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Monday, August 24, 2009

Congratulations England

England 332 and 9/373 dec defeated Australia 160 and 348 (102.2 ov, M Hussey 121, R Ponting 66, G Swann 4/120) by 197 runs: Ashes 2009 T5 D4 at The Oval, London.

England won the series 2-1 and thereby regained the Ashes.


Further comments later.

Scorecard

Sunday, August 23, 2009

English continue progress towards match and series victories: T5 D3

England 332 & 373/9d (95ov, J Trott 119, A Strauss 75, G Swann 63, M North 4/98) v Australia 160 & 80/0 (20 ov). Australia require another 466 runs with 10 second innings wickets remaining: Ashes 2009 T5 D3 at The Oval, London.

The scorecard speaks for itself, Jonathan Trott's 119 on debut and Andrew Strauss' 75, enabled England to build on its already solid lead against a generally modest, Marcus North to some degree excepted, Australian attack and declared more than 500 runs ahead. Simon Katich and Shane Watson held on until stumps but Australia is still a long, long way behind. I don't believe in miracles.




Saturday, August 22, 2009

England sweep Australian batting aside and head for victory: Ashes 09 T5 D2

England 332 (90.5 ov, I Bell 72, P Siddle 4-75) and 3/58 (28 ov) lead Australia 160 (52.5 ov, S Katich 50, S Broad 5-37, G Swann 4-38) by 230 runs with 7 second innings wickets in hand: Ashes 09 T5 D2 at the Oval, London.

Stuart Broad set up an England victory with a spell of 12-1-37-5 which turned the promisingly competitive Australian score of 0/73 into the disaster of 7/111.

A modest recovery, if it can be called that, to 160 did nothing to change my opinion. Nor did the better fist Australia made of the England second innings, nor the deterioration of the pitch, nor some quiestionable umpiring decisions (bring on the referral system).

Scorecard

Friday, August 21, 2009

Uneven batting, bowling and pitch make for an interesting match: Ashes 09 T5 D1

England 8/307 (85.3 ov, I Bell 72, A Strauss 55, P Siddle 4/63) v Australia: Ashes 2009 T5 D1 at The Oval, London.

Australia fielded an unchanged eleven , and England won the toss and chose to bat. The game therefore started without one side having a clear advantage over the other.

The home team gained the upper hand by scoring 1/108 from 26 often wayward Australian overs in the first session. Andrew Strauss looked in good touch, and Ian Bell vulnerable, yet it was the captain who fell soon after the interval, lbw to Ben Hilfenhaus (off a no-ball overlooked by Umpire Bowden) for 55 (101b, 11x4).

Bell continued to tough it out as the Australian attack tightened up and the pitch to reveal a few tricks. At tea he was 72* and England 3/180 from 53 overs.

Immediately after tea Bell was out bowled Peter Siddle without adding to his 72 (137b, 10x4)
Nobody was able to match either Bell or Strauss as, over the rest of the longish ( 32.3 overs) final session Australia, led by Siddle with the ball and energised by Simon Katich's brilliant runout of new boy Jonathan Trott for a promising 41, looked to have clawed their way back into the game.

On paper, especially as so many critics were talking about a par score of 450 give or take a few, Australia are on top. Given that they have yet to bat and will probably have to bat last, I'm not willing .
to venture any predictions.


Scorecard

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Excellent advice to Australian selectors

I've been upcountry for a few days, hence my rcent silence.

This morning I managed to buy the last copy of today's Australian on sale at the Barmera Foodland. I was glad I did because it has another incisive piece by Patrick Smith " Miserly Clark holds key to Ashes glory".

Smith's assessment of the situation IMO is spot on:

So scrape away the hubris and this series is very even. Australia should stick to the 11 that brought the country back into the battle. We should cautiously discount the performance of the bowlers on the last day at Headingley where Stuart Broad and Swann thrashed an attack that tried to force dismissals rather than plot them.

The fact is that England, with Flintoff in and Bopara gone, will present as a more formidable opposition than what Australia did over three days in the last Test. But any change to the Australian team would weaken it.

The Ashes will be retained if Australia draws. For England to win the series and therefore win back the Ashes, it is crucial that it scores quickly. Clark has proved over his career -- and in the first innings of the fourth Test -- that he can shut down scoring with his impeccable line and length. To leave him out and bring in Hauritz or even Brett Lee makes the side unnecessarily vulnerable.

Hauritz can bowl frugally but Clark can do that better and get more wickets than the off-spinner. The suggestion that Lee plays to provide reverse swing surely is fanciful given that Australia's grasp of the science required has always appeared minimal.

Australia can retain the Ashes, but it must retain Clark first.


Friday, August 14, 2009

More leaked correspondence: quickstepping Ramps considers his international future

Patrick Smith in today's Australian has unearthed (perhaps from the inner recesses of his mind) some correspondence about an England selection issue.

Extract

Hi Mum, it's Mark...just a little note to catch up.

Thought some recent headlines might have caught your eye. Those saying that I might be a chance for a recall. And even Mark Trescothick might get a job against Australia at The Oval. It is very flattering.

I spoke to Tresser about it yesterday. He isn't well. When he saw some of the cricket writers put his name up for a return, he fell apart again and God knows Mum he has had more breakdowns than your Morris 1100.

So it sort of got me to thinking Mum about playing in a Test match again. And I was wondering, if those awful tabloid people come around and ask you what you think of me getting back into Test cricket, could you do me a favour? Don't open the door. I won't be.

Mum, I know you thought I was the greatest cricketer since Dad but I wasn't really very good. Not in Test cricket. And I know you are very proud that I was able to reel off two centuries in 52 Tests but I did average only 27. I know you always say that it was still better than Steve Harmison but Steve wasn't a batsman and we are still not even sure he was a bowler....

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A one Test wonder?



Cricinfo (and various other outlets) report that, according to Chairman of Aust selectors Andrew Hilditch, Stuart Clark's place in the XI at the Oval is by no means guaranteed


Hilditch, speaking at Australia's limited-overs squad announcement on Tuesday, was adamant Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus remained Australia's first-choice Test fast bowlers, with Clark set to duel with Nathan Hauritz for the final bowling berth ahead of the Ashes decider at The Oval.

An alternative view is put by the News Ltd media, where Ben Dorries argues that axing Clark will suit England .

The Australian selectors have made several blunders both in the selection of the touring party and during the series itself. Clark's inclusion at Edgbaston was the people's choice well before the selectors followed suit, and was an important element in the general tightening which saw England bowled out for 102 in its first innings.

There may be reasons for omitting a pace bowler at the Oval, but if there are that need not necessarily be Clark. T5 is still a week away so I hope clear heads prevail among the selectors and not just on the nation's couches
.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Close shave for Ponting, though not for Australia: T4 D3

Australia 445 defeated England 102 and 263 (61.3 ov, G Swann 62, S Broad 61, M Johnson 5/69, B Hilfenhaus 4/60) by an innings and 80 runs: Ashes 09 T4 D3 at Headingley, Leeds.

When Ricky Ponting led Australia onto the field at the start of play his clean shaven face (the first time I can recall seeing it thus so early in on a match day) indicated that he wanted, and probably expected the match, to be wrapped up quickly.

Well, some beer match hitting by Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad didn't postpone the inevitable for too long, even if it did show what might, just might, have been achieved had those higher in the order shown more application.

Mitchell Johnson accelerated his series improvement and Ben Hilfenhaus maintained his Ashes form, yet Stuart Clark and, to a lesser degree Peter Siddle, disappointed with the ball, and some of the Aust fielding was pretty lethargic too,

D3's biffing, which at least did give the crowd something for their overpriced ticket money, (and let the skinflint Yorkshire authorities off the hook of giving a refund) was fundamentally a coda to a monumental form reversal by each side.

Of course this isn't the first time this has happened in this series: remember Cardiff and Lord's?

Will it , can it, might it happen again? No comment....just now.



Scorecard

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Australia excel, England fall apart as embarrassingly one-sided match just makes it to D3: Ashes T4 D2

England 102 and 5/82 (32 ov) trail Australia 445 (M North 110, M Clarke 73, R Ponting 78, S Watson 51, S Broad 6/91) by 261 runs with 5 second innings wickets remaining: Ashes 09 T4 D2 at Headingley.

This must have been one of the most one sided day's play in Ashes history. Only briefly, eg the Andrew Strauss - Alistair Cook second innings opening partnership, did England look in the least competitive. And this brief flame was harshly snuffed out by Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson who almost ended the match on D2.

Can England regroup enough to be competitive in the Fifth Test? It's hard to imagine them being any worse than here but it looks as if that task is, notwithstanding their turnaround between Cardiff and Lord's, well beyond them.


Scorecard

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Strengthened Australia outplay weakened England: T4 D1


England 102 (33.5 ov, P Siddle 5/21, S Clark 3/18) v Australia 4/196 (47 ov, R Ponting 78, S Watson 50): Ashes 09 T4 D1 at Headingley, Leeds


298 runs and 14 wickets from 80.5 overs.

Not a bad day's cricket, eh? Up to a point, depending on your allegiance.

It was a disastrous one for England, weakened by the withdrawal of Andrew Flintoff, whose batters crumbled in the face of an Australian bowling attack strengthened and refocused by the selection of Stuart Clark.


Andrew Strauss must have been discombobulated by all the last minute uncertainty about whether Matt Prior - yet another casualty of the modern warm up regime - was able to play. The keeper was, and top scored with 37* as all around him succumbed to the four Australian quick bowlers.

Strauss, having been reprieved by Umpire Bowden from an lbw verdict from the first ball of the match, started the procession when he was well caught in the gully off Peter Siddle. Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson picked up a wicket apiece but it was Clark's combination, not often seen so far this series, of movement and accuracy which ripped the heart out of the middle order and set the scene for Siddle to mop up the tail. He finished with 9.5-0-21-5, Clark 10-4-18-3.

With his characteristic lucidityGideon Haigh in The Times summed up the difference Clark made:


Australia have wanted all summer for a bowler who understands line as a cardinal virtue, who strives above all for consistency, who tries to make batsmen play but is averse to surrendering easy runs off the pads — now they had him. He bowled the day’s first maiden, didn’t concede a first run until his seventeenth delivery, claimed his first wicket with his 21st — and every bowler around him benefited ... The question inevitably will arise why Clark has been made to wait so long for his chance on this trip, when his experience, especially of Lord’s as a former Middlesex player, would have been invaluable.

When Australia batted Simon Katich failed but Shane Watson with yet another 50 (51/67b, 9x4) and Ricky Ponting despite (or maybe because of) the booing which greeted him overhauled the England first innings total before Graham Onions and Stuart Broad took three late wickets including Ponting's for a belligerent 78 (101b/12x4, 1 x6) to give England some small consolation for an other wise appalling day.

Disclosure: I thought that Siddle should make way for Clark, leaving Nathan Hauritz in the team to provide some front line spin. So far I've been proved wrong.

Scorecard

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Draw confirms Australia's batting strength and both sides' bowling weakness: Ashes T3 D5



Australia 263 and 5/375 (112.2 ov, M Clarke 103*, M North 96, M Hussey 64, S Watson 53) drew with England 376: Ashes 09 T3 D5 at Edgbaston


The first two sessions of play were absorbing. Australia worked their way steadily and without too many indiscretions towards a position of safety and then, as tea approached, one of some strength which could have made for an interesting result had the match been played to a finish.

Shane Watson and Mike Hussey kept the England bowlers at bay for the first hour and a bit. From the last ball of the day's 16th over (and, surprisingly, his first) Jimmy Anderson induced Watson to snick one to the keeper: 3/137. Watson's 53 (114b/9 x4) completed a good batting double and hushed the many critics who thought he was no Test opener.

Michael Clarke looked assured from the outset. This was just as well, for not long after his arrival Hussey, who had looked in better touch (and more assured about which balls to leave) than previously in the series, fell to Stuart Broad for 64 (130b/13x4): 4/161.

The England bowlers were steady but far from unplayable: they weren't able to swing the ball as some of them had done in the first innings. At lunch 4/172 it was clear that a considerable though not impossible improvement (like two or three quick wickets) was required to keep England in with a good chance of victory.

That didn't happen. Clarke and Marcus North, the one elegant, the other pugnaciously gritty, batted through the next session against some increasingly pedestrian bowling (Graeme Swann was especially disappointing) . During the extended afternoon session 36 overs were bowled and Australia added 121. 4/293 (Clarke 73*, North 64*) at tea was safety plus.

There were one or two wobbly Australian moments in the last session, when England needed six or seven of them (and a couple of miracles). Unfortunately for them their prospective miracle worker Andrew Flintoff listened to his stressed body and didn't bowl. He must be doubful for T4.

In the 11th over after tea North was brilliantly caught by Anderson in the gully off Broad for 96 (159b/ 15x4). This was the third and last wicket to fall in a day when 84.2 overs were bowled. When Clarke reached his century the captains called the game off, leaving him 103* (192b/14x4) and Australia 5/375, a healthy lead of 263.

So, an honourable draw. England were on top for most of the game but couldn't finish off a resolute and perhaps (though it's really too early to tell) resurgent Australia.

Yet in the series England are still ahead 1-0. Therefore the challenge for Australia will be how to maintain its batting strengths while reshaping its attack. The batting order shouldn't change, but the attack must. Lawrence Booth writing for The Guardian's The Spin succinctly states the obvious:

Are England glad Stuart Clark is serving the shandies? You bet they are
.

Australian selectors please note.

Scorecard







Monday, August 03, 2009

Long day's journey into night for Australia: T3 D4


Australia 263 and 2/88 (28 ov) trail England 376 (93.3 ov, A Flintoff 74, A Strauss 69, S Broad 55, I Bell 53, B Hilfenhaus 4/109) by 25 runs with 8 second innings wickets in hand.
Ashes 09 T3D4 at Edgbaston.

It seemed like a long day after no play on D3 , an hour's delay at the start today and a late finish to compensate for some of the time lost. In fact 85.3 overs (less than the standard modern ration of 90) were bowled from which 344 runs were scored and 10 wickets taken.

Most significantly England are well on top.

Once again the Australian attack couldn't finish off the job it had started reasonably well. After converting the over(Friday & Saturday) night total of 2/116 to 5/168 (hon mentions to Andrew Strauss' 69 (134b/11x4) and Ian Bell's 53 (114b/7x4/1x6)) the wheels loosened, and some came off as Andrew Flintoff 74 (79b/10x4/1x6), Stuart Broad 55 (64b/9x4) and Matt Prior 41 (59b/6x4) took advantage of some modest bowling.

Ben Hilfenhaus persisted well until he flagged late in the innings, Nathan Hauritz was steady, Mitchell Johnson looked better than he's previously done in the series, yet Peter Siddle (3 wickets notwithstanding) was too often erratic and Shane Watson's 3-0-23-0 showed that no matter how much his batting has improved his bowling has not.

Australia have yet to wipe out the first innings deficit and have already lost two wickets: one of them Ricky Ponting bowled by a beautifully flighted and turning offspinner from Graeme Swann. Mike Hussey was almost out first ball when Graham Onions nearly caught a return catch: fortunately Swann subsequently gave him a few to boost his confidence. If Australia are to save the match - they've Buckley's chance of winning - he and Watson, who's looking assured, will need to wipe out the deficit and start to build a lead.

The last day will be, needless to say, mandatory viewing,

Scorecard

Sunday, August 02, 2009

D3 washout, draw likely: Ashes09 T3 D3

The weather forecast was cruelly accurate: no play was possible on D3.

A draw seems the likeliest result, though today Gideon Haigh on
Offsiders suggested that in the absence of much more rain England might be able to force a win. He also suggested that, given Brett Lee's apparent return to fitness, he'll be a strong candidate for the T4 team, which will turn the rest of the England innings into a bowl out for the other Australian quicks. Oddly, IMO very oddly, he didn't mention Stuart Clark.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Wickets from first two balls and it didn't get much better thereafter: Ashes T3 D2


England 2/116 (36ov, A Strauss 64*) trail Australia 263 (70.4 ov, S Watson 62, J Anderson 5/80, G Onions 4/58) by 147 runs on first innings with 8 wkts in hand
: Ashes 09 T3 D2 at Edgbaston.

Graham Onions wouldn't have been everyone's choice to open the bowling on D2 but he was Andrew Strauss's. With his first delivery Onions had Shane Watson lbw, then bowled Mike Hussey, who misread the line, with his next. 1,2,3 for 126 and the game had swung England's way, where it stayed for the rest of another short day.

A generally assured Ricky Ponting (38) and a less so Michael Clarke (29) were unable to mount the salvage operation required. Jimmy Anderson took over from Onions as the spearhead and cut through the middle order: Clarke was fifth out at 193, which became a dispiriting 8/203 at lunch and a not much better 263 all out not long afterwards.

Onions and Anderson bowled magnificently, swinging the ball in conditions which favoured them somewhat. One or two of the umpiring decisions might have gone the other way but most of the Australian batting looked inept.

Could the Australian bowlers take a leaf out of Anderson's and Onions' books? Short answer no, despite Peter Siddle having Alistair Cook caught neatly by Graham Manou. Strauss showed his class and in the gloaming kept his team on target for what should be a first innings lead.

I will say it again: Australia missed Stuart Clark.

Scorecard