August 23, 2009

England regain the Ashes: After a momentous day that began with the Australians looking like they could make history and challenge a huge total, England made breakthroughs when they least expected them to turn the momentum their way. Australian commentators complained criticised the pitch, but Ponting must rue leaving out his spinner -- or being unable to take an early lead back in Cardiff. Now, how well did you do?

posted by etagloh to other at 02:17 PM - 14 comments

Ponting said a middle order collapse would decide this one and he was right. Just not in the way he thought.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 04:10 PM on August 23, 2009

It wasn't a classic series like 1981 or even 2005, but England played well enough to win, and that's what matters. I thought they wouldn't recover psychologically from Headingley, but they did. Pitch, schmitch. It's the same for both sides, unless you win or lose the toss...

The English tabloids, as usual, will be insufferable for the next few months. However, it doesn't get mentioned much, the last time England won 2-1 at home, they went to Australia 18 months later and got flogged 5-0.

Also, when Sri Lanka complete their series win over New Zealand, Australia will drop to fourth in the world, their lowest ranking since that measure started.

I'll put the final pointscore up in the Locker Room a bit later.

posted by owlhouse at 04:59 PM on August 23, 2009

Actually pretty large sections of the English media talks about the 5-0 often and after the "that's it!" moment on Test Match Special as the final wicket fell, one of the first points raised was that England had to make sure they didn't bin it in a whitewash like the last time.

As you say the tabloids are the real problem, so it's a shame they're so difficult to avoid.

Strauss said after the win that when England were bad they were terrible, but when they were good, they were just good enough, which is probably accurate.

How much stick can Ponting expect when he gets home?

posted by Mr Bismarck at 05:22 PM on August 23, 2009

A few wags suggested that it's the first time South Africa has won the Ashes.

There's no reason to think that the same England side on tour wouldn't get flogged, either, even by an Australian side that might charitably be described as being in a rebuilding phase. I'm glad to avoid the tabloids; I hope that Stuart Broad keeps his head; Ponting may have lost two Ashes series but I hope that the Aussie post-mortem doesn't single him out for blame.

Not a classic series, true, but one that did much to restore people's love of Test cricket. The two T20s and seven ODIs that now follow are sponsor-satiating nonsense; in that context, Matthew 'TMS Jinx' Hayden's sketch of how to restore a sense of coherence and order to the game is well worth a read.

posted by etagloh at 05:32 PM on August 23, 2009

How much stick can Ponting expect when he gets home?

First, you have to remember that the Australian press generally aren't the same as the red tops in the UK. This morning's coverage seems to be a mixed bag - Both teams had chances, England took theirs, Australia in rebuilding phase, selectors didn't give Hauritz a fair go, this team not as good as 2005, let alone others over the last two decades.

Punter doesn't seem to cop much personal criticism, although it is acknowledged he is not on par with his predecessors when it comes to leadership. People are also in awe of his stats - he is easily the best cricketer of his generation. The consensus seems to be that as a captain he is better now than he was before, and that his obvious successor (Clarke) is being blooded in the short form of the game. A transition plan is in place for when Punter retires, which will provide minimal disruption to the side (contrast this with the way the ECB handles things!).

The discussion is really centering on the make up of the team. Australia's main concern is to find a balanced bowling attack - Johnson is too wayward, and the others lack penetration. Spin options are probably Krejza and Hauritz - one spins it but can't land it and the other can land it but not spin it. The batsmen outperformed England and the top six have probably established themselves, with the addition of Hughes and Jacques on the periphery. Hussey may have saved his career with that knock yesterday.

posted by owlhouse at 01:16 AM on August 24, 2009

Commentary moment of the series yesterday from Boycott:

"Two run outs in ten minutes when you're trying to bat for two days to save a test match? You clowns."

A compelling series for the cricket fans, even if it wasn't dramatic enough (or televised on terestrial TV enough) to pull in the whole country as happened in 2005. Over five tests, both teams played brilliantly in patches, but never quite at the same time.

Australia need a new McGrath to bowl frighteningly consistent line and length at pace, with an occasional moment of genius that unlocks the gate and splashes the off stump. Johnson's great when he's good, but he's easy when he's not (and with that action, he's always going to struggle for consistency). It wouldn't hurt to have another Warne either - a spinner who picks himself regardless of the conditions.

England need... major surgery. Despite the win, you could make a very good case that they were only the better side for very short periods over the summer. I know that doesn't matter and that series are decided by such quirks, but you can't ride your luck forever.

Strauss needs an imagination transplant for his captaincy. Cook needs some concentration lessons. Trott might be a great number 3 in time, while Bopara needs to move down to 5. Pieterson needs to stop being so petulant ("It's just the way I play" is no excuse for getting out cheaply, especially when he makes a habit of doing it once he's played himself into a nice position). Broad needs to ignore the media hype and keep doing what he's doing.

I don't predict a whitewash in 18 months, but I do reckon Australia and England are both in a bit of hole at the moment and that the Aussies will be better motivated (and able) to pull themselves out of it. 3-1 Australia. Put a monkey on it.

posted by JJ at 07:35 AM on August 24, 2009

"First, you have to remember that the Australian press generally aren't the same as the red tops in the UK"

Want to trade?

I think Punter and the team did a decent job out here; if you look at the stats then it looks like Australia won the series - six batsmen above 40 for Australia compared to two for England, one of whom was Trott who only had two knocks and Hilfenhouse and Hauritz the best bowlers, by average and economy, in the series.

But you have to wonder why he didn't pick a spinner for the fifth test when England were thinking about picking two, (thankfully they didn't, as Broad would probably have made way for Monty), and to lose to an England side without Pietersen, batsmen out of form all over, (Bopara, Collingwood, Cook) and half a Flintoff takes some doing, even with our improved tail.

Is the omission of a spinner down to Ponting, or a selection board?

He seems like a decent enough chap, at any rate. A couple of good sporting gestures from him on the tour and it was nice to see an ovation for him going in and coming out at the Oval after some pantomime booing in the fourth test.

Who was the last Australian Captain to win the Ashes back twice?

posted by Mr Bismarck at 07:39 AM on August 24, 2009

Don't think that's ever been done (and after a quick glance, I can't see it anywhere).

posted by JJ at 09:19 AM on August 24, 2009

A fact that says more about English cricket than Australian, I'm sure.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 10:51 AM on August 24, 2009

Just a noob question: The captain seems to have much of the authority of a manager/head coach in other sports, like team selection. Is this so and if so why?

posted by billsaysthis at 01:48 PM on August 24, 2009

England need... major surgery. Despite the win, you could make a very good case that they were only the better side for very short periods over the summer.

Oh, agreed: if you look at 3-6 right through the Ashes, you just can't see the basis for a decent first innings total, and it took the lower order to make the batting figures respectable (and in Cardiff, save the match). It's not just concentration: just to pick on one person, there are some basic technical flaws to Cook's batting that need fixing, and they won't get fixed on a regular diet of ODIs and T20 cricket.

Adil Rashid probably needs a little more time, but I'm really excited by his progress at Yorkshire. He's in the ODI and T20 squads, so he'll be down in South Africa for the Champions Trophy, but it'll take a Test to show whether his potential translates to the grand stage.

posted by etagloh at 01:59 PM on August 24, 2009

The captain decides the final team selection, calls the toss, picks the batting order and bowling attack, sets the field positions, decides when to declare or enforce the follow-on, and so on. The team setups these days for first-class cricket provide much more external assistance with dedicated managers, coaches and analysts to do video work and reconnaissance, but the nature of the game requires and expects a certain amount of autonomy out in the middle -- more than in most sports.

You could call the captain's role something of a historical holdover -- with the formalisation of touring parties under the MCC back in the days of "gentlemen" and "players", the captain was an amateur (often public school and Oxbridge-educated) who might not be technically proficient, but was a good chap who could confidently be delegated the authority to tell the professionals what to do, somewhat like an officer in battle. There's still a hint of Jolly Old Empire in that delegation of responsibility -- indeed, India has been captained by a handful of princes during its Test history.

So while it might be conceivable for a captain to wear a headset and take instruction from coaches watching from the pavilion on video monitors, it really wouldn't be cricket.

posted by etagloh at 04:37 PM on August 24, 2009

Australia tends to choose the captain as the best current player (and almost always a batsman), and leave him there until he retires. This means stability but sometimes at the price of man-management or creativity in decisions. Bradman, for example, was a poor captain by most assessments.

The last time the selectors stuffed up the captaincy was with Kim Hughes more than 25 years ago. Since then, there's only been 4 others, including the current one, Ponting.

posted by owlhouse at 04:55 PM on August 24, 2009

Here's firstdogonthemoon's take.

posted by owlhouse at 11:24 PM on August 24, 2009

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