An outsider looking at Australian cricket

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As a young man in my late 20’s I can remember the days where Australia simply had to turn up to win a match. The diminishing of this so called invincibility was inevitable after the retirement of some of the games greatest players, but the manor of the decline is shocking.

After the retirement of Warne, McGrath and Ponting et al, there was a period of time where Australia were still considered one of the best test sides. They were amongst a crowd of teams that would dominate teams on their home turf. This list includes England, India and South Africa. Further retirements to players such as Johnson dented the Aussie team, with a group of young players chucked in learning the hard way.

It now seems that Australia have been thrust in to the group of teams below for test cricket, with a number of below par performances in Sri Lanka and in particular the home series against South Africa.

The problems lie with team selection, at the moment the selectors seem to be trying a ‘chuck a player in’ method. This is that they are trying out a player in one match, if that player fails he is out.

The selectors are in fear of another batting collapse, which has seen good wicketkeeper Peter Neville dropped from the side in place of Matthew Wade who is not so good behind the stumps.

Nathan Lyon who is having a confidence loss instead of being taken aside by Shane Warne for mental coaching is also under threat of being dropped. This very public way of conducting their business surely can’t be helping him. It was not long ago that he was being considered the best spinner in the world, that to by playing on Aussie grounds made for seem bowling.

Is there no stand out players in Australian state cricket at the moment? It once world boasted players who were of a high international class that could not get into the Australian side. Players such as Stuart Law could have starred for any other international country.

Steve Smith, Darren Lehman and even vice captain David Warner have to take some blame, there is no clear leadership from these three. Warner in particular playing care free as if he has no responsibility.

As a fan of cricket it is sad to see Australia so poor in the longest format of the game. Test cricket needs a strong Australian side to keep the game alive.

England Did Not Win The Ashes, Australia Lost It

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I do not want to take anything away from England but quite frankly they were the slightly better side of two poor sides.

We have just seen one of the least competitive series of cricket played for a long time. Despite the 3-2 scoreline it can be argued that this Ashes was less competitive than some of the 5-0 white washes that England have seen in the past. There was no one session that was close. No match went into the 5th day and most struggled to get a 4th day, 18 days play out of a possible 25, this included rain delays in two of the tests.

There was a bit of drama but nothing really that will be high on my memory in years to come. The fact of the matter is that Australia could not bat in grounds that had a bit of sideways movement while England could not bowl on flat pitches. Cardiff did not suit the Aussie quick bowlers, the English bowlers did not have genuine pace to trouble Australia at Lords or the Oval. Edgebaston and Headingly were the two games where Australia proved once again that they lacked any basic skill or patience when it came to playing a swinging ball. If Australia had knuckled down a bit in that one crazy session at Edgbaston it would have been a totally different story. They showed no fight at all, England put the balls in the right areas and Australia helped them out.

Chris Rodgers was the only player to show anything in this regards. Despite all this negativity there are positives for both sides. Australia have shown enough on the Lords and Oval pitch that they will comprehensively beat England in their own country next time round unless England find a genuine fast bowler. For England the positives have to be the way that Broad bowled on pitches that aid him, Cook’s captaincy has to be praised and also the form of Joe Root is a major positive.

On the negative side for England the problems of an opening partner for Cook have been masked over by the win. Lyth had a shocking series and as a result is under pressure. There is talk about Ali coming into to open against Pakistan. This would be a good move to play two spinners but him opening is a short term move as he would struggle in the next series
on pacy South African pitches. Maybe he could take the place of the out of form Ian Bell and move into the top order? There is definitely a tough winter coming up for England.

As for Australia they have a new era beckoning. Smith takes over from the retired Clarke, whilst they have also lost Haddin, Watson and Rodgers most likely. They need to identify the replacements and give these guys a good run in the side. They like England have a tough time coming up.

Steve Smith is the future but Clarke is NOW!

Australia are my favourites to the win the 2015 Cricket World. So I ask myself why they would put themselves through a situation that could rock the boat. The injury situation with Michael Clark is unfortunate but surely any change of ODI permeant captain could wait.

Steve Smith has earned the right to be the heir in waiting, ahead of the likes of George Bailey and Cameron White. The reason for this is that he is guaranteed to play at the moment. Given the strength of Australia’s batting I feel that a risk can be taken on the fitness of Michael Clark. If he is likely to regain fitness at any time during the world cup he has to be in.

If he is not to be fit at all for the world cup then I still feel that announcing a new permanent captain would be (1) disrespectful to Clark who has been a great captain and (2) cause different news right before the world cup. Any such announcement can be brushed aside after the world cup.

If the reason to change him as skipper is political then it is an absolute joke. I feel it probably is more down to fitness concerns. Will Clarke ever play ODI cricket again if he is not able to regain fitness during the world cup? Whatever happens injury has tormented Michael Clark I just hope he can recover in time for us to see the great player that he is.

George Who: The invisible Australian captain George Bailey

Really well written and very interesting article

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During Australia’s World T20 campaign in 2012, George Bailey dined in the crab restaurant owned by Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. More than other slightly overpriced crab restaurants, this is a place of cricket. They don’t hide who the owners are, and there are pictures of other cricketers around as well. The waiters also love cricket. They were very excited, as many famous current players and legendary ex-players had been in. They were keen on meeting more. The man who waited on George Bailey was a massive Cameron White fan. He spoke of how White used to be the Australian T20 captain. When asked who the current Australian captain was, he didn’t know.

Bailey just sat there uncomfortably. With a slight smile.

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The first ball of George Bailey’s Test career at the Gabba was eased through mid-on. It was from Stuart Broad. There are far worse ways of starting…

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England show how to self combust in one tour of Australia

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The last few months have seen an amazing turn of events for the England cricket team. The media had built up the side to levels that they probably were not. Statements were branded about by former pundits without really looking at the facts. This included things such as Botham stating over a long period of time that Prior was the best wicket keeper batsman in world cricket. One tour has seen the heart of the side ripped apart. This shows the media were wrong in their assessment of the side, they are both mentally weak and lack any real quality to win under pressure.

1. Kevin Pietersen:

It is clear he has been made the scapegoat for the poor series. All this despite being England’s leading scorer in the series. I am very sure that his axing from the side is to take pressure off captain Alistair Cook. The selectors took the easy root in announcing that they wanted to rebuild the side with younger players. It is hard to argue their point. If KP has been dropped why hasn’t Bell, Cook or Prior been dropped in the same way?

2. Andy Flower:

Before the series many people in England stated that he was the best coach in international cricket. This title seemed very odd to me because he has not achieved half the things that either Gary Kirsten or Duncan Fletcher has. He was a good coach who had his own ways, in some senses he seemed ideal for England. Yet again one bad series and he has left his post.

3. Swann/Prior/Trott and Anderson:

For so many years these players have been the backbone of English cricket. Before the series started these were all players who were considered by the English media as the best in their positions. They all did not perform, it is just more evidence that the media over hyped all these players. Prior was dropped, Swann retired in an undignified, Trott has his deamons and the old Jimmy Anderson returned.

Once again English cricket has shown its self to be a shambles. There is no coach, the best batsman has been forced out the side, the leading spinner and wicket keeper have retired or been dropped respectively. Whats more odd is that they took the KP decision without even asking a potential candidate to replace Flower. The shambles with the ECJ makes them the laughing stock of world cricket.

The Ashes Player ratings

So the much anticipated Ashes series down under has now finished, with Australia winning every battle. England went into the series having a very settled team but their experience players all let them down. Australia on the other hand only used 11 players. Here are my player ratings for each player:

Australia:

David Warner: Demoralised the English players on and off the pitch. His comments about Jonathan Trott after the first test may have been a little unsportsman like but he backed up his words on the pitch. His aggressive batting was the last thing the English needed after being battered around by the Aussie bowlers. He seems to have re-captured some of the form he showed 3/4 years ago. 7.5

Chris Rogers: A player who came to international cricket late in his career that is making the most of his chance. He is a real battler who probably benefited from Graham Swann’s poor form and subsequent retirement. His two centuries in the last two games showed how important he has become for Australia. He is the opener that Australia had been searching for since Langer retired. Given his age I am not sure how many more series he has got in his legs, so if he were not to play again he can retire proudly. 7.5

Shane Watson: As always Watson showed his value with the ball plugging away with his accurate bowling. Holding up an end for the others to rip through England. His batting was good smashing a fast century at Perth and two half centuries, but batting up number three he has the chance to convert more of these half centuries into big scores. The Perth innings was probably the tipping point for the English bowlers, where lost all confidence in their abilities. 7

Michael Clarke: His batting was good but he scores higher because of his excellent captaincy. He did score two centuries in the series and I feel he has turned the public’s perception of him. It was obvious that if Australia had lost the series he would again be made the scapegoat, another factor increasing his rating. This was pressure he strived on, his creative field positions and aggressiveness signalled  a change in the Australian mind set. 8.5

Steve Smith: Batting at number five for Australia is a tough job, it seems that they have finally found their long term man in Smith. He was good in the Ashes series in England but got even better in this one. Smith went passed 50 on only two occasions but converted these both into centuries. His partnerships with Haddin saved Australia on a few occasions. The only down side to Smith is that he does not bowl at all any more, surely he could be used sparingly sometimes? 7.5

George Bailey: The only Australian who may fear for his place in the side. He was disappointing with the bat but will go down in history for equalling the record for the most runs scored in an over. This was smashing the so called best bowler in the world (Anderson – Says Botham) for 28 runs. He brings leadership and good fielding skills to the side which may give him first opportunity against South Africa. 6

Brad Haddin: Definitely the best batsman in the whole series. Batted well under pressure with the tail enders guiding Australia to huge scores when they were in sometimes struggling positions. His wicketkeeping showed why I consider him to be up there with DeVilliars as the best in the world. A close second for man of the series. Having suffered many Ashes loses it was clear Haddin didn’t want another loss to his name. 9.5

Mitchell Johnson: Man of the Series. He was absolutely immense with the bat and ball. He played a vital role on day one of the first test  rescuing Australia with Haddin’s help. His bowling was unplayable, so much so that all the England players looked scared every time they stepped up. 10

Ryan Harris: If Johnson was not playing he probably would have finished with more wickets to his name. Still he bowled quick and cleverly to cause England major problems. He has shown the world what he could have been if he stayed injury free. A fit Ryan Harris is as good as any other bowler in world cricket, unfortunately for England he did not break down. 9

Peter Siddle: Probably the most under valued player in the Australian side, his good economy rate may have been a reason why the other bowlers got bags of wickets. He has been the only constant in the Australian bowling over the worst period of the last few years. His value is now shinning through. 8

Nathan Lyon: Proved many doubters wrong, bowled with good control. He was rightly praised by his skipper after the series. Lyon will now look to push on and establish himself up there with the top spinners in world cricket. 8

England:

Alistair Cook: A series that will make the England captain sick every time someone mentions it. Pressure of captaincy got to him and affected his batting. He was called out by Shane Warne prior to the series as being a captain who doesnt know how to set attacking aggressive fields, this proved to be correct. In the first test Prior was moving fielders without the consent of Cook. This shows real issues of leadership. It did not help Cook that all his senior players all deserted him. Basic mistakes by Cook have caused speculation that his captaincy could be cut short. 4

Michael Carberry: This probably will be his last series as England’s test opener. He started off well but seemed to give his wicket away every innings. He does have the talent to succeed but age is not on his side, especially because England will want to rebuild with youngsters. 5

Jonathan Trott: We all wish him a speedy recovery in his battle against his mental demons. The cricket he did play was very off character. 2

Joe Root: Dropped surprisingly for the last test, his reputation for being England’s best young player has been slightly tainted. In my opinion he has to be put back to the top of the order and given the chances offered to others. Root did no worse than any other batsman. He will come back better for this tour. 5

Kevin Pietersen: It was evident that he tried hard to change his game for the situations. For a player of his experience he should have performed far better. Johnson and co must have really annoyed him. This disappointment will have to be put right. 5.5

Ian Bell: Did a similar to job to what Haddin did in the English series, but failed to do anything noteworthy in this series. Not the worst batsman in the England side but not the best either. Could be in line to take over the captaincy if Cook is axed. 5

Gary Balance: Showed that he can be someone for the future for England. His cameo in the last game showed promise that he will look to develop over the next few years. Cant blame him for anything as he is only young and played only one match. 5.5

Ben Stokes: England best player through the series. They seemed to have unearthed a real gem. He reminds me of a potential Flintoff type figure in the way he bats and bowls all out. He is England’s future, so they will need to wrap him cotton wool and nurture him well. Already taken a five wicket haul and a century in his first series. 8

Matt Prior: It seems the pressure of captaincy also affected Prior. He was the official vice captain at the start of the series, but no one told him he was not the captain. His usual batting and wicket-keeping was poor. He was later dropped in the series .I feel we have seen the last of Prior for England as they will stick with the younger Bairstow. 4

Johnny Bairstow: He started the series as a contender to play as a pure batsman and ended the series playing as a wicketkeeper. Having been overtaken in the batting line up by both Balance and Stokes. Its unfair to criticise him for little mistakes keeping in his first few matches, improved his keeping as the series went on. Needs to work on his batting again. 5.5

Stuart Broad: He was up there as England’s best bowler and also made a few handy runs while batting. Broad got booed everywhere he went, the press also hammered him. He showed a bit of fight which the other bowlers did not show. 6

Scott Borthwick: One match is too early to judge Borthwick, he seems to have the ability and personality to replace Swann. He wasn’t great in the match that he played but showed enough to suggest that England can work with him. Maybe he has been drafted in a few series too early but he will learn at the deep end. 5.5

Tim Bresnan: There was a time when England didn’t lose when he played. That all changed after one loss, he was injured to start off the series and didn’t do much when he came in. He was no worse than any other bowler. 5

Graham Swann: Was this a case of Swann retiring before he was pushed out? His display in the games he did play suggested he was to be dropped. Not a great way to go out. I did not like the fact that he left a sinking ship half way through. 3

James Anderson: Went into the series touted as one of the worlds best. His legacy in the world game will almost certainly be that he is only good in favourable conditions. Not helped out by the batsman, always bowling under pressure. When the times were tough he did not perform to his high standards. He was not terrible but England expected more. 5

Monty Panasar: As always Monty did nothing wrong. He bowled well but not to the standards of Lyon. He was overlooked by Cook for Root, this signals the end for Monty. If only he fielded and batted better then he would have been a mainstay in England’s squad. Borthwick is the long term option, Monty is a backup now. 5.5

Chris Tremlett: Bowled no where to the standards of the last Australian tour. Unfortunately he clearly was not up to the job. 5

Boyd Rankin: How did he even get in the squad? Preferred to Onions in the squad and preferred to Finn in the last test. I guess we will never know if he got cramp or strained a hamstring. Whatever it was he will be remembered more for going to hospital and coming back to bowl and going off again. 5

 

England will win the Ashes but Australia will take all the positives

After three Ashes tests the score stands at two nil to England. Considering this score and the fact that one test match had been rained off it may seem on first glance that England have had it all their own way. To think this would be wrong, it could be argued that Australia with a bit of luck could quite easily have been two one or even three nil up.

Before the first test match every person had written off this Australian side as being one of the worst to tour England. This criticism and the Darren Lehman factor probably was the reason for Australia performing so well in the first test. This was a test match which was only won by fourteen runs. There were parts of this game where some of the so called best bowlers in the world struggled to bowl out tail-enders.

The second test was a write off for Australia, the match where they most likely lost the whole series. I can imagine that the heavy loss of the first test played on Australian minds whilst it had the opposite effect on England. This was a match that was played only a few days after the first loss. Imagine if Australia had scrapped through the first test, England would have had the added pressure on them.

The third test saw Australia dominate from start to finish. The only good point for England in this match is Kevin Pietersen. His century and England’s unsporting behaviour in delaying every ball meant that England beat the weather to avoid an inevitable loss. Australia actually had KP out before his century but failed to review the decision, much to the annoyance of Watson. 

If this ball had been reviewed it could be argued that England’s first innings would have finished on Saturday afternoon instead of Sunday morning. This meaning that Australia would have had more time to put on quick runs and bowl England out again, even with bad light on the Sunday and rain all day on Monday.

As I write this on the end of day one of the fourth test match, Australia is once again in a strong position. They have got England down to nine wickets. The bowling is Australia’s strong point, there is a group of young bowlers who could worry any batsmen in world cricket. Pattinson, Starc, Bird, Faulkner head the list of young bowlers guided by the more experienced Siddle and Harris. Add to the list Mitchel Johnson who can’t make the squad. All these bowlers and Nathan Lyon make up a very decent attack. Ashton Agar in my mind will come back into the side one day as a batsman only, he can be a similar player to Steve Smith.

Believe it or not Australia actually can take some positives from their batting line up. With the return of Warner and addition of Khawaja they have a team full of potential. It seems that Khawaja has all the shots in the book, he is just waiting for that one innings to kick start his career. England also have some positives to take from this series.

The first being that they will probably win, the second is the form of Joe Root and Ian Bell. They also have some serious questions to answer, the first being how they have not totally put Australia to the sword apart from one match on their own turf. The second being the form of Jonathan Trott, it seems the Aussies have worked him out. The third and probably most concerning is that James Anderson seems to be carrying the bowling a little bit. Without him I feel the series would be very much closer. Whatever happens in the last two tests it seems that the Ashes series in Australia will be very much closer.