Now that’s Test cricket!

Right then, that’s the sort of cricket I want to see.

Tough, hard as nails, no mucking about, just getting in down and dirty.

Before we have any complaints that England ‘batted slow’, I just want to point out that it used to be always like this. Steve Waugh’s first day as captain was in the West Indies and Australia crawled to be 6 for 174 at stumps on Day 1. Off the full 90 overs. Of course, you don’t want to rush when you are facing Walsh and Ambrose.

And Australia went on to win that game by a mile.

No, today’s play was classic cricket, at its best. The Adelaide Oval was packed, the pitch was perfect, so it was just head to head between batsmen and bowlers. And a lot of what we saw in Brisbane flowed through to this game. England can bat well enough, but they just let themselves down with poor concentration. Strauss, Cook and Bell all gave their wickets away, after playing themselves in. These guys just have to kick themselves, because they’ll never get a better place to bat.

Not that it was that easy out there, because Australia did bowl well. Clark was the pick of the bowlers, even though he was confused as to why he didn’t bowl more. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely surprised myself- Clark was bowling beautiful lines and all, but you want to be bowling Lee in conditions like this. Lee bowled plenty of rubbish between his best bowling, and that is actually more likely to get you a wicket

That’s how Bell got himself out.

Even though England have had a strong day, as an Australian I’m not too worried yet. Once both sides have had a bat, it will be easier to tell who is placed the best. Australia’s batsmen are good at concentrating as well, and if England back themselves to score 450, Australia’s game-plan will be to first get something like that themselves, then, if possible, to build a first innings lead and try to erase the worry of a fourth innings chase.

But having said that, it has been a very good day for England and they will sleep well tonight.

Scorecard 

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.

****

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.

****

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.

Andrew Strauss’s autobiography: Coming into Play

I’ve just finished reading Andrew Strauss’s book (review is at Cricinfo on Saturday) and it highlighted a worrying trend: the premature autobiography. It’s one which is seemingly unstoppable, too, and not just in sport – although sportsmen offer publishers a tantalising combination of fame and talent which the public will mop up all day long.

It’s just not on, though. The book was fine – it passed a few hours, and I’d have enjoyed it at an airport or on the bus. But I was left with a feeling of “…and?” Of all the recently released autobiographies, at least Strauss’s is nicely written. He received some help from Angus Fraser but, by and large, it is his own work – a tremendous achievement, then. The fact remains that he has only been in the game five minutes. His excitement in arriving in Test cricket is glib, and no different from any other cricketer. Descriptions of the Ashes are neatly written and fondly recalled…but again, it’s nothing we haven’t heard a dozen times before. Worse still, this lets the author down more than us.

I’m sure once he’s finished his career and has progressed into a fulltime journalist, if he chooses, then his final book really will be worth reading. Right now though, it felt unfinished; much like his career, it is only the first chapter.

It’s a shame though. I think I’m right in saying Charlotte Church, who my boss absolutely adores and respects with unrivalled passion, has already published two! She’s about 23 for God’s sake. Yet we can’t blame her or other people for writing them. Books are big money these days. Monty Panesar has accepted a £250,000 deal to write his – he’d be very daft, or perhaps a shrewd businessman, if he turned that down. I guess it’s just a shame for us who have to review them as, essentially, it’s the same old thing over and over again.

Buy now from Amazon.

Who should be in England’s Ashes squad?

It’s very simple: who should be in England’s squad to tour Australia in November? It’s the most important squad announcement since, well, whatever. It’s huge. You get it, we all get it.

Should Jon Lewis get a chance? Has Stuart Broad shown enough? And who will you have as captain; Strauss or Flintoff?

All that kind of thing. I’m not around much today so leave your opinions and let’s work out the squad.

One last look

For the first time this one-day series, or any in recent memory, we can expect an unchanged line-up from England. Something to be celebrated!

As well as providing Collingwood with his 100th ODI cap, tomorrow will also be the last England game before their Ashes squad, and Ashes captain, are announced next week. Strauss will certainly want a win to push his credentials. Test and one-day captaincy are certainly very different, but if Strauss responds with another captain’s innings tomorrow, it will help prove his ability to lead in a form where he had not until recently been a certain selection. But, of course, I wouldn’t like to tempt fate.

England finally compete

At last. After seven one-day thrashings this summer, England finally evaded another whipping with a far improved performance against Pakistan.

They still lost, though.

But nevermind. Crack open the champagne and celebrate for England managed to take Pakistan close. Andrew Strauss batted with great intent – it was a relief to see him leading from the front, in particular skipping down the pitch to disrupt Mohammad Asif’s length. And ol’ Asif really does hate batsmen doing that! Strauss won that particular battle. A pretty good innings, then, helped by some Pakistani fielding at its most hilarious.

I don’t know if they took their eye off the ball, figuratively speaking (considering their series lead, and England’s general uselessness), or if The Rose Bowl is a particularly difficult ground on which to field…but they were hapless. The stand-out performer, and I use that word sparingly and, in this case cautiously, was Inzamam! His elephantine tumbles sent shockwaves…sorry, couldn’t resist. He was really good, Inzy, and batted quite brilliantly to close the game out at the end.

Good things:

  • Younis Khan’s batting. He is a terrific cricketer, and character
  • Younis smashing a four and immediately marching towards the point fielder, shouting and waving
  • Shahid Afridi’s misfield which made him look like a real wally
  • Andrew Strauss’s batting and intent in the field. His relaxed demeanour and wry smile have gone. Mind you, losing that many one-day games is enough to break even the most fierce Cherie Blair grin
  • Watching Ian Bell get hit in the family jewels, via Strauss’s flat-batted pull shot. Corrrrr.
  • Watching Billy Doctrove nearly get hit in the family jewels, star-jumping out of the way like a ballet dancer on acid

Bad things:

  • Rikki Clarke. A first-ball duck, and a very poor and at times clueless spell of bowling. Young and inexperienced, but this was a very special effort
  • Sajid Mahmood. Clearly a gifted bowler, he desperately needs Flintoff or Harmison at mid-off to advise him. He’s going from wayward to waywarder in each match
  • Pakistan’s fielding. It will cost them the World Cup.

The bandwagon continues at Nottingham. Rock on.

Andrew Strauss’s autobiography: Coming into Play

I should probably also mention that Andrew Strauss’s autobiography, Coming into Play, is released on the same day as Kevin Pietersen’s. Strauss writes an excellent column for the Daily Telegraph and, while he’ll have used a ghost for much of this book, he is an intelligent, hard-working cricketer and it too should make for interesting reading. Like Pietersen’s, it can be pre-ordered from Amazon.

Andrew Strauss: Coming into Play

Hugo Boss to sponsor English cricket

We get all sorts of press releases at Cricinfo. Some are breaking news of a player’s injury; others are more PR-related (“Gloucestershire announce new chef – stop the press!”) and most are plain banal. This, however, takes the biscuit:

Hugo Boss are to sponsor English cricket. According to the sickly email we received, Andrew Strauss said “The photo-shoot was a great experience and good fun, with all the boys really getting into it,” a statement bordering on the hilarious yet with a hint of the disturbing, too.

I suppose it’s a good thing. Could you ever have imagined England cricketers being sponsored by anyone other than a tractor company, or Mrs Brabbleflop’s pork pies in Shrewsbury, in the 1990s? Although perhaps that’s just the point: with success (or at least an increase in popularity) comes commercialism, and hungry marketers desperate for a slice of your fame.

I’ll leave the opinions of those pictured up to you. One final thought: is it significant that Strauss is pictured in the middle of the photo…?

74% think Strauss should captain England for the Ashes

Sorry for the tabloid-like headline, but that’s what a hundred or so of you think. The poll continues and I’ll keep it open – and might run it again after The Oval, just to gauge public opinion.