Being overtaken in a 10-Test series

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You’ve got to pace yourself. Australia started this 10-Test series so woefully that they could only ever improve. In hindsight, that was a masterstroke. It’s tempting to talk about momentum, but we’ll stick to a different M-word – motivation. Nothing keeps you going like knowing that you’re gaining on someone.

Being caught

The corollary of this is that few things in sport are as dispiriting as being overtaken. A bike race is the clearest example of how this works. Cyclists up the road with a few seconds advantage will fight and fight, even when those behind are gaining on them. However, the moment they’re caught, they visibly wilt. They can no longer deny what’s been painfully obvious for the last few kilometres.

If the race is going up a huge mountain pass, the best thing to do when you’re caught is to just let whoever caught you go. The cold, harsh truth is that you were already operating at your maximum and that simply wasn’t good enough. The best you can do is pace yourself in order to reach the summit as quickly and efficiently as possible. Sometimes a cyclist will be more ambitious than that and will redouble their efforts in a bid to stay with whoever caught them. This never works. All that happens is they go into oxygen debt and have to slow down significantly in order to recover.

A forlorn bid

That appears to be pretty much what’s happened to England. They were overtaken on day two of the Brisbane Test and promptly deflated. They have since put in a greater effort in a forlorn bid to stay with superior opposition, but that has basically meant trying to operate beyond their means and so now they’re imploding as a consequence.

England aren’t as bad as they currently appear. They’re just trapped in a long race they can’t win. People are calling for all sorts of changes, but it’s worth considering current circumstances. These aren’t generally bad players, but good players playing badly. Given chance to recover, most will adapt and improve. It’s a bit late, but ever more ferocious attempts to claw back ground on Australia in the short-term are only likely to cause further damage.

This isn’t to say that there shouldn’t be judicious droppage with a view to bringing players back again at a later date should they remember how to play cricket.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


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  1. Droppage is a bad word, KC. It is the sort of word that Shaun Pollock makes up and then uses with reckless and relentless abandon.

    Please don’t descend to Shaun Pollock levels of crap journalism, KC.

  2. This is why the test rankings need to be worth a damn, if the local boards wont do it maybe a cash payment from ICC to all players (pro rata over % of games played and ladder position) would ensure that there is no such thing as a ‘dead rubber’ in any series.
    In terms of changes, Australia will be unchanged barring injuries. For England the question should be whether the team can carry Stokes AND Bresnan rather sacraficing a specialist batsman. Traditionally, great sides have had batsmen who can act as the 2nd/3rd spinner in matches like these, however neither side has any standouts in this area. In this series it is Joe Root vs Steve Smith, neither of whom is really up to the task.
    All of these factors mean England will struggle to find Ballance in their side.

  3. Cook, Root (in the absence of a proper opener), Bell (where he should have been since Trott left), Pietersen, Ballance, Stokes, Bairstow (grudgingly), Borthwick, Broad, Finn, Panesar.

    1. From the same selection panel that dropped Compton? Anyone who watches the county game have the lowdown on Borthwick? The stats suggest he is a run of the mill spin bowler of limited ability with the bat.

    2. His bowling could be stagnating, but playing his home matches at Chester-le-Street with Onions bowling teams out before he’s needed can’t be helping. He’s got the potential to be a match-winner with the ball, but he’s a young leg-spinner and as such is prone to getting smashed sometimes. He could become a Test spinner, but putting him in now will do more harm than good.

    1. Joking apart, our rich seam of “Englishmen of Southern African origin” for the England cricket team appears to be getting a little thin at the moment.

      That’s not very fair.

    2. England are going to need a senior player to host the team braai. Trott and Prior uncertain for the future and I can’t imagine them letting KP do it.

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