Tinkering with spaghetti

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So where does this leave us? Ashes retention is technically ticked off, but the series is not yet decided. Australia have returned to Test cricket and England have been a little bit disappointing in how they’ve responded to that.

England’s bowling, Australia’s batting

Young Australian batsmen like Chris Rogers and Michael Clarke fared well on a flat pitch, but the team’s batting hasn’t suddenly gained the rigidity of raw spaghetti. Most of it’s still as floppy as cooked spaghetti. On the other hand, England’s bowling appeared as insipid as plain spaghetti.

Tim Bresnan probably is England’s third best seam bowler, but he shares many qualities with either James Anderson or Stuart Broad without offering anything additional. It’s a little like adding more spaghetti to a plate of spaghetti bolognese when it would benefit far more from some parmigiano reggiano.

On a livelier pitch or with more swing in the air, this trio of pace bowlers will doubtless function very well, but do England not need some sort of plan for when conditions don’t give them much to work with?

England’s batting, Australia’s bowling

One of the most damning outcomes of this match for England is that Australia may well not change their team too radically. That’s a sign of a missed opportunity. Australia have a few okay players and continued mismanagement of them has been improving England’s chances immeasurably.

We worry that England have allowed Australia the breathing space needed to cease tinkering with their line-up. The ideal scenario would have seen prolonged tinkeration right up until the end of the next Ashes series – basically, a self-imposed campaign of confidence erosion, both individual and collective.

Now what? Now they’ll sort of settle on a team who might perform a bit better than they otherwise would have done? What a sickening thought.


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  1. Onions has to play, instead of Anderson, just to give him a rest. I’d pick Tremlett ahead of Broad for the same reason, and then for the hell of it I’d swap Bairstow and Prior and give Jonny the gloves.

    Well, I’d give Swann a rest too, but that’s not an option given the squad.

  2. I certainly would add Onions to make this spag. bol a little more tasty. For me, he’d replace any one of the three who might be less than 100% fit or (if all are 100% fit) the default drinks-carrier is Bresnan.

    I’d only play Tremlett if two of the pace trio really need a rest – he has looked threatening but still taken too few first class wickets this season for me.

    At the Oval, if the weather in the South-East remains as it has been these last few weeks, I’d seriously consider going for a two-spinner attack.

    Once you have “fruit and nutcase” Swann and “spice-merchant” Panesar in the mix, I suppose you have a sauce more like a student-style meat curry than a spag bol. And if you can get Clive Rice out of retirement to do some specialist coaching, you could then drop the spaghetti metaphor completely. It has rather been overcooked, now resembling a blob of starchy goo at the bottom of a neglected pan.

  3. So where does this leave us?

    Well, Ashes holders after 14 days of cricket. In other words, completely in charge of the series. Because the Australians played well in one innings, everyone seems to have forgotten that they played unutterably poorly in four others. This was a decent match they’d probably have won, but they were slaughtered at Lord’s and only saved from complete humiliation at Trent Bridge by the batting of a former test match bowler.

    Australia remain rubbish. Just because England has played down to their level for a test doesn’t suddenly make them a proper test match team. As JRod accurately pointed out on Cricinfo, a list of the decisions they’ve made in recent weeks contains as much logic and structure as the web of a spider on caffeine. That part of things they certainly haven’t put right – explaining why Warner and ROGERS opened the batting in the second innings here takes some doing. What is Watson good for? Well he can reliably get a quick 40 or so but he struggles to build a complete a test innings. What did they need? Ah yes, a quick 40 or so but not a slowly built complete test match innings.

    1. We suppose much depends on whether people adjust their expectations. Early Aussie performances basically left most English fans demanding an Ashes victory as an absolute bare minimum requirement.

      Pakistan are touring England in 2016 and so the national side should already have one eye on that series. They need to improve.

  4. Bert, thank you. Some sense at last. Everybody seems to have forgotten how to actually enjoy the fact that England are a good side and have retained the Ashes. Who cares that the moment of retention came due to rain. Sometimes you’ve got to take the fortunate draws to win series. Ten years ago we had just lost our eighth Ashes series in a row. Come on, people. Enjoy it. It won’t last.

  5. I see where you are coming from KC but I’m backing the Australian administrators to stick to their guns and fuck things up some more

  6. KC, I don’t understand your point about Pakistan touring in 2016. Why should England be thinking about that? The players should be focusing on what they’re doing right now. The management team should be planning for the Australia tour and anything after that should be in the back of their minds at the most.

  7. “I think he has a reasonable chance now, he hasn’t bowled today. If he’d bowled today, I wouldn’t think he would be a chance at all so again we’ll just have to see how he pulls up on the travel day and see how he goes at training.”

    Darren Lehman, speaking on Monday about Ryan Harris’s chances of playing on Friday.

    1. And in other faint praise and excellent use of the singular news:

      “The positive with [current opening batsman] Shane Watson is that he is such a good bowler.”
      – Michael Clarke

    2. I would like to see Jackson Bird play.

      You know, the Aus batting is awful, the keeping poor and the spin non-existent, but their pace bowling is actually pretty good, if they can keep them fit. I have a suspicion the return series isn’t going to be another 2010-11.

    3. Yeah, but the lauded youngsters – Pattinson, Starc and conceivably Bird – haven’t actually been the ones doing the job, even though that was the way things were being painted before the series. Instead, it’s been Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle.

    4. Given Lehman’s assertion that Harris was one day’s bowling away from the knacker’s yard, I wonder if they’ll risk him at Durham or save him for The Oval? They apparently thought at the start of the series that he couldn’t play three consecutive tests. It seems a big risk to go into a match with a bowler you seriously feel might not last the duration.

      Although, having said that, they’re not short of part-time bowlers who can trundle a few overs to keep an end up. They open the bowling with one of them on occasion.

    5. “To conquer international cricket, Shane Watson first had to beat his fragile body. Despite boasting an athletic figure made for photo shoots, Watson’s frame was so brittle it threatened to break him. He refused to give up. Not through recurrences of back stress fractures, hamstring strains, calf problems, hip complaints, a dislocated shoulder or a suspected heart attack that turned out to be food poisoning.”

      That’s the first paragraph of his profile on cricinfo, I kid you not. How food poisoning can mimic heart attack is anyone’s guess. Unless Watson’s heart and colon have mangled into one.

    6. Don’t forget Cummins, the man with 6 FC appearances.

      Of course, this is just like when long lists of England bowlers were rolled out, talking about strength in depth, with precious little evidence that they’re going to be international class in the long run.

      Siddle is totally underrated. If I was picking the Australia side (and doing it seriously, not as a fifth columnist) he’d be the first name on the team sheet. Harris is Australia’s Shane Bond.

    7. We haven’t really seen the pace bowlers in seamer-friendly conditions yet. Some swing/reverse in the first two tests but nothing really to help the seamers.

      Both sides have looked more than a little fragile in the batting department for different reasons, but none of those reasons having much to do with seam bowling.

      Chester-le-Street should be a really interesting match up because it is likely to be quite different from the three grounds so far – in particular you can normally expect some assistance for the seamers and not much for the spinners unless/until the match is well progressed.

      Have I mentioned yet that Daisy and I shall be there for the first three days? Only a few times – gosh you lot have got off lightly.

      I’m excited, oh yes I am.

  8. This is the bit where people will insist Finn gets picked for his ‘height and pace’ despite him not releasing the ball higher than Broad and not bowling any faster than Anderson.

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