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





Ashes Review: England (Player by Player)

7 01 2011

Andrew Strauss (307 runs @ 43.85)

A man who has made history for English cricket. Although not in the same quantity as his opening partner, Alistair Cook, he scored vital runs at the top of the order with his hundred at the Gabba and his momentum grabbing 60 off 58 balls in the 5th test springing to mind. Also a vital part of the England fielding machine with his catching behind the wicket being more or less perfect all series.

Led the side excellently and appeared to have plans for all the Australian batsman which, thanks to the quality of the bowling, usually worked. Could still be a touch conservative for our tastes on occasions but this is frankly quibbling. Fully deserves all the plaudits he is likely  to receive. Now onward and upward…

Rating: 8/10

Alistair Cook (766 runs @ 127.66)

One feels that 766 will be a number forever associated with the Essex opener after this series. A tour in which he went from perceived weak point to run machine and lifted his average from a reasonable 42.78 to a world class 47.50 it would be fair, perhaps, to predict that this could well be the high point of his career. A double hundred to save the game in Brisbane followed by two big hundreds in Adelaide and Sydney to set up the two innings wins are astonishing returns and fully justified his selection as Man of the Series.

Rating: 9.5/10

Jonathan Trott (445 runs @ 89.00)

Like Cook, Trott also had a memorable series with the bat and has entrenched himself as England’s number 3 for years to come. We started the year doubting him after some frenetic and poor performances in South Africa and Bangladesh, but have finished believing in him entirely. There is something delightfully unfussy in the way he bats, always totally aware of his options and never taking undue risks (until Sydney perhaps when over confidence lured him into dragging a wide Johnson ball on). Loves playing Australia.

Rating: 8.5/10

Kevin Pietersen (360 runs @ 60.00)

Not quite as consistent as some of his colleagues with two thirds of his runs coming in a single innings, it was still a series in which we were pleased to welcome him back as, while perhaps not England’s ‘gun’ batsman anymore, certainly one of our best. Still guilty of throwing his wicket away on occasions when set, he needs to erase these habits to truly claim his place in the elite echelons of English batsmen. His 227 in Adelaide will live long in the memory however and for that alone he deserves enormous praise. Also picked up an important wicket at Adelaide which hastened the Australian demise before the rain set in.

Rating: 7/10

Paul Collingwod (83 runs @ 13.83)

Obviously a dreadful series with the bat but as ever Collingwood is a player whose contributions in other areas offset this partially. Fortunate in that his lack of runs did not matter in the grand scheme of things with the prolific form of the other batsman, he was nevertheless outstanding catching in the arc from slips to gully coupled with crucial wickets here and there – notably Hussey in the Australian first innings at Sydney. Such a team man that there is no doubt the win means more than his personal performance and bows out from the game a much loved member of the side.

Rating: 4/10

Ian Bell (329 runs @ 65.80)

Bell has always been a joy to watch, the sheer timing and gracefulness of his batting meaning that he has always made it look easy, and finally he has added the steel to go with his undoubted talent. Suffered in part from a lack of opportunities to score runs at the beginning of the series due to either being forced to bat with the tail or simply not getting in early enough, he eventually got to a much deserved hundred in Sydney. Our pick as our leading run scorer in the series he failed to quite hit these heights due to Cooks efforts, yet this has still been a brilliant tour for the Warwickshire man.

Rating: 8/10

Matt Prior (252 runs @ 50.40, 23 catches 0 stumpings)

After a slow start with the bat, an excellent morale sapping hundred in Sydney allied with an excellent 80 at the MCG means that this has been yet another successful series for the excellently hirsute man. Allied with an impressively inconspicuous performance behind the stumps where his only error we can remember was a missed stumping off Swan, Prior can be rightly proud of this performance.

Rating: 8/10

Stuart Broad (2 wickets @ 80.50)

Despite boasting unimpressive stats from the two games he played before suffering injury, Broad kept it tight and ensured that the pressure was never relinquished. Could probably justifiably claim a couple of Finn’s wickets as his own for this reason…

Rating: 6/10

Steven Finn (14 wickets @ 33.14)

Dropped despite being England’s leading wicket taker after three tests, he can still be very pleased with his efforts. Remarkably still only 21 he has a massive future and we would bet that he will be around and at his peak by the time the Australian’s come to England in 2013. Despite being the least consistent of England’s bowlers, he has the happy knack of taking wickets at important times as he appears to have something of a golden arm.

Rating: 7/10

Tim Bresnan (11 wickets @ 19.54)

Much derided on this website and entirely, it seems, unfairly so; Bresnan deserves huge amounts of praise for his performances in the final two tests. The quickest of England’s bowlers in the games he played, he kept it tight, swung the ball and generally bowled brilliantly. With Broads return will still probably be first or second reserve, yet when you consider his batting too, he is some replacement to have.

Rating: 8.5/10

Chris Tremlett (17 wickets @ 23.55)

Along with Anderson, eventually the most potent and important member of England’s attack – remarkable considering he started the tour as a back up bowler. A genuine man mountain who pleasingly appears to have discovered some menace to go with all his natural fast bowling attributes, Warne’s comments pre-selection for the tour that Tremlett could be the best fast bowler in the world don’t seem so ridiculous now. Exceptional performances in all the games he played in. England’s fast bowling stocks look strong indeed with him in the reckoning.

Rating: 9/10

Graeme Swann (15 wickets @ 39.80)

A solid performance if not quite the series defining one many had him down for before the tour. Bowled brilliantly in Adelaide to wrap up the game for England before the rain came but for the rest of the tour and with the lack of spin on offer was mainly a defensive option for Strauss. Still took important wickets occasionally and remains one of the lynchpins of this England side. Gains a bonus half point for the excellence of his video diaries – a born entertainer.

Rating: 7.5/10

James Anderson (24 wickets @ 26.04)

They said he wouldn’t be able to swing the new ball. They said he couldn’t take wickets if it wasn’t moving and above all they said he would struggle with the Kookaburra ball. All of which, we are very pleased to say, was proved to be rubbish of the highest degree. The attack leader, Anderson proved himself once and for all and can now genuinely go on to become an England great. Deserved the man of the series award almost as much as Cook, this was a career defining performance for the Lancashire man.

Rating: 9.5/10






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.





Ashes Retained: Ponting Departs

30 12 2010

So England have retained the Ashes! Well played and fully deserved we would say and, despite the grumblings of a few Aussies in the comment sections of various articles and forums, a justified result as England are quite simply the better team. Well balanced, in form and exhibiting a real sense of togetherness, England have been superior in just about every department.

However the glorious high achieved on the morning of Day 4 at the MCG will all come to naught should Australia win the final test in Sydney and level the series. We would even go so far as to say we would be left with a slightly sour taste in our mouths should it happen. For the record we can’t actually see that it might, yet this wonderful sport is a funny old game and England need to ensure that no complacency has crept into their game in the fifth test.

On a day in which the Daily Telegraph has published a 16 page ‘Ashes Winning Supplement’ and is, like every other cricketing media outlet in the UK, indulging in the sort of triumphalism that makes us nervous; it is important to remember that retaining the Ashes is a fine effort, but winning the series convincingly would be a great one.

It is perhaps possible to forgive the majority of the press as they remain fans like the majority of us. Many of those are fans who happen to have played the game to the highest level in the recent past and have consequently suffered at the hands of Ricky Ponting at least in the current set up, and so could be doubly forgiven. Yet, the superstitious side of our natures dictate we have to temper this spirit just a little here at the Compulsive Hooker – hence the nature of the opening paragraphs!

In truth though it was a superb performance by England at the MCG and one which was arguably even more impressive than the innings victory at Adelaide. Just how impressive is clear when you realise that two out of the four bowlers who took 20 Australian wickets were not even first choice players at the start of the tour. One of them, Bresnan, was even perhaps as low as fifth place in the pecking order before the Adelaide test match, something that demonstrates perfectly the admirable strength in depth England have built up.

Moving forward England have only one concern, that is of course the form of England’s cricketing cockroach, Paul Collingwood. The Durham man is having a series comparable to Clarke and Ponting for Australia, albeit with some fine contributions in the field with ball and catching. Despite his admirable qualities (and let it be said we have always been a staunch supporter of the ginger one) we do feel that perhaps now his time in test cricket is drawing to a close.

With the future in mind we would be keen to see England’s eternal substitute on this tour, Eoin Morgan, given a go. He is next in line at the cab rank for a batting spot and having scored a hundred in difficult circumstances against Pakistan deserves his spot – probably at six though with Bell moving up to five. Collingwood still has much to offer and will remain a crucial part of England’s World Cup campaign in February.

Australia on the other hand, as for most of the series, are in a world of trouble and it appears that with the capriciousness of the Aussie selectors in mind, Ponting may well have played his last test. Clarke has this morning been named as Australia’s captain for the SCG, ostensibly because of Ponting’s finger injury – something that is surely a piece of rubbish on a level with Johnson’s resting at Adelaide. If he was fit to play at the MCG, he is hardly likely to be unable to play at Sydney after all.

Ponting will know it smacks of  the selectors easing him out – something that will probably please most of what seems to be a supremely fickle Australian public – and marks a sad end to a supreme career. For all our English irritation at his antics over the years, not least his disgraceful performance towards Aleem Dar during this very test, he has always had the respect of everyone English for his batting.

Clarke comes into the captaincy as probably one of the least popular and most out of form players, certainly in our memory, for Australia and faces an incredibly difficult task. Captains usually like to lead from the front, yet with only one significant but ultimately useless contribution, this is likely to be difficult for Clarke. He has already looked under pressure and nervous throughout the series and so we feel the additional pressures of captaincy can hardly help.

Pakistani born Usman Khawaja comes into the side to bat at three and directly replace Ponting. Replacing a legend is usually a very difficult thing, but Khawaja has the cushion of knowing that even a scratchy 30 odd is more than Ponting has managed all series when it mattered!

We will follow this up with more thoughts for prior to the first test, but for now we too want to revel (albeit in a tempered way!) in the chaos England have caused in Australian ranks, and the knowledge that the Ashes are ours until 2013 at least. Well played Strauss and the boys and lets win the final test well.





An Ashes Story

22 12 2010

For those people who haven’t yet come across the truly excellent cricketing website, King Cricket, this is an ideal day to have a look at it. The reason being that the King himself has deigned to publish one of our humble offerings, a match report of England vs Australia at the Oval in 2009.

Clicking on the link you may wonder where the cricket is in the report, but, given the fact that the King stipulates he wants ‘match reports that don’t mention the actual cricket’ we feel we have admirably fulfilled our side of the bargain.

Plus you can also see a couple of photos of our wedding…  (If that doesn’t make you click the link we don’t know what will).

Therefore click here to get your fill of probably our favourite cricketing website. Apparently part two of our match report is on its way today so we will post the link as and when its up.

All comments welcome!

 





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.








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