I’ve been away on holiday for the past 2½ weeks and haven’t had chance to write about the cricket. During that time there have been 2 more Ashes test matches and England have extended their lead to 3–0. Having been away from all the talking heads I haven’t heard what they have to say, so here are some of my own thoughts, uninfluenced by the pundits.
1. Australia still can’t bat
As I predicted — the Aussies still can’t bat. They nearly won the 3rd test (but for the weather?) entirely thanks to a Michael Clarke 187 (England had a target to win of 331 — without Clarke that target would have been only 144) but with that 1 exceptional innings aside Australia have continued to look entirely inept with the bat.
2. England can win without Jimmy
A lot of talk before the series was of how reliant England are on Jimmy and Swann. Jimmy hasn’t been at his best in the last 2 tests and yet England still drew 1 and won 1, with Broad taking a career best 11–121. England also have power to add for the return series with the serious pace and bounce of Steven Finn and Chris Tremlett.
3. The Australian selectors have lost their nerve
Australia need to bring in new players and then really back them by giving them a long run in the side. There isn’t much point in bringing in lots of old players, but a mix of new youth with a few remaining experienced players would make a lot of sense. Instead of being big-headed the selectors should bring back Simon Katich (as I’ve called for before) along with some youth. To their credit the selectors did make several of the changes I suggested previously, with the introduction of David Warner being a boost to their batting line-up. To be fair I also called for dropping Chris Rogers who has since performed much better and he seems to be a calm character and a good partner for Warner. However, Steve Smith has continued to prove his lack of class with a bat and should be dropped. Moving Shane Watson down the order wasn’t a bad idea either but he continues to get in and get out. By replacing Smith with Katich and either Watson or Khawaja with Henriques their line up would look more solid. I would also still look to bring in Fawad Ahmed, with a line-up of
- Rogers (35)
- Warner (26)
- Katich (37)
- Khawaja (26)
- Clarke (32)
- Henriques (26)
- Haddin (35)
- Lyon (25)
- Siddle (28)
- Harris (33)
- Ahmed (34)
Longer term though Australia desperately need to find some younger talent, and someone who might be able to take on the captaincy when Clarke’s back has finally had enough.
4. England’s batsmen are a concern
England aren’t making enough runs. Whilst I think the pitches aren’t as good as the commentary team seems to think, with both sides underscoring against the pundits predictions, there are concerns about England’s batting.
- Cook (50, 62, 51) — hasn’t had a particularly good series. However, he has still made some decent scores and as they say, form is temporary, class is permanent and I’m sure the big runs will return soon. Perhaps Cook is suffering from having too much to deal with (the captaincy, his own batting and the media), like Strauss and Vaughan seemed to struggle with before him. Except for the toss I think England should look to have someone else deal with the media interviews when they are batting first. If they are bowling first then I see no problem with Cook doing it. When batting first perhaps another senior team member could take on the role — Jimmy or Matt Prior for example.
- Root (180) — was moved up the order too soon in my opinion. The pressure of opening in such a huge series must be pretty intense. However, he looks the part and now he has been sent to open he should be given the backing and stay there. I would give him until at least the end of the return series, and I’d tell him he’s secure in his place until then. His 180 proved he could do it
- Trott (48, 58, 49)- Doesn’t look quite himself at the moment, I’m not sure why. Like Cook he is a class batsman, and like Cook he is still making some reasonable scores. Maybe he needs to spend a bit of time with Mr Boycott or someone similar who can really analyse where the problem has crept in.
- Pieterson (64, 113, 44) — Is still coming back into form after injury, and has looked good, and made some reasonable scores.
- Bell (109, 109, 74, 60, 113) — Is finally getting the rewards for the class he has shown in the past couple of years. No concerns at all here.
- Bairstow (67) — Is Bairstow more of a specialist limited overs batsman? I like his attitude to the game, but I think his all-round game has some weak spots. Realistically the place is his because no-one else is challenging enough for it.
- Prior — Is still a class wicket keeper and knows his game with the bat. He more often makes runs when we really need them, if we’re winning it doesn’t matter if he’s making some lower scores.
All in all, it’s hard to drop any of England’s batsmen — they’ve all had at least 1 decent innings and you don’t drop players when you’re 3–0 up with 1 to play. The only player really under threat from where I see it is Bairstow. I would be tempted to give someone else a try, perhaps Alex Lees from Yorkshire
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