Tuesday, 24 March 2009

The Ashes await....

And so we move on to the next phase of the Australian cricket team’s journey. Cricket, like life goes on. Each series is analysed to death and then forgotten as the next series invades our consciousness, papers and TV screens. And what a series it promises to be, like every Ashes. Australia’s disgraceful pounding in the final test in South Africa raised many questions which cannot simply be explained away by the “dead rubber” syndrome that has many supporters and knockers on this forum.

Bryce McGain had probably the most to play for in either team and has probably played his last test. As happy as he was to receive his baggy green in the grand scheme of things it will turn out to be unfortunate. South Africa were able to throw caution to the wind having already lost the series and what better victim than the debutant leggie? Even the great S K Warne had a shocker of a debut, but not comparable to McGain’s. Perhaps McGain could have been backed by more defensive field settings when it became obvious the Proteas were going after him but he was not alone in the punishment and Ponting had been criticised for that very thing in Australia.

Hussey must now spend the next few months agonising over a career on the wane. He may just be saved for the Ashes if only through his vast experience on Pommie decks but his reprieve will be short lived if he fails early. We all know how many batsmen we have waiting in the wings.

McDonald for me is on borrowed time as well. Hardly a revelation in SA, his bowling is not penetrating enough. I would love to see the Australian selectors bite the bullet and declare Mitch Johnson our all rounder and choose another batsmen or bowler as the situation demanded. He is clearly good enough as demonstrated by his master class to all the “batsmen” in the Australian team on Sunday night. His technique is superb and he strikes the ball so cleanly. Small English grounds will not contain him. Timid English bowlers will be punished.

Hughes is a gun but needs to rein it in when he has to. It will not take bowlers long to identify his problem areas and bowl to them. He will be retained for the Ashes but needs to be patient on swinging decks in Notubland.

I can’t see another cracking series like 2005 or a flogging like 2006. I am predicting 3-1 to the Aussies with a draw thrown in there after the first or second test due to bad weather/light.


  1. Very generous prediction for the Ashes. West Indies have improved with ball in particular but England looked terrible in their tests there. I don't think Eng will have the penetration to bowl Aus out for under 300 in any first innings and will struggle to build a lead at any time. Eng don't look anywhere near as dangerous as '05 and while Aus batted well in RSA there is room to improve in terms of consistency at least. Plus Hussey should do time in the seconds so Hodge gets an opportunity.

    If by chance Clarke, Ponting, Katich, Hughes and North fire consistently I think it's goodnight Eng. Haddin and Johnson (even Ron but that's another story) thrown in.........

    The plus for Eng is them going back to their roots of good spin bowling: plus a handy keeper batsman. Hoggard isn't on the scene, Flintoff is always injured (but playing at 75% is like 100% for some players), Broad is hot and cold, Harmison is inconsistent and where is Simon Jones?

    Eng batting revolves around Strauss, Pieterson and Collingwood. To be fair to Cook he showed better signs later in the WI series. They have a number 3 problem (almost as bad as having an opening problem) and a useless tail.

    Perhaps I've been harsh as Eng have batsmen who can build totals and win games: but just don't do it often enough. Johnson, Siddle and whoever bowls with them will exploit this and destroy them. Whereas I don't see an Eng bowling attack that can repay the gesture.

  2. I would say a No. 3 problem is far worse than an opener problem. Whereas an opener can be seen to have done their job taking the shine off the ball and the venom out of the pitch a No. 3 is expected to make big scores and hang around for a long time. We have been fortunate that Ponting has been able to hold that spot down for so long so successfully. I would gladly trade the last ten years without Slater and Langer than lose Ponting for that period.

  3. Yeah good call but if you're 1 for bugger all alot then your number 3 is basically an opener by default. Really it's a circular argument because in either case if an opener or number 3 is useless you're already behind the eight ball. Langer and Hayden showed the potency of a pair getting you off to a good start more often than not. Ponting has made runs when Aus has been a few down for not many and prevented a collapse. For these reasons I wouldn't trade any spot for another because we're talking about a batting position: not an individual's talent. I too would trade Ponting for Slater or Langer but would also trade him for many players: including bowlers, because he's that good.

  4. The big issue with a No.3 problem as compared to an opener is if the openers do their job and it's 1/100 then the number 3 fails all of a sudden you have lost 2 wickets in a short space, you are maybe 2/105 and the opposition have some wind in their sails. If you have an opener not performing you might be 1/2 and in trouble but may then be 2/105. Big difference is you haven't lost 2 quick ones and less pressure on your No. 4.

  5. Yeah can't argue with that logic. I suppose it's about momentum as the timing of wickets can be as important as which ones they are.

  6. while some media is saying that an early demise to McGains career can sit comfortably on the shoulders of DeVilliers (RSA being determined never to let another Aus leggie out of the starting blocks, for fear of more mind control!), i think a big chunk of McGains problem was how Ponting used him.

    Punter showed a distinct lack of tactical nouse AGAIN in this test... he just can't seem to string too many together on his own now, can he?
    It could be said that he was showing support and faith in his number one bowler on the start of day 2 when he had Johnson bowl over after over only to leak runs like Norths reg-grundies!
    Why Ponting didn't bowl McGain as soon as it was obvious Johnson was off the mark is beyond me! Siddle at one end had the runs choked up, the ball was 20 overs old, McGain at the other end without a concern about runs- just probing and ripping them makes perfect sense... at least to someone that has a clue about cricket- me!
    without the stress of containment, Bryce McGain might have had a chance to ply his craft, but typically, Ponting was playing according to his drafted plan that he most likely drew up straight after Durban, and didn't have the nouse to re-write in play!

    If McGain never plays another test, DeVilliers will no doubt claim him as a scalp (if god botherers think like that!), but if Ponting has a conscience, he should be thinking that because of his tunnel vision, he should push to give the wristie at least one more run!

  7. Stoph I agree with some of your theory but what we are yet to know is what role McGain was set to play. Was he meant to be a strike bowler and put pressure on the batting team or was he to be the one to slow the run rate. Whichever he was meant to be he failed miserably and Ponting is not to blame outright. SA were on a mission on a good deck to make a shed load of runs. I think the situation was made worse by our poor batting performance but 651 is a lot no matter how many have been made by the side batting first.
    McGain probably deserves another chance but in a live test but only one.

  8. that is right NL that we didn't know his role, and i didn't take that into account when commenting...but, i'll stand by the point of Ponting not changing his game plan as the situation dictated.

    wouldn't the situation i described at the start of the 2nd day be a good opportunity to take some of the pressure of McGain? Siddle was completely depriving RSA of runs and Johson hadn't found his L&L, if you are gonna go for runs at one end, why not try something different ant let the new guy give it a rip?

    it takes a vastely different mindset to bowl effective legspin when the aim is to deny runs AND get a breakthrough wicket than when the orders are to mix it up and see if you can dazzle em a bit.

    unfortunatley for McGain, every time i've seen him he is WAY too flat and doesn't seem to have any sort of flight party tricks... i think this is because his release point is too far forward like a quick. i think the old dog is beyond new tricks but i' surprised he hadn't addressed this deficiency before 1st class cricket!
    So you are right in saying Ponting is not to blame outright, i just think he issed a very obvious chance at letting the newbie have a go before undue pressure built up.

  9. Lefty, you can't be too hard on English batsman... coz by and large they are either crap... or from another country!

    i think Hodge must have been spotted bolting out the back door of Mervs house and will therefore never get another shot; what more can he do?

    the Johnson all rounder thing ust be creating any a diamond-cracker in the slacks of selectors!
    there is little doubt now that he is one, as you said NL, Johnsons stroke play is sublime, watching him is like a masterclass in technique and timing and actually shames any above him! maybe the answer to his batting position lies in the choice of other players:
    add a batsman, Johnson bats at 8, add a bowler, Mitch goes to 7. i don't see how moving between these positions would affect his mindset as they have little consequence unlike further up the orders specialist positions.

    if we are batting first and he has been there until the end of the innings, his preference for being first change would give him an extra rest if the interchange player is an opening strike bowler. i'm thinking Doug B to get some early swing in England... or Harwood, if he was fit!

  10. sorry about the words missing M at the start above; crap work laptop! below is what it should have said.

    "the Johnson all rounder thing Must be creating Many a diamond-cracker in the slacks of selectors!"

  11. My Hodge recommendation is tongue in cheek as we all know he's never going to play for Aus again. Poor bugger.

    I'd keep Johnson with the new ball: if a guy can bowl 150kms and swing the ball (both ways it appears now) you give him a new cherry. I was going to say that Aus will want to be careful in how they use Johnson as a batsman due to fatigue but Gilchrist did a similar job and kept. I reckon the rigours of bowling will supercede energy needs for keeping though. Really I say keep him at 8 or 9 and you'll get bonus runs alot. The problem with that is the running out of partners but you can always mix up the batting order as you go depending on the state of play. If Aus are pushing for quick runs to put a game out of reach and go into to bowl then put Johnson up to pinch hit and booya!

    Ponting said on the radio that selectors are considering taking a 15 man squad to Eng. I hope they get it right this time as it will be 5 tests: not 3. I guess they can fly someone over if need be but you'd surely rather have someone who's been around the squad and practiced on Eng pitches with the duke ball.

  12. Sucks when you screw up a funny line and it completely misses the mark. Instead of LMAO I was thinking of buying you a new helmet for the bus.
    You are right about Hodge, he either diddled Merv's wife, or a nun. Too old now I'm afraid.