England fight back, and some thoughts on coaches

To the audible relief of South Australian cricket administrators, England provided some much needed resistance on day four, and saved them the prospect of half-empty stands for the Second Test starting on Friday.

England were set an insane target, worked out by Ricky Ponting on the formula of multiplying my overdraft times the speed of light, or some such nonsense, and let his bowlers loose, while retiring to the massage table. He would have dined well as England lost two early wickets, and with Cook playing a range of loose shots, promise of more to come.

However, Pieterson and Collingwood provided stout resistance and some fiery entertainment for another large crowd, stated as being 37,000.

Yet England will surely lose, and they deserve to lose- while there was some magnificent batsmanship today, there was also some shameful episodes. Strauss, Cook, Collingwood, Flintoff and Pieterson were all guilty of some dreadful shot selection at various points in the day, treating an Ashes Test as little more then a knockabout in the park.

Pieterson’s innings was an instructive example. There was some lovely drives, all through the V, yet there were also some grotesque cross-bat swipes. None of these have cost him his wicket (as yet), but what happens if rain comes about three PM tomorrow and England have been bowled out at 2.35?

If England had batted with a slightly more applied approach, they might well have been three wickets down tonight, not five. That’s a big difference.

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What do readers think about Andrew Flintoff’s dismissal? Shane Warne gave him an ugly serve on his way, and Justin Langer was smiling in delight even before he took the catch; the arrogance of it will grate on English sensibilities.

But it is an arrogance reflective of an Australian team that knows the value of their wickets, and the absolute folly of Flintoff’s shot. I don’t recall Ricky Ponting playing such an agricultural heave during his defensive masterpiece at Old Trafford last year. Duncan Fletcher may or may not remind his charges of that innings between now and the morning.

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Speaking of coaches, I came across this article on my web-meanderings this evening, asking about the worth of overseas coaches. Given the kvetching about Duncan Fletcher that I’ve read in British media outlets the last few days, I wondered about the role of the coach.

It seems to me that for a coach to be a benefit, rather then a hindrance, there needs to be an absolute understanding between the coach and his captain. In many first class teams, it seems to be the increasing trend that the coach is the top banana and the captain merely his on-field lieutenant, rather in the way a football manager operates. That may work, but there does need to be a clear line driven, and both sides working in tandem.

It’s never been the Australian way. Would you fancy being the coach telling Steve Waugh how he was to arrange his batting order? John Buchanan always knew his place in Waugh’s order of things.

I’m not sure about the inner workings of England’s team, but Michael Vaughan and Duncan Fletcher certainly were working on the same wavelength. It may well be that the relationship between Fletcher and Andrew Flintoff isn’t quite so attune.

Live: Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, 4th day

There is just the tiniest window of opportunity today for England, unless Australia declare overnight. Their lead already amounts to 626, and effectively they’re “playing” with England…like a bulldog massacring a toy. The longer they leave it, the happier England will be. Who knows? McGrath’s due to twist his ankle sometime over the next week…

The evil beach balls at the Gabba

They must be stopped, punctured and brought in for questioning. The Fun Police at the Gabba have been having a ball; harmless fun is now considered dangerous, or rude, or provocative. It has been the one blight on this Test, so much so that the Barmy Army have boycotted out of protest; their bugler was ejected and they’ve been segregated to nullify their “effect”.

It’s pathetic.

Beach ball

hatman003.


Ponting’s mission

I couldn’t decide whether Ricky Ponting’s decision not to enforce the follow-on was the old Ponting or the new. One the one hand, he was rubbing England’s bloodied noses in the dirt. On the other, he has given them a window of opportunity to save the game – especially if you believe the rumour Australia will bat until lunch today. England would then need to survive five sessions on a wearing pitch against Glenn McGrath, Stuart Clark and Shane Warne. Unlikely? Yes. But this is cricket – odd, inexplicable things happen.

Can you imagine the response from the media if Australia draw this Test? Maybe England can use that delicious thought as inspiration.

Zen and the art of cricket torture.

Take note. If you are playing Australia, you do not have to worry about the ‘follow on’ rule anymore. Honestly, if yesterday was not the time to enforce it, I do not know when it is.

And to make things worse for England, they will be fielding for a while this morning for just a little bit longer. Langer will be given a chance to get his century, and Ponting will have the chance to order another dose of the heavy roller, to assist in breaking the pitch up. Ponting will also like to plant seeds of uncertainty into English minds.

Yesterday’s play was bizzare though because to the casual observer, you would swear that they were playing on two seperate surfaces. The pitch that the English batted on was up to all sorts of tricks, and McGrath and Clark were able to get the ball to cut and seam about alarmingly.

Yet when Australia went out to bat, there was barely a deviation to be seen. So it will be interesting to see how it plays today. Of course it could just be that the Australian bowlers were the only ones to be able to get the balls into the right areas, but even Flintoff was unable to get any tricks happening.

For England, there was one bright light yesterday and that was the batting of Ian Bell. He showed plenty of grit and application to the task at hand, something that his team mates could take note of. However, given the movement that was happening, you just have to give credit to the bowlers. Cook and Flintoff, for example, never stood a chance against the deliveries they faced.

Today’s play is a sell-out. I wonder how many will turn up?

Live: Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, 3rd day

The third day from Brisbane. It ought not to be the last but stranger things have happened.

Chat away.

Forget the follow-on, worry about the clock

Last night, as England started their reply to Australia’s massive first innings score, the television authorities showed us how many runs England needed to avoid the follow on.

As it stands, England are 3 for 53, so they need about 200 to avoid the follow on. If England score any more then 250 in their first innings, I doubt Ricky Ponting will be in any hurry whatsoever to enforce it.

The issue for England is time. They won’t be given a sniff of a chance to win this Test, the issue will be whether or not they can bat out 130 or so overs in the final innings on a fourth and fifth day track against Shane Warne.

England will have to bat out today. The runs column does not matter so much as the wickets column. Although given that Flintoff and Pieterson are two of the batsmen that England’s hopes depend, the runs should take care of themselves. Australia’s bowlers will be bowling to aggressive fields so there will be plenty of scoring opportunities.

However England will make their task a lot easier if they forget about the follow on mark. Unless they are totally routed this morning, it is unlikely to be an issue.

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By the by, I’ve noted online some English supporters are very unhappy about the aggressive nature of the Australian ground authorities. All I can say is that this trend has been going on for years, and is just getting worse and worse. As an Australian, I’d like to apologize to any stray Barmy Army readers who come across this post, because Cricket Australia really are unspeakable.

Our cricket team is wonderful and our administrators are deplorable. There’s nothing we can do about it.

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Greg Baum suggests divine intervention might be required for England. There’s no rain in sight, though. There’s been a nasty drought in Australia this year.

Lawrence Booth admires McGrath’s planning.

England’s rust a warning to the future

I’ve been furious with Steve Harmison throughout this Test, and this year. But on the bus home this morning after work, it struck me that the problem isn’t solely his own. The near-total lack of warm-ups before internationals these days allow no time for any player to prepare sufficiently for the cauldron of a Test. Consequently, we could be entering an era when talent is elbowed aside by sheer fitness-fanatics – and what price will cricket pay? Anyway I wrote some stuff on similar lines, so have a read and offer your own thoughts.

Live: Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, 2nd day

A superb day yesterday for Ricky Ponting and Australia, but all is not lost for England. I say that with my positive hat superglued to my scalp.

We might get a draw, you never know. Get chattin’

1st Test, continued…

More then any other contest, the Ashes series tend to be defined by the first over. In 2005, Harmison hit Langer on the head. This year’s opening salvo was a wide that woke up second slip. For England, it was all downhill from there.

There’s been a lot said already about how bad the English bowlers were. I think though that is harsh. The bowling was honest, after the first hour, and Flintoff was incisive. However it is a blissful batting track, and all five of the Australian batsmen on display looked in tip-top form.

Ponting was sublime. He’s scored nine centuries in his last twelve tests, and this was as good as any of them. His treatment of the short ball was as crisp as ever, and his on-driving was spectacular. He’s in such good nick that he made the bowling look ordinary.

It was heartwarming too to see cricket, and I mean real cricket, not that limited overs stuff, or that 20/20 rubbish, being played before a full house. There was plenty of good natured banter and singing, and plenty of English support, and that is the way it should be.

For Australia, they’ll look to cash in. England can charge back into contention in this match, but only if they bowl well this morning. Hussey and Ponting must both be removed before they settle. If either one of them do settle, Australia are set fair for beyond 500. And Pieterson was getting spin, so what Warne will do with it, I leave to your imagination.

Australian view by Chloe Saltau

English view by Simon Wilde