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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