Tag Archives: Test Cricket

5 Reasons England Have Lost The Ashes

4 Jan

_71953834_719538331) Australia have been really good

Much of the talk trying to comprehend this defeat for England has been of how bad they are: should Cook be sacked; should Gooch or Flower go; which senior players need to retire. Australia’s excellent cricket has, for the most part, been overlooked. Mitchell Johnson is the consistently quickest bowler England have faced since Shoaib Akhtar in 2005/06 and Brett Lee on that final sun-drenched evening at The Oval in 2005. He’s consistently bowled bouncers and whilst he hasn’t had quite the impact against the good batsmen at the top of the order, his unwavering radar has caused England to take risks at the other end, and thrown away their wickets. Meanwhile, Brad Haddin has slogged away merrily, Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris have been accurate and nagging and all the batsmen but George Bailey and arguably Shane Watson have had really telling innings. Most impressive has been Michael Clarke’s captaincy. He is a fidgety sort of skipper – a style which can look messy and uncertain at times – but he’s looked anything but that in this series. He bowls the star man Johnson in three over bursts, sets the right fields, and knows when to bring on his containing bowlers. He’s been in England’s face since Brisbane, and hasn’t backed down. Talking of England…

2) England have been really badAshes-Memes-If-You're-A-Terrible-Cook-And-A-Dud-Root-Ur-Broad-Will-Cheat-Funny

They’re fairly culpable here. Yes, England haven’t been thoroughly abject just yet, but that’s only because we are judging this soon-to-be 5-0 scoreline on the already exceptionally low yardstick by which we judge English cricket, especially when it’s at its lowest ebb. At the start of the series the batsmen were intent on trying to hook Johnson (which went so well, they all had a go), then they tried to attack Lyon (again, a very successful strategy), and now they just try and survive and wait to be bowled one, which they will leave and be bowled by. And although the bowlers have been slightly better, they’ve also been pretty dire. Constant short bowling to Brad Haddin has been careless at best, totally moronic at worst – and has led to Australia being able to play themselves out of any hole that a good spell of bowling has put them into. James Anderson has been incapable of getting the ball to swing, Graeme Swann was totally ineffectual before his retirement, Monty Panesar was so untrusted by Cook that Joe Root was bowling ahead of him at the MCG and, worst of all, their fielding has been so disappointing. Long days in the broiling Australian sun saps your concentration, but any professional cricket team would struggle to drop as many catches as England have so far.

3) Darren Lehmann’s impact is starting to be felt

He replaced Mickey Arthur about two weeks before the start of the 2013 Ashes series, and the sight of him looking melancholy on the balcony with his Sky commentary earpiece in was a wonderfully amusing one. But behind that grumpy stare was a man with a plan – a plan to change the way Australia were playing cricket. Clearly beset by the whole bag of chips on his shoulder at not playing more Test cricket, he turned his hand to coaching and he has come at the right time. He has been brutal and brash in a time of more sensitive leadership styles. In an era of general uncertainty for Australian sport (their rugby team is useless, they haven’t got a decent tennis player and their cricket team was turning into a laughing stock) he has returned the team to basics. Eschewing the more favoured and analytical stance with an emphasis on psychology (a word that David Warner would struggle to spell let alone understand), Lehmann has returned the Australian national team back to its root, where it is more comfortable. His ‘fags and booze’ approach is something of an act and he is a clinical tactician behind it all. Most relieved are the Australia public, who were growing tired of their cricketers completing (or not completing, if you’re Shane Watson, James Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson and Usman Khawaja) ‘self improvement assignments’. Instead now they just Pommie bash, a far more palatable national past-time.

4) England are burned out

Also, pretty much all of them have entered the worst phases of their career simultaneously, which would be impressive if it had ended after, say, the second Test. Seemingly only Ben Stokes is immune, presumably because he hasn’t been playing Test cricket long enough to have a bad trot of form, and as such has become the leading man of English cricket. This is all linked in to them being jaded – international cricket is a non-stop jamboree of touring and playing, touring and playing. This is the same for all teams, but England do play more cricket than any other nation. How else could a man play 100 Tests at 28 years of age? England are exhausted. They need a break. There has been an Ashes overload and they need to face some new opposition. The fans need a break too – the prospect of another Ashes series next summer is so unappetising it alarms me.

5) The locals

Stay classy, Australia

Stay classy, Australia

I don’t just mean the Australian players who, whilst tip-toeing the line between professional toughness and over the top histrionics, have been put to shame by the antics of the Antipodeans in the stands, in the press box, or just on the street. Whenever Mitchell Johnson tells a tailender to ‘fuck off’ after dismissing him he is celebrated in this action by the official Cricket Australia digital presence – usually in the form of a short YouTube clip that has a 10% interest in showing the action and a 90% interest in gloating. Then there’s the booing of Stuart Broad (of course encouraged by coach Lehmann) which is all just pantomime stuff – but the way the chip-paper local rag in Brisbane referred to him throughout the 1st Test (‘smug Pommy cheat’, ’27 year old English medium pace bowler’, ‘Stuart Fraud’) was a touch beyond pantomime stuff. And then all the little bits: the lovely David Warner calling Jonathan Trott ‘weak’, days before leaving the tour with a stress-related illness; the PA announcer at Alice Springs with his interesting interpretation of the rules of common decency when introducing Monty Panesar to the crease; the non-stop, tiresome, maddening, classless sledging implemented by Australia and no doubt championed by Lehmann. These have all contributed to the atmosphere of unpleasantness that has surrounded this tour and, along with the imminent 5-0 scoreline, helps me in wishing the series to be over sooner rather than later. I’m not saying that touring should be easy, nor am I saying that England haven’t given a word or two to the Australians. But winning with grace should be instilled in any sportsman from the moment they first play the game – along with an understanding of fair play. There is room in sport for competitiveness and class – and this Australian team have very little of the latter.

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Forget Swann, England need a phoenix

24 Dec

TN2013Dec23122214_457226649Into the cavernous bowl of the mighty Melbourne Cricket Ground splutters this most disastrous of tours for England, determined to show some semblance of fight against an apparently unstoppable Australian cricket team. As if losing the Ashes wasn’t painful enough, the announcement over the weekend that Graeme Swann had retired from all cricket was salt in the wounds, and a sterner test of character has rarely laid in store for an English team.
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Why Alan Mullally is England’s savour

18 Dec

174129Overnight, England lost the Ashes. Which is a pretty dreadful state of affairs if you have any kind of affinity for the three lions. More dreadful, undoubtedly, has been the manner in which said loss has been conducted. Few of the team are in any type of form, there are horror shots across the board, apathetic fielding and lacklustre bowling. Yet before we throw the Alastair Cook out with the bath water, let’s all take a moment, have a cup of tea, and think. Continue reading

Emotional victory as Australia win the Ashes

17 Dec

17426714 days is all it took. 14 days of pure agony for England, and unremitting ecstasy for Australia. And when the moment came, the emotional outpouring from the Australian players told you all you needed to know. Lost in 2009, thumped in 2010/11, shut down in 2013: regained in 2013/14. This is not a new era for Australian cricket, as Michael Clarke was quick to point out, but the result of hard work. From humiliation in India in March to Ashes redemption in December – the turnaround has been remarkable.

Fittingly, it was Mitchell Johnson who took the final wicket. The clown of three years ago has been excellent in the first two Tests and his 23 wickets have been the main difference between the sides. Although he’s been off-colour in this game, once again he ran through England’s tail to seal the victory. And the end was most appropriate – a short ball that James Anderson limply prodded at, caught by short leg. England have been harangued by everyone in Australia, and this was no different.

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Australia swarm to 2-0 lead

9 Dec

???????????????????????????England lost their remaining four wickets within an hour on the 5th Day at Adelaide, leaving them 2-0 down in the Ashes and on an inexorably dramatic slide. In the small patch of grass they made their own three years ago, Australia’s broad smirks dragged the bloodied body of English cricket all over the new stadium – destroyed, humiliated, humbled. The smart money was not on England batting out all three sessions: but the wise money would have been on England lasting until lunch, at least. What followed was a carnival of the weird and wonderful.

Siddle took the relatively new ball in front of the Barmy Army and fifteen Australian fans before watching his fourth ball disappear over deep square leg’s head for six. Immediately confusion reigned – were England going for the win? Was Stuart Broad thinking? Thankfully this question was swiftly resolved as the next ball was both shorter and quicker and Broad obligingly played the same shot – only this time he picked out Nathan Lyon on the fence. Stomach’s sank; Australia rose; gin imbibed.

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Video

The Tea Break: Episode 2

21 Nov

Kevin Pietersen – from reintegration to the highest echelons

19 Nov

152047Kevin Pietersen is approaching his 100th Test match. He’s a brilliant, cocky mess with fatal flaws. He’s the antithesis to a world of bland sportsmen, too scared to offend. He’s a throwback to a world of cricketers with attitude. The last 18 months have been the toughest in the career of KP, but with one innings on the orange tinged turner at Mumbai he won over all those who had doubted him before.

The well-known problem with KP is his enormous ego. It has made him a nightmare for teams for years. He left South Africa, joined Hampshire, left Hampshire, joined Surrey, and for a while left England after he called then captain Andrew Strauss a very rude Afrikaaner word in a text to some South African players. Whilst he has failed to contain his ego for years, a battle that is more even is the one he conducts against another flaw of his – his Achillean anger.

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