Australia 2 : England 0;I told you so!
Posted by Sports Snob on December 6, 2006
The English cricketers, for the first four days of the second test match nearly pulled off a stunt that would have made the above headline impossible. In fact, if someone had asked me on the morning of the fifth day whether there was any other possibility apart from the match petering out to a boring draw, I would have probably put my odds on a Pietersen-fronted all out batting assault for a session and a half, which would have then made way for an exciting last couple of sessions if a couple of Aussie wickets had fallen early. As it turned out, the only thing I was right about was a couple of Aussie wickets falling early (they lost both their openers within the first six overs). Such was the confidence inspired by England’s first innings batting display, that no one in their right cricketing mind would predict that the Poms would score only 70 runs off the 54 overs they faced today, far less an all-out batting collapse. But then, such is cricket.
Apart from the Australian ‘good’ there has been a lot of English ‘bad’ that has contributed to the defeats in the first two tests. For one, the selectors’ inexplicable stupidity in not playing Monty. If they are so intent on playing Giles for the 20 odd runs that he purportedly contributes with the bat, they could have kept him, and ditched the totally out-of-form Jamie Anderson. In any case, England’s past formula of a four-pronged pace attack is not working, so they might well try out a 2-spinner approach; one to bowl outside leg-stump and generally bore batsman out, and the other to bowl teasing flighted deliveries and mesmerize the batsmen into giving up their wickets. That leads us to the second English ‘bad’. It’s more a case of ‘never been worse’ actually – their ‘pace’ attack. The only thing imposing about Harmison these days is his height. James Anderson is bowling like some teenager who is called upon to bowl at batsmen in the nets to give them some morale boost. Freddie Flintoff is still confused whether he is a captain, a fast bowler or an attacking batsman, and until he assures himself that he is all three I don’t see him doing justice to any of them. Hoggard has finally got his wily cutters in place, so that may be some consolation for England.
But a few positives have also emerged in these past two tests. Collingwood playing Steve Waugh-esque innings; Pietersen making Shane Warne do a Ashley Giles (bowl a negative leg-stump line), and still managing to thulp him at will. Ian Bell, might have lost a bit of the fluency of the Pak tour, but is still making runs. Most importantly, England have not really been complete doormats that most people expected them to be for these first two tests. And the long break until the third test should give the English team management enough time to read all the things that have been written about what’s going wrong, and allow them to set right at least a few of them. All of which boils down to good stuff for cricket lovers. Expect some bounce in WACA; not just on the pitch, but in the strides of the cricketers, both teams.