The Over: The Ashes, Second Test

Faster than a royal labour, England are 2-0 up in the series. One of us was there to view the denouement. Here’s our view on the whole shebang:

1. Compare, if you will, Joe Root and Steve Smith. Both are batsmen with pretensions on being batting all-rounders and both look younger than HRH Prince Baby of Cambridge. One has been integrated into a winning team and given ample time to adjust to the game and develop, while the other is tasked with shoring up a middle order that might have a club second eleven captain wondering where the runs are coming from. Australia need to realise that things are going to get worse (or at least remain as bad – they’re already gouging quite deeply into a barrel-bottom) before they get better. They need to stick with this lot, allow them exposure to top class bowling, and hopefully let them develop. A couple will make it (Usman Khawaja looked the part for an hour on Sunday), a couple probably won’t (here’s a clue, Philip Hughes won’t – the man’s got more technical flaws than a Sunday number eleven), but the ones that do will be all the better for it. Just ask Ian ‘Sherminator’ Bell.

2. We reckon England might have worked out Shane Watson’s weakness. We reckon Shane Watson hasn’t.

3. It’s a good time to be an Australian number eleven, at least as far as batting’s concerned. Through the series so far they’re averaging 74.50 with the bat with a highest score of 98. Their top 6, by contrast, is averaging 23.39. Perhaps Australia should be more concerned that the three that have batted at eleven for them so far this series either can’t bowl yet (Agar), or can’t bowl for more than about ten minutes without their bodies disassembling themselves (Harris and Pattinson).

4. What’s worrying for Australia is how much of England’s batting line-up hasn’t fired yet. Only three players are averaging over 40 (and one of them’s Stuart Broad) while Trott, Cook, Pietersen and Prior are all averaging under 27 and looking like every ball will be their last. Compare that with the smooth operation in India, where six players averaged over 40. Whoever thought we’d be relying on Ian Bell and a couple of wide-eyed schoolboys to knuckle down and score the hard runs?

5. Even more worryingly, Michael Clarke appears to have developed a bit of a problem with Stuart Broad, and we’re not talking about the spirit of cricket. Quite apart from the fact that Broad has already got Clarke out twice in this series, having seen the duel in action on Sunday, Clarke seemed pretty bewildered by Broad’s pace and bounce: he hit him three times – on the chest, shoulder and helmet – on a pitch where most of the other batsmen seemed largely untroubled by the short ball.

6. Cricket Germany have offered to take Australia’s place for the rest of the series. It’s a tempting offer, but the real solution, of course, would be for Cricket Germany to take England’s place instead. At least then there’d be a reasonably evenly matched series… (before you have a go at us, Aussie readers, the scars of 2006/7 are still with us, and our shrink’s prescribed us a long course of intensive Aussie-bashing and gloating. Don’t blame us, blame psychotherapy.)

And a few extra tidbits:

Why does Jonathan Trott field at slip to the spinners? He’s got better odds of catching Spanish Flu than actually catching the bloody ball.

People going on about the Rogers dismissal to a full toss have been focusing on umpiring and DRS. What they seem to be forgetting is that he missed a rank, waist-high full toss. He almost deserved to be out, just for that.

Graeme Swann took 9 wickets in this match without bowling all that well (particularly after he was poleaxed by Usman Khawaja), as he hasn’t in the series so far. Woe betide if he actually hits a run of form.


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  1. Great blog. The worry for me is that you could easily change the words Shane Watson for Alistair Cook and England for Australia in point 3. It’s not as blatant but Chef seems to be getting out in very similar ways recently.
    I still think the Aussies are in for a thrashing, though. They’ll have one last hurrah in their first innings at Old Trafford, and if they fail to do well then, they are unlikely to post a score over 250 for the last two tests.

    • Thanks, Dylan. I think we have to accept that Cook will never be a ‘great’ player against the moving ball in English conditions. Where he is most valuable to England is in conditions where concentration is the main attribute required. Among Englishmen, only Barrington, Hammond and Hobbs have higher averages than Cook away from home (qual. 2000 overseas runs). When you add in the inevitable pressure he’s under this series, with endless interviews, press conferences and so on, not to mention captaining the side, I’m not entirely surprised he’s having a bit of a rough patch. However, he still has 25 Test centuries to Watson’s 2, so I think that says more than enough about who has the skill and temperament to succeed at this level!

      • I agree completely that he has proven that he has the temperament to succeed and against Shane Watson there is no comparison. My main concern was whether the other test sides have discovered a kink in his technique that hasn’t been ironed out yet. I’m not too concerned. I remember having worries about his form before the last Ashes series. He did quite well if my memory serves me….

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