep at a disappointingly early time. Again.

The following day we reflected on our previous night’s work, with Price declaring us to be two of ‘life’s great achievers’ – a statement I think is difficult to argue with.


Australia’s Ashes team can sort themselves out

Australia's Ashes team standing around looking a bit glum, like usual

We’ve spent the morning reading obituaries of Australian cricket. An England innings victory in Australia is a monumental thing, but it’s not suddenly become the norm.

Australia do tend to pick themselves back up again. It’s generally just a matter of how soon. One of the wisest things Special Correspondent Dad ever said to us was the following:

“Never write off the Aussies. They’re never down for long.”

He’s right. The Australian selectors are doing everything in their power to make life difficult for their players, but for how long can they keep this up? There are still enough good players in Australia to make a Test team.

Batsmen

In terms of openers, Simon Katich is a more reliable batsman than Phillip Hughes, but if Hughes starts scoring at a decent lick, England’s bowlers could get a bit wobbly and it might all start feeling a bit 1990s.

We said that Phillip Hughes might turn out to be a massive disappointment before the last Ashes, but despite that being the case, we don’t think much of the black and white argument that he was ‘found out’. Let’s see, eh?

Australia’s middle order actually looks okay bar Marcus North, so drop him. All the talk is of Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson, but as an Englishman the player we’d least like to see would be David Hussey (first-class average 55.18). Ponting, Clarke, Hussey, Hussey, Haddin on a flat Aussie pitch with the sun out? No thanks.

Bowlers

This is Australia’s biggest weakness at the minute, but it’s also true that there’s enormous room for improvement. They’re picking the wrong players and the right players who do get picked are playing badly. England might never again see a bowling attack as chock-full of shod as the one from the second Test.

Doug Bollinger took a wicket, but being as he created cracking footholes for Graeme Swann, he was probably responsible for more Australian wickets and therefore represented a net loss. Drop him and replace him with no-one and Australia have already improved their team.

Xavier Doherty enjoyed his raffle prize of two Test match appearances. Nathan Hauritz would improve the bowling. Steve Smith would improve the batting without affecting the bowling. Again, Australia can’t help but improve their team.

Peter Siddle’s taken no wickets since his hat trick, but let’s be fair to Peter Siddle – he did take a hat trick. If someone else in the side bothered taking the odd wicket, then maybe he wouldn’t spend his whole time bowling to well-set batsmen.

There is no way Ben Hilfenhaus isn’t coming back. He didn’t bowl all that well in the first Test when every player was crapping themselves with nerves. He’ll be better in Perth.

Conclusion

One way or another, Australia could be quite a lot better in the third Test. Everyone should stop talking balls about England being ‘unstoppable’.

Australia aren’t the team they were, but if they accept that themselves, stop looking for players who manifestly don’t exist and start working with what they do have, they’re still potentially an excellent Test cricket team.


Who are Australia’s best bowlers?

Probably Shaun Tait, Brett Lee and Stuart Clark – but being as they’re all out of the reckoning one way or another, which bowlers will Australia pick for Perth?

Having made a point of undermining Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Hauritz by dropping them, these players are sure to return. That seems to be the way the Aussie selectors are working at the minute.

Would that be harsh on Dough Bollinger who’s only been back for one Test?

Dough Bollinger

(Thanks to Curt in Houston, Texas for spotting the above on Willow Cricket.)

It would certainly be harsh on Xavier Doherty as he’s Australia’s second-highest wicket-taker in this series. He has three wickets.

Averaging a wicket an innings, Australia would only need 10 bowlers if they could find a few more as effective as Doherty.


England’s innings victories in Australia

England win by a frigging innings

There will be younger England fans who have seen their team win two of the last three Ashes series who really won’t get the significance of a win like this.

For England, Ashes series down under aren’t ordinarily cricket. They’re more like visits to a lab where they can carry out a range of experiments that will help them identify every last one of their flaws. Disorganised, weak-willed, lacking pace in their seam bowling, lacking skill and guile in their spin bowling – the boxes were methodically ticked. Then they came home in sad, stained lab coats.

This is different. We’ve been getting up at 5am on the grounds that we see more cricket that way and also don’t get fired from the day job. So far, this has meant a ‘Christmas morning aged eight’ feeling pretty much every day.

This morning we got to watch the whole day’s play, not knowing the score, and it was like getting the Millennium Falcon AND Dirge.

That, funnily enough, is what England’s players deserve to be rewarded with. At least.


Marcus North has plenty to think about

Marcus North awaits the ball with his name on it

Watching England bowl on a wearing Adelaide pitch, it was apparent that while batting might not be treacherous, there is plenty for the batsmen to think about.

The ball turns from certain spots, tempting gaps are left and when even Paul Collingwood can prove dangerous, you know you’ve got to have your wits about you. Where can you score? Where can you score safely?

Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey generally got their thinking right, but Marcus North is in first thing in the morning and it might be more difficult for him.

We wrote about how Australia are becoming depressed over at The Wisden Cricketer. We don’t mean clinically; we mean there’s an increasing tendency to dwell on the negative. The negatives get out of proportion and it skews their overall view of things, leading to poor decisions.

Marcus North has reason to dwell on the negatives because there’s been talk of dropping him for as long as anyone can remember.

North will be thinking ‘I can score here’ and ‘I could get out here’ when he surveys the field, but then he’ll also think about what it might mean should he get out. That’s counterproductive. When he’s thinking that, he’s not weighing up the field and the bowling.

The only way Marcus North can affect whether he gets dropped or not is by concentrating on the matter in hand, but that’s easier said than done.

Incidentally, anyone who isn’t starting their day by catching up with the previous night’s through-the-night thread needs to take a long, hard look at themselves.


Australian bowlers under threat

The grass in NOT always greener - sometimes there's dog piss on it

The Test before last, Australia fielded a bowling attack of Hilfenhaus, Johnson, Hauritz and George. In this Test, they have Harris, Bollinger, Siddle and Doherty, who have barely taken a wicket between them. What happens now? Go back to the first lot?

The players can’t enjoy this selection drama. They’re not coming into a team because they’ve done well, they’re coming back into a team because the player who replaced them is worse than they were when they were dropped.

It’s a sort of ‘undermine and recall’ policy. The selectors basically say: “We’ve still got no faith in you, but our standards have dropped to such an extent that you’ve come back into contention.”

It’s like returning to a multi-storey car park and being unable to find your car. You check the same spots again and again, hoping that you somehow missed it, but to no avail. Sooner or later you’re going to have to accept that someone’s twocked your car and you’re going to have to get the bus home.


What use is a flat track bully?

Kevin Pietersen is vulnerable to uneven bounce the one time it happens each decade

The term ‘flat track bully’ isn’t so popular these days. It’s because it’s no longer indicative of a weakness.

A batsman who makes the most of flat pitches, bullying bowlers into submission, is basically what you want in Test cricket where 19 pitches out of 20 are basically pretty lifeless for the first half of the match (and often beyond that). Far better to have someone who is guaranteed to cash in when the going’s good than a player who can negotiate the moving ball who’s prone to lapses in concentration.

Before the series, we predicted that the batsmen England were most worried about, Cook and Pietersen, would actually be more influential than others. You wouldn’t fancy either of them when the ball’s swinging, but when it’s not, well, they’re right up there. Don’t be fooled by Cook’s more sedentary scoring – these two batsmen are creatures of their time.

When the Aussies bowl at Cook, there might as well be an asteroid parked in front of the stumps for all that he looks like getting out at the minute. Pietersen’s different. He swings across the line and plays the ball in the air, but if the bounce is true, he can just trust his eye and get on with it.

Australia’s era of dominance roughly coincided with a modern age of flat Aussie-style pitches worldwide. We’re not by any means suggesting that this was the reason for their success, but it’s worthy of debate whether that contributed at all.


Alastair Cook further extends the time between dismissals against Australia

Alastair Cook will be performing his work throughout December

Alastair Cook is in a Vaughanian run of form down under. When he was batting with Jonathan Trott, it was a case of ‘the bowlers may change, but the batsmen remain the same’.

Was it the Ashes or some sort of Cook-Trott conceptual art? Can you detect the passage of time if there are no landmarks along the way? It’s daytime at night at the moment and whenever you turn on the telly – whatever day, whatever week – there’s Alastair Cook. Time no longer has meaning.

Cook should call his work ‘Australian Purgatory’. We’ve been in worse places.

Australia’s grass-is-greener selection policy could lead to Ryan Harris being replaced by Rolf by the end of the series if this carries on.


The James Anderson plan

James Anderson - slippery and slithery

England showed us Plan A today – James Anderson beheads the innings with the new ball and then returns to sweep away the ankles with the second new ball. But you’re aware how fragile it is.

Today it worked, but even after taking three wickets in 2.1 overs, Australia still mustered 245, despite a few mistakes. Down under, it is a hard slog even on the good days. It must be bloody murder on the bad days.

The good thing for England is that James Anderson is doing his bit and he’s doing it brilliantly. He’s being given the narrowest of windows to make some impact and in this Test he’s slithered through like a greased invertebrate weasel.


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