I don’t know what makes me more depressed. Steve Smith or that damn MCG course. Both make the final day very disappointing and at times unwatchable.
First, let’s talk about Smith…just because we had to. This guy may be the new Shiv Chanderpaul in style, but his willpower is to be admired. The guy just doesn’t make many, if any, mistakes. He’s like Alastair Cook, but better. On a field like this, when the bowlers aren’t helping at all, he just doesn’t move.
Had Ben Stokes been available and Smith absent for Australia, we might have seen a different (or at least a more competitive) outcome in this series.
Now it’s MCG Stadium. They fell to the surface and soon fell back again. What a farce. In a way, we should be grateful that the inanimate surface just happened to fall into the hands of Alastair Cook. In fact, when focusing on technical issues, four of his past five hundreds of Tests (here: Birmingham, Rajkot and Abu Dhabi) have been done on a featherless bed like this one.
Although we will always be grateful for the epic performance that Cook managed to avoid whitewashing – so his running matters! – It doesn’t exactly contribute to compulsive viewing. On Day 5, the ball would sometimes be passed high to Bairstow’s ankle. I’m afraid that wasn’t good enough when the Test cricket was under threat.
How many kids get turned off by that slumber party and then turned on by that night’s Big Bash game? Thankfully, it was two Brits (ahem): Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer who stole the show. I may not like that players seem to care more about white ball cricket than Test cricket, but if they continue to throw poor balls like we saw at MCG, guys like Butler and David Wiley will feel totally correct.
So off to Sydney now – one of my favorite travel destinations in the world. I once saw my childhood idol Graeme Schick do an ODI century there on his birthday. I can’t believe he’s now Australia’s batting coach. Come on Graeme, turn our backs on our rivals and train in Worcestershire! Pretty please.
The game in Sydney is usually very interesting because it’s filmed there. This puts England in a small predicament. Do you choose Mason Crane? Unfortunately, I don’t think they have a choice in the matter. Moeen Ali is horrible, his confidence looks to be gone. Mo was always the same: he was brilliant at home (he took just 15.6 for 25 wickets against South Africa this summer), but he was miserable abroad. It’s really weird.
Unfortunately, with Stokes out, I don’t think we can give up on Mo right away because our tails are longer than Diplodocus’s. So I think Crane should play ahead of Tom Curran, who has plenty of energy but not many wickets (1 in 41 overall). I like the cut of Curran’s Fock — which is why I suspect he’s another Liam Dawson-esque Andy Flower pick — but I’m not sure he’s a Test pitcher.
Speaking of players who are unlikely to be a Test of quality, unfortunately England are unlikely to face Jackson Bird at the SCG. With the possible return of Mitchell Stark and the pitch offering a faster tempo (plus Lyon’s turnaround), I doubt we’ll be in that situation again.