Andrew Hilditch: A Selecting Legend?

10 01 2011

Something now that is a couple of days old, yet we have only just seen it and we couldn’t resist writing something quickly about it…

Andrew Hilditch, Australia’s Chairman of Selectors, believe that the selection panel ‘have done a very good job’. Instead of accepting any blame for the Australian Ashes debacle he has laid all the problems at the players doors saying they were outplayed and didn’t perform as well as they should. The article hits quite an amusing note so we would recommend you read it, but while we’re at it, let’s just have a look at some of the selections and rate how they went…

  1. Started the series by picking a squad of 17 players demonstrating that they didn’t really have a clue what side made up their best eleven. Can’t have given the players much confidence so this is gets a bad rating.
  2. Left out Nathan Hauritz and picked Xavier Doherty. Hauritz had had a nightmare tour against Sachin Tendulkar and company, yet he is hardly alone in that (even the great Shane Warne had a poor record in India) and Doherty was called up despite having a worse than useless first class record. Another bad selection.
  3. Bollinger wasn’t allowed to play for his state prior to the first test causing Australia’s bowler with the best record over the last year to be left out in the first test, only to be called up and dropped when he was clearly not match fit in Adelaide. Definitely a case of bad selection planning.
  4. In a rare good selection, Hussey was picked despite enormous pressure from the media for him to be dropped and immediately justified his place.
  5. After Doherty ever so predictably failed miserably, the selectors, having backed themselves into a corner, apparently read Shane Warne’s piece in the Daily Telegraph suggesting Michael Beer and promptly picked him. Never mind that Hauritz had scored a hundred and taken six wickets in his previous two state games… Clearly a bad piece of selecting.
  6. Hilditch himself then said that Beer could then look forward to his debut at Perth but on the morning of the game was dropped. After dropping Johnson for Adelaide the Aussie selectors welcomed him back into the fold for Perth by saying they had ‘always planned to rest him’ in the second test. These are two further examples of extremely bad and misleading man management although in the selector’s favour…
  7. …Johnson did take 9 wickets in the match. A good if lucky selection considering you simply do not know what you’re going to get with old Mitchell J.
  8. Playing four front line seamers and no spinner at the MCG. Watson, Australia’s usual fourth seamer, was also playing meaning that this had to be about the most badly balanced attack the Aussies have fielded for some time. Again a bad selection which was not thought through. Even Beer would have helped them at the MCG.
  9. Steven Smith. Not a number six. Not a bowler. Claps well in the field though… An appallingly bad selection.

So there we have it – seven bads and two goods (one of which was the equivalent of a dice roll and therefore can almost not be claimed by the selectors) which seems to suggest that Hilditch is living in cloud cuckoo land!

The fact that we as English supporters feel quite outraged by his ostrich impression suggests that he will be in serious danger from the average Australian fan should they get hold of him!

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Ashes Review: Australia (Player by Player)

8 01 2011

Simon Katich (97 runs @ 24.25)

Unfortunately for Australia, Katich’s injury robbed them of perhaps their most consistent player over the past 18 months and some much needed solidity at the top of the order. Got starts in both games before being found out by a combination of Shane Watson’s running and the moving ball. Doubtful perhaps whether he will ever play again although Phil Hughes travails at the top of the order had most Australian’s wishing Katich was still there.

Rating: 5.5/10

Shane Watson (435 runs @48.33, 3 wickets @ 74.33)

Watson must be a frustrating character to have in the team you support. Obviously hugely talented, a fine stroke player and someone who rarely fails. Unfortunately Watson inhabits that middle ground though of not failing but never quite succeeding which, if Australia are honest, is one of the major reasons why their batting never quite fired. Openers are there to score hundreds and on this basis, despite Watson being Australia’s second most successful batsman, he shouldn’t be at the top of the order.

Surprisingly underused as a bowling option although this was as much to do this Australia’s strange selection policies rather than his skippers apathy towards his bowling. Watson is a very decent fourth seamer so why play four front line fast bowlers?!

Rating: 6.5/10

Phil Hughes (97 runs @ 16.16)

Hughes is not currently a test match opener. Against attacks who don’t swing the ball perhaps he might succeed, but any bowler who moves it off the straight will always find him out. Clearly talented and possesses a reasonable temperament so the rudimentary elements are there and it is paramount that Australia work with him. Struggled against Tremlett in particular and is surely going to be returned to state cricket for the foreseeable future.

Rating: 3/10

Ricky Ponting (113 runs @16.14)

We never thought we would see Ricky Ponting struggle against England as much as he did in this series. The pressure, his middling form and perhaps his age all contributed to a series performance which has perhaps meant the end of his career. Possible that lack of other options will continue to ensure he is picked but unlike the other modern great, Sachin Tendulkar, his time appears to be up.

Didn’t look in bad touch entirely as a number of rasping pull shots indicated and he habitually got to 10 or 12 before nicking Anderson or one of the other England bowlers to slip. The catch by Collingwood to dismiss him at Perth will live long in the memory.

Captaincy is always difficult when you’re under the cosh and this was no exception. Often appeared to run out of ideas and could perhaps have stood up for a better balanced side the MCG.

Rating: 3/10

Usman Khawaja (58 runs @ 29.00)

To hear the Australian press you would think a modern Don Bradman had been discovered. Whilst this is clearly over the top and a testimony to the paucity of good news for any Aussie supporter, he did look the part and should be around for some time. Confident, composed and with a lovely pull shot was one bright spot in the Sydney thumping.

Rating: 5/10

Michael Clarke (193 runs @ 21.44)

When your captain and vice-captain average 16 and 21 you know you’re in for a tough series. A shadow of the player he has been in the past and it looks like the scorn the Aussie media and fans alike show for him is finally getting to him. His one major innings came in a losing cause at Adelaide although it tells you all you need to know about his series when you consider a part timer, Pietersen, dismissed him off practically the last ball of the day to set up and England win the following morning.

Showed some good signs captaining initially with some interesting field placings and willingness to do things his own way but was eventually simply overwhelmed by the English juggernaut.

Rating: 3/10

Michael Hussey (570 runs @ 63.33)

Brilliant for the first three tests, it was astonishing to think that Hussey was on the verge of being dropped at the beginning of the series. Almost singlehandedly kept Australia in it in the early stages of the Ashes and his partnership with Haddin at the Gabba was a once in a career performance whilst his hundred at Perth set up the win for the Aussies. The problem is that no one else supported him.

Rating: 8/10

Marcus North (49 runs @ 16.33)

Finally dropped despite scoring very few runs for some time. Probably not a test player on balance as despite his hundreds he scores too many innings below 10. Useful bowling and on that basis alone could have probably played instead of Xavier Doherty.

Rating: 2/10

Steven Smith (159 runs @ 51.80, 0 wickets)

Australia used to laugh at the English when they selected a bit part player but now the boot is on the other foot. Clearly not a number six player due to a technique with more holes in than your average sieve, he looked more comfortable when at seven. The fact that he then was hardly bowled suggest that Australia would have probably been better off without him in the team. Selecting a specialist batsmen at number 7 is something that not many sides do after all…

Rating: 2/10

Brad Haddin

The one player that would possibly get into England’s side on a form basis although even his contributions tailed off by the middle of the series. An excellent hundred at the Gabba and some uncomplicated wicket keeping mean that he, like Hussey, was one of the few who could put their hand up and say they contributed. Latterly, Australia’s vice captain as well.

Rating: 7/10

Mitchell Johnson (122 runs @ 17.42, 15 wickets @ 36.93)

If Johnson could reverse the averages achieved for batting and bowling he would be a devastating all rounder indeed. Chronically inconsistent he is undoubtedly the Australian version of Steve Harmison – someone who when on song is an incredibly dangerous player but, sadly, is rarely on song. His spell in Perth won the match and was reminiscent of Wasim Akram at his best and, even when bowling poorly, still has the habit of picking up the odd wicket here or there. Unfortunately this is negated by the fact he is going for over four an over.

Rating: 5.5/10

Peter Siddle (14 wickets @ 34.57)

Workmanlike, ever willing but only occasionally dangerous, Siddle was nevertheless probably Australia’s best bowler. A memorable hat trick at the Gabba followed by six wickets at the MCG, he only took two other wickets outside of these two venues. Solid lower order batting of the best annoying tail end variety his efforts were ultimately not nearly enough.

Rating: 6.5/10

Ryan Harris (11 wickets @ 25.54)

Harris is a bowler who appears to be without much about him yet was in his three games prior to injury, was undoubtedly Australia’s best and most consistent bowler. Hurried England’s batsman and moved it enough to be a threat. Will want to forget his King Pair in Adelaide though.

Rating: 7.5/10

Ben Hilfenhaus (7 wickets @ 59.28)

Despite taking a wicket with the third ball of the series, Hilfenhaus consistently struggled. Little swing and not a great deal of pace meant that in spite of his consistency (his economy rate was 2.62 in four games) he was ineffective all series long.

Rating: 2/10

Doug Bollinger (1 wicket @ 130.00)

Someone we feel who was a victim of the selectors ridiculous whims and was clearly unfit at Adelaide. When totally match fit someone we feel who is still amongst the best four bowlers Australia have.

Rating: 1/10

Xavier Doherty (3 wickets @ 102)

Remember him? It seems an age ago now, but Doherty was flawed pick right from the start. An appalling first class record was not belied by his performances and his time is unlikely to come again. Did get KP out – on 227.

Rating: 2/10

Michael Beer (1 wicket @ 112)

The man whose name inspired a thousand awful puns and was another ridiculous pick by the selectors. With only five first class games under his belt he did at least look better than Doherty, yet may quickly find himself on the scrap heap anyway. Still someone who is not going to run through a side.

Rating: 2/10





Pietersen Frustrates and Careful of Khawaja

4 01 2011

Well that was a proper test match days cricket with the game swinging first one way then the other before finally ending up more or less as it started with England just ahead. From this position England should be looking to push on and score in excess of 350 and would like something more in the region of 450 ideally. If they can achieve this latter figure then the series, the Ashes and the Sydney test should all be theirs. As at Perth however, Australia’s score of 280 is not looking too bad and with Johnson and Hilfenhaus showing signs that their finest form might not be too far away, anything could still happen.

Next in to bat is Paul Collingwood and, with Anderson in as nightwatchman and liable to be dismissed at any time, England would dearly love one of the Durham mans career saving innings tomorrow. Cook, as he has done all series batted without flamboyance to score a valuable 61 not out. If he can go on tomorrow to score what would be his third century of the series then England should be secure. His partner in prolific scoring, Jonathan Trott, endured a rare failure, playing at a ball which he should probably have left from Johnson and dragging the ball on.

This error of judgment brought in the wonderfully talented but frustrating Kevin Pietersen. When he first burst onto the scene five years ago in that epic Ashes series of 2005 and for perhaps two years after, people began to suggest that he could establish himself as one of the true all time greats of England’s history and the modern era. Frustratingly for us, and we suspect many other English fans, he has proved to be too flawed to really establish himself as a great on the level of a Hutton, Hobbs, Gooch or Compton. Instead he inhabits the level below this as a player of genuine world class but despite his enormous talents to rival any of the greats, his temperament and shot selection frequently let him down.

Whilst on one hand this frustration is testimony to his talents and ability, the fact remains that KP’s flaws have a habit of making themselves felt at inconvenient times. He has a history of being dismissed when set and today was no different. Despite a couple of early alarms, Pietersen had settled and had begun to look really good when he played what can only be called a totally unnecessary hook shot at a harmless ball from Johnson. Coming as it did with three overs of the day to go, he would have had every right to receive a dressing down from Flower and Strauss. Being got out is one thing (a la Strauss) but in effect dismissing yourself is frustrating for all concerned – especially when you have a track record of doing this sort of thing. To make the transition to all time England great KP has to cut out these errors although with 71 tests under his belt you must suspect that this isn’t going to happen.

All the noise in the Aussie press has been the hailing of Usman Khawaja as a major talent and someone to carry the Aussie batting for the next decade following his innings of 37 in the first innings. We grant you that he looked composed, played some attractive and confident shots and generally looked like he belonged at test level; but to get as excited as the Aussie media are – well we feel it’s a little over the top!

It is of course a symptom of where the Australian’s find themselves as a team, but, the number of Aussies clutching at straws (any straws) to get something positive out of this Ashes is extraordinary. Even as recently as the previous Australian Summer, it was typical of the Australian cricketing establishment to congratulate themselves that any player coming into the Australian side would be of the requisite class to succeed – all due to the innate strength of Aussie cricket of course. This has now been exposed as a fallacy with players such as Phil Hughes, previously acclaimed as champions in waiting, shown up for the talented but flawed players they are.

Having said all this we do want to reiterate that Khawaja did look very good indeed but, for his sake if nothing else, don’t heap too much extra pressure on him yet. He has after all got almost 13,000 test runs less than the man who he has replaced and almost 4700 runs less than his captain for this test – the man who at least one Australian paper suggested Khawaja’s presence would help by ensuring Australia aren’t two wickets down for nothing every time Clarke walks into bat.

Finding your feet at test cricket is hard enough but expecting him to immediately be Australia’s ‘gun’ batsman is ridiculous.





The Ashes Are On But It’s Not All Bad For England

19 12 2010

So much for almost having their fingers on the urn then!

England were outplayed in every department of this game, yet again finding the pacier, bouncier pitch of Perth not much to their liking. It is our considered opinion though that there is no reason to panic and that England remain, on balance, the finer of the two sides.

Before this test series started the general consensus was that it would be a close affair fought tooth and nail to the end. After the Adelaide induced hubris of the fans and pundits, if not the team themselves perhaps, and considering England’s track record of winning well only to follow up with a serious low soon afterwards, this result shouldn’t have been entirely unexpected.

The positive view point from England’s perspective is that it was a sharp, bitter taste of reality and a reminder that there is still much work to be done in this series. For Australia of course there were plenty of good things to take from this test. The astonishing return to form of Mitchell Johnson; the batting of Watson (not that he has ever failed exactly – just this time he scored more than his usual 50 odd) and of course the once again peerless batting of Michael Hussey. If Ricky Ponting is indeed out, there is no question as to who should replace him in the number three slot (and probably as captain) leaving a probable debutant at 5. Ryan Harris, too, bowled well in the second innings although scoreboard pressure and silly shots had ensured the fight had long gone out of England by the time he mopped up the tail.

The fact remains though that without Hussey and Johnson playing so extraordinarily well England would have likely been in this game still. The key for the rest of the series in Australia’s case is whether Johnson can maintain his form – something that his previous track record suggests might be tricky.

Hussey on the other hand appears to go on and on and at this rate will be in serious danger of breaking some longstanding records. England need a plan to him immediately and preferably one that doesn’t involve bowling a succession of short balls to feed his pull shot. They’ve proved he can pull like the best of them and, as England fans, we desperately don’t want to see anymore… In fact it’s a bit like Doherty’s dismissal of Pietersen in the Adelaide test – Hussey did get out to the short ball so, if it was a plan, it worked eventually – the problem was he had over a hundred by then.

Tremlett deserves praise albeit he was one of the main contributors to the short ball mania in the second innings and perhaps struggled a little at the left handers in the Australian side. Nevertheless it was still a hugely impressive comeback and one that is likely to have secured his place in the team for a while – potentially at the expense of Steve Finn.

Whilst he was inconsistent and expensive, Finn does have an uncanny knack for picking up wickets which is useful in any bowler. We would hesitate to drop him for Boxing Day at the MCG as some have suggested – he is after all the leading wicket taker on either side.

Looking ahead, there have been some calls by ex-players, Flintoff and Jonathan Agnew amongst them, to play five bowlers at the MCG as it is likely to be another bouncy result wicket. Considering the batting woes in this test we would hesitate to play a side along these lines as we think it could weaken what was already a major problem for England in this match. Despite the inconsistent performance of the bowlers in this test England still managed to take 20 wickets so we would suggest this isn’t really why England lost.

The possible swap, Bresnan for Collingwood is a non starter in our eyes. It is true that Collingwood contributed little with the bat, but I’m not sure who else would have taken that catch at slip off Ponting on the first day for one. As we saw someone describe him on Twitter, he is a cockroach of a cricketer and will surely score some runs at the MCG now that, once more, his place is under threat.

All things considered there is no need to panic, or indeed conversely get carried away on the Australian side. From England’s point of view the plan should be simple: Namely, get Hussey out early and bat better. If they can do this there is no reason why they shouldn’t wrap things up in Melbourne.





Inebriated By Beer: The Selection Merry-Go-Round Continues

10 12 2010

The Australian squad has been announced for the third test at the WACA. Not normally a haven for spin bowlers, Australia have taken the unusual step of naming two in their squad. One of these is the brilliantly named but ridiculously lucky Michael Beer of whom we wrote two days ago.

Having done our ridiculing of this, at the time only potential, selection we will not continue in this vein much further save to observe that it appears Australia are giving out baggy greens (or saggy greens as one Aussie paper had it) for free these days. Apparently all you need is a handful of first class games, a very few wickets and not a great deal else.  The two main reasons given by the selectors – his apparent local knowledge and his performance against England in their warm up game – also hold little water (or perhaps beer…) as he has played only 3 first class matches at the WACA and, against England, took 5 wickets but at a cost of over forty each and went for five an over. Great stuff all round.

Beer though is still likely to miss out as with North dropped and Steve Smith likely to bat at seven with Haddin at six, the team could have a highly unusual aspect for a Perth pitch if two spinners are played. It is true that Monty Panesar took five wickets in the first innings here back in 2006, yet despite the slowing of what was once a fast and hard track, two spinners would still be a surprise.

In a further classic move by the selectors Johnson and Hilfenhaus have been recalled. Absence, as the say, makes the heart grow fonder and this has never been truer than in the case of these two but particularly Johnson. Hilfenhaus should probably never have been dropped, his steadiness and consistency would have been a boon for the Aussies at Adelaide, yet Johnson – a man who has played no cricket in the interim – is suddenly being hailed as the saviour and attack leader once more. Something that is quite frankly ridiculous.

Of course it is entirely possible that Johnson could take five wickets at Perth as that is the sort of scattergun bowler he is – yet we believe it far more likely that he will simply go at five and over and not particularly trouble England.

With the game against Victoria under way this morning and 22 year old Michael Hill having scored a hundred don’t be surprised if his name pops up in the squad for the MCG. At the rate the Aussies are going there won’t be many players not to have been chosen by the end of the Summer.

Strauss and company must be rubbing their hands in delight.





The Gabba, Day 5: More of the same please!

29 11 2010

England 260 & 517-1 drew with Australia 481 & 107-1

Well done Alistair Cook. Well done Andrew Strauss. Well done Jonathan Trott.

What a scorecard! (Just in case you have forgotten – here it is writ large…)

Perfection.

Through the dark days of the ‘90’s and early 2000’s we dreamt of waking up to see a scorecard along these lines and, whilst it wasn’t topped off with a win, it was worth the wait! That it came in Australia only serves to make it all the sweeter as deep down, behind most of the cautious and wildly optimistic, every Englishman would own up to a crawling, sneaking worry in their guts that things hadn’t changed. Now, with one of those draws that feels a bit like a win under their belts, and a clear demonstration of what our heads, if not our hearts, already knew those latent fears have been assuaged.

Yes it is true that it was Australia in a winning position on Saturday morning and, realistically, England never had much of a shot at it but, despite all this, it will be England who are feeling happiest. In our opinion, this Ashes will probably come down to a combination of belief and having a settled side that knows their roles exactly. England have this but Australia only have one of those necessary components. We have little doubt that the Australians still believe they can win but it would be unlikely if they were to do that in amongst so much potential chopping and changing. Not, of course, that it is a given they will change players for Adelaide but, if we were a betting syndicate, we’d lay a lot of money on them changing two or perhaps even three.

Firstly, Bollinger has to come in for Johnson. Hardly a revolutionary statement but one which is so full of validity that it’s practically over flowing. Siddle has taken six wickets so he’s safe at least, Hilfenhaus was one of the few bowlers to look reasonable in India so we feel that it would be a mistake to drop him. Doherty of course is a spinner (more on whom in a minute) which leaves old Mitchell. Probably the biggest insult I could give him, although if reversed it could also be conceivable that it is a compliment, is that he is definitely the Australian Steve Harmison. On a good day devastating but sadly ineffective and leaking runs the rest of the time.

Doherty is the other who will be concerned although it would be unfair in the extreme to drop him immediately. The Australian spin bowling revolving door was not wedged shut by his performance at the Gabba, something that was hardly unexpected as he simply looked exactly what he is – an average state bowler whose not going to let anyone down but equally not going  to run through a test side on a fifth day pitch. We have heard some people mention the possibility of two spinners at Adelaide in which case Hauritz might come back but all this would achieve is to make the Australian selectors look stupid. They got two of their selection calls right – Hussey and Siddle – but remain as confused as ever about the third.

Inevitably it is Marcus North who is the batsman (or bowling all rounder as someone wittily put it) under pressure but, with the squad for the second test already announced, and with only 6 front line batsman in it, it is safe to say he will play. There is a chance that Doherty could be dropped and North could provide the spin option (a suggestion that is not that foolish as North has a better first class record than Australia’s premier spinner…) but this would not satisfy most Australians who want to see him cast out forever, never to return.

From England’s point of view it is easy. Same side again and, providing England can deliver upfront a little better, it could well be happy days for English fans. With a bit more luck Anderson and company will be in business and if this happens – well, Australia are there for the taking.

Mind you – Australia will be saying they were the ones that were in the winning position and, therefore, it’s England who are there for the taking….

Thoughts please!

 





Dingo’s Rant: An Aussie’s Ashes Predictions

24 11 2010

More from our increasingly nervous resident Aussie:

“The aim of English cricket is, in fact, mainly to beat Australia.” Jim Laker.

So here we go again.

A confident, conquering English cricket team struts into town to pour misery on an already sorrowful Aussie cricket team.

Hang on… I’m pretty sure that’s not how it’s meant to read! How did it come to this? We all knew Australian cricket was on the slide – but being the underdogs against the pommies on home soil? It’s all too much to bear.

The Australian selectors have decided to stick with generally the same team that’s been continually losing for the past couple of years – some close games mind you – but losses none the less.

One small change to be noted; the left arm slow bowler, Xavier Doherty, comes in for Hauritz – assumedly, perhaps, because Kevin Pietersen has a knack of getting out to bowlers of this type. Besides, Hauritz was neither taking wickets, nor holding up an end or even getting runs with the bat. Other than that, of course, he was not doing a whole lot wrong.

Hussey has retained his spot. In days of old, senior players were retained during bad form; doing so to enable them to retire gracefully or with a bang, but, with world class players liberally dotted about the team – this was easy to do. A team of Waughs, Haydens and Gilchrists could be counted on to carry an out of form player. Hussey has never really done enough for the baggy green to deserve this favour and there’s simply not enough in form players around him to cover.

Luckily for him, his understudies have also not done enough to state unequivocally their cause. With both Ferguson and  Khawaja failing quite miserably in the Australia A versus England warm up match. So Hussey stays and North also gets another shot – much to the chagrin of most supporters.

Ponting gets older and so his inability to play the short ball, or anything aimed at the stumps, leaves him looking a little fragile. The openers at least look settled and should provide a few runs before the ball becomes worn and all batsmen become clueless against the guile and skill of England’s trump card, Graeme Swann.

This is where we’re hoping Clarke, crook back and all, will hopefully dance his way around the crease and gather a few crucial runs. He may not be well liked by the Australian public with his carefully manicured image grating on most people’s nerves, but If he wins us back the urn through his batting – we’ll let it slide!

Bollinger will take wickets as long as his toupee stays secure. Hilfenhaus will bowl. A lot. And Johnson will try to aim the ball somewhere near the batsmen and, once every 4 overs, will bowl that unplayable delivery that will either take a wicket or knock someone’s teeth out. He, along with Siddle, have said they feel Strauss is the key wicket and will target getting his wicket with a barrage short deliveries.

Two things here: First; why are we targeting just one player? Perhaps targeting all 11 would seem a better plan… Second; with the short balls being feasted on recently by the visiting Sri Lankans, maybe bowling stump to stump would be a little more productive? Especially at tail-enders against whom we have struggled recently.

So, getting down to it, here’s how I see it:

Most Wickets

With the abundance of rain recently England will feel a little more at home; the ball will probably even swing a bit so Broad will be a definite handful. However, Swann be the man and will continue to bamboozle the Australians and most probably take about 89 wickets. For Australia, Johnson will knock out most of the top order (retired hurt counts as a wicket in my eyes) so we’ll go with him.

Most runs

According to the great Shane Warne, unless England stroke KP’s ego, he’ll sulk his way into mediocrity. Alistair Cook is still rubbish and Strauss apparently will be the only player Australia targets, but, I think It’ll be Bell who finally steps up and nurdles his way to be England’s top run gatherer. For Australia – boy that’s tough…  I’m going to go with Clarke as long as his back holds up – he does have the temperament to get things done in tough conditions.

Who will get the Urn?

As for the outcome…  Well England have powered through their warm up matches. Everyone looks in good nick and the camp is full of confidence.

But – it’s not going to be their year. I’ll back Australia to come through. Their build up has been lackluster; their recent record abysmal; and every second man is carrying a niggle – but they’re at home; their backs are against the wall and we love a good fight. (I predict also it’ll be a wonderful fight!)

Australia 2-1.








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