There is a chance that James Anderson isn’t the nightwatchman, you realise. He might be the new number three.
But while the batting may have changed considerably, life’s the same for England in the field. Today’s backdrop for the Brad Haddin counterattack was 97-5. We all know the drill by now. The old gnarl-dog’s arguably had a greater impact on a single Ashes series than Adam Gilchrist ever did.
The bowlers were the same too. Scott Borthwick all but Kerriganned himself out of the attack, while Boyd Rankin has clearly spent the last few weeks seizing up, rather than warming up. That left us with Anderson, Broad and Stokes. Get used to it. 2014 could see a few players auditioning to be bowlers four and five.
All of this inspires the feeling that despite bowling Australia out inside a day, England aren’t in a great position. It’s the kind of distorted reasoning that probably affects the team as well. The other way of looking at it is that they’ve somehow had a decent day despite the apparent chaos. But does it feel like that?
Bowlers win you matches, but batsmen lose them. Is there really much point weighing up day one of the third Test when England’s batsmen might render all that preceded it almost entirely irrelevant?
May as well go through the motions, just in case.
A growing theme of this series is ‘five down’. Australia have frequently been five down for not a lot, but Brad Haddin keeps forming one half of a big stand. England have frequently been five down for not a lot and have then been obliterated by Mitchell Johnson. If anything, that’s where fortunes have diverged – and they have diverged massively.
Clearly, Brad Haddin has played well. He’s an odd sort of a batsmen, in that he often plays the kinds of shots that a five-year-old might play, particularly early in his innings. The great thing about him though, is that he’s utterly, utterly shameless. When he does something monumentally stupid and gets away with it, he’s not in the least bit weighed down by embarrassment. A few overs later, you realise that was the last of the idiocy and now he’s up and running.
Tremlett, Stokes, Bresnan…
But how much have Haddin’s large returns been down to him and how much have they been down to England’s weak third seamer? Obviously, a batsman has to face more than one bowler over the course of an innings, but it seems that while Australia have enough bowling to keep attacking England when they’re five down, the tourists run out of steam at around this point when they’re in the field.
It’s not that they’ve bowled badly. It’s just that the third seamer – whoever it’s been – has been kind of insipid. As we said the other day, James Anderson effectively becomes a support bowler when there’s no swing, so it’s doubly important that there’s some sort of threat from elsewhere.
Once again, we find ourself looking at a bowling attack which seems a little fast-medium. Height, pace, swing, demented mind games – it just lacks pep.
When they manufacture a girl band or a boy band, they often work on a simple principle: put enough reasonably attractive people in one place and it’s hard to assess the visual merits of any one individual.
When it comes to girl bands, we subconsciously take the best features of each of the talentless no-marks, blending them together to form a Frankenstein’s pop star of rare beauty who exists only in our mind. After a year of struggling to keep up with the rapid editing of their music videos in a bid to identify the good-looking one, we will eventually realise that they’re all munters. But it takes a year.
We feel similarly about today’s South Africa v Australia dismissathon. So many wickets. Can any truly stand out?
Well, yes, actually. One wicket does stand out. Brad Haddin’s. On a day when great bowling met mindless batting, this was an absolute beauty.
It’s all about context. 17 wickets have fallen in the day and your team is 18-5. What do you do? Do you amble down the pitch to a short pitched ball and try and flap it into the air on the off side for no real reason? HELL YES, YOU DO!
Imagine you’re standing atop the white cliffs of Dover. A strong wind is blowing, causing people to lose their footing. So far you’ve seen 17 people slide over the edge and if you peer over, you can make out their spattered remains on the rocks below.
Most of us would back away from the edge in that situation. Brad Haddin would take a ruddy great run-up in the belief that he could jump to France.
Early in Brad Haddin’s innings, they showed his average on screen. It was 26. Someone, possibly Ian Healy, said that figure would be closer to 40 before too long. After 169 against New Zealand, Haddin now averages 36 in Tests, which seems a fairer figure.
If you’ve never seen Brad Haddin before, just imagine an Australian wicketkeeper. Now imagine an even more generic version of an Australian wicketkeeper. Now try again, but EVEN MORE generic. Now you’ve got it. It looks like that green hat’s part of his actual head.
According to Cricinfo, Brad Haddin’s nickname is BJ. This is presumably due to his initials, but we’re not sure we’d want to venture into international cricket with a nickname like that.
Honestly, who’d want to draw attention to the fact that they were a bachelor of journalism?
On Saturday, Brad Haddin played his first international match since February after Australia’s batsmen suddenly decided they didn’t want to bat in India and feigned any number of injuries. Haddin hit 69 then, although India’s innings was washed-out.
Today, Haddin hit 87 not out off 69 balls and Australia won by 84 runs. This innings was of more interest for the future though. Brad Haddin averages 40 in first-class cricket and now he’s showing some ability at international level.
Australian cricketers may appear to have the life-giving properties of the Holy Grail at their disposal, but Warne and McGrath’s retirements last year disprove this. They are mortal. Those wizened faces are attached to ageing bodies, even if they don’t seem as creaky as they should be. With that in mind, Adam Gilchrist WILL retire.
No, really. We know that you don’t believe us, but he will. He’ll be 36 in a month or so and while Alec Stewart saw off ‘time to call it a day, granddad’ jibes for four years longer than that, Gilchrist doesn’t have the luxury of crap back-up warding off the gold watch.
So, young, soon-to-be-30, Brad Haddin will be the man taking over and whereas there was no new Shane Warne, the wicketkeeping position is more likely to follow the temporarily overlapping template used for the Glenn McGrath to Stuart Clark handover.
As a leg-spinner, would Warne’s handover have been a legover if there’d been a suitable understudy?