Ricky Ponting on the Adelaide Test

Quite an interesting podcast interview with Ricky Ponting can be heard here.

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.

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?

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.

Ponting and Buchanan under fire from Ritchie

God it’s been a tough weekend. Walking on the beach; sitting in the pub, sitting in another pub overlooking another beach; walking on the cliffs overlooking a beach; eating fresh fish in our local pub with a beer and walking the three minutes to our house; walking round Salcombe and eating far too many pasties. I’m exhausted with my gluttonous relaxation. So it’s with tired eyes I read of Greg Ritchie’s bashing of John Buchanan and Ricky Ponting.

If Australia’s coach and captain remain in power, Ritchie thinks England will win the Ashes.

“Australia would win the Ashes if Shane Warne was captain,” Ritchie was quoted in The Sydney Morning Herald. “On the field, he [Ponting] doesn’t know what’s going on. England’s bowlers have our measure.”

Read the full story at Cricinfo then come back here and leave comments.

Ricky Ponting on Monty Panesar

Australians have historically had some trouble against slow left armers, although more so on their own wickets then in Australia, but  Ricky Ponting rates Panesar highly. So much so that he’s already decided that he has to be attacked from the outset by Australia’s batsmen, in order to prevent him from settling into a rythym.

“I’ve watched it all pretty closely. He’s got this cult figure behind him, but more importantly for them, he’s actually doing the job for them on the field,” said Ponting, who first noticed Panesar during last year’s Ashes tour when he took Michael Clarke’s wicket in a county game.

“He didn’t look like he was scared to throw the ball up a little bit and actually try and get you out,” Ponting said.

“A lot of the Englishmen over the years have been a bit guilty of just firing the ball in a bit too fast, and you can see with him he uses the air a lot more. He’s got good, subtle changes of pace and, watching the other night, a really good arm ball as well. You could see from that that one day he might have the chance to play for England.

“He’s probably a more attacking bowler than Giles was, and a wicket-taking option for them, more so than Giles was. Giles … did what the team required of him, but it looks like this guy can actually do both — keep it reasonably tight if needed and when it starts to turn a bit more, he can bowl some pretty handy deliveries as well.

Ponting is looking to the lefthanders in the lineup to ‘get after’ Panesar.

“The left-handers especially, Justin and Matty, the way they generally play spin is to be fairly aggressive,” he said. “But at other times, we won’t be able to be. We’ll try to make some sort of impact on him early on — hopefully a positive one — and we don’t let him get on top of us.”

The Australians will study plenty of footage of Panesar between now and the Ashes, perhaps keeping in mind that New Zealand’s left-arm finger spinner Daniel Vettori has a fine record against them. Still, Australian coach John Buchanan said England’s first dilemma would be whether to play the new cult hero ahead of Giles, who is desperate to return from a hip injury. “He (Giles) has been one of the key players for an England side for a long period of time and someone that (coach Duncan) Fletcher has relied on quite a lot … so they will have some interesting decisions,” said Buchanan, who also has been impressed with Panesar.

“He’s actually a spinner, whereas I think Giles began as a medium pacer, then developed into a spin bowler. But Panesar is a craftsman, I think, a bit of an artist.”

Another key figure might well be Michael Hussey, who will undoubtedly anchor the middle order. However, Ponting is right to take this approach. Confidence is everything to a bowler, and especially spinners. If Australia can negate Panesar’s confidence, England will find their task much harder.

ICC presidency: handle cricket with care

There’s plenty of ways to measure the health of cricket. How many people are paying to get in, of course. Television ratings, column inches, blog posts are another.

But there is a more intangible way of measuring the health of cricket, and that is in the emotional commitment of those same spectators to the game. One of the most delightful images to come out of the Headingley Test was actually a row of spectators, all dressed up in Superman outfits, with Monty Panesar style beards and turbans.

monty fans.JPG

Of course, getting dressed up to go to the cricket is a long standing Headingley tradition. You can see a Batman & Robin duo in the photo, and a couple of Homer Simpsons, as well.

But in identifying with a particular player, these fans in the Super Monty Panesar outfits are making a statement- they are big fans of the guy, and really enjoy his efforts for England, to the point where they are willing to make an effort to show the world.

It is also a symbol, I think, that the emotional commitment between England’s cricket team, and its fans, is in robust good health. It has in fact been in good health for a long time. Even in the darkest days of England’s cricket in the 1990’s, the fans cared, and the England team have always responded to that. They were not always able to respond with runs and wickets, especially in Australia, but all three England captains Down Under made it pretty plain that they really got a kick out of the support that they got.

Contine reading

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

Brett Lee’s burnout tale is starting to wear thin

I noticed another story in the Australian media about how Australian cricketers are highlighting the danger of ‘burnout’, this time it is Brett Lee doing the talking. Interestingly, he is in India doing promotional work. He may be burnt out, but clearly not so much that international travel is beyond him.

Local authorities are nervous about Australia’s commitment to the Champions Trophy after suggestions from Adam Gilchrist that some Aussies may need to rest from the event which ends a week before the Ashes series begins.

England coach Duncan Fletcher has suggested that players such as Andrew Flintoff may also need to be given a break during the one-day series.

According to local reports Lee was less than convincing when asked if he would return for the tournament.

“I would love to play it because that’s the only trophy we haven’t won. But, then, I will play if I am fit enough to play at that time. Frankly, I love coming to the subcontinent,” Lee said.

“To us the Ashes is more important than anything else. We had the hold over it for 18 long years. We are very keen to win it back.”

To be fair to Brett, I’m sure that he IS very tired right now, and promoting watches is not the most difficult of tasks. However, the Champions Trophy is not now, it is in October. The Australian players will be coming into the tournament after a five month break.

I think there is a hidden agenda here. I think that the Australians are planning to tank the tournament so that they can come home and play a couple of domestic first class games to prepare for the Ashes.

That is a big claim to make, and one that Australian players will, I am sure, deny with shocked expressions if you were put it to them. However, given the demands of the fixtures list in the 2006/07 seasons, it is in fact the only sensible thing to do. The Australian team has four different contests on its plate next summer.

  • The Champions Trophy
  • The Ashes
  • The domestic ODI triangular
  • The World Cup

Now, you do not have to be a rocket scientist to understand which two of those four contests are going to be a high priority for the players. If the domestic ODI triangular was axed, the Ashes could be spread out into January, and the players from both England and Australia could have a decent preparation. But it isn’t so they won’t get that preparation, UNLESS they take a dive in the Champions Trophy.

Of course it is not acceptable to say that in public, so they are coming out with this nonsense about ‘burnout’.

That dillema is actually made explicit in this story about Glenn McGrath’s preparation for his comeback next season.

McGrath, 36, wants to begin his comeback in earnest in the Champions Trophy limited-overs tournament in India in October, then return home for a couple of Pura Cup matches for New South Wales.

But if Australia reaches at least the semi-final stage of the Champions Trophy – a tournament it has never won – he won’t feature in the Pura Cup.

The Blues have matches between October 27 and 30 at the Gabba and November 3 to 6 in Adelaide, with their next from November 24 to 27 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

The first Ashes Test begins at the Gabba on November 23.

Selection chairman Andrew Hilditch said this week McGrath was “gearing himself up” to be ready for the tournament, but captain Ricky Ponting has advised him to bypass the Indian trip and prepare via a stint in English county cricket.This would enable him to deliver some long and repeated spells and regain match fitness. McGrath traditionally takes times to find his rhythm, and Australia cannot afford to ease him into the Ashes.

“Personally, I feel that it would be perfect for me to (play in the Champions Trophy) and have a couple of games in the Pura Cup,” McGrath said.

“That’s my plan. But if they would prefer me to look at county cricket, I would look at that.”

So you can see where the priority of the cricketers lies. And I do not blame them one bit. It is the administrators that force this on players with ridiculous ODI tournaments. The Champions Trophy has no credibility because it is forced into odd places in the international calendar by the likes of Australia’s triangulars, a tournament that lost its credibility a long time ago anyway.

And these considerations apply just as much to the English who by coming off a busy domestic season have a much more valid claim to cite burnout.