Wednesday, 22 July 2009

He's A Modern Stonage Hero

You can argue over replays and chastise umpires for mistakes but the real truths were clear for all without green and gold coloured glasses to see over the past five days at Lords.

England outplayed Australia and right from the first call of “play” on day one – perhaps even before that when Ponting called incorrectly. By lunch, the game was virtually gone as Strauss and Cook flogged the Australian opening attack so badly that Hauritz had to bowl before the tucker break. From there, the Lions controlled the game with Strauss’ first innings hundred setting the game up for his side. When Australia had its turn, not even a suggestion of a return to form from Hussey was enough to save them from a large deficit which only got impossibly larger when England batted again.

The fifth day started with a majority of Australians believing that miracles can be performed by their cricketers after Haddin and Clarke had batted heroically on the fourth afternoon. Instead, we were privileged to watch one of the truly great modern sportsmen this noble game has seen. Andrew Flintoff, like all heroes do, stood tall and accepted the burden of his countrymen and bent his back into one of the best spells of fast bowling I can remember. For a hundred minutes, this man with a knee so badly injured it requires constant pain killing injections, steamed in and bowled consistently in the high-speed bracket. He was fast, he made the ball swing and cut and no one was happy to be facing him. Hauitz watched his fate with his bat resting on his shoulder and others ducked and weaved to avoid the red leather missiles he was still delivering at ninety plus mph an hour and a half after the start.

All of it – fire and brimstone, swerve and swing – delivered with a smile, a smirk and a laugh with his opponents. I liked this guy in 2005 as he took the time over a valiant opponent and crouched with Brett Lee and consoled him before going to celebrate with team mates. I liked him when he was overawed and out of his depth as England captain in Australia 18 months later. Tonight, with England leading 1-0, I like him even more. Here is a man for our kids to examine and emulate. We’ve been missing his type since the late 1970’s.

Swann bowled as was expected of him. Don’t swallow this guff about Clarke missing a full toss to end the Australian charge. He was duped by a dipping ball, bowled with more air and a lot of swerve created by spin on the ball in much the same way as Warne often achieved. His four wickets were deserved and for those paying attention, expected.

We could continue to quibble about umpiring decisions but that would be to miss the point. Umpires have had no hand in the form of Johnson or the non-selection of Stuart Clark or our Jekyl and Hyde batting line up which scored 600 plus at Cardiff but took twice as many innings to do the same at Lords. England are getting starts against our attack in which only Hilfenhaus has been threatening but in the reverse, we are losing early wickets as Phil Hughes has been worked out and over by an English attack which will hope he keeps being selected. If he’s to be dropped – he probably has the third Test left – who opens? Two choices from where I sit in my lounge room: Watson, whose only attempts in first class cricket at the top of the order were a long walks separated by short spaces of time; or Hussey, still struggling for the form that made him the Wonderkind in his first twelve months under the Baggy Green he had waited for and deserved for such a long time.

Umpires don’t captain England or Australia. Pity – we couldn’t be any worse off. This is our biggest problem and one we won’t fix until Ponting retires. I have said many times, he is a genius of a batsman, a brilliant fielder probably only outdone by Andrew Symonds and Mark Waugh in the last fifty years ... but, he is a stiff-necked, one dimensional captain who plays the game plan well past the point where it is exhausted by the real action on the field. He has no instinct, a by-product of the over management of the modern player from all quarters off the field. He can’t think for himself and even his talk is clich├ęd and straight-lined. Pity, because it will take the gloss off what has been a sparkling career.

In the preliminaries of the series, I called on England to win 2-1. Now, I can’t see where or how Australia can win a Test.

Probably a good thing for cricket.

12 comments:

  1. Great article Lango, welcome aboard.
    Flintoff was fantastic and will be a key to England's chances in the Ashes. I'm unsure as to why you don't see where or how Aus can win a test though. I think Aus has been quite close even with at least two guys performing very poorly. I guess you could say the same for Bopara and Pietersen but 7 out of the top 8 batsmen for Aus have done well or looked good at least in the two tests. Our main bowler has been throwing down pies with the new ball and we have Lee and Clark on the sidelines (plus Watson but he doesn't count - he'll probably slip on a chip).
    Don't write us off just yet!

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  2. Thanks Lango, a well thought out article. I will say however that while Freddie's performance on the last day was good it was hardly the sensation that everyone has hailed it as. Let's look at his 5 for. Hughes - not out, Katich - no ball, not out, Haddin - poor shot, Huritz - tailender, poor shot (or lack of), Siddle - great ball but once again a tailender. He bowled some good lifters to Johnson, none of which were good enough to get him out.
    The fact Freddie is larger than life has managed to paper over the fact he only has 5 for on a very limited number of occasions and spends a lot of time injured or well below form. I hardly think it warranted him kneeling on the ground ushering his team mates around him while he pulled a jesus pose.
    Australia lost this test, Flintoff didn't win it.
    To say you can't see where an Aussie victory will come from is a little short sighted. Let us not forget it was only weather that saved England from a huge defeat in Cardiff. England cannot count on Australia being knocked over for 200 odd in the first dig to claim another test.
    The worry for England should be Johnson not being in form and Australia still killing them in the first test and being not too far away in the 2nd. I know you can't take into account umpiring decisions but you have to admit Australia starting day 5 at 4/313 needing another 200 would have been a lot more daunting prospect than it was. The mistakes made by the unpires were not your run of the mill errors. A no ball that was inches over is just rank and to not go upstairs for Hughes was just arrogant. Hussey's was understandabele. Naked eye, it looked out.
    Australia by an innings plus in number 3.

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  3. Bloody hell you're one-eyed Nospmas! You still have to get the wickets and Flintoff did this. He looked threatening from the start of day 5 and Haddin got out to pressure - not just the false shot.
    Poor umpiring decisions always seem more evident when you need them the least. Hopefully we can bat first at Edgbaston and set them 500 to make and we'll see the end of dooms day talk (thought after South Africa we'd passed that).
    The teams are evenly matched and either could have 'their day' when everything clicks as well as going their way. To some extent England got this at Lords but you can't deny they played more consistent cricket. If you don't get many wickets day 1 you're in for trouble. Back that up with a score 200 behind and you're stuffed. Umpiring will rarely save you if you're in that situation: and I don't think you really deserve good luck then. This will always be the time when every catch seems to go to hand, close lbw's go against you etc.
    Let's not forget we got over 400 in the last dig and have some options to change. I can't see how Flintoff and Pietersen will make it through 3 more test matches either.

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  4. Come on Lefty. If you've read many of my posts I think you'll be aware that I am just as prone to give it to the Aussies when necessary. All I am saying is Flintoff bowled well but not SENSATIONAL. He got two that weren't out, 2 tailenders and Haddin. What is so SENSATIONAL about that?
    If it was first innings and they lost it would not have rated a mention. I am just taking the bowling performance by itself.
    As I stated they weren't just umpiring misinterpretations they were horrible incompetent mistakes.
    You are right, umpiring can't and shouldn't be used as an excuse but wehn you have someone questioning whether Australia can actually win a test it is prudent to point out what was actually between the sides in this test. A couple of bad decisions go our way, we have 6 wickets left on the last day and it's game on.

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  5. Just ribbing you Nospmas, I'd never doubt your objectivity.
    Flintoff just needs to be on the field and he's declared a hero. He did bowl well though and deserved wickets even if some weren't convincing. He was not the difference between the two sides as some have said.

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  6. thanks for joining up Lango, great stuff 1st up; it is always good to get people on that are observant and opinionated.

    i'd be a tad disappointing if i were Strauss: not getting MOTM for his 1st innings knock... but i'm sure he'll take the win instead!

    I think Freddy looked threatening EVERY time he had the ball... not just the start of day 5.
    If he deserved the MOTM, it was because he created such a focal point for England; both attacking and to carry the public along for the ride on those big shoulders... an entertainer as much as a champion cricketer.

    in regard to your last lines Lango, i seem to remember similar nay saying 2 test into last summer RSA series, and things turned around. i am relatively confident with our batting line up (and given Huss made what i'd asked of him to tie him over- he might just have turned a corner; so long as that horrie call doesn't do his head in!), and really see the lack of Johnson firing as our biggest "problem" in the bowling structure. Everyone else seems to be playing their part.

    My biggest concern is Pontings inability to manufacture something unorthodox in the field to rattle and opposing batsman/side... just loves his textbook me thinks!

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  7. No leftie, he wasn't: Strauss was (batting & captaincy), Collingwood was (fielding), Anderson, Swann & Flintoff were (bowling). Prior wouldn't be classed as a great keeper but he was a long way ahead of Haddin.
    Australia was outplayed, start to finish. They may have scored 400 in the 4th but still lost by 115. The bowling is unbalanced and doesn't look good enough to dismiss England twice in a Test ... something it is yet to do despite the near thing in Cardiff.
    So Flintoff had some luck. Most bowlng/bating performances do. Wickets off two no balls? How many batsmen get match winning centuries after being dropped twice?His was a great performance in that innings. Yes, he has under performed in his career, but that's another story for another time. Did he deserved MOM ... probably not. Emotion and the suggestion it was his last performance gave him the magnum his skipper should fairly have held up. As for cleaning up tail enders, very few Pfeiffers fail to include 9, 10 or Jack. In fact, some blokes were considered to be specialists on the tail ... Botham was one and the deadliest of all, Warnie. It's an eroneous point in the context of the bigger picture.
    Australia would have expected a win at Lords and a draw or win at Cardiff. The remaining games will be played in venues where the Duke bestows his best favours on the current bowling kings of England. Bad news for an Australian side which has only bowler swinging it, one a former swinger turned slinger whose balls are scrambled regardless of how fast and loose they are, one an honest trier too young to lead the attack and an off-spinner way out of his depth but paddling away anyhow. the other mob know what they are doing, have balance and variety.
    England have a confident, competent captain who's not the best they've ever had but he grabs most opportunities. Australia has Ricky Ponting. Do I need to explain this to you further?
    Our batting has been inconsistent - at best brilliant, at worst awful.
    Harmison will play a role yet.

    Gentlemen, that's why I can't see Australia winning a Test. Everything ... everything, is stacked in England's favour.

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  8. Got the rose coloured glasses on Lango, that's cool. England got KILLED in the first test. Weather saved them and you can't deny it. England may have taken 20 wickets in the 2nd test but they took 6 in the first for nearly 700 runs. Their bowling is nowhere near good enough to suggest they will ever knock Australia over for any less than 400 again. Flintoff is not consistant, Harmison can barely get a test gig and worried Hughes (our youngest player) for two knocks, Anderson is pedestrian, Onions no comment, he hardly deserves one. Swann, please.
    Surely Lango you are not talking up a Pommie side that LOST a series to the Windies who just LOST a series to BANGLADESH??
    You are right, the difference between their best and worst is the Grand friggin Canyon and you just saw Australia's worst, for about 2 days.
    As I said, don't bank on Johnson's form continuing. He is far better than any one England bowler when in form, save for Lord Freddie and his knee is shot. You can only inject so much cortisone before it becomes redundant and he might just have had his fill day 5.
    Australia's recent form has them BEATING the 2nd placed test side in their own backyard.
    How can it all be in England's favour? This reminds me of 2005. They get the Ashes back, suddenly they are the best in the world. I think we all remember how that worked out.
    For the record, Strauss MOTM. Great knock day 1, pity about his day 2 form.
    Note - Their is a HUGE difference between a batsman getting a life through a dropped catch and a piss poor umpiring error.

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  9. Great debate here lads! Loving it!

    I have to agree that there is a fundamental difference between player error (dropped catch) and an umpire error (missed no-ball). There is almost always good luck in a big innings. And conversely blokes in a bad run will get the wrong end of the straw - Hughes and Hussey classic examples.

    I wasn't convinced of Cook after Cardiff but he took full advantage of Johnson on day 1. Collingwood will usually dedicate himself to making 75 off 300 balls (and snag any catch in his vicinity), Bopara is obviously talented but lacks control, KP needs to have some cocktails and rest an obviously damaged leg, Strauss is solid (get him driving through mid-on and mix it up with throat balls!) and the bowlers.........well this is still a mystery to me. Swann is better than what he's credited for sometimes, but he's no better than Hauritz.

    The true mark of England's attack will be when Aus bats on a hard deck under sun. This is not to say Aus are any better but I'd take Siddle for hitting the deck hard over Anderson and Broad to do the same things. The thing is Eng deserve to have the benefit of playing on decks suiting them. We used to have the real WACA. The greatness of Aus from Xmas past was the ability to beat sides on ANY surface. England conditions are neither unfamiliar nor unbeatable (and neither are England). If either side's batting doesn't click they'll fall cheaply. Eng looks just as likely to do this - remember they've batted first both times. The difference overall - to me - has been consistency with the ball.

    The reason 400 plus in the last dig is important is because it meant that while England could largely dictate proceedings for most of the match they still had to work for the result. Neither side will be a total walk-over.

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  10. Guess we'll know who is right in in a month or so.
    For the record, I've lived in Australia since birth and have proudly supported its cricket team from the age of five until and including now. I anticipate doing so into the future. My glasses only have lenses for correction so I can see clearly. My opinions are coloured only by the experience of playing the game to a reasonable level and watching it closely for 47 years. If that is "coloured" then I stand as accused.

    I have been writing my opinions of the game for a much shorter time ... only about twenty years. When I do, I try to be direct and honest but I don't ever begin to believe I am always right. After all, before the series, I thought Australia would win at Lords. I write about "the game" and as such, I try to comment impartially. My time in newspapers and on radio taught me objectivity but not clairvoyance.

    Further items for the record ... in 2005, I predicted a 2-1 win to England, even with Warne and McGrath intact. In 06/07, I predicted Austraiia 4-0, thinking Melbourne would be drawn.

    These are just my opinions mate. Feel free to disagree with them.

    Recent form has been thrown out the window. You should be able to see that. Johnson's problem won't change because his action is wrong and that won't be re-worked in a week or two. Stuart Clark should have played from the start. Hughes has looked out of his depth in every innings on this tour, not just the Tests. Hauriz is a dart thrower and the difference between him and Swann is enormous. Ponting is poor captain in the field, where it most matters.
    England doesn't have these problems.
    I'll conceed you the point on dropped catches and umpiring decisions but I'd love a dollar on everytime I've heard blokes complaining about losing because of poor umpiring. What goes around, comes around. Afterall, isn't that why we prefer five Test series.

    England lost a five Test series to the Windies on the basis of 2 hours of bad batting. Following that, they dominated the series. Go figure.

    Thanks for your comments. I shall adjust my umbrella for the deluge.

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  11. Actually, for the record Nospmas, the last time England played the Bangers, they beat them 2-0 just before they beat us (2005). Since England got pasted by us in 06/07, they've played (series) against the Windies three times for two wins and a loss, lost home and away to India, beat NZ home and away, lost away to Sri Lanka (0-1) and lost 1-2 at home to South Africa.

    Not as good as our record, very true but the loss to South Africa was hardly a disaster, the loss in the Windies was down to one batting collapse and then they flogged the Windies just before this series.

    Rankings don't seem to matter much out there on the field. Form does.

    Here's an interesting fact to chew on. Australia has lost two of its last four series (India & South Africa). The last time we had lost two from the last four was between 1990 and 1993 and the two series lost were to the all concoquering West Indies.

    History might be telling us something.

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  12. History while interesting is no indication of future happenings.
    Lango I was not trying to accuse you of Aussie bashing and am pleased you are a devout baggy green man. I used "rose coloured glasses" in an effort to understand your apparrent lack of belief that Australia could win a test. England were hardly impressive in the first test and Australia were fantastic. In the second Australia were terrible for a day or so and England good for a few sessions. The rest of the test was neutral. It is because of the form shown by both sides so far this series that I am bewildered you find it hard to believe Australia can win a test.

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