1The Ashes urnAustralia hold the upper hand — in a dead rubber match

Two days in and Aus­tralia cer­tainly have the upper hand. But so what. The Ashes are won and won pretty con­vin­cingly at that. This is a dead-rub­ber match and is very remin­is­cent of Ashes series of old when Eng­land used to sud­denly pull a decent per­form­ance out of the hat when the urn was in the pos­ses­sion of the Aus­sies. Play­ers who time and time again let the team down would sud­denly grab a five-for or score a cen­tury and their series aver­age to the his­tor­ic observ­er would look half-decent.

So now the boot is on the oth­er foot. Aus­tralia are try­ing to prove they can actu­ally bat des­pite all the indic­a­tions they can’t and a lot of play­ers are play­ing for their futures. All the plaudits went to Shane Wat­son yes­ter­day and Steve Smith will get them today. What a load of rub­bish. Wat­son in par­tic­u­lar has let his team down a lot. When it mattered he went miss­ing. Smith has been little bet­ter through­out the series. All they have man­aged to do score runs off a bowl­ing attack with only three play­ers bowl­ing to an accept­able inter­na­tion­al stand­ard and then smash two debutants who looked a little short of inter­na­tion­al class (Woakes in par­tic­u­lar) to all four corners. Well done. Top banana. The term, although not true in its lit­er­al sense, ‘flat track bully’ springs to mind.

Some people have tried to take pos­it­ives from the Aus­sie per­form­ances this series. Again, rub­bish. Ok, had it not been for the rain in the third test then they would have been in with a good shout of win­ning (although Eng­land have a good recent his­tory when it comes to hero­ic rear-guard actions) but oth­er than that their bat­ting has simply not been up to scratch. Their bowl­ing has been OK but you can’t win a series without reas­on­able inputs from both. So many com­ment­at­ors have said: “Oh if it just wasn’t for this ses­sion” or “they matched them for most of the game but…” well that’s what test match crick­et is about. All teams should be able to com­pete for decent stretches but the best teams are marked out by win­ning the vital ses­sions, tak­ing the key wick­ets when it mat­ters, scor­ing the runs when they are needed. Eng­land have done that, Aus­tralia have not. Just think – oth­er than Bell, England’s bats­men have, by their own high stand­ards, been rel­at­ively short of runs. And Pri­or has had a bat­ting night­mare. If the they had all just made their aver­ages (all bar Bell are, at the time of writ­ing, prob­ably about 20 runs under their indi­vidu­al aver­ages) then sud­denly there’s anoth­er 100 or so runs on the board.

Maybe a vic­tory for Aus­tralia in this test will sud­denly thrust the momentum their way for when we start this all over again in a few months time, but I’ve yet to be con­vinced.

***

Those knock­ing the decision to hand Ker­rigan and Woakes their inter­na­tion­al caps are, in my opin­ion, bark­ing up the wrong tree.

OK, Woakes in par­tic­u­lar is not quite there yet when it comes to pos­sess­ing the neces­sary inter­na­tion­al class for test match crick­et and I’ve not yet seen enough of Ker­rigan after he was reduced to only 8-overs on day one. But how will we ever know if they are not giv­en a chance. The view in the minds of the Eng­land select­ors, rightly or wrongly, is that these two are worthy of con­sid­er­a­tion so why not give them the chance in a dead-rub­ber match which, because of the Aussie’s desire to restore a modic­um of pride, retains a com­pet­it­ive edge. Should they have been thrust into the lime­light for the first test? No they shouldn’t. Would Trem­lett have been picked for this match if the series was all square? Yes he would have been. As I pre­vi­ously argued I would have maybe gone even fur­ther and giv­en a couple of oth­er lads a chance as well. I’ve not heard a great deal about Woakes but if what people say about Ker­rigan is true then it’s highly likely he will emerge much stronger after a dif­fi­cult start to life as a test crick­eter – and that’s got to be good for Eng­land because Swann isn’t going to be around for ever. And always remem­ber – Gooch got a pair on his debut. Didn’t turn out bad did he!

All this talk of debuts got me think­ing about how well, or oth­er­wise, the cur­rent team did on their debuts. Woakes and Ker­rigan are covered but what about the rest?

Cook – scores of 60 and 104; Root – 73 and 20*; Trott — 41 and 119; Pieterson – 57 and 64*; Bell – 70; Pri­or – 126* and 21; Broad – 1wkt; Swann – 4wkts;  and Ander­son (a 5-for in the first innings).

So all in all some very good debuts amongst the cur­rent crop – espe­cially amongst the bats­men!

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gravatarJon Scaife

Couldn’t agree more. Aus­tralia have finally pro­duced a second total of above 300. At the 9th attempt. In per­fect bat­ting con­di­tions. Against 2 debutants. Wow, Eng­land must be quak­ing. For com­par­is­on Eng­land have passed 300 5 times in 8 attempts so far. Des­pite only Bell show­ing signs of decent form.

To put it anoth­er way — England’s bats­men (inc Pri­or) have aver­aged 32.16 in the first 4 tests. Australia’s have aver­aged 28.8 (inc Had­din). So des­pite the poor form of our bats­men and Pieterson car­ry­ing a niggle we’ve STILL outscored their bats­men. We know our bowl­ing attack is bet­ter too. Ima­gine if just 1 of Cook, Trott or Pri­or had shown any form.

Of course Aus­tralia will do bet­ter with a home crowd and home con­di­tions, but they had a bet­ter team last time we were there and the score told the story. As someone on TMS said earli­er today — Eng­land have play­ers who deliv­er under pres­sure when they need to, Aus­tralia do not.

I don’t agree about the selec­tion though. Pick­ing 2 debutants at once puts too much pres­sure on them. If we want to give people a chance we have the T-20, the 1-day, and the Lions. Test crick­et is the pin­nacle and play­ers should be picked when they are good enough — like Root was judged to be. Woakes isn’t in that cat­egory. Ker­rigan could be jus­ti­fied, as long as he was picked along­side Swann and 3 (not 2) high qual­ity seam­ers. That way he can be giv­en a bowl at an ideal time against bats­men who aren’t set, or, bet­ter still, saved for the second innings when there is lots of assist­ance in the pitch.

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