The Over: The Ashes, First Test, Part 1

It’s here, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here! We’ve been so enthralled by the first three days that this is actually the first chance we’ve had to write a post. So here goes:

1. For all the hullabaloo around Ashton Agar (well done, by the way – a fine effort), if you look beyond it, without his 98, Australia couldn’t be further out of the game if they were still on the boat going around the Cape of Good Hope. England batted poorly in the first innings of a series for about the four-hundredth time this millennium (when will they learn?), but Australia calypso-collapsoed their way to 117-9 before Agar and Hughes (and Marais Erasmus – more on him later) got them out of that particular Mariana Trench.

2. We’re not sure if anyone’s noticed, but the umpires appear to have had a little bit too much gin-laced fruit punch at the pre-match match officials’ party and are nursing some sort of three-day hangover. So much so that Marais Erasmus mixed up the ‘out’ and ‘not out’ buttons not once but twice (while quietly vomiting into a bucket), and Aleem Dar’s double vision was so bad that he completely missed Stuart Broad virtually breaking his bat middling it to slip. The Sky director (who gatecrashed the party) was reaching for the paracetamol when he pressed ‘replay’ instead of ‘record’ on the Hotspot camera control. Someone give them all an alka-selzer and a fry-up and let’s get on with the game. While we’re on the subject, anyone having a go at Stuart Broad for not walking needs to shut up, immediately. We doubt Steve Waugh or Michael Clarke would have been striding off the pitch, bat under their arm, in a similar situation. Speaking of which, if Clarke hadn’t pissed his review up the wall on a speculative LBW shout, none of this would have happened (says two smug Englishmen).

3. English groundstaff have clearly have an extensive lecture course in subcontinental pitches over the past few months. It’s the worst-disguised match tactic since England did exactly the same against the old enemy in 1956, when they deployed a pitch at Old Trafford that was ‘completely useless to fast and fast-medium bowlers’, while Lock and Laker loosened-up gently on the boundary. Expect every pitch this summer to be reminiscent of Mumbai in November last year (except perhaps Lord’s, where telling the groundsman to prepare a certain type of pitch is tantamount to cricketing high treason).

4. It’s easy to forget that Peter Siddle has the best average of any fast bowler on either side. He may never reach the heights of Jimmy Anderson or Dale Steyn, but his five-for in the first innings is good evidence of what he can do. England should underestimate him at their peril.

5. The Ian Bell / Stuart Broad partnership was two of England’s most infuriatingly mercurial players showing what they can do with the bat. Bell should be one of the finest batsmen of his generation but he’s just missing a certain je ne sais quoi which stops him from being a true great. That said, he’s just gone past 6,000 Test runs, which is pretty decent. Broad must have taken his pills today, because the ADHD six-year-old working the controls in his head seems to have been pacified today. It was one of his most mature innings although, by rights, he should have been cooling his heels in the pavilion well before the close.

6. Anyone who says T20 or ODI cricket is better than Test cricket is clearly wrong in the head. These first three days have been enthralling, nerve-wracking, exciting and mind-boggling in the extreme. Let’s hope the rest of the series keeps up the pace. It’s been a great advert for sporting pitches and low-scoring thrillers rather than placid flat wickets where 600 plays 550.

Over.

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