When Australia lost the 2005 Ashes, the scapegoating and finger pointing was immediate, fierce and frantic. Billy Bowden. Ricky Ponting. Breath mints. WAGS. God. John Buchanan. Gary Pratt. The loss was such a shock, there was plenty of blame to go around too. However, and despite the fact that the pain of this Ashes loss is still fresh, I think it's possible to offer a dispassionate and logical analysis on where blame lies in our 2009 Ashes loss.
I don't think Ricky Ponting's captaincy was a contributing factor. Sure, he's defensive and unimaginative. But his conservative captaincy was matched and cancelled out by Andrew Strauss' equally conservative captaincy. If anything, the one captaincy howler of the series was Strauss' decision to bat in the 4th Test. It invoked memories of Ponting's decision to bowl at Edgbaston in 2005.
A more likely culprit is the Australian batsmen. It was their first innings collapses at Lords and the Oval which lost us two Tests. The batsman that sticks out like a sore thumb is Mike Hussey. He was Ravi-Bopara-like in the energy and enthusiasm he gave to the fielding team. He was always a wicket just waiting to happen. Sure, he may have saved his position with a futile century yesterday. It's becoming an Australian tradition for one beleagured batsman to save his career with a meaningless century at the Oval every 4 years.
But Mike Hussey is just a symptom. The underlying problem was the selectors had no options, noone to replace him. How could you possibly select a touring Ashes squad with not a single back-up specialist batsman? It seemed unwise at the time. Foresight has only intensified the craziness of the decision.
However, the true cause of Australia's demise goes further back than our batting collapses at Lords and the Oval. The seeds of our Ashes loss were sowed in the 1st Test. We had every opportunity to finish off England on the 5th day. All it needed was one delivery, one jaffa to finish off the English tailenders. Instead, we witnessed with dismay the unravelling of Mitchell Johnson. It took 3 Tests for him to get his groove back. What happened to our devastating spearhead? How did he devolve from the world beating champion in South Africa to the pie chucking farce in Cardiff? Mentally, he wasn't all there. Something was happening off-field that had him distracted on the field. And thus we have our answer.
Why did Australia lose the 2009 Ashes? Mitchell Johnson's mum.
|Posted by JC on Mon 24 Aug||1326 comments|
When you get hurt in a relationship, it's tempting to close yourself off to prevent future pain. Similarly, the human reaction for any Australian fan given the state of the 2009 Ashes is to give up hope that we can somehow chase a further 466 runs over the next two days without losing ten wickets. It would be a world record run chase on a wicket that already looked like a 5th day pitch on day 2. It's impossible. Can't be done.
But Australia made it to stumps without loss, knocking up 80 runs off 20 overs. Time isn't an issue. There will be no batting for a draw. All that matters is runs. Or more importantly, wickets. What would be required for Australia to make those runs would be the improbable combination of the pitch behaving itself, the Australians batting out of their skins, lucky umpiring decisions and the English bowlers having a five or six consecutive bad sessions. If England bowl full and straight at the stumps and extract any hint of movement, Australia won't win. If the Australian top order make the slightest error, be it poor shot selection or a lapse in concentration, it's over. If the pitch shows uneven bounce, even if the bounce doesn't get us, the psychological effect will be deadly. If one or two dodgy umpire decisions rip into our top order, there'll be no recovering. There's just too much going against us.
But cricket fans think with the heart, not the head. So I can't help myself - I can't keep out hopeful visions of a 150 run partnership between Ponting and Clarke, followed by a 200 run partnership from Clarke and North. Improbable. Impossible. It's never happened before. It can't happen now. But I'll be watching the game on tenterhooks. Just in case.
|Posted by JC on Sun 23 Aug||1663 comments|
The 2009 Ashes has swung backwards and forwards so many times, you can get whiplash if you're watching too closely. Australia dominated in Cardiff but couldn't close the deal. England led in Lords and the first half of the 3rd Test. Australia regained the balance for the next one and a half Tests. But now at the moment of truth, Australia had one session so disastrous, we may have just handed the Ashes to England.
It was a batting collapse so complete and insipid, it made England's 4th Test debacle almost respectable. Australia are so far behind, it's hard to see them coming back from here. The only ray of hope is our second innings. It's a forlorn hope. England should bat through several sessions today, setting 300 to 400 runs for Australia to chase. We'll have two days to run it down.
So time is not a factor. There will be no draw. The only question is whether Australia can put on the runs. On this dustbowl of a pitch, considering Australia's first innings performance, it's hard to see it happening. At this point, I would put my money on England regaining the Ashes. But there are at least two more days of Test cricket. I'll put aside the sinking feeling in my gut and hope for an Aussie miracle.
|Posted by JC on Sat 22 Aug||2484 comments|
You get the feeling England just let the Ashes slip through their fingers yesterday. At 1 for 100, they were poised to set an imposing first innings total. Instead, all their batsmen got starts then threw their wickets away. At stumps, they were 8 for 300, a well under par total for such a flat wicket.
Their only hope lies in taking lots of Aussie wickets today. If they can dismiss Australia cheaply and achieve a first innings lead, they're still in with a sniff. If Australia bat out 4 or 5 sessions, it's all over. The next two days will decide the Ashes. Bat on, boys!
|Posted by JC on Fri 21 Aug||1980 comments|
The 4th Test was hailed as the 2009 Ashes decider. Of course it wasn't - it never was going to be barring an English victory. But now, we come to the 5th Test which most definitely is the decider. An Ashes grand final, if you will. But more than that, it's the most important Test in Ricky Ponting's career. At the toss this morning, Andrew Strauss agreed it was also the biggest game of his career (although "probably, definitely" is somewhat damning with faint praise). That is, until the next high pressure game that comes along and everyone begins ratcheting up the hyperbole once again.
What this Test should be is an excellent opportunity for a drinking game. I would suggest rules such as take a sip everytime the commentators use the words Flintoff and talisman/X-factor in the same sentence. A swig everytime the Aussies sledge Trott. A sip whenever the 2005 Ashes are invoked, or empty the glass if it's followed up with the Aussie quest for redemption.
It's tempting from an Aussie point of view to write off the English side after their dismal 5th Test. But this series has seesawed from game to game so there's no telling what might happen. Flintoff will bolster the batting and bowling line-up. Harmison is a wild card - who knows whether he'll fire or not. And its impossible to predict how Trott will handle the step up to Test cricket. All the questions and the series will be resolved in 5 days...
|Posted by JC on Thu 20 Aug||1519 comments|
Well it worked last time is presumably the selectors line of thinking in handing South African Jonathan Trott a debut in England's most important match for four years.
There were essentially three names banded about in the search to replace the misfiring Bopara; Trott, Key and Ramprakash. Yes, Ramprakash. Remember him? Indeed, a surprising number of well respected journalists were championing him for a one-off recall. I'm glad their arguament fell on deaf ears. Yes he's been extremely prolific in recent county seasons, yes he knows the Oval pitch well, but his inclusion would essentially have been horses for courses - and we're talking about a flat batting pitch here. You don't need to know the pitch intimately to make runs on it.
Can't really argue with the runs Trott's been scoring this year, but his inclusion will push Bell up to three, a position in which he averages 31 with no hundreds.
The other talking point is the recall of born-again batsman Monty Panesar. Whilst there is a romantic symmetry to Monty beginning and ending the series as England's hero, I can't see it happening. Chris Adams, the Surrey manager, has suggested picking two spinners, and I was hoping they'd pick Rashid. It would have been a massive gamble, but there have been a ton of draws at the Oval this season and it's going to take something special for this Test to end differently. You never know, Rashid may have provided that - he certainly bats and fields better than Monty, and he couldn't bowl much worse than Panesar has this year.
Anyway, that should all prove academic because we've got a South African batting at four again. Happy days.
|Posted by Rich on Wed 19 Aug||1148 comments|
You gotta feel for Binger. For years, he played bridesmaid to Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, unable to force his way into the side. When the two ageing champions finally retired, Bing assumed his position as Australian spearhead. An injury, illness and marriage break up later, Bing is back on the outer, wistfully watching and waiting for another opportunity.
He would've played at Cardiff but got injured. He was fit for the 4th Test but not match fit so Stuart Clark played instead. And with Australia toppling England in two and a half days, you can't imagine changing the bowling line-up. If there is to be a change, it'll be Nathan Hauritz, not Bing, who comes in. Personally, I think that would be a mistake - Stuart Clark is both a better wicket taking option and concedes less runs than Hauritz - his selection is a no-brainer.
But Bing did get one last chance to impress in a tour game against the England Lions. But even when he bowled Liam Plunkett, a bail thieving seagull stole his thunder:
Unleashing a fast, full delivery, Lee scythed through Plunkett's defences to splay the stumps, then watched on as one of the bails was pilfered by a souvenir-seeking seagull and flown to a nearby roof. "We were trying to see if he was going to eat it," Nathan Hauritz said. "I've never seen anything like it."
Bizarre stuff. Through no fault of his own, Brett Lee has been relegated to spectator for 2009 Ashes. Wonder if he'll still be around for 2010/2011?
|Posted by JC on Mon 17 Aug||502 comments|
Witness the tragicomedy of errors as Western Australian cricketer Luke Pomersbach goes off his nut:
It is alleged that just after 9:30pm, a Toyota Prado driven by the 24-year-old former Australia batsman crashed into the back of a car in the Perth suburb of City Beach. It is then alleged Pomersbach failed to remain at the scene before driving away.
About 15 minutes later, his Toyota then collided with a loaded skip bin. The force of the crash shunting a bin approximately four metres into the pergola of an adjoining house.
Police claim Pomersbach again fled the scene.
Police attended the crash scene before following an oil trail to his nearby home. Pomersbach was spoken to by police and as he was being placed in the rear of a police sedan, he informed police that he did not want to accompany them and tried to leave.
A struggle developed when police tried to restrain him, during which it is claimed a police officer was pushed backwards into a window of the house, causing it to break. The West Australia star eventually managed to break free and ran away from the scene.
A police dog was the used to track Pomersbach through sand dunes before he was eventually caught and taken into custody.
Pomersbach has been charged with failing to stop, failing to accompany, assault of a public officer and the obstruction of police in an attempt to escape.
Suddenly Andrew Symonds is looking positively saintly!
|Posted by JC on Tue 11 Aug||1717 comments|
Over the last week, a dossier on the English cricket team by Justin Langer was leaked to the press. Here are some of the highlights:
"England players work very hard on shining the ball after the lacquer is gone. They use Murray mints religiously to get it to shine up."
"Because they play so much cricket, as soon as it gets a bit hard you just have to watch their body language to see how flat and lazy they get... They are the best in the world of tapering off very quickly when things go a bit flat for them. 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."
"English players rarely believe in themselves. 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."
"Anderson can swing the ball well but again can be a bit of a pussy if he is worn down."
Apparently it's ruffled quite a few English feathers who don't take to being described as "flat", "lazy" and "pussies". Ricky Ponting, however, has put the scathing document in proper perspective:
"I'll admit I got given a copy of it and I had a brief read through it all, but I knew most of it anyway."
|Posted by JC on Mon 10 Aug||702 comments|
Day 2 was a mirror image of Day 1. On Day 1, England batted terribly then bowled horribly. On Day 2, they bowled terribly then batted horribly. In fact, things are so dire, England were one dropped catch away from having to play an extra half hour allowing Australia to shoot for a two day finish. Now that would've made the Adelaide Day 5 fiasco seem like a fond memory.
But credit should go to Australia more than blame to England. North and Clarke batted beautifully. Our tail wagged with our last 5 wickets putting on more than England's first innings (not a hard task, mind you). Mitchell Johnson scored more runs in his one dig that the collective runs scored by Bopara, Bell and Collingwood in both English innings. And Mitch is finally bowling like he did in South Africa. Fast, full, straight and destructive late swing. If only he'd got that haircut before the 1st Test.
So I find myself in the happy situation of having one complaint. What happened to my five days of Test cricket?! As it is, I'll be surprised if England make it to lunch on the 3rd day. But on the bright side, I'll get to watch Australia win an Ashes Test and still get a good night's sleep. I guess you can have your cake and eat it too.
|Posted by JC on Sun 9 Aug||477 comments|
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