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A homogenous batting line-up with the same strengths and weaknesses

This is the closest representation of Australia’s innings we can find. But why? Why would men whose job it is to bat – and who have been selected because they are supposedly the best at that task – repeatedly try and edge balls that weren’t going on to hit the stumps?

It’s not the first time. It’s far from being the first time. In 2008 we wrote a piece called ‘Moving ball! Moving ball!‘ about Australia’s spectacularly braindead approach in swinging, seaming conditions. Three years later, they were bowled out for 47 by South Africa, with Brad Haddin delivering one of the finest dismissals in Test history. The ball moves; Australia fail. It’s become almost a rule.

It’s the IPL’s fault!

It’s not the IPL’s fault. Despite what some people seem to believe, the Indian Premier League doesn’t actually make batsmen worse. It makes batsmen way better at laying bat on ball in relatively straightforward conditions, but it doesn’t actually dissolve the ability to identify deliveries which are highly likely to get you out if you play at them. What may be more pertinent is that there are only so many days in a year and time spent playing in the IPL is time that isn’t spent combating ‘nibble’ at the County Ground in Derby.

That’s fair enough. It makes sense that this is what Aussie batsmen do nowadays, but there are still consequences to receiving that slightly different education.

Once upon a time, Australia got to pick from the best batsmen in county cricket. Men like Brad Hodge, Stuart Law and Chris Rogers could average 60 in the Championship and they still wouldn’t get selected. With those sorts of batting resources, touring England became a piece of piss.

Was it some sort of golden generation, or was it simply that the top Australian batsmen of that time got a breadth of first-class experience which allowed them to score in English conditions? Straight and true pitches Down Under for half a year and then cruel, capricious seamers in England for the other half gives you a pretty good grounding for Ashes cricket. It doesn’t do a right lot for your ability to combat spinners on the subcontinent of course, but you can’t have everything. That’s the nature of cricket.

The modern Australian batsman isn’t devoid of experience in England. Several of them have played club cricket; most have had some sort of truncated spell with a county. It’s just that they don’t know swinging, seaming conditions quite as well as those who came before them. They lack the same conviction, they’re more liable to panic and they’re more prone to falling back on habits which basically prove suicidal when the ball does a bit. Throw in the fact that when you’re playing at the top level, even the smallest weaknesses can be ruthlessly exploited and bad things happen.

Ten men who are good at hitting the ball

If anything it’s homogeneity that’s an issue. Earlier this week, Chris Rogers described himself as being a batsman who relies on decision-making. He said that most of his team-mates were different and had been selected largely because of their skill. The thing is, sometimes all of the skill in the world isn’t enough.

Sometimes the ball swings and seams and you’d need superhuman reflexes to middle it. In those circumstances, unless it’s going to hit the stumps, you’re better off leaving it. If only one guy out of 11 has that mentality, you find yourself with a lot of eggs in the ‘hopefully everyone’s got superhuman reflexes’ basket. It’s not a wholly reliable basket.

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Stuart Broad tears Australia a new one

Early wickets are always key and with his 19th delivery, Stuart Broad struck. Of course he already had four wickets by that point and it didn’t take him too much longer to pick up another three.

Was it a rain delay? Were these actually just highlights? No, because rain delays drag on and so highlights have to be stretched out – this passage of play wasn’t hanging around for anyone. “Garf!” said David Lloyd at one point, which seemed just about the only appropriate way to commentate.

There was much talk about Michael Clarke’s form before the Test. He dropped to five to hide from the new ball and that decision was soon vindicated. Emerging for the ninth delivery of the innings, he was soon into double figures, unlike everyone else in the top order.

When Colin Graves was pushing for four-day Tests earlier in the year, we assumed he wanted to shorten them. On balance, you’d have to say it was England’s session.

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Bread in the toaster, kettle on and OH DEAR LORD NO!

You can run out of some foods without too much of a problem. You can always use a different kind of vinegar. You can make that marinade without oregano. Chilli con carne without kidney beans is perfectly acceptable. On the other hand, playing a Test match without James Anderon is like dropping a couple of slices of bread in the toaster and flicking on the kettle before discovering that you’re out of both milk and butter.

Oh sure, black tea’s drinkable, but the day’s already off to a bad start. Your mood’s never going to recover, even if you go to the shop and get some. It was the start of the day and you had to get dressed and go to the pissing shop before you’d even had a brew. As for dry toast, the less said the better. You could maybe try and salvage it with jam or houmous or something, but your body will know that something’s gone drastically wrong. The day is ruined.

Straightforward, obvious, normal things that work perfectly well as they are simply cannot be replaced. Anyone who’s tried to undo a fiddly bolt with pliers knows that nothing beats an appropriately sized spanner. Anyone who’s played football in wellies knows that you don’t try and play football in wellies.

This is not to demean Anderson’s replacement. Coffee is delicious, but if you want tea, coffee is not a substitute. For precisely the same reason, tea is no substitute for coffee. An awful lot hinges on these daily rituals and they must always play out just so. An England Test will begin and James Anderson will not be involved. It’s pretty bloody ordinary.

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A budgerigar being conspicuously indifferent to cricket

Balladeer writes:

Recently my friend acquired a budgerigar, named Amigo.

The second photograph I saw of said budgie was this:

Budgie-crammed

Crammed himself into his feeder. An Australian species of parrot, wearing the green-and-gold, with David Warner’s intelligence. Could you get more of an obvious Australian fan?

I asked my friend to provide a picture of the budgie’s reaction to some Aussie cricketing news, to prove it.

ashes-budgie

Results so far are inconclusive.

If you’ve got a picture of an animal being conspicously indifferent to cricket, send it to king@kingcricket.co.uk.

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England v Australia Edgbaston in 2005 – a 10th anniversary match report

One of the great pieces of paper

Dandy Dan writes:

The week before this Test, Will and I had been on a stag WEEK in Dublin. During the planning stages of this trip we had both been excited about this prospect. However, the reality was somewhat disappointing. The kindest thing to say is that the rest of our party weren’t much fun. This culminated in a rather drunken Wednesday evening with Will awkwardly falling out with one of the other guys. The following day we sat on the sofa, quite hungover, watching the first day’s play of the second Test whilst the rest of the stag party drove to the other side of Ireland. For us, it was the best day of the week.

We had tickets for the third day’s play so flew into Birmingham on the Friday to meet Will’s brother and associates. We immediately had more fun than on the stag.

Now despite being a fan since childhood, I had never been to a Test match before so day three was breaking my Test-watching virginity. I was obviously looking forward to this. The sands of time and the flow of ale have somewhat clouded my memory, but this is roughly what I can remember. Bullet point format might be easier here rather than trying to string these flashbacks together in any form of cohesive text.

  • The guy who I sold my spare ticket to made the rather poor decision to leave at lunchtime. To be fair, it wasn’t looking good.
  • A couple of guys dressed as Eighties wrestlers took turns to power slam each other on the walkways. This was met with huge approval by members of the crowd.
  • I danced with a group of strangers at the end of the day’s play behind the Hollies Stand repeatedly singing ‘Michael Vaughan’s Barmy Army!’ (Is this too much cricket chat?) We really did spend a long time doing this.
  • Will got on an Aussie fan bus and started singing songs about Freddie.
  • Price made a rather poor decision to not join us on the town in Birmingham and got the train back to London (Possibly on demand of his then girlfriend).
  • I remember being in the Walkabout and Will having a chat with Jimmy.

The following day I undertook a frustrating journey on a train trying to get WAP signal on my phone to find out what was happening. Will had managed to get a ticket for day four and amusingly ended up sitting next to the Aussie fans whose bus he had serenaded the previous evening.

Alas, this was before the time of the camera phone so no digital memories were captured. Strangely, such a memorable day doesn’t appear to have that many memories (well, within the boundaries of this reporting format). As first experiences of a Test match go however, this was quite good.

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