Massive weaknesses and massive strengths – the first few pages of the story of James Vince and Australia’s bowling attack

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James Vince drives using the middle of his bat (BT Sport)

On the first day of the first Ashes Test, James Vince made what Reese described to us as ‘a daddy 30’.

No-one expected Vince to make 83 and what’s so marvellous about that is that it undermines a number of pre-series certainties to leave us all watching a nice, unpredictable sporting event.

Well, maybe not watching. Not unless you have BT Sport or whatever.

The gist of it is this: if Vince can score runs against this attack then either he’s better than everyone thought or Australia’s fearsome pace attack is slightly less fearsome than we’d been led to believe.

Let’s go for a little from Column A and a little from Column B.

Vince was solid. We know this because having got up just in time to see Mark Stoneman dismissed (literally the first ball we saw) we then got to hear the commentators talking about what we’d missed at great length. England’s subsequent mediocrity then inspired us to spend a great deal of time dwelling on what had preceded it. (Ashes Tests can be very personally vindictive in what they present to part-time viewers on the opposite side of the world – we’re not inclined to calculate our own personal ‘cricket viewed’ mini scorecard.)

On the plus side, we did get to see Australia’s four-man attack at the end of the day, allowing us to gauge the impact of one whole day of Test cricket on them.

As relentlessly aggressive pace attacks go, they seemed to spend an awful lot of time pressuring England by cutting off the runs. As we all know, ‘good cricket’ and ‘attacking cricket’ are one and the same thing, so this defensive cricket was therefore impressively attacking.

Pace-wise, they were all utterly unspectacular. Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins hovered just below the 90mph threshold above which we’re finally willing to deem a bowler ‘fast’. Josh Hazlewood opted for Jimmy Anderson pace and everyone pretended it was quicker because he’s younger and Australian.

An alternative take on the day is that the pitch is shunting the play runwards, in which case James Vince is the same and Australia’s bowlers are amazing because they’ve dismissed Alastair Cook and Joe Root for almost nothing.

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  1. Despair, then hope, then disappointment, then some kind of middling ‘could be worse, could be better’ sort of feeling – not bad for the first day of a series, although I’d have liked those feelings in a different order ideally.

    (Apologies if this appears twice, I clicked ‘post comment’ but nothing happened)

  2. I watched until they were 100-1. Then woke up when they were 160-4.

    Ah, that familiar feeling. Welcome back old friend.

  3. I’ve failed to get BT Sport properly as my ISP (plusnet) won’t sell a TV package to me without fibre, which seems impossible in a heavily-populated urban area but universally rolled out in some of the most remote parts of Scotland. Instead it’s good old TMS on the DAB radio which is now into its 4th Ashes tour (I might commission Ged to write a piece on behalf of the radio, for the naming rights). Me and that radio have endured some miserable nights during those 5-0s. I don’t want to pay £5 to watch on a tiny screen, so am also using Mobdro on the big TV for stuttery, illicit BT Sport which is perpetually nearly an over behind but which ensures no visual shocks.

    I drifted in and out for much of the night’s play, not least trying to make sense of all the new rules and regs:

  4. Please wake up and start watching in time to jinx an Australian the day after tomorrow!

    Looking and feeling like the very last rose of summer this morning.

  5. Watched on the app for the first hour. Surprisingly ok, but Swann is awful and pairing him with Gilchrist was terrible, though Gilchrist seems ok. I like Ponting though.

    1. Ponting is genuinely pretty good at the commentary thing. I’m missing him on the Australian broadcast.

  6. I don’t think we’re any the wiser. I woke up expecting 160 – 7 and hoping for 300 – 2, but we got neither. We got the exact score that has been precisely calculated by mathematicians to say absolutely nothing about the players, the match or the series.

    Take-home facts from Day 1 are:

    Seeing off Australia’s pace attack armed with a new ball is easy
    Batting against Australia’s pace attack is difficult
    England’s inexperienced batsmen can support the core
    England’s core batsmen will let the side down
    Winning the toss and batting has given us the best chance
    Australia will have the better of the pitch as it hardens up
    Nathan Lyon is a better cricketer than anyone thinks

  7. I came into this thinking we have some mediocre batsmen, they have some mediocre bowlers. Our bowling attack is strong, their batting line up is also strong.

    It’s a well balanced contest and I suspect it will come down to how well our bowlers adapt to conditions.

    Day 1 of (potentially) 25 hasn’t answered any questions yet.

    Did anyone actually watch BT Sport? What was the commentary team like? I know Swann had been promising some “banter”.

    1. Australia’s pace bowlers are over-hyped pace-wise, but they all average mid-20s. Would say they are better than mediocre.

      1. You make a good point. In my head, Nathan Lyon is still the guy omitted in favour of Ashton Agar, Mitchell Starc is one of the Mitchells who isn’t Johnson ,Pat Cummins is too new to feature on my radar and Josh Hazlewood is a T20 specialist.

        I seem to be stuck in 2013.

  8. ‘I know Swann had been promising some “banter”. ‘

    I would say it was as bad, if it not worse, than this sentence implies.

    1. “Slats” and “KP” were annoying enough for me yesterday. Swann is just like Vaughn. Someone I really liked as a player who I’d be delighted to never hear a single word from ever again.

      I thought it was jolly nice of most of Australia’s bowlers to keep putting the ball in the one place that Vince is good at hitting it.
      Lyon is going to do a lot of bowling.

      I hope they all shave off those absurd moustaches next week. They look ridiculous.

      1. I remember really liking Swann when he first started on TMS. He seemed relaxed, confident and gave interesting insights on the game and especially spin bowling. Now it seems like he wants to have a gimmick and is really pushing his accents and impressions. It’s not for me.

  9. Okay, I’m full of turkey and booze and ready for another evening of cricket.

    Yay for early Christmas.

  10. Commentating with Swann has caused Damien Fleming to say: “He certainly downloaded the cover drive app before this innings”

    I wish he’d also downloaded “rotate the strike” as well, but I realise roaming data is expensive.

  11. Do you all really have to go to sleep? It’s only, what, 2am over there? Do I really have to watch this rubbish on my own?

    1. 69-3 isn’t tho! Get Smith and you’re going to restrict Oz closer to 200 than to 300. Or so I hope.

      1. It’s like when you Get Carter, but you Get Smith instead. Simple, really.

        It’s funny how the particular experience of following an away tour is coloured by whatever the score is when you go to bed and/or get up – watching a home series, you follow the ebbs and flows (mostly – sometimes work gets in the way for the odd hour or so), but for a series in (especially) Australia you get several hours’ worth of information all at once (at about 5am in my case) and then that becomes the anchor point.

        This morning, I saw that Australia were 80-odd for 4, had the excitement of that, and then the rest of the morning has just been a slow chipping away of that excitement.

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