As you might expect, I have absolutely no desire to write today’s report. But since Maxie is still on paternity leave, someone has to take care of her. You just have to put up with my bad mood.
All the miserable people out there can rightly say: “I told you so.” How naive it seemed to me to give up my pre-series pessimism after a friendly. Honestly, I let my heart rule my head (which is never a good idea) simply because I’m tired of writing the same miserable stuff – and figured us regular readers would get tired of reading it too.
However, reality bites us hard. England conceded an important shot in that game, but we didn’t play well enough. I mentioned yesterday that I think we look flat out on the pitch, like the bowlers just don’t think the pitch is worth the trouble. Well, last night the Australian proved that a little more effort can pay off.
Granted, the pitch is a little faster now and offers more help to the Seafarers – as evidenced by Stuart Broad’s post-lunch spell – but there are three reasons for Australia’s success, of which Both are a direct result of their aggressive strategy and attitude. First, they play full and take the field out. Secondly, they were really rushing and showed more aggression than England.
Of course, the fact that Australia has nearly 600 men must have given them a huge boost, their bowlers knew they only needed to play one game (let them give it their all), but their performance was packed with more positives. .
Another reason for the Australians’ success is pure luck: they happened to pick a new cherry with an amazing wiggle. Starc, Johnson and Hazlewood had the ball; so, for the first time in this game, the batsmen were under real pressure.
Why do balls that look the same behave so differently? Players are given a box of balls to choose from, all of which are made in exactly the same way, but some will swing for miles while others will do nothing. Some bowlers think they have a talent for picking up the ball (regarding how they feel in the hand), but they are deluding themselves. Jimmy Anderson has often said it was just luck and no one has won as many Test wickets as Duke.
The end result was that England found themselves in a bind. And it’s a pretty deep black hole. You could tell it was just the right size and shape for the coffin. Some of us wished we could put ourselves in relative safety, but the combination of good bowling and pressure on the scoreboard took its toll.
Unfortunately, we beat like the whole pie. Lyth and Root’s shots were totally unacceptable under the circumstances. At the same time, Gary Ballance’s technique is becoming increasingly difficult to accept. Good players shouldn’t be wiped off straight balls when stuck behind the crease. It’s a firing from a terrified boss.
I think two things have become clear: (a) Ballance is not a third, and (b) if Ballance continues his erratic methods, he is not good enough to play top-level cricket (against the best teams).
The only hitter I’m going to forgive is Ian Bell. Rolling his balls is an absolute peach. I’ve heard a lot of crap about Bells Wicket. Both Mike Atherton and Geoff Boycott criticized him for trying to get the ball in the middle of the goal. This criticism stems from over-analysis. They’re hired to give an opinion, and this time they’re just blurting out platitudes.
When the ball left Hazlewood’s hands, it was aimed at the leg stump. These are his exact words. Bale probably thought (me too) “great, rare chance to score”. The fact that the ball wobbled more than a foot at the last second was completely out of the batter’s control. Normally, the ball will not swing on this leg stump. Pitching will fire every hitter in the world — even a well-adjusted one.
Boycott and Atherton completely ignore the fact that Bell’s racket is upright, and he reveals his full face as the ball passes through the racket. It looks worse than it really is, as the bat ends up closing and his feet are in what looks like an awkward position. And that’s just because the ball just hit. I’m not surprised. This is a great nut.
The only consolation for England was that Cooke and Stokes survived to the last day. As far as the captain was concerned, it was more luck than judgment. A couple of times he came close to hitting base, and a couple of times he fumbled trying to hit the ball outside the stumps, which he thankfully missed. I attribute that to the nerves and carnage around him.
I wrote in the pre-match series that Australia would try to pin Cook down by pushing the ball past him and taking advantage of the fact that he wasn’t a natural driver. I predict some kind of stalemate, with the Australians happily taking wickets at the other end. Cook’s batting average was a rather ominous 25 yesterday. I wonder if we see evidence for the above strategy?
Ben Stokes’ batting performance was the only real source of joy yesterday. He’s a good player to watch. If he runs another 400 tomorrow by himself, maybe we can still leave with a tie. Um.
Feel free to add your thoughts on yesterday’s game and of course today’s action below.