Notes from the pavilion for October 17th

Links of note from the past 24 hours:

Harmison and Jones on the comeback trail

So Steve Harmison is beginning to show signs of mental rehabilitation from the horror show of last winter, with eight wickets in the match against Worcestershire. In an interesting piece for The Times, Robin Scott-Elliott notes that Harmison has already bowled more Championship overs a week into the 2007 season than he did all last summer (just 32).

Today is an important milestone for Simon Jones who plays in his first competitive game for Glamorgan in almost a year, a Friends Provident Trophy thing against Somerset. Will he last a whole game intact?

Fast, and not so fast, bowlers

There’s been more ink and bytes spilled on the Steve Harmison issue then any other English player in the last week or so then I can remember. Given that so many English hopes rested on his shoulders, that is understandable.

Jagadish crunches some numbers on Harmison. Meanwhile, his fellow fast bowlers escape scrutiny.

England’s other bowlers deserve some stick as well. Matthew Hoggard is an honest toiler, but he will struggle in Australian conditions. The lack of reverse swing has gone a long way to de-fang him. And, let me make it clear, it would have de-fanged Simon Jones as well, if he had been here. There might have been a few less half volleys, but it is wishful thinking to think that England’s attack would be much more dangerous with Jones about. At best, he might have stemmed the tide.

Since Jones is not around, England called upon two younger sorts. Jimmy Anderson got the nod at Brisbane, and he was mediocre. His bowling figures reflect that too. He was not able to bowl a consistent line or length to develop any pressure on the batsmen and Australia’s batsmen just waited for the bad balls and picked him off.

And there’s no excuse for that- his performance was barely worthy of first class cricket. Anderson needs to stop worrying about his hair product, get a copy of his Brisbane pitchmap, and get his arse in the nets and start working.

He certainly doesn’t deserve a place in the Adelaide Test but he might get it; the only other pace alternative is Sajid Mahmood. I saw Mahmood in the first game of the tour against the Prime Minister’s XI, and he was even worse then Anderson. If England seriously bring him into the XI for Adelaide, it will be Christmas come early for the Australian batsman.

Much more likely is the introduction of Monty Panesar. I’ve not seen him bowl except for highlights, but everyone that has seen him was surprised that he wasn’t included at the Gabba. From what I can tell, England’s best option is to include both spinners, and rely on Flintoff to attack with short sharp bursts, including the new ball.

Giles is not regarded as a serious wicket-taking options, but he does have the merit of keeping it tight. That is a handy virtue to have while Panesar is attacking at the other end. It is a huge ask to Panesar on Ashes debut, but England’s bowling plight is desperate, and there’s nothing else for it.

Anyway, that’s my take. Tim de Lisle has his take here. What’s your take?

An interruption while the sightscreen is adjusted….

In other words, there is sod all news. There’s a new round of county championship matches going on, if that is your cup of tea. Personally, I prefer Bundaburg Rum.

Journalists asked Mike Hussey for his thoughts, and all he could come up with was some lame talk about how reverse swing won’t have such an impact in Australia. That’s not really news; Pakistani bowlers have been coming to Australia for ages and keep getting carted.

I don’t think that reverse swing by itself is a magic bullet, and to keep going on about it, I think, takes away some of the gloss on just how well Simon Jones bowled last year. It’s kind of like a wrong-un that a leg spinner brings out of the hat. It’s a great ball, sure, but the other deliveries have to be on the money as well.

See, it’s not that hard to have opinions!

In desperation, the journalists went to the old firm c Marsh b Lillee. Rod Marsh obliged with some nice things to say about Monty Panesar.

While much of the focus has been on the pace attack, Marsh — Panesar’s former coach — said the bowler had what it took to succeed on Australian wickets.

“Technically, I think he’s a very fine bowler,” Marsh said. “He’s got as good an action as I reckon I’ve ever seen on a finger spinner.”

The 24-year-old left-armer, the first Sikh to play for England, rocketed into Ashes contention with eight wickets in England’s morale-boosting innings victory over Pakistan at Old Trafford this week. Panesar took 5-72 on the last day.

“They’ve got to bring him here (for the Ashes),” said Marsh, who helped guide Panesar’s development at the England Cricket Academy. “He’s become a bit of a cult figure in England. The crowds will love him here — one way or the other.”

Former England captain David Gower is another who thinks Panesar has what it takes, saying: “His big challenge will come in Australia this winter … where the home crowds will be quick to seize on any signs of weakness.”

The home crowds will be full of English tourists so Monty’s got nowt to worry about.

Meanwhile DK Lillee was waving the flag for Australia’s up and coming pace duo of Tait and Mitchell Johnson, and saying that England would miss Vaughan.

Well, yeah.  And????

That slacker Will is lazing on a beach, without a care in the world. It’s a tough life for some. How about for you?

England’s injuries ignite the phoney war?

OK this pretty interesting. Stu’s been blogging a while and is a regular commenter, as he was during the Ashes. But something strange is happening. While everyone else in Australia has already written England off since last September – understandably, given the piss-awful-luck with injuries and whatnot – Stu has a different theory: it’s mind games! Here’s what he says (sorry Stu for nicking it…)

“The devil’s greatest trick, was convincing the world he didn’t exist…”. Australia weren’t just outplayed during the Ashes series of 2005 – they were out thought, out managed, out administered and played by the English press like Grand Pianos…and it’s happening again.

My tip is, that Jones will play in November, as will Vaughan, and Flintoff and anyone else who, between now and then, has doubt cast on them…and there will be someone else who is “out of the Ashes”. Australians pride themselves on this “sportsmanship” (read mind games) but they are being done now, by canny Englishmen, who for once have the ability to back up the talk, on the field.

All I can hope is that that the Aussies stay quiet, and come out onto the Gabba and win the first session of the first test so convincingly that they set up the rest of the series right there…

I can’t say I agree, but then I’m English. So what does this mean? Are England better placed than people think? Will Michael Vaughan and Simon Jones make miraculous recoveries? If you’re an Australian, do you agree with Stu and if not, why not?

Vaughan and Jones could return – Ponting

“You’ve got to remember those guys have been ruled out a long time ago and there is still a few months to go before the series,” Ponting said yesterday.

“It’s a long time to get over any sort of injury. I’m pretty sure they will want Vaughan and Jones here if they can get them here. We are preparing to play a full-strength side.”

Come off it! Vaughan’s finished, everyone knows that. But I don’t know what to make of this. Either he’s stirring, or he genuinely thinks both players could return. He’s desperate, isn’t he, to have the exact same England side which beat them last year. He wants a copybook series but a 4-0 result. He’s hurting, still. Am I reading too much into all this?

And look. Legends, one and all. Tony Greig and Bill Lawry on the right, who we at Cricinfo religiously imitate almost every day without fail

Ricky Ponting, Michael Slater, Tony Greig and Bill Lawry

Update: for those preferring proper sentences I’ve written it up on Cricinfo

Simon Jones out of the Ashes

Well, he’s not confirmed out – but more-or-less. I imagine he might retire in the not-too-distant future, which is a crying shame given his superb performance in the Ashes last year.

Simon Jones limps off. Again

Well it was too good to be true, wasn’t it? Simon Jones, after taking a few wickets for Glamorgan in a C&G match, limped off and might not play in the first Test against Sri Lanka. What a bloody nuisance, and how depressing for Jones.

England a ‘one man team’?

Actually that is a simplification of remarks that Matthew Hayden made in an interesting interview to The Wisden Cricketer magazine. I think if you challenged him on that score, what he would agree is that Andrew Flintoff is the player that made the difference between the two sides. He does add tremendous depth to England’s cause and I doubt England can be a real force in cricket without him.

Not that the likes of Simon Jones, Michael Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick are not great cricketers. It is just that Flintoff completes the team, instead of just having a collection of useful cricketers.

It’s notable that Flintoff made an impression on Australia; indeed, so much so that selectors immediately started looking around for their own version. They invested hopes in Shane Watson, and he’s got a bit about him; a hard hitting batsman and a fast bowler that can get the ball up at around 140 kmph. However he injured himself in the Test against West Indies at the Gabba and his place has been taken by Andrew Symonds. Symonds has proved himself a modest cricketer at this level, and is no match for Flintoff, at least in Test cricket.

And sadly Watson’s comeback plans have been thwarted again. He scored 201 before retiring hurt in Queensland’s win in the Sheffield Shield, and that injury has now kept him out of the ODI leg of the Bangladesh tour. Australia will have to look elsewhere to find a match-winning all-rounder.

The Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack 2006

Wisden Cricketers' AlmanackThe Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack 2006 launches tomorrow. I caught up with the editor, Matthew Engel, and you can read my mumblings at Cricinfo. We can also exclusively reveal the five Cricketers of the Year:

Andrew Flintoff was named Leading Cricketer in the World for 2005.

It’s also an exciting time for Cricinfo. After nearly four years of work, involving countless people, we have launched the Almanack online. This means you can search for any Wisden match report, article or obituary from 1864 – 2006! Pretty cool we hope you agree.