Monday, November 29, 2010

England did not save the first Ashes Test, they failed to win it

I should have written a post earlier today celebrating England's great escape in the first Ashes Test, but it doesn't feel like that.

England have become quite good at escaping from Tests with a draw in the past two years but this time it was their batsmen who did the hard work. Monty Panesar was just carrying the drinks; Graham Onions isn't even in Australia.

By passing 500 for the loss of one wicket, which has only happened six times and never to England, Andrew Strauss's team (or rather the top three) showed how toothless Australia's bowling is and how flat the pitch was. Why couldn't they bat like this first time out? I watched the first two sessions on Day 1 and Australia's bowling was pretty tame. Peter Siddle found inspiration for a spell after tea but that was all.

An Australian friend, my co-author Peter McGuinness, emailed to express his disappointment. "Many Poms are acting stupidly triumphant but this is a Test they should have won," he wrote. "This match was saved not by England's batsmen but by the out-of-character good-length bowling by Siddle in your first innings."

He goes on to add that while Australia conceding 500 for the loss of one is demoralising for Aussies, so it should be for Poms that England could not capitalise on having Australia 180 for five in the first innings or do much in the brief second innings save lower Simon Katich's already poor Ashes average to 33.

"This was a genuine shitty old draw not a moral win for England like at Cardiff," he wrote, and he is right. But five shitty draws mean that England retain the Ashes. Still, I think our bowlers are rather better than they showed in Brisbane. Hopefully with their nerves gone, they will be better in the rest of the series, especially if the batsmen can continue to score easy runs.

One final point: Alastair Cook has taken an immense amount of flak from the British media over the past six months. Some, like Mike Atherton in my paper, have even argued that he should have been dropped a year ago and wasn't worth the air fare to Australia.

There was some basis for this because he had looked very ropey all summer and, until the Oval Test, was scoring as many single-figure scores as Australia's hot-or-frozen batsman Marcus North.

But consider this: in the 12 months before the Brisbane Test, England's batsmen had made 13 Test hundreds. Four of them were by Cook, three of them overseas. Now he has a fourth in 12 months, a Test double hundred no less and the highest score made by an England batsman since Cook's mentor Graham Gooch made 333. If Cook doesn't deserve his place, we must have a fabulous batting line-up....


Peter McGuinness said...

Hi Paddy - hi all.

I must add that I've never enjoyed a Test Match so much as the first three and a half days. The punch and counter-punch was pure, bat vs ball Test Match cricket at its very best. Both sides showed terrific fighting qualities and one could not take ones eyes off play for a second. The atmosphere inside the ground was electric.

But once Hussey and Haddin weathered the superb storm created by Anderson early on day three, the air temperature rose and the perfect flatness of the pitch denied bowlers much future input into the match.

A bowler needed to rise above the conditions and stamp himself upon the opposition, if the match was to be anything but a tame draw. We had no such bowler. Poms had the talent, but not the luck or execution. Swann was flat and Broad spat the dummy after drinks in the first session on Day 3.

It was like watching a batting computer game with the difficulty level set at 'beginner'. Wonderful efforts by Hussey, Haddin, Strauss, Trott and especially Cook - but a disappointing degeneration of the match as a contest, which had started so magnificently.

The quality of contest in the first half of the match, deserved to be honoured by one team having the ability to take all 20 wickets. Someone should have won this Test Match. It's a terrible waste! As a Test cricket tragic, I'd have preferred English victory to a protracted bat-a-thon which was terminated an hour early!

Having watched every ball of the Test, it's clear that England are currently superior in all departments. Let's face it, if a team scores 1/500 at any stage of a match and also has the opposition 5/143 at any stage of the match, that team should well and truly win. Therefore, it's exceedingly odd that so many Poms down here are jubilantly treating the match as some kind of win, rather than as a blatantly missed opportunity. Cardiff, it ain't. Guess this says it all about the difference in our sporting psyches.

Conversely, to 'not win' is to lose for us, so there's zero celebration down here of the Hussey/Haddin partnership and Siddle's first innings figures having saved certain defeat.

Mind you, we appear unlikely to get the further 60-80 wickets necessary to regain the urn in this series, so the missed chance in Brisbane may not ultimately punish the tourists.

As Paddy says - 5 draws will do!

Here's to Adelaide!

GrayJ said...

Hi - glad to read you both again - thought you were trapped behind the 'wall forever.
Have to say I feel much more cheered by this match than by Cardiff. In Cardiff Eng just avoided getting beaten up by the big boys - but they were always going to be waiting by the school gates for us at Lords. Relief, but nothing to celebrate.
This game hints Eng could be dishing out some bullying in the rest of the series - and the difference between that and when Strauss and Cook opened up again on Sat is enormous. I think that may be causing the jubilation rather than being satisfied with parity.
On that, while 1-1 or 2-2 could be results of another great series, 0-0 would be a betrayal. Let's agree to give the Ashes to someone else (France?) in that eventuality. You tell Andrew Strauss, though.

Southern Waratah said...

Hi Team,

Having read all the media reports in Australia the past 2 days there seems to be a fair amount of Aussie Bashing going on out there aimed directly at out bowlers.

Here's a different spiel:

All the who-harr before the match was that England had a generational bowling attack, all well over 6 feets tall and the best swing bowler in the world – Anderson - who I failed to see really swing the ball. All the talk is of the hour spell that really tested the Aussie attack but alas failed to take a wicket or in the 4th innings when 3 quick wickets would have turned the match – Failure for me

Broad was being proclaimed at the next big thing, since taking 5 wickets in England last year he’s failed to do so since & short of a terrible shot by Katich he would have gone wicket less add to that a first ball duck. – Failure for me

Finn. Now here was a guy I was looking forward to see bowl. Most of what I saw was of him bowling far too short or far too full, Now kudos to him taking 6 wickets but they weren’t exactly jaffers that totally bamboozled the Aussie batsman.

Swann: The No.2 bowler in the world was spanked all over the ground, this didn’t surprise me at all. Again all the talk was that Swann was the key, but simply take a look at Murali & Harbajarn’s averages in Australia (whom I consider better bowlers) and that will tell you that all off spin bowlers struggle in Australia, only Warne has had true success at the Gabba – But Warne is a freak of nature. Swann was a Failure for me and I feel will struggle all tour

This leaves us with the batsman. I’ve never seen a Gabba wicket like that in my 25 years of remembering Test’s there. It was a road nay a highway, only thing missing was the white lines down the middle. No wonder so many runs were scored.

There were 11 wickets taken by both sides for a few hundred runs the differ.

Match drawn, the wicket was too flat & some off spells of bowling by both sides created a run feast.

On the brighter side we had some great “Ashes Moments”

Again a first over incident
Siddles Hat-Trick
Life left yet in “Mr Cricket”
Cook’s double hundred.

Bring on Adelaide (and another road)