First match tonight at The Oval.
The pitch is a road.
"Fruit for the sightscreen"
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.
A solid example of why Kiwis get the shits with Aussies:
"The fact is that Australia have won only one of the past four series, losing in India and at home to South Africa before beating South Africa away and losing in England."
~~ Shane Warne
- India: loss
- New Zealand: win
- South Africa: loss
- South Africa: win
- England: loss
Warnie's not the only one to say/write that. (Maybe he is getting back at Mark Richardson.) Jamie Panderamjam wrote the same in Wednesday's Fairaxes:
Players now have to come to terms with what the fans already know; that decades of dominance are over and they no longer qualify as the world's best following a third series defeat from their past four.
And I've heard it numerous other times during the last week.
Two more overlookers.
If it isn’t apparent that Australia is going through a rebuilding phase, the fact that we have lost three of the last four series should make it abundantly clear.
Jesper Fjeldstad (taking a break from the biathlon, luge and downhill curling):
Nielsen, dubbed "Teflon Tim" after much of the fallout from the Ashes debacle failed to stick to him, has a healthy winning percentage of 46 per cent, but has seen his team lose three of its past four series.
Wonder if Mark Richardson will claim he was taken out of context, misquoted, "I'm sorry if I offended anyone." That would be quite some back-pedal considering he has devoted a whole article to saying Murali is a chucker:
There is no easy way to put this, no soft way to broach it, so here goes - Muttiah Muralitharan is throwing the ball.
Doubtless he will later say that he rang Murali, and they are sweet.
Will he be sweet with Warnie?
I don't blame Murali for this situation. Murali can only do what he does - and what he does he does as a champion, and unlike the other great spinner of my time, Murali does it with good grace and gentlemanly conduct.
Nevertheless, it's always refreshing to read a professional pundit who is prepared to vent the same opinions we've been venting for years.
Paul Keating once said "Never get between a premier and a bucket of money." You can apply the same general thrust, and pejorative colour, to sport: "Never get between a sports administrator and a chance at a premiership."
VICTORIA'S domestic cricket campaign will have a distinct subcontinental influence this season, with the Bushrangers to boast a champion Sri Lankan spinner as a player and an Indian property developer as their major sponsor.
I've played a lot of cricket here in Victoria, and know a lot of cricketers. It's fair to say that very few of us think Murali is legal.
Couple that with our recent spin summit:
"There was unanimous agreement that the off-spinner’s ‘other-one’, the doosra, should not be coached in Australia."
Throw in the long-held belief that English cricket – or Mike Atherton's English system - has suffered because it has too many foreign players.
So, what does Victoria do? It imports a player who most everyone thinks chucks; who is the very epitome of the doosra that the gurus have sought to ban; and who, to make it a hat-trick, is foreign.
Yer gaggin', right?
As a passionate follower of Victorian cricket, even the Big Bash - which, ironically, NSW won on the back of the efforts of their own chucker Aaron Bird - I've enjoyed the few wins, and sucked up the many losses. But it's been a long time since I've had my nose rubbed it in with such vigour.
Naturally, Tony Dodemaide was spinning it to within an inch of its bottom line:
"I think this has cracked the boundaries of what state cricket was conceived as being. It's very much now on the international stage … and international companies are interested in being involved with us."
No mention of stakeholders? Lift your game. Translated, what TD is saying is basically "There are pots of loot in it for us, so it's all good."
Not good here. I'll be all over the Shield, as usual, but the KFC Big Chicken can kiss my sharries.
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.
Not what you think (unless you read Adsy's comment):
Perth Police have charged former Australia batsman Luke Pomersbach over a series of hit and run traffic crashes on Sunday night.
John Buchanan just slid an envelope (wrapped in a newspaper) under my door:
Leaked dossier shows what Australia really think of England team
In an amazing document detailing the thoughts of Somerset captain and former Australia opener Justin Langer, English cricketers are witheringly described as “lazy”, “shallow” and “flat”, and as players who “love being comfortable”. Fast bowler James Anderson can be “a bit of a pussy” if things do not go his way and skipper Andrew Strauss can be too “conservative”. And there are barbs at the egos of Matt Prior and Graeme Swann, as well as the annoying strut of Ravi Bopara.
“English players rarely believe in themselves.”
“Many of them stare a lot and chat a lot but this is very shallow. They will retreat very quickly. Aggressive batting, running and body language will soon have them staring at their bootlaces rather than in the eyes of their opponent — it is just how they are built.”
“Great front runners”.
“Because of the way they are programmed they will be up when things are going well, but they will taper off very quickly if you wear them down. Because they play so much cricket as soon as it gets a bit hard you just have to watch their body language and see how flat and lazy they get. This is also a time when most of them make all sorts of excuses and start looking around to point the finger at everyone else — it is a classic English trait from my experience.”
“They like being friendly and 'matey’ because it makes them feel comfortable.”
“In essence this is maybe the key to the whole English psyche — they love being comfortable. Take them out of their comfort zone and they don’t like it for one second.”
“Anderson is hugely improved but can be a bit of a pussy if he is worn down. His body language could be detrimental to them [England] if we get on top of him early.”
“Strauss is a very solid character and excellent bloke. His weakness is possibly his conservative approach. He will tend to take the safer options in most cases.”
Prior has “a massive ego. I would chip away at him about his wicketkeeping. I would be reminding him about how it could see him out of the team. I would definitely work his ego.”
“Bopara is sure to wind the boys up by his strutting around, but I would leave him alone.”
Incidentally, Michael Vaughan agrees.
From the files of "tell us something we don't know" comes this:
"I knew most of it anyway."
~~ R. Ponting
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.
Do you think Pulpit Patrick Smith wants his cake and eat it, too?
Regarding the 15 degree law, he has been scornful to the point of contempt:
All of this does not take into account that the marker of 15 degrees is so arbitrary as to be laughable.
Ajmal bowls a beautiful doosra, which means he bends his arm more than the legal 15 degrees. Which should mean he is banned from bowling but he won't be. Which, of course, means he was born with a deformity. Which once more proves the ICC is a collection of much travelled dolts.
Yesterday, though, in striving to bolster an argument about the advances in technology in sport, he writes this about Australia's spin summit:
The fight to retain the old "straight arm" law was lost forever and Murali's place among cricket's finest is now, rightly, unchallenged. Indeed, cricket is richer for the extra skills available to finger spinners. The balance of the game has not been changed because leg-spinners and fast men alike have always had the ability to move the ball both ways.
I'm not totally comfortable with the position of Mallett and company to put a ban on teaching the doosra. You have rules, you play to them; when you can, you exploit them. Nor are Patrick's two positions mutually exclusive. But for years he has shit-canned the new chucking rules, and now, with a case to make, it's "cricket's finest, rightly, unchallenged".
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:
Coming soon: "We were all taken out of context."
A coterie of former Test spinners decided that they would not teach the doosra to young Australian bowlers because, in their collective opinion, it offends the laws of the game.
‘‘There was unanimous agreement that the off-spinner’s ‘other-one’, the doosra, should not be coached in Australia. I have never seen anyone actually bowl the doosra. It has to be a chuck. Until such time as the ICC declares that all manner of chucking is legal in the game of cricket, I refuse to coach the doosra. All at the spin summit agreed.’’
Purist me desperately wants to ban the doosra and chuck all the doosra bowlers out of the game.
Cynical, pragmatic, whatever-it-takes me says "When in Rome, don't be a Christian."
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.