Monday, December 20, 2010

Ashes 3rd Test Review

A thumping victory for Australia, and with any luck, if nothing else, journalists in both hemispheres will now settle down and accept the rather mundane reality that this is not the worst Australian team in history, and nor are Strauss' England the next coming of The Invincibles. Both teams are chasing the top pack, nothing more, nothing less.

The best way to review the test will, I think, be a player by player assessment, so here goes.

ENGLAND

  • Andrew Strauss, 5/10 : Strauss chalked up another half-century in the first innings, but was not convincing in either knock. More critically, his captaincy lacked imagination, and his use of Swann, albeit on an unhelpful track, was mysterious. He wasn't aggressive enough with field placings on the first day, and in both innings, spent a lot of time chasing the ball - the sort of captaincy we see from 12 year olds.
  • Alastair Cook, 5/10 : Cook actually looked in control in both innings, but failed to make it count either time. He got a great delivery from Harris in the second knock, but rather gifted his wicket first time around. No reason to think he won't come good at the MCG and SCG on flatter tracks.
  • Jonathan Trott, 4/10 : Simply did not look like a man who averages 58, and was one of the weak links in the field. Not terrible, but simply didn't deliver.
  • Kevin Pietersen, 1/10 : Gets a point for a couple of good stops in the gully. His worst contribution in a Test match ever. He didn't look comfortable when the Australians were gunning for him in the second dig, but I suspect he'll be pretty determined to get back on track at the MCG.
  • Paul Collingwood, 2/10 : Quite simply not good enough with the bat - didn't look like he could handle it at all. I know he's a nervous starter, but there seemed little chance that he would even get a start. However, he remains a stupendous catcher, and his catch to dismiss Ponting in the first innings was sheer class. England may want to drop him for Morgan, but his fielding, Morgan's lack of cricket, and Collingwood's bowling may shade it.
  • Ian Bell, 6/10 : The class batsman in this England side. He looked a cut above the rest in both knocks, only giving it away in the first innings looking for quick runs. Simply put, I'd pay to watch this man bat. He was very good in the field too, and I think he's now set for a long and productive career.
  • Matthew Prior, 7/10 : Prior rates high because his keeping was absolutely outstanding in this game (despite copping a serious earful from the crowd). His batting however, looked ill at ease on this pitch - yet another player who can look a world-beater on a flat track...
  • Graeme Swann, 2/10 : Had a match he would want to forget, and his body language was surprisingly negative by the end of it. Struggled to settle on a line and length to bowl to Hussey, and dropped one that he'd usually catch in his sleep. But he's world class, and will come back. I have no doubt of that.
  • James Anderson, 6/10 : Was far off his best, and couldn't find his ideal line with any consistency, but continued to show that he's a genuine swing bowler, and one who actually has real control over the swing (see Mitchell Johnson for contrast). His batting looked surprisingly weak against the pace and bounce, but his fielding - well, I don't think I've ever seen an opening bowler who can field like this man. Superb.
  • Chris Tremlett, 8/10 : What a revelation! Bowled like a seasoned campaigner, generally hit a decent length, and got the ball to talk a bit. Easily the standout for England, and cemented his place in the side for the remainder of the tour, deservedly so. When Stuart Broad comes back, it won't be at Tremlett's expense.
  • Steven Finn, 2/10 : May have played his last Test for a while - his bowling was simply all over the place, and didn't warrant his figures. Bowled some good deliveries, and I suppose they may have taken the batsmen by surprise. He looks as raw as he is, but I do see real potential there, and I think he'll come back to have a long career for England if he stays fit and hungry. Shouldn't be worried by a bad game - he's young and learning.
Total for England: 48/110. Ouch.

AUSTRALIA
  • Shane Watson, 6/10 : I could have given Watson more for his second knock, but he loses points for his spoilt-child decision review and petulance after being given out, and also for the slip catch that he watched go straight past him. But back to his batting, he is a real anachronism. An opener in the classic mould, with impeccable judgement around his off stump, a willingness to leave the ball, and an ability to pounce on any errors in line and length. Couple that with one of the classiest cover drives going, and you've got the real deal. Australia should not move him out of this position.
  • Philip Hughes, 1/10 : Hughes doesn't look the part at all. His technique was loose, and he didn't look likely at any point. His fielding is also surprisingly weak, something I'd never really noticed before. He may yet be the future, and his run scoring record suggests there's something there, but he definitely has work to do. A flatter pitch at the MCG may be just what he needs.
  • Ricky Ponting, 3/10 : Ponting was lucky to get the runs that he did, and his captaincy was similar to Strauss' - lacking in invention, and a lot of chasing the ball. However, he gets a couple of bonus points for clearly firing his side up and leading them to a victory that few anticipated. I wouldn't be surprised if he turns the corner and scores a big century at Melbourne.
  • Michael Clarke, 2/10 : Clarke only gets that much for having a good outing in the field in general. His batting was poor, and more than looking out of form, he looks mentally frazzled and it is showing in his shot selection. I think he simply needs to relax, and like Ponting, I suspect the win will relieve some pressure and we may see him return to his best.
  • Michael Hussey, 9/10 : Sheer class. His batting was simply phenomenal. Others have said everything that needs to be said. I've seen some Hussey masterclasses at the WACA, and this was right up there.
  • Steven Smith, 3/10 : I give him this much not because he really performed, but because I sense there's something about him. He batted with character and intent, even if he doesn't seem ready to be a Test match number six. Looked good in the field too.
  • Brad Haddin, 6/10 : Haddin had another typical outing. Solid if not brilliant with the gloves, and yet another critical, match-defining partnership with Mike Hussey. Won't be going anywhere for a while, other than possible one spot further up in the batting order.
  • Mitchell Johnson, 9/10 : Johnson took this match by the scruff of its neck and saved both the Ashes and Ricky Ponting's captaincy. The only reason I knock a point off is because I'm not sure how much he really knows about what he's bowling. Use of 12x binoculars revealed a scrambled seam more often than not, which suggests that he doesn't have control over whether or not the ball swings. The contrast with Jimmy Anderson in this regard is significant. However, he bowled with real purpose and hunger, and despite what the radar gun said, hurried the batsman consistently as the quickest bowler on display. He also adds so much to the Australian side with the bat, inspiring the rest of the tail to perform as well. I don't think he'll be dropped again for a while.
  • Ryan Harris, 8/10 : Harris is probably the best overall bowler in Australia. He may not hit the heights that Johnson can, but he steams in all day, and gets the ball to do a little. He's able to bowl defensively and to attack, and 9 wickets in the match tells its own story.
  • Peter Siddle, 5/10 : Siddle did little wrong, but he really didn't do much either. He's the weakest link in the attack, and it's evident that his captain thinks much the same. The story is that Ponting wanted Beer in the side ahead of Siddle.
  • Ben Hilfenhaus, 6/10 : This may look generous given the statistics, but Hilfenhaus is the closest thing Australia have to Jimmy Anderson - a genuine swing bowler. He caused plenty of problems, and will bowl much worse for much better figures. Will be confident of retaining his place in the team at the MCG.
Total for Australia: 58/110.

Not a huge difference between the sides. This game was settled by one spell from Johnson, and Hussey's batting. Australia bowled a fuller length than England, who made the usual mistake of bowling too short on a bouncier track. All of this is remediable, and that's why England will not remotely have lost hope.

One aside worth mentioning - while the presentations were going on, and for a while after, the three reserve England bowlers were having a session on the match pitch. Tim Bresnan looked rock solid, and it was clear that he could come in as the stock-bowler option and also strengthen the tail. Ajmal Shahzad looked the paciest, and may have a shot given his reputation of loving to bowl at lefties. Most impressive though, was Monty Panesar. He was hitting his spot perfectly, and getting the sort of turn and bounce that had seemed to be completely unavailable when Graeme Swann was bowling. He won't get a game at the MCG, but if England win in Melbourne and the Ashes are secure, you could well see them play 5 bowlers, with Monty and Bresnan in.

5 comments:

FanIQ said...

Well played team England, You truly deserve it!

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Imran Awan said...

it is very old cricket series and I watch all matches live.