Saturday, August 22, 2009

The day the Ashes were won and lost

This was the day that ultimately looks destined to decide the fate of the great urn. Australia, after finishing off England for what looked a below par 332, and going to lunch at 61/0, completely collapsed to be 160 all out. Stuart Broad, the much maligned blondie, finally bowled with real menace and control and boy did he come good. 5 wicket bags are seldom better executed or more timely. Some thought this would be the Andrew Flintoff party, however it seems the torch of the side's talismanic allrounder may now be ready to be passed on to the new kid on the block. After a long hard fought series the host nation are coming up trumps when it matters most. And Ponting's Australia appear doomed to hand over the Ashes for the 2nd consecutive time in England, and as though that were not bad enough, if they lose they will fall as low as 4th on the official Test world rankings. As one Dylan once mused, the times they are a changin'..

Friday, August 21, 2009

England unearth a gem

While most of the England team looked a bit shaky and fragile in the afternoon sessions one man stood out and was solid, the debutant Jonathan Trott. Yet it was his first Test. He reminded me quite a bit, both by his rock steady defence and his calm looking temperament, of one of the greats in the world today, one Jacques Kallis. They even have similar looking faces and both hail from Cape Town. By his 41 runs under pressure Trott showed he may well have what it takes to succeed at this the highest level, and was unlucky to be run out when well set. Despite appearing to play very patiently he still accumulated his runs at a comfortable pace of over 3 per over.

It is high time England selected a real batsman of substance, as opposed to the flakiness of the other middle order incumbents, Bell, Bopara and Collingwood, who all look about as solid as card houses. Remarkably, apart from the aforementioned, only 4 other new batsmen, Strauss, Cook, Pietersen and Owais Shah, have been selected for England in the past 6 years. That's 1 new batsman per year, in 10-15 Tests. And Trott is the first new batsman in 2 years since Bopara. This may all be ok if the batsmen were performing and the team were winning, but this has not been the case. It has been a very closed shop policy, and Trott must have had to really kick the proverbial door down with his performances these last few years to get a look in. It is surely no coincidence that out of all the above only Strauss and Pietersen, South African born like Trott, have truly looked the part in Test cricket, and Trott now looks as though he'll be equally at home. Perhaps English cricket, quite like New Zealand, are really struggling to produce proper batsmen from within these days.

England meanwhile are in a good position in this match at 307/8 because the conditions look tricky for batting and the pitch, already from day 1 is breaking up faster than the Beatles. So although England may have blown their chance for a big first innings score it looks as though a result may be on the cards in this match, and Australia, having to bat last, and having wrongly not selected a spinner, are at quite a sizeable disadvantage as it will be harder for them to score the same amount of runs. Hopefully the pitch won't go dead like Cardiff, and the game will be a sizzling scrap for ultimate supremacy all the way. And a treat to watch.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Aussie dossier

As a response to this article by Justin Langer criticising England's players, I have decided to issue a similar dossier on Australia's players.

Current team:

Katich - A weener with a weird crab like technique, his face alternates between smug and cross. Never looks like a proper batsman no matter what shot he plays. Painful to watch.

Watson - Big vain loudmouthed oaf who loves himself and nowhere near as good as he thinks he is. His batting looks clunky and mechanical, I don't think he will ever be a great success at it, while his attempts at bowling are just embarassing.

Ponting - A fussy little fast talker with a big mouth always questioning and criticising umpires and opponents. Quick to throw toys out of the cot when things aren't going his way which is quite often these days. Sadly has the tactical savvy, as well as the saliva retention of a two year old. Spitting on the hands every ball is a great look for a national captain. Looks and acts eerily like George Bush. Noone is that surprised he is now getting booed whenever he steps on the field.

Hussey - Mr Cricket is one of the few remotely respectable blokes in the bunch. But he comes across very uptight and geeky and just looks a ball of stress and tension.

Clarke - Engaged to Australia's biggest bimbo (Bingle), and it could be a case of two peas in a pod, as he is forever spouting nonsense and propoganda like proclaimations about Australia's superiority, and generally licking Ricky Ponting's butt at every opportunity, while wearing an irritating smirk. Is also guilty of looking too much like Elijah Wood, and is the often the luckiest batsman in the world in each innings whose flimsy style flatters to deceive.

North - Hasn't been in the team long enough to form a lasting judgement but seems to be a reasonably solid batsman and bloke. Is it just coincidence that Australia were so reluctant to select both Hussey and North until their 30's despite them being so good? Perhaps their nice guy personas don't fit in with the rest of the team.

Haddin - A particularly nasty piece of work, often deliberately cheats by claiming catches and wickets when it's clearly not out, as explained in this example, when criticized gets defensive and acts wounded despite the actual evidence. Is forever chewing gum and spouting unpleasantries while grinning idiotically. His keeping is so desperately poor he has to try to make up for it somehow.

Johnson - Pin up poster boy who has been trumpeted and over rated after one good series. Has a wonky bowling action that sprays the ball around, and bats in slog mode. His thunder was stolen by his mother embarassingly speaking out about him before the series.

Hauritz - Is not the worst bloke, but quite possibly is the worst "spin" bowler every to pose as a spin bowler for Australia as he does not spin the ball and does not look like a proper bowler.

Siddle - Former woodchopper, reminds you of a chipmunk when he opens his furry mouth. His bowling is not going to break any records, perhaps in the team because his bowling action imitates selector Merv Hughes, and is also a Victorian?


Lee - Forever over-rated, not least by himself, his Test bowling statistics are not that hot, and are inflated by many tail ender wickets as he can't seem to get proper batsmen out so tries to bully the tail enders.

Hayden - Retired after being dropped, he is the ultimate batting bully, a real brute of an oaf. Fails whenever the ball swings or the bowling is otherwise above average. Says little intelligent when he speaks, is a particularly arrogant and nasty person who was not well liked even by his own team judging by the lack of glowing tributes when he left. Once put on a mock Indian voice on a radio station and abused several Indian players and challenged one of them to a boxing fight. What a bloke.

Gilchrist - A terrible hypocrite and self confessed cry baby, he pretends to be a gentleman by walking when obviously out yet appeals and makes a big fuss when opposition are clearly not out. Exceptionally arrogant in the way he speaks, he was brought down to size spectacularly in the previous Ashes series in England, failing to reach 50 in any matches and his career never recovered after that.

Symonds - Not much to say here that isn't well known. Preferred drinking and fishing sprees to his millionaire cricket career so eventually threw it away. An abrasive and nasty character on and off the field.

Warne - A real hedonist with no morals, Australia was unable to control him because of his so called superhero status. Heavy smoker and even heavier womaniser, despite being married for most of the time. On the field his behaviour wasn't any better as he repeatedly abused batsmen and umpires.

McGrath - Bad tempered beanpole who was always shaking his head and muttering to himself, and also loved to abuse batsmen. So arrogant he would often predict whitewash outcomes before series, which backfired hilariously in the last Ashes series where not only did Australia lose, but he managed to injure himself standing on a cricket ball just before the match.

Australia play the villains so well. I hope they don't manage to come out on top in the Ashes because the bad guy isn't supposed to win.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Team selection

The teams I would select for Headingley, assuming all players fit:


Why? The pitch will be flat and swing has been far more effective in the series, hence Sidebottom in for Broad, and not Harmison. Bopara has not played remotely like a Test batsman in this series, so perhaps Trott should get his chance. Yes the batting looks a shade thinner, but Prior averages 46, Swann 35, and Anderson's batting has improved enough to easily be a number 9. Add to this the fact that the Australian bowling has not been good enough to bowl England out twice yet in the series and it's clear that the greater firepower is needed in England's bowling department. You have to back your top six to succeed and score the bulk of your runs. Additionally if the conditions look better suited to pace than spin I would be severely tempted to also play Harmison instead of Swann, as it is a good time to unleash him, and Headingley is not kind to spinners.

If however, Flintoff is not fit enough, and I don't think he should be playing at 50%:


Yes, I would select Harmison in place of Flintoff if he is not fit as England do need one proper hit-the-deck bowler (not a pea-shooter like Broad) for variety and there is none who does this better than Harmison. They will then need to retain either Broad or Swann for balance to the side, as both are in form with the bat and having one of them at 7 would be less of a gamble than playing both the debutant Trott and out-of-his-depth Bopara.

Sidebottom absolutely must play for several reasons - he is in form, he knows Headingley well, bowled amazingly in his previous Test here last year for match figures of 8/86, and crucially the Australians have never yet faced him, and do not play swing well, including left arm swing, as rookie Wayne Parnell showed earlier in the year. The selectors will want both Broad and Swann to play for their batting, but neither is likely to take bags of wickets at Headingley, so only one should play. I would like to see England's best 4 bowlers for the conditions (Anderson, Onions, Harmison, Sidebottom) play regardless of the batting, though this of course will never happen because they won't want to be perceived to have a long tail, although I would trust Anderson to hold the fort at number 8 based on his recent batting.

As for Australia, their ideal team at the moment would probably be:


Yes, Hughes not Watson, because Hughes is an exceptionally good opener who can make big hundreds, whereas Watson is a bit of a vain impostor who filled in for a couple of scratchy fifties on a flat deck. Watson has also shown he cannot be taken seriously as an allrounder. Hughes has only struggled against one bowler - Flintoff, and with Flintoff unlikely to bowl many overs at full pace or even play, Hughes should be backed to ride out his opening barrage. I'm amazed they have not backed their top batsman from the South African tour.

Stuart Clark must come in even if he is a bit rusty as he is probably still the best bowler of the lot and again I'm amazed he hasn't yet been picked when he was the leading bowler in the last Ashes series and on several other occasions. Brett Lee is not match fit and will probably be saved for the Oval, though his record in England, and indeed in his past few Test series is poor anyway so I don't see how he could make the team stronger when in less than full form and fitness.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Empty up top

As I write this, a great Test match is unfortunately being thrown away by England captain Andrew Strauss by his stubborn and absurd insistence on bowling Stuart Broad at crucial times at the start of every 2nd session. Despite removing the out of form Mike Hussey by possibly his only ball that moved a few inches off the straight, he looks a medium pace net bowler at best and is easily the least threatening of England's 5 bowlers. England will not go on to win this Test, and questions must be asked of Strauss's faculties and favouritism.

The decision to bowl Broad at such a crucial time to let Australia off the hook in this Ashes series ranks right up there with Ricky Ponting's laughable choice to bowl occasional part timer Mike Hussey at a crucial time in the final Test of last year's tour of India.

England will go to Headingley only 1-0 up, and will be too afraid of changing their side and bringing in arguably the most dangerous bowler in England, Steve Harmison, as Broad played a good innings as a batsman regardless of this not being his primary role. It all reeks of heavy conservatism and muddled thinking and is diluting the quality of cricket being played, and possibly compromising England's series chances should Australia, who are the more positive side at the selection table and brave enough to change their side, be good enough to fight back and make them pay.

p.s. I shouldn't have mentioned Hussey because now Strauss has brought England equivalent Ravi Bopara into the attack, with all of 1 Test wicket to his name. And now Strauss himself has dropped a catch. All in a top day at the office for the captain, who has shown he still has much to learn of this game. Could this be the turning point (another turning point) of the Ashes?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Scenarios for Edgbaston Day 5

Hmmm, interesting. England batted very quickly and have turned the heat right on Australia. Time for an update on our scenarios with 1 day to go.

Australia 263 & 88/2 (28.0 ov)
England 376

Australia trail by 25 runs with 8 wickets remaining. There are 96 overs scheduled to be bowled if you count the change in innings. The forecast is looking good now for tomorrow. So the million dollar question is how long do Australia need to bat to prevent defeat?

Let's assume they continue at their current run rate (3.14).

Australia last another 50 overs, scoring 157 runs leaving a target of 133 for England from 46 overs @ 2.89 runs per over. England would win.

Australia last another 60 overs, scoring 188 runs leaving a target of 164 for England from 36 overs @ 4.56 runs per over. England would probably win.

Australia last another 65 overs, scoring 204 runs leaving a target of 180 for England from 31 overs @ 5.81 runs per over. Tricky run chase, possibly a 50/50 chance.

Australia last another 70 overs, scoring 220 runs leaving a target of 196 for England from 26 overs @ 7.54 runs per over. Match would probably be drawn.

So at their current rate Australia would probably need to last close to 70 overs to make the game safe. However let's say they score faster than their current rate of 3.14:

At 3.50, if they bat for 65 overs, scoring 228 runs leaving a target of 204 for England from 31 overs @ 6.58 runs per over. This only makes the chase slightly tougher for England.

At 4.00, if they bat for 65 overs, scoring 260 runs leaving a target of 236 for England from 31 overs @ 7.61 runs per over. This probably puts the target out of reach of England.

At 4.00 if they only bat for 60 overs, scoring 240 runs this would leave England to score 216 from 36 overs @ 6.00 runs per over which would again possibly be a 50/50 type chase.

At 4.50 if they batted for 60 overs, scoring 270 runs, England would then need 246 from 36 overs @ 6.83 runs per over, again probably putting the target out of reach.

Going to the other end of the spectrum, if Australia decide to bat really slowly at 2.50, even if they batted for 70 overs scoring 175 runs, England would still then only need 151 runs from the remaining 26 overs @ 5.81 runs per over, which they would probably achieve with a target that small.


Providing no weather interruptions Australia will need to survive for at least another 60-70 more overs (with 8 wickets in hand and without their series top run scorer Brad Haddin or captain Ponting) to save the game depending on the run rate they maintain. So time is the main issue. It's been a long time since Australia had to bat purely to save a game in this fashion with no prospect of winning. The pressure will truly be on and should make for riveting viewing. If the ball swings again I feel they are a goner. If it's sunny skies and doesn't swing it will still be touch and go as the spinner Swann will probably snare a couple too. We await.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Swing and scenarios

Not too many original comments to add on today's play. When the ball swings Australia do their ten pin falling over act. Graham Onions is a not to be underrated bowler, unlike Broad who may finally make way for Harmison in the next game at Headingley.

As for this match, with such a low first innings score there is time in hand for a result. If we make some rough napkin calculations:

Aus 263
Eng 116/2

England are 147 behind with 8 wickets in hand and 3 days left to play.

Let's do some rough napkin calculations. Let's assume England will reach a par score of roughly 360 in this innings, for a lead of 100, at their present run rate of 3.22 per over this will take a further 75 overs - leaving 215 overs left in the game. Note that in terms of there being a result in the game (either team winning) the score in their first innings doesn't really matter as they still have to bat again anyway - the runs they don't make in the first innings they can make in the 2nd innings and vice versa.

In terms of draw vs result the key will be how many runs Australia score in their 2nd innings. If they begin just after tea on day 3 there will be 2 days and a session left in the match. Let's assume they will score at their first innings run rate of 3.72 runs per over.

Bear in mind a day's play will now be 98 overs (usually 90) due to time having been lost. There are therefore a maximum of 290 overs left in this game, accounting for innings breaks.

Scenario A:
Australia score 400 in 110 overs, setting a target of 300 with 105 overs left to play, a run rate required of just under 3 per over. It is a good wicket and England will fancy chasing this down with a long batting line up, however some time will likely be lost due to the weather with a lot of rain forecast for the next 3 days. Therefore this scenario will probably result in a draw.

Scenario B:
Australia score 350 in 95 overs, setting a target of 250 with 120 overs left (4 sessions). England would only need about 2 sessions (60 overs) to chase this down if they bat well, so could afford for rain to wash away almost 2 further sessions. The difference between scenarios A and B that these extra 50 runs make could be vital.

Scenario C:
Of course, let's say England collapse like Australia and are bowled out for just 260 in another 45 overs. Say conditions continue to suit bowling and Australia then score 260 again themselves (in 70 overs), leaving England 260 themselves to win (with potentially 175 overs remaining). This scenario would allow for up to 3 or 4 sessions to be washed out and would make a result quite likely.

Whatever England score in their first innings, Australia will probably only be safe in the game if they force England to aggregate over 4 runs per over in their 2 innings which would possibly be too hard:

If no further time is lost Aus score 500 (in 135 overs - leaving England to score a further aggregate of 650 in 155 overs in their 2 innings @ 4.2)

If 1 session is lost to rain a safe score might be 440 (in 120 overs - leaving England to score a further aggregate of 590 in 140 overs in their 2 innings @ 4.2)

If 2 sessions are lost a safe score might be 380 (in 100 overs - leaving England to score a further aggregate of 530 in 125 overs in their 2 innings @ 4.2)

If 3 sessions are lost a safe score might be 300 (in 80 overs - leaving England to score a further aggregate of 450 in 105 overs in their 2 innings @ 4.3)

If 4 sessions are lost a safe score might be 240 (in 65 overs - leaving England to score a further aggregate of 390 in 95 overs in their 2 innings @ 4.1)

If 5 sessions are lost a safe score might be 180 (in 50 overs - leaving England to score a further aggregate of 330 in 80 overs in their 2 innings @ 4.1)

If 2 whole days are lost Australia would not need to score much more than 100 because England will not bat fast enough in their first innings to build a lead and leave any time for a subsequent run chase - they are still 150 behind on their 1st innings.

All clear as mud? Thought as much :)