Lose 2-1 to a great side and you can conclude that some things went pretty well. Lose 2-1 to a shit-house England and, even if your assessments are statistically valid across all categories (bar the obvious one: scoreboard, mate), it's a bit rich to conclude that most things went pretty well:
"The only thing I know about selections is if you don't win the match of the series, you are fair game because anyone can say anything and you can't prove them wrong.
"It's not a very popular thing to say at the moment because we lost the Ashes, and that was devastating, but the reality is that most things went pretty well during the Ashes.
"Selection wise I was really pleased until the fifth Test."
In defining "most" Hilditch will doubtless claim that an audit of the key performance indicators revealed Australia won the "things" 51% to 49%.
B-Mac wants to know what we all want to know: why have the selectors seemingly escaped any heat for their recent poor form?
THE Australian cricket team has been going through a bad patch. Our once-invincible Test XI is losing more series than it wins, Australia has been naive in its approach to Twenty20 cricket, and the 50-over team has been inconsistent despite the highly commendable retention of the Champions Trophy.
So it was more than a little surprising when Cricket Australia announced after its board meeting in Melbourne last week that chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch had a two-year extension to his tenure. Suggestions that the role would become full-time seem to have been considered and rejected. The cricketing public has been baying for blood, and this latest development reeks of a softly-softly approach rather than one of urgency.
CONSERVATIVE Australian chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch has described the devastating loss of the Ashes to a particularly modest England team as a "hiccup".
The only thing worse than being thrown out of a nightclub is being thrown into a nightclub:
Three Australian got pissed on Saturday night.
Nightclubs: for cretins.
Or what stiff?
What came first, the luck or the win? The better the team, the less they worry about luck, but ironically, the more luck seems to go their way. The flip side: the worse you are, the more you rely on luck, and therefore, the greater the emphasis on any bad luck.
An interesting post (and comments) at Roar from Greg Russell:
[England] were unlucky in the West Indies earlier this year, where England were by far the better team but lost the series.
This time the karma was the other way around.
An interesting email arrives from Henry Phillpotts (I'll resist the temptation to make a joke connecting his surname with Andrew Flintoff's post-match celebrations) in which he observes an Ashes stat I had not come across: it was the extras what won it.
On England's pleasant televisions seen?
In Britain, the last session of the fifth Test on Sunday night peaked at 1.9 million viewers, while Songs of Praise on another channel hit the high notes with 2.4 million.
That's in spite of the traditional inflation:
"40 Million see historic Ashes victory on TV"
The rumpus about pitch doctoring at the Oval has often been accompanied by a retort that Australia best not complain because we've been doctoring pitches for years:
It’s not the sort of thing we do, is it? I mean, preparing a pitch in England to suit the home team. Aren’t we above that sort of thing? Spirit of the game and what-not? We leave that sort of chicanery to Asian chaps – and to Australians, who have all too often provided Shane Warne with a raging turner in Sydney.
~~ Scyld Berry
Incidentally, just in case you confused that Scyld Berry with all the other Scyld Berrys who write about cricket, he's the same Scyld Berry who wrote last year:
In planning their strategy for 2009, England need to think about slow, turning pitches, negating Australia's advantage in pure pace and playing to their own strengths of swing and left-arm spin.
And then there's this:
I heard Shane Warne going on about the Oval pitch again today. He had changed his position slightly from “He (the curator) overbaked it a little bit to make sure there is a result” to “looks a little worn”. I wonder if the mellowing of his position is because someone pointed out that Warne himself had custom made, specially prepared wickets in Australia for a DECADE AND A HALF. Pitches that became raging turners and that looked like a tank battle had taken place within two naffing days. Talk about being hypocritical....
Australia doctoring pitches is an accusation I categorically reject.
The Gabba, Adelaide Oval and Bellerive have been the same for as long as I can remember.
The Gabba, in particular, is a cricket pundit's dream: lively to start, a good batting track for a couple of days, spin friendly to finish.
Adelaide Oval is a batting paradise for four day matches, but the fifth day of Adelaide Tests is often the best day's cricket each summer.
It's a toss-up (with any luck it's not Ricky Ponting's call) whether the Gabba or Adelaide Oval are the best Test wickets in world cricket.
Bellerive has not hosted too many Tests, but while it's generally bat-friendly, it's never comes close to being anything other than a solid cricket wicket.
Sydney is certainly spin friendly, although less so in recent years. But it has has always been the same: good to bat on, then deteriorating by late on the fourth day and into the fifth day.
Melbourne was a fiasco in the late seventies and early eighties, but that wasn't by design, it was courtesy of poor management. Once the ground had been renovated and the drop-in pitches properly matured, Melbourne decks have been solid, if slightly slow and low wickets.
Perth was traditionally a hard, fast track, a speed merchant's paradise. If anything, it was made to order for the West Indies, who won there in 1975, 1984, 1988, 1993 and 1997. Perth is now the let-down track of the summer.
The point is, Australian pitches during my cricket watching lifetime, make up the best set of cricket wickets in the world, and it's been that way since at least 1970.
Not once do I remember a curator changing a wicket to suit a given set of circumstances.
The only change is that CricAussie and Channel Nine have demanded roads that last at least four days so that matches are guaranteed to go into the fifth day.
There is about as much chance of the Australian cricket heavy-hitters demanding a minefield as there is of me being selected to replace Klutz Haddin behind the poles.
Warnie's commentary has been great value this Ashes. As John Coomber wrote at The Roar:
Warne is confident, witty, informed, relaxed, and bursting with information. His brain, so scatty in other parts of his life, seems hard-wired to cricket.
Coomber's appeared last Friday:
Typical Warney. Even when he isn’t playing, he seems to command centre stage. Quite the best thing about viewing the Ashes series this winter has been Shane Warne’s commentary for the Sky/SBS team.
Ron Reed's appeared in the Herald Sun the next day:
Warne is proving to be a major hit in the TV commentary box, where his strategic instincts, straight-shooting style, laconic humour and vast experience have outshone English veterans such as Ian Botham, David Gower and Michael Atherton and even the ever-popular West Indies champion Michael Holding.
Not that out-shonning Sir Loin and Mikey is all that much of a feat.
Anyway: my point.
The articles, similar in thrust, reinforced for me how much copy out there retreads the same ground.
Not that I'm suggesting any malfeasance on the part of Reed, whose article came out second. It's just that, upon reading Reed's article on Saturday, I got mildly depressed.
I know the exact moment when a most unexpected feeling overcame me – the desire that Australia should not lose against England in a vital Test match. It was when the captain of the Australian cricket team, Ricky Ponting, came out to bat in the second innings of the Edgbaston Test on Sunday afternoon – and was booed by a large contingent of the Birmingham crowd.
Three - yes, a whole three - cheers for Dominic Lawson's article in the Independent today. He is right: booing Ricky Ponting is disgraceful. There may be a cartoonish element to it all and perhaps the Barmy Army will signal this by cheering the Australian skipper to the echo at the Oval when, we assume, he plays his final test innnings in England, but that's still not quite good enough. For the time being, too many England cricket fans - not to be confused with supporters of English cricket - seem to have decided that Ponting is some kind of villain.
ONE group of Australians covered themselves in glory at Headingley. Another covered themselves in ignominy. When the sounding of a fire alarm forced the England players out of their beds and into the rain in the early hours of the first morning, the Fanatics claimed responsibility, saying it was ''good old Australian high jinks''. In this country, no one batted an eyelid, concentrating instead on other forms of batting.
I've had enough of the knee-jerkers who have, since Headingley, infested the media with wild predictions about how Australia already have the Fifth Test wrapped up. I also had enough of their predictions after Edgbaston that the better balanced and performed England were all set to win the series.
Crash sums it up best:
LET’s be frank about this ... if England win this Ashes series it will be a dark moment in Australia’s cricket history.
The further this series has stretched the less respect we have had for this modest England team.
If this series has confirmed anything is is how cricketers can gain an inflated reputation on the back of performances against rubbish teams.
Ravi Bopara, a superstar when he was playing the West Indies, has been exposed as being technically flawed.
Ian Bell, who has eeked out a beuatiful living just being Mr Average in England’s middle order, has again showed he lacks the class to match it with the best. His lack of passion and personality grates on English fans and rivals.
Paul Collingwood is a solid scrapper but he’s no champion.
Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cooke are useful openers but please don’t mention them in the same breath as John Edrich or Geoff Bocyott or Michael Vaughan.
England have such little depth they considered recalling Mark Ramprakash who is 39 and averaged just 27 in his 51 Tests.
I’ll repeat that average in case you thought it was a misprint ... 27.
England lack world class players.
And yet they are one win away from snatching back the Ashes.
It makes you wonder ... how bad are we going?
Watching the USPGA the other morning I was struck by a strong parallel between Tiger's first two holes and the Aussies at Cardiff. Had Tiger sunk his birdy putt on either of those holes he would have been away. But, he didn't. He was unable to pull away from Yang and eventually Yang holed an eagle to pinch the lead and the tournament.
Will Cardiff's missed chance be the legacy of The 2009 Ashes?
By failing to take a 1-0 lead at the start of the series, the Aussies, one of two evenly matched sides, have left England with a chance to pinch the series at The Oval. One lucky moment, one inspired spell of bowling, one dropped Aussie catch, one great Pommy catch, one umpiring howler and the Test can be won/lost.
And then there's the toss. Here's an idea: change the rules to allow team sheets to be submitted after the toss, not before. I imagine a dynamic and responsive organisation like the ICC will be able to have such a minor modification to the Laws Of The Game up and ratified by tomorrow.
Richard Hinds has a new fiend:
HATE is an essential part of sporting pantomime. You might hate the opposition's strutting full-forward, but it is merely the type of hate you once professed for a disproportionately large serve of brussels sprouts (followed by a stern lecture from your mother about mis-use of the word hate).
Missed most of Nasser's work. (Has he really been that bad?) The relentless jingle-torture inflicted by Jake's Got The Gig and the H&R Block Receipt Man have driven me screaming to The Delay. Which is not such a bad thing. The coverage via my electric transistor, and then when I discovered its existence (during a football broadcast), my local internet stream has been excellent. Mind you, the commentary was almost a ball behind the pictures, which made putting the sight & sound together quite the challenge.
Not sure what to make of Haydos: he needs to bone up on the rules; is pompous when he slips into "doing it for the baggy green" mode; keeps talking about food; and often uses phrases like "the process". But he does bait Boycott.
There seems to have been a bit of conjecture about the behaviour of the crowds at the cricket. On one side are those who like to carry on like idiots, on the other are those who like to watch in peace. There are even some who like a bit of both, but since this is a blog and all issues are black and white, we'll be ignoring the wishy-washy middle-grounders.
Paul Colgan is pro-boor:
There’s further evidence today of the growing contempt that modern managers of sporting codes hold for fans of their games, with English cricket managers begging the crowd to be nice to Ricky Ponting when he walks to the middle in the fourth Ashes Test, getting underway at Headingley in a few hours’ time.
Many are anti-boor:
ENGLISH cricket officials have copied their Australian counterparts and banned Barmy Army trumpet player Bill Cooper from the Headingley Test.
ENGLAND have pleaded with drunken supporters to behave themselves and stop the taunting and jeering of Australian skipper Ricky Ponting.
Security has been tightened for the fourth npower Test at Headingley Carnegie this week as English cricket seeks to halt growing criticism of unruly crowd behaviour during the Ashes series.
Part of me loves their spirit, never more so than in the 1990s when England lost everything. But since following every single ball of England internationals since 2005* I’m now emphatically bored of them.
Headingley’s reputation is now, of course, the very opposite, its Western Terrace being regarded as a sinkhole of spectator depravity.
Australian captain Ricky Ponting says he returned fire at an abusive fan at Edgbaston in the latest incident of ugly crowd behaviour in the Ashes series.
The Barmy Army started out as a bit of fun through the nineties, but now they are a monumental pain in the ear. Middle class accountants pretending to be soccer hooligans. It's gotten to the point where I find it almost impossible to listen to the coverage. The incessant drone of songs, chants and taunts. And it goes without saying that since they've become organized, sponsored and official, they are even worse.
Nor is this sour grapes. Our idiots are just as bad. Worse, actually.
The Fanatics. For some reason the media keep going to their leader - I think his name is Warren - for interviews. Put on your most contemptuous Aussie drawl and say it out loud: "fair dinkum imbeciles".
I've only ever been to the "outer" at the MCG for one Test match, the SCG for three, and the WACA for three. If doing the Mexican Wave, being arrested, throwing ice, throwing beach balls, throwing punches and rolling in or stepping around spew is your thing, you will be in your element.
Now it's true: a lot of people like doing this. A lot of people also like Aussie Idol, Big Brother, A Current Affair, Today Tonight, Pink, U2, Pearl Jam, Green Day. You get the picture.
Cricket, despite what the boards, broadcasters, publicity flacks and Joe and Jane Bogan will tell you, is pretty damn good without the pissed-up shenanigans of the new Cricket Hooligan.
What I like about the cricket is the cricket.
Call me a stick-in-the-mud, a fogey, an MCC wanker, a boring old c**t, just a c**t, if you like. Give it your best shot. I don't care. In these circs, it's an insult I will wear with pride.
Brett Lee has launched his campaign to be picked for the fourth Ashes Test by saying he is bowling "rapid" before the start of the Headingley clash on Friday.
"The pace has felt really, really good. 100 per cent ready to go."
When I heard that on the radio this morning, I thought he said "rabid".
Anyway, when faced with injury concerns, you may as well consult an expert, especially an expert with a sense of humour:
However his teammate and good friend Shane Watson was less confident of Lee's chances of being called up for the critical match without a practice game under his belt since the injury.
"From my experience of coming back from a side injury you normally need to have one game under your belt."
" ... I think at the moment there is probably less chance of him being picked because of that reason.
If you could guarantee Lee would bowl like he did in Worcester when he got his reverse happening, you would be mad not to pick him. But on top of the most recent injury, he hasn't played a Test since Melbourne and is notoriously toothless in England. It's hard to see how he can play. And yet. That spell, the static emanating out of the media, and Australia's current lack of tooth indicate why the selectors always seem so desperate to get him in the side. With the Oval pitch already looking like a road, it might be time to take a risk and pick Lee.
Yes, I know.
And then there's Klutzy. The selectors love him, too. Not for his keeping, obviously, but because he can bat. But at what cost? At what point do the selectors conclude that dreadful keeping costs more than excellent batting? Haddin with good hands - obviously not in the colloquial sense - is a rotten keeper. How bad will he be with a broken finger? His keeping was passable in the West Indies when he broke a finger there, but ever since India he has been rubbish behind the stumps. And how much will said digit affect his batting? You've probably got to stick with Manou, who is a far better keeper, and is reasonable with the bat.
So, you pick Lee, who goes out? Siddle? And what about Clark? If Manou stays, Lee might get picked because he can bat a bit.
Whatever the make-up of the side - and it will come as no surprise to read it here since every pundit has made the same point - we need to win in Leeds, because we are unlikely to win an Oval bat-a-thon.
Could it be that my churning guts which groaned "we've just blown the Ashes" after Fucken Cardiff were spot on? Unless our bowlers can find an edge this weekend we can wave the urn goodbye.
And then there's this:
Player Runs HS Ave MJ Clarke 352 136 88.00 AJ Strauss 309 161 61.80 SM Katich 248 122 49.60 MJ North 239 125* 59.75 RT Ponting 233 150 46.60 BJ Haddin 229 121 76.33
Player Overs Mdns Runs Wkts BW Hilfenhaus 122.0 32 395 13 JM Anderson 119.0 30 378 12 NM Hauritz 103.2 17 321 10 MG Johnson 103.4 11 423 10 PM Siddle 101.5 13 401 10 G Onions 55.4 6 223 8 A Flintoff 104.0 13 340 7
Superficially, the figures point to Australian superiority. Except one figure: England 1 / Australia 0. Like Richmond last weekend against Melbourne: are England going to win by accident?
Apropos the stats, just saw this in my reader:
Cricket is a numbers game, yet this Ashes series doesn’t add up. Over the first three Tests Australia have scored more runs (1,933) and lost fewer wickets (41) than England (1,799 and 45).
If you know what I mean:
HERE’s two tips for you ... Stuart Clark will play tomorrow’s fourth Test and Brett Lee won’t play a Test on tour and could be finished.
Give it a rest:
Should the hosts go forth and reclaim the urn, Andrew Flintoff's heroic effort in north-west London - in which he claimed five Australian wickets on a painful right knee - will ascend to a pantheon of national sporting achievements currently occupied by Geoff Hurst's hat-trick and Jonny Wilkinson's drop-goal.
Two articles that go together:
Malcolm Conn, getting stuck into the ICC, Rudi, and umpiring in general:
RUDI Koertzen continues to confirm what the cricket world already knows, the standard of umpiring is terrible.
Normblog Geras, ranting and raving as usual. Not that you'd notice:
There's been a lot of talk during this Ashes series of erroneous decisions by the umpires.
Norm's linked articles, by Mike Brearley and Gideon Haigh, are well worth a squizz... sorry, a pertinacious perusal.
We now return you to the scene of the crime:
Four years later, the debate still rages. What was Ricky Ponting thinking when he bowled first at Edgbaston, in the Test that turned the 2005 Ashes on his head?
Debate still rages, does it? If debate entails "When Ponting chose to bowl at Edgbaston in 2005, did he a) make a howler, or b) make an absolute howler? Discuss" then I suppose it does.
Apart from the obvious, that we lost the 2005 Ashes because Ponting bowled, there is also the flow-on effect: Ponting's mistake back then might cloud his judgement in 2009. You'd hope not. After all the Steve Rouse shenanigans in last week it appears that Ponting is set to judge the pitch on its merits. Hypothetically, what if he wins the toss and the conditions dictate that Australia must bowl? Would we? As it stands, it looks like the pitch is a road, so whoever wins the toss should bat. Contrary to speculation, it does not appear to be "a good toss to lose" type of pitch.
Speaking of the toss: win it.
Then there's the weather. The Birmingham forecast is for showers until Monday, with Sunday the only sunny day. When I say sunny, I mean the sun is almost just barely peeking out from behind a drizzly cloud in the BOM picture. Not much of an outlook for Australia, who need to win to get back on level terms.
The weather is reflected in the odds: Australia $4.75, England $3.00, the draw $1.85. How often over recent years have Australia gone in bookies' underdog in a live Test against England? Can't be too often. On second thought: is English favouritism such a bad thing? Poms with pudding heads could work in our favour. They are still a shithouse side - yes, we are shouse, too - which when combined with local anticipation/expectation of a win, is a recipe for England falling on their collective faces.
Lastly: the teams. For England, Bell is in for Pietersen. KP has been rubbish, but he's clearly dangerous. Australia will be happy he's out. Superficially, they will be happy Bell's in. But Bell has FTB written all over him. Up against a weak or badly misfiring attack Bell could well get amongst the runs.
For Australia, Watson is a surprise inclusion at Hughes' expense. I'm a big fan of Paper Cut's talent: he can bat and bowl, at least by reputation... but. If he breaks down it will be a disaster. If? When? (Maybe Freddie will break down, too.) Still, I don't mind the selectors taking the punt. Hopefully they won't make him open. Hussey should open and Watson should come in down the order.
Nor do I mind that Our Phil Hughes has been dropped. He has looked awful. It should not be forgotten that even though he was dudded by Cheat Strauss, it was the weak shot of a batsmen uncertain about where to put his feet - the way his back foot edged to leg was ugly.
I would have preferred the change to be Boiled Owl McDonald for North or Hauritz. He brings something to the line-up. Don't ask me what that something is, but he's played four Tests for three wins and in each win he's done a very tidy job. Monty thinks I'm nuts, but Boiled is one of "those" cricketers.
Should Johnson play? Well, he's bowled absolute rubbish so far, but he still gets wickets. SGW, sure, but they are still marked "bowled Johnson" in the scorebook. The longer he bowled at Lords, the tighter he seemed to get, so maybe he's finally getting it together. He is if you believe Nielsen, Clarke and Haddin; not that they are about to tell the media Studsy is dudsy. He is not if you read the scorebook at Northants.
Clark should have played before now; certainly at Lords, where he was the best suited Aussie bowler, but who do you drop?
Doubtless the selectors are banking on Johnson's wicket-taking ability. An attack of Siddle, Watson, Clark, Hauritz and Hilfenhaus doesn't look too incisive, but the England batting line-up is not very good, and without KP to collar the bowling, that attack could be quite effective. Also, Siddle, Hilfenhaus and Clarke would gain by not having to worry about Johnson wrecking the ball.
Anyhoo, the "dramatic draw" in Fvcken Cardiff and our rat-shit batting at Lords has given England the upper hand. It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: fingers crossed Australia can get their act together for the last three Tests because I would dearly love to wipe the smiles off the dials of all those happy, front-running Poms.
On the radio just now (5:35pm) Jim MAXwell didn't know about this Watson business. He thinks the team will be unchanged, and that they are going to back Hughes to find form.
Now where was I? That's right. Our Phil deserves to keep his spot. Despite his unorthodox technique, he's due.
Nope, Hughes is out:
Phillip Hughes has confirmed his axing from the Australian XI for Edgbaston via a positing on the Twitter website.
"Disappointed not to be on the field with the lads today," Hughes posted on Twitter. "Will be supporting the guys, it's a BIG test match 4 us. Thanks 4 all the support!"
Hoggy hasn't heard anything about Hughes being out. Hasn't heard of Twitter, either, judging by his puzzled look. Then I thought he was going to say "You're pulling my leg, right?" Instead he said "I can't believe they would replace Hughes with Watson."
Hughes definitely out:
(The newspaper's headline)
SACKED Australian opener Phillip Hughes was in hot water last night after breaking team rules by announcing his Test axing on social networking site Twitter.
Anger? Dean Jones, Victorian rent-a-quote, is quoted:
"He needs a good foot up the backside from it."
The subby at the Hun wants a bet each way; he can't believe Ponting won the toss:
First there was this:
IF we don't hate them, why do we love to beat them? Why is it Australia, above all other nations, that we like to beat at sport? Why is it that defeat at the hands of Australia is one of the most painful sensations that sport can offer? Why is it that sporting encounters between England - or Great Britain - and Australia are fought with such extraordinary intensity?
THERE have been disturbing signs in this Ashes series and not just Mitchell Johnson's inability to hit the pitch. Australia's defence of the urn is not all that is precariously poised.
"… But this current Aussie side are not just the most mediocre bunch of cricketers we've seen in the baggy greens for 30 years. They're also, in my view, the weakest when it comes to character. And they're led by a man whose brilliance at batting is only matched by his brilliance at avoiding any accusations of having a personality. Ricky Ponting is a fantastic player, one of the best we've seen. But he is also about as exciting on the palate as a pack of three-year-old Quavers; a grim-faced, gumchewing, permanently whining, early winner of the Small Man Syndrome award for 2009. And most of his team look almost exactly like him: crop-haired, non-smiling, antipodean androids. Would you know North, Katich, Haddin, Hussey or Hauritz if they walked into your local pub? It's hard enough identifying them on the pitch. And that's Australia's biggest problem. With the exception of Ponting, whose bat is the only stellar thing about him, they don't have any stars, anyone to intimidate or bully us. And for a country used to the likes of Lillee and Thomson, the Chappells, Border, Merv Hughes, the Waughs and that whole magnificent 2006-07 whitewash team, this is seriously bad news."
When I first went to England in 1987 - England held the Ashes - cricket talk with the locals was not exactly a genteel affair, but it was good fun nevertheless. (The Pilbara, with wall-to-spinifex Poms, was the same.) Now, on the back of jingoistic flannel, professional fans, fat-headed coverage, lad culture first in the UK (Loaded, etc), then here in copycat Australia (Ralph, etc), cricket support is an altogether nasty business.
Watching the Tests from afar it looks to me like cricket hooliganism is on the rise. What's the bet that, before this series is over, there's a big punch up at one of the three remaining Tests.
Richard Hinds in the Saturday Age on the race for the moral low ground:
Fans are flocking back to the Australians now that the world has started sledging.
When I turned on the radio on the Monday morning after the Cardiff Test and heard "... ran out of time as Monty Panesar and James Anderson hung on for a dramatic draw", the sick feeling that washed over me was as acute as any I have experienced in a long time. I'd say I was "gutted" but I hate the term and the way it has gained currency here. John Howard might be our official Cricket Tragic, but I suspect he doesn't feel the game like your dyed-in-the-wool obsessed cricket idiots, of which I am one. It didn't help that the result was semi-expected. The half-chance Collingwood gave early in his innings which lobbed almost exactly between Haddin and Katich (don't forget: Pies was the only English batsman to stick around on the last day in Adelaide in 2006), Broad being given not out LB first ball, our lack of a Warne-like cutting edge, and the generally placid nature of the pitch all pointed to England hanging on. Further details emerging through the day - North bowling at the close - only served to rub in the result. This was a chance wasted.
Australia cannot afford to cough up results like Cardiff. NGASAEB is the catch-cry around here, even when Warne and McGrath were in full flight, and its significance has been acutely magnified over the last 18 months.
So it came to pass. The Lords result was on the cards the moment the Cardiff Test ended. Forget the bullshit about 75 years of Aussie domination at the home of cricket. Ignore the flannel about how Aussies rise to the occasion within the hallowed confines of the august stadium. The run was a statistical blip, a fluke, and bound to break eventually. Every time we won at Lords we were a Test closer to losing there. (You didn't know the AGB did sophistry, did you?) Every time I heard or read about it leading into last weekend, the more convinced I was we would lose. Fact: we are not very good. Yes, we can play good cricket, but in the wrong circus-pants - a flat pitch is very much the wrong circs - with players off their game and with an unhealthy emphasis on Our Phil Hughes, we were more than vulnerable.
At our best we would probably beat England, but we didn't play at our best. We didn't even play near our best. Lords was the worst performance I have seen from an Aussie side ever. Basically, we fell apart.
I wrote in the lead-up to Lords that "if Australia are, as they say at the track, 'better for the run' (especially Johnson)" then we would win, but we weren't, we were much worse for the run (especially Johnson). It defies belief that Johnson is bowling poorly because of his mum. Warnie could have all the trouble in the world off the pitch, but as soon as he was in a match, his troubles would vanish. Johnson's trouble is not his mum, it's quite evidently his action and rhythm. The flat pitches can't help, either.
The strange thing is, we were dreadful, but we weren't that far off the pace. Brian at LP:
Well the cricket’s not over yet. Strauss’s best move, apart from claiming a catch that clearly hit the ground in front of him was to win the toss – twice. In the second test for the first four days when the Poms batted the sun shone and when the Aussies batted there were clouds and the ball swung.
In the Aussies second innings they lost 3 of their top 6 to bad umpiring and still scored over 400. How many teams have scored over 400 in the last innings of a test match? Not many at all I’d reckon.
Overall so far we’ve taken 35 wickets and the Poms 26.
And yet, even without KP England will be hard to beat because we will struggle to bowl them out twice. Bell, the mooted replacement, has a poor record against Australia, but his poor record is against Warne and McGrath. Will he end up with a poor record against our current attack? KP was almost a by-stander in the first two Tests, Bell has been knocking up runs in the counties. KP's injury may well be the piece of luck that re-invigorates Bell's career, a-la Slatts to Gnome B.N. Unless Australia can improve their bowling, Bell will not be easy to get out. And the Englands are no longer six-out, all-out, they bat deep.
Can't work out if our batting is a problem or not. Hughes is an obvious worry. I was under the impression that we had a truck-load of batsmen tooling around the counties, but every time someone mentions Hughes' name it is accompanied by a criticism that there are no spare batsmen in the touring party. Wasn't local back-up the reason we picked one less batsman? Have we suddenly no replacements in England? Despite misgivings about the rest of the top six, they have all got runs. What does help the batting, though, is a sense that no matter what the batsmen score, the bowlers will run through the opposition for less. That gives the batsmen confidence and releases pressure. Unless we get our bowling right, it's hard to see us breaking through at Edgbaston. (Anyone for jelly?)
Starting tonight at Wantage Road it's imperative our bowlers get their act together, both individually and collectively. (Please, enough with the "Aussies sweating on Lee fitness" headlines. That reeks of desperation.) When we won in SA, our bowling was team-tight, each bowler contributing to the overall impact. Here in the UK, our bowling has been team-sloppy. Individual bowlers have managed good spells, even Johnson in the second innings at Lords, but too often we have gone through sessions where our lines and lengths were appalling.
It's hard to see us getting back on top in this series. Yet England on paper, even with Freddy supposedly running amok, are not the vastly superior side a big win at Lords would superficially indicate. Surely, this fact was reflected in the English media's over-reaction to the result, which probably stemmed more from relief than any great sense that their boys are better. I mean, five hundred ahead, and they were still worried Australia might win?
Catches, the toss, a better performed and organised attack, and - fingers crossed - luck, could easily see momentum swing the other way.
But don't expect any sympathy from Ponting. What a fiasco:
THE reason for Ricky Ponting's anger over his confusing dismissal at Lord's has been revealed.
By the time Ponting had reached the dressing room it was clear the ball had come off his pad, but the assumption was that Llong did not have the authority to overturn the decision.
Rule 3.2.3 governing clean catches reads, in part: "The third umpire has to determine whether the batsman has been caught. But when reviewing the television replay(s), if it is clear to the third umpire that the batsman did not hit the ball, he shall indicate that the batsman is not out."
There would have been a tasty rumpus had Strauss appealed for caught, Ponting was given out caught, Ponting challenged, Ponting was given not out caught, Anderson challenged, Ponting was given out LB.
Is there double jeopardy?
"We've learnt lessons from that and we've got a little bit of momentum from that fifth day which we are looking to build on in the first couple of days in this Test match."
~~ Andrew Strauss
Can England seize the momentum for the Second Test? Form suggests not. Despite fine-tuning their Ashes campaign against an admittedly abysmal West Indies, in Cardiff their batting was sloppy, their fielding lacklustre, their bowling toothless.
On the other hand, Australia, despite a spasmodic lead-in, had the momentum but failed to capitalise on day five.
As a perpetually pessimistic Australian fan I loathe it when we fail to drive home the advantage. We should be 1-0 up. If we were, this series would be over - just the way I like it. But it's not over, far from it. England are still in the contest and any closing of the gap, wide as it was in Cardiff, will make it that much harder for Australia to win.
The question is: can England close the gap? In short: if Australia are, as they say at the track, "better for the run" (especially Johnson), no.
But. Missed chances haunt.
Who is David Hastie? He's the impressively titled "Herald Sun sports affairs reporter", and the hack responsible for this stupid article:
FORMER cricket greats are calling for The Ashes commentators to lift their game amid claims of chronic English bias.
With English broadcaster Sky Sports providing the live feed for both SBS and Foxtel, Australian audiences have been forced to endure a commentary box stacked with former English players, including four former captains.
Bill Lawry, Richie Benaud, Ian Chappell, Mark Taylor. Whaddaya know? Nine has four captains, too. Chuck in Slater, Healy, O'Donnell and Warne. The Aussie flavour of our own commentary team is hardly leavened by Grieg, each summer's fly-in foreigner and the sumptuous gaylord, Dick Nicholas, who is Australia's most splendid and marvellous fan.
And just who are these "former cricket greats" and "Australian audiences"? None other than Simon O'Donnell and, well, guess who:
Neil Harvey, who represented Australia between 1948 and 1963, said the commentary was sorely lacking an experienced Aussie voice, saying Richie Benaud would have been the perfect fit.
"You've got all the Poms in there as far as I can see," Harvey said.
"There are Australians, but they're in the studio.
What more is there to say after the barrage of previews, predictions and prognostications about how the Ashes series might pan out?
Heavy on detail, running the risk of repeating myself, and with fingers crossed, my own contribution is over the fold.
Slot Lee spends the best part of two series bowling rubbish - Australia lose.
Lee is history.
Australia go to South Africa without Lee, and with what appears to be an experimental attack - Australia win.
Back, Lee bowls pies in the T20 - Australia lose.
Lee bowls more pies in the first Ashes warm up match - Australia draw.
Lee is still history.
Lee bowls better for 170+ runs in the second warm up match.
Ponting gets up Lee, Lee bowls grenades.
Lee is back.
Yobbo blows raspberry.
Australia still draws.
Pushing too hard to get back in the side, Lee gets injured. (Did he get injured when Ponting told him to pull his finger out? At least he didn't get injured during the First Test.)
"Australia's Ashes plans in disarray".
Lee was the savior and Australia can't win without him.
But now, without Lee, Australia have a similar attack - probably a better one if you include Stuart Clark - to the one that won the three Tests.
In short: Lee plays, Australia lose or draw; Lee misses, Australia wins.
Unless he bowls snorters like the ones he bowled against The Loins of England.
MacGill, Martyn, Matthews. Not Triple M, not a 60's folk-rock trio, but the SBS studio commentary team for the Ashes. If they are anywhere near as good as Simon Hill, Matthews and Dean Jones were in 2005, they will be well worth a listen. Chuck in Rodney Hogg, who is the SBS expert over in the UK, and the phrase "forthright opinion" would sell them way short.
Not sure how MacGill will go, but all reports suggest he offers more than the average cricket head. Has anyone ever heard Damian Martyn speak? He seems, on the face of it, a strange choice. Greg Matthews will be all, like, dude, yeah, cat, but at least he knows the caper. Hoggy will be Hoggy. "Chucking? They changed the rules. Everyone chucks now."
(How will the SBS coverage flow now that they have more, ahem, retail opportunities. Last time, they only had ads between programs. Now they have expanded their advertisments into shows, which means they will almost certainly have ads between overs, which will barge into their studio airtime and our consciousness. Put it this way: what was five minutes of comment during a drinks break might now become three minutes of cars, alcohol, insurance, Guthy Renker and girls in hot tubs with telephones, and only two minutes of cricket talk.)
Compare the SBS team with the standard, but capable, Fox outfit of Brendon Julian, Allan Border, Mark Waugh, Greg Blewett and Damien Fleming. Will Fox rue Hoggy moving to SBS? When he was on with BJ and the Boys, he was mighty entertaining. Before they shut him up, that is. Forthright opinion is permitted to be more forthright on an outlet like SBS, which is less beholden to a lord and/or master than an Official Broadcaster like Fox.
Either way, Channel Nine and their oaf demographic, despite the recent improvements sparked largely by the SBS and UK coverage in 2005, will be looking for parts and people to pinch.
NO ONE can accuse SBS of playing it safe in its choice of commentators for the Ashes.
Stuart MacGill will play the hosting role in the Sydney studio and will be joined by Greg Matthews and Damien Martyn.
The outspoken Rodney Hogg will be the man on the ground with SBS putting together a one-hour highlights program from 5pm (AEST) on the previous day's play.
FoxSports will have the familiar faces of former Australian cricketers Allan Border, Mark Waugh, Brendon Julian, Greg Blewett and Damien Fleming sharing their views.
Meanwhile, on the radio wireless broadcasting systems, the ABC have "again put together a quality commentary team". Not my words. No byline on the article. Sounds like a press release cut & paste.
For those unable to watch it on the box, the ABC has again put together a quality commentary team in cahoots with the BBC.
Recently-retired Test opener Matthew Hayden is a star addition to the line-up that also includes the likes of Jason Gillespie and Phil Tufnell.
Perhaps we the listeners should be the ones who judge the quality.
Tuffers is often worth a chortle, but it remains to be seen whether St Matthew of Hayden or Dizzy Gillespie add to the quality commentary team comprised of quality commentators headed, no doubt, by the Matchell Twins.
MARTYN: "BUCHAN IDIOT!"
Update! If this is Damien Martyn's public audition for the SBS hosting gig, it's a good one:
"All comments by Warne and MacGill are right and you'd find that 99% of the group from that era would agree. They're just the only guys who've got [the courage] to say it. The management team didn't plan right, we had a not-very-good, quick preparation in Brisbane and then we landed and away we went."
"We played a Twenty20 against England, which England still talk about, flogging us down in Hampshire. Buck was saying, 'It's only a muck-around game, don't worry about it' and we trained for four hours on the morning. So we went from the nets next door, busting a gut, into a T20 game where they rolled up playing it like a Test match and flogged us. There were a lot of mistakes made and a lot will never come out."
"We got slack, everything clicked for them, they haven't played that well since then and they won't ever again," Martyn said. "They built themselves up so much for the Ashes when the Ashes for us had dropped off because we'd won it so many times.
"For us it was conquering all things, World Cups, Champions Trophy, the subcontinent. The Ashes was just another series but for England it was their pinnacle and we just went underprepared."
The team for Worcester:
1 Simon Katich, 2 Phillip Hughes, 3 Ricky Ponting, 4 Michael Hussey, 5 Michael Clarke, 6 Marcus North, 7 Brad Haddin, 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Brett Lee, 10 Nathan Hauritz, 11 Stuart Clark.
Looks like the Test side is all but settled apart from who will partner Johnson, Clark and Siddle: Lee or Hauritz? Ponting might not be giving any rock solid guarantees, but it's hard to imagine the Aussies haven't already settled on Studs, Sizz and Clark.
Put your magic beans on Lee.
The Australians have yet to finalise their pace attack for the first Test in Cardiff, but appear to be leaning towards a line-up of Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Brett Lee and Stuart Clark. All four offer vastly different skill-sets - from the left-arm pace and swing of Johnson to the height, accuracy and seam movement of the right-arm Clark - imbuing Cooley with confidence that his line-up is capable of adapting to all conditions.
Everything emanating from the Aussie hierarchy since the summer has suggested the Aussies are desperate to play Lee. Doubtless they think that man-for-man, he is a better bowler than Hilfenhaus. Maybe they also feel that if Lee bowls rubbish, no one will notice if Johnson, Siddle and Clark pick up his slack. Or is that too cynical? We'll certainly notice if Lee gets a "wicket" off a no ball. At his best Lee is better than Hilf, but he hasn't been at his best for a long time. However, nor has the Hilf set the world on fire despite being a part of the side that beat South Africa.
Cooley's opinions seem to reveal the Aussies have been planning for some time to go with the same style of four-pronged pace attack England used in 2005, but it remains to be see if we can duplicate that successful campaign.
In the first Test at Lords in 2005, despite Australia winning, Hoggard, Harmison, Jones and Flintoff all looked sharp from the start. In fact, had Pietersen not grassed Clarke in Australia's second inning, the Test may have gone the other way.
Compare that with Australia in 2009. Only Lee has bowled in a Test in England, and he bowled tripe. Siddle and Clarke look to be in form, but Clark and Lee are coming back from injuries and haven't played any meaningful cricket for ages, and Johnson has only bowled in the nets. Much was made of the lay-off he had during the one-day series here in January and February. After bowling well in the Tests (not as well as many would have it, excluding Perth) he bowled pies for the rest of the Aussie summer. Fingers crossed he's good to go.
Cooley is also talking up reverse swing. "It's not rocket science," says Troy. "You have to get the seam in the right spot, and if you have got an arm action that does that and you have got the speed and the ball condition, you're laughing." Sounds easy. Too easy. Judging by the tour so far, including the almost embarrassing loss at Hove when they couldn't bowl out Sussex on the last day, there has been rock-all evidence the Aussies are looping the Duke around. What's more, had Hilfenhaus been dangerous in Hove he'd be playing tonight, and he's our main swing bowler, albeit an orthodox swing bowler.
From over here it doesn't look as if the Australian attack is anywhere near in the same shape as the England attack was in 2005.
And then there's the batting...
When it's all said and done like a dinner, if Lee plays in Cardiff and everything goes tits-up pear-shaped, the selectors may as well start clearing out their desks.
This article's a joke, right?
SOUTH Africa has handed England its successful blueprint on how to beat the Australians.
England will head into the Ashes series with fresh intelligence after Proteas coach Mickey Arthur revealed his game plans for Australian players.
Arthur's team created history in the summer when it became the first South African team to win a Test series on Australian soil.
After again locking horns with Australia in a 2-1 series defeat in South Africa, Arthur has provided England with a dossier and tips on Australian players.
Fresh intelligence? Mickey's plan was in the papers six months ago. Successful blueprint? The summer finished 3-3 with Australia winning the chocolates in Africa.
CRAMP opener Phillip Hughes on the leg side, "because he wants room to slash you through the off side".
Cramp the left-hander, deny him room. Yawn. Who came up with that one? Keppler Wessels?
STACK the slips and bowl wide outside off stump to Ricky Ponting.
Dry lines to Ponting. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
USE Andrew Flintoff to bowl short at Mike Hussey.
Bouncers to Hussey. Shock. And. Snore.
DON'T expect much weakness from Mitchell Johnson apart from "a tendency to get down on himself at times".
We got nothing.
WATCH for Shane Watson.
Bandage Shane Watson, more like.
What a stupid article.
Unfortunately for us here in the anty-podes, the Poms have flatly refused to move England (and Wales) into a favourable timezone. Therefore, with most of the Ashes tour happening in the middle of the night, the AGB won't be able to give it the both barrels we would if the series was here, of preferably in Sri Lanka, which is prime-time for TV cricket.
Not that we won't give it the old college try. For each match, starting with tonight's against Sussex, I plan to put up a post and... well, you know the drill by now.
Speaking of Sussex: quelle surprise! Watson is injured and Lee is talking up Lee. It's impossible not to feel sorry for Paper Cut. He can play... when he gets out there. To quote Terry Malloy from On The Waterfront: "He could have been someone." Not so The Slot. He talks a better game than he plays. Perhaps he should go into politics. If he somehow makes the Test XI and we subsequently blow the Ashes on the back of his lame bowling, I'll get quite mad. In all probability, I'll go quite mad.
And why are Sussex called The Sharks? I apologise if there are great schools of bitey fish circling the UK, but there seems to be more than a hint of the hipster publicist about the Sussex Sharks.
Tim Nielsen is in today's Fairfaxes talking up Brett Lee for the Ashes: "he is progressing well." That's talking up, right? Anyway, it must have escaped Nielsen that since The Slot injured his foot during the Melbourne Test Australia have looked a tighter bowling unit, winning three Tests while losing only one, a dead rubber. Also, a cursory check of the records would reveal Slot is the proverbial pie-chucker in England, where his Test average is a miserable 45.44, and on current exposed form, unlikely to go lower.
On the upside, get on board Slotto. You'd be in clover had you correctly picked the runs hit from each of Slot Lee's eight overs at the World T20.
What better way to look forward to the 2009 Ashes than by looking back to the 2005 Ashes. This post is spot on:
Here are my top reasons why losing to England in 2005 was so hard to take:
Via Miss Field, who, emulating 2008 Melbourne Cup trainer Aidan O'Brien's pre-race instructions, has gone early: "We are going to win the Ashes."