Month: December 2010 (page 1 of 5)

Australia’s fast bowlers in the 2010 Ashes

One, two, three hundreds

You can ask any England fan what qualities a bowling attack needs to bowl the opposition out in Australia. We all know. You need as many as possible of the following:

  • Extreme pace
  • Freakishly tall bowlers
  • Mystery spin
  • Reverse swing

How many of those can you find in the current Australia team? Pretty much none of them.

Their tallest bowler bowls round-arm. They don’t pick spinners at all. Reverse swing is occasional and functional. The bowlers are quick without being exceptional. All in all, the attack is pretty samey.

What should they do?

Identify someone – anyone – with at least one of those qualities. England didn’t have pace, but Broad, Tremlett and Finn are taller than all of Australia’s bowlers while Anderson and Bresnan bowled reverse swing better. Josh Hazlewood’s about two metres tall. That’s not a bad start. Work with him.

The problem might lie in the ‘sporting’ pitches that are currently being prepared for Sheffield Shield matches. One of Australia’s great advantages until recently was that their first-class pitches were generally fairly flat, like Test pitches. Bowlers who excelled in those conditions were therefore well-suited to Test cricket.

The bowlers excelling in Australian first-class cricket at the moment are different beasts altogether. They’ve become better suited to their habitat. That’s what happens.

“Adaptation is the heart and soul of evolution.” – Niles Eldredge

How significant is this?

This is the heart of the problem. Australian Test batting averages were swollen for years thanks to McGrath, Warne, Gillespie, MacGill, Lee et al. These guys created situations where the batsmen could play at their absolute best, with no fear of failure. That’s not the case any more. The bowling has a major knock-on effect on the batting.

It shouldn’t take an Englishman to point out what’s wrong with this Australia team.


Australia’s batsmen in the 2010 Ashes

Steven Smith, bat in hand - look away

Let us say that we don’t actually think that Australia’s batsmen are all that bad. They are good players playing badly, which is slightly different.

Batsmen under pressure are exposed more than bowlers because they don’t get second chances. You do something stupid that gets you out and that’s your day over. Bowlers at least get to go back to their mark and have another stab.

Australia’s batsmen have played pretty stupidly at times during the 2010 Ashes series, but it’s the bowlers putting them under pressure.

Really?

Katich, Hussey and Haddin are all fine. If he could stop running his partners out, Watson would be doing a job, particularly when you consider that he’s an all-rounder. Ponting down the order with intact fingers on his hands and without the weight of the world on his shoulders would be fine too. He really would.

Michael Clarke’s gone mental, but it’s more obvious when no-one’s making up for his failures – he’s basically fine. Phil Hughes may or may not be fine, we still haven’t decided. Steven Smith is not fine.

How Steven Smith ended up at number six is beyond us. He’s got a good first-class record, but he’s as easy on the eye as foreskin trapped in a zip. Rule one of all-rounders is that they have to be worth their place as either a batsman or a bowler. Smith isn’t, as far as we can tell. Having him bat at six is tantamount to sabotage.

So what went wrong?

With Smith at six, Ryan Harris notching up king pairs at eight and a bowling attack conceding a volume of runs measured in thousands, Australia’s batsmen had to do more than their fair share of work.

And they knew it.

There are worse things wrong with this Australia team than the batting.


Australia’s captain and spinners

The more we think about it, the more these two things go hand-in-hand.

The situation was this. Nathan Hauritz got the boot because he got wellied in India like just about every other spinner who ever goes over there. Demented selections ensued.

Maybe Hauritz offended Ricky Ponting by suggesting that he stop setting fields that were complete dog toss – we may never know. What we do know is that Ponting is pretty damn certain he doesn’t want Hauritz in his team ever again, even if he has to pick a shit spinner or no spinner at all instead.

Xavier Doherty was the shit spinner. Michael Beer was no spinner at all. It couldn’t have gone worse.

So what went wrong, specifically?

Partly it was a ‘grass is greener’ mentality. Shane Warne isn’t playing any more, although some people (desperate idiots) think he should be. Australia don’t have a spin bowler who’s even half as good as Stuart MacGill, so they should stop looking for one.

If you’ve got a bowler that good, you know about him. He isn’t out there disguised as a Beer or a Doherty.

If you’ve got Nathan Hauritz, use him properly. Don’t undermine him. Don’t discard him. If you’ve got a Steve O’Keefe, encourage him; build him up.

You certainly don’t just pick any old spinner and then drop him almost immediately. You tell all your spinners they’re not good enough when you do that, not just the one who’s come and gone.

And the captain?

Ricky Ponting has to take a lot of the blame. 152 Test matches and he doesn’t know how to handle spinners either on or off the field. That’s just embarrassing.

But again, is the grass greener? Ponting might not seem like a great option as captain right now, but he has learnt something in those 152 Tests and if someone can persuade him to drop down the order, he’s almost certainly still worth his place in the Test team, unlike many of the alternatives.

Things aren’t perfect, but hunting for perfection when it doesn’t exist is counterproductive. This isn’t to say we don’t think Ponting should be asked to step down. It’s to say think about it. There were plenty of other things wrong with Australia’s Ashes teams.


Australia’s Ashes team – an English perspective on what went wrong

As an Englishman in his thirties, there’s nothing we don’t know about pointing out a team’s flaws after it’s failed to win the Ashes.

Might as well put our skills to more joyous use this year.

Today, captaincy and spin bowling. Tomorrow, batting and pace bowling.


England cricketers’ Ashes sprinkler celebration

This is another good way of celebrating the retention of the Ashes.

If you don’t know about ‘the sprinkler’, it’s become the England cricketers’ official dance of the tour.

It’s a stupid dance and they’re all awful at it, but you can’t help but warm to them even more when you see the joy on their little faces every time they do it.


The only way to celebrate an Ashes win

You’ve got to pull out all the stops at a time like this.

So here’s a Venn diagram made by someone else:

Ashes victory Venn - a thing of rare beauty

Never let it be said that we don’t make the effort.

Thanks Ged.


Tim Bresnan is two players in one

Tim Bresnan only lacks the fiving ability of Panesar

More specifically, Tim Bresnan, England’s fifth-choice seamer, is Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle rolled into one.

Bresnan has the fitness, pace and accuracy of Siddle. He also bowls away swing with the new ball and reverse swing later on like Ben Hilfenhaus. Oh, and he can bat.

Bresnan’s reputation as a fatty is almost entirely down to his abnormally round head. His big tree trunk arms probably add to the impression as well, but he’s basically fat-free. Imagine a burly puma. He’s all muscle.


Jonathan Trott – unarsed England number three

We're warming to Jonathan Trott quite a lot what with all those Ashes hundreds and all

Generally being unarsed about stuff is a fantastic quality for a Test batsman to have. Jonathan Trott’s got it in spades.

You can have all the shots and the best hand-eye co-ordination, but if you wobble when things don’t go perfectly, you’ll never make it as a Test batsman, because things never, ever go perfectly in real life.

Paul Collingwood highlights this well. Here is a batsman who won’t be put off by something as trivial as the fact that he’s playing bloody awfully. Playing bloody awfully won’t affect how Paul Collingwood plays; he’ll just keep going until he starts playing well again. This is his strength. Most batsmen will commit seppuku because they think the situation’s hopeless (possibly using a frisbee).

Jonathan Trott’s similar. Yeah, he plays shots on both sides of the wicket, but he doesn’t get het up if he hits a four, or if he’s nearly run-out, or if he gets knacked in the kneecap, or if the opposition suddenly lose their minds with PURE RAGE.

Jonathan Trott is so cool he can even take catches no-handed.


Ricky Ponting talking to the umpires

Whinging Poms? Has the world ever seen a whingier cricketer than Ricky Thomas Ponting?

Sport needs a bit of ‘us and them’ so that you can enjoy it properly, so it was perversely enjoyable to see Ponting spend three-quarters of an hour bending Aleem Dar’s ear. As he stamped his feet with tears rolling down his pudgy munchkin face, it was just about impossible not to feel your support for England swelling by the second – even if you were Australian.

Ponting has ‘previous’ when it comes to bitching and moaning at umpires. He’s got something of the Premiership footballer about him in that he’ll lean right in the umpire’s face, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the decision has been made and will never be changed in a million years.

Aleem Dar knows how to deal with Ricky Ponting. He blankly explained what had happened, effortlessly rising above the situation. Then, later on, he called for a no-ball review when a wicket had been taken, saving Matt Prior. On the outside Dar remained just as blank-faced when the no-ball was confirmed, but on the inside he was pointing and laughing at ol’ Spit Hands, red-faced and fuming in his tatty green hat.


A Boxing Day Test thank you letter

Dear Father Christmas,

Thanks for all the presents you brought us. You really outdid yourself. We know we’ve been good this year, but some of the things you got us were just plain ridiculous.

Thanks for the house. We’re not sure we need quite that many bedrooms and we really weren’t expecting a pool. On balance you were probably too generous.

Thanks for getting us Jessica Alba and Beyoncé as well. One of them would have been enough and they didn’t BOTH need to be naked, although it was much appreciated.

Now, the cricket. Australia 98 all out and England 157-0? Well, let’s be honest, we’re not going to throw that back in your face, are we? This was more outrageous than the other presents put together, but we can’t say we aren’t glad.

What do you do for an encore?

All our love,
King Cricket


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