Tuesday, July 14, 2009

1st Test Reflections

Right, well - the most obvious point - the English team are lucky, lucky boys. Australia did nearly everything they could have possibly done to win that test, but somehow ended up walking away, on the wrong side of a 0-0 scoreline. Although possibly not as much on the wrong side as England were. Although England will be VERY relieved that it's still 0-0 - which might mean that they're not really on the wrong side of it at all. Errr - ok then.

So. I'm not going to go into a blow-by-blow description of what actually happened - there are more prolific bloggers than me that have already done that - but the salient facts are that Australia outplayed England by just about the greatest margin you would ever see in a match without winning the match. With the bat, Ponting and Haddin were impressive, as were Katich and North if unspectacular. With the ball Hilfenhaus was very good, Siddle was very good (the spell to Swann on the 5th day was great stuff), Hauritz was much better than expected, and Johnson was bloody ordinary but somehow ended up with four wickets.

England looked largely listless and underdone. I'll start with the bowling because that's what we saw the most of - Broad in particular was rubbish all match. Anderson looked like the Anderson of old - i.e. crap. Flintoff impressed at times but was a work-horse at best for the rest of it. Monty- crap. Swann - crap. It's quite remarkable how Haruitz's match figures of 61 overs 6/158 compare to Penesar's and Swann's - a combined tally of 73 overs, 1/253. Ouch - and EVERYONE was queuing up to say how crap Hauritz was before the match started. With the bat they looked ok in the first innings but basically pretty woeful in the second, and have a lot to thank Collingwood for. I think it's amazing how he seems to be playing for his spot every third or fourth match and yet still does ok. He's actually got a pretty good record now - 49 matches, 9 hundreds, 15 fifties, 3453 runs at an average of almost 45 is pretty good going for someone so allegedly lacking in talent.

The one thing that particularly struck me though, was the teams' attitudes to the game. Australia bossed nearly all of it - and looked psychologically strong for its entirety, even during the few patches that England did well in the first innings. England were very, very ordinary in that department however, and particularly on the fourth day when Australia were piling on the runs. Everyone was talking about the likelihood of rain, it was supposed to arrive at lunchtime, and it was palpable that England were playing for the weather from ball one. It didn't arrive until tea by which time Australia had declared 239 runs in front and taken two English wickets - which served England right as far as I'm concerned. I'll say this about the English team - I have seen Australia lose, I have seen Australia play badly, but I have NEVER seen them play like that - nor seen an Australian captain allow it. How a team of highly-paid international cricketers can be allowed to go through the motions on account of a few clouds on the horizon I will never know. I think it speaks of a poor set-up in the team, and if they do that again this series it will come back to bite them. The first session of Day 4 is where England "lost" the match as far as I'm concerned, and they were very lucky it didn't actually happen properly.

I still think this series will be close, though - and I'm still going with my 2-1 margin. For all England's poor cricket and poor attitude, their tail-end batting showed a lot of application on Day 5, and it's just great to see players playing as though their lives count on it again - you only get that in the Ashes these days. Graeme Swann in particular batted very well, even in the face of one of the more frightening overs I have seen for a long time from Peter Siddle, and I really hope we get to see more of that as the series goes on. I also have the sneaking suspicion that Australia won't have it all their own way all the time - you're not going to have four of your top six scoring hundreds in the same innings every time, for starters. Unless England really are that ordinary. Which, after all, they might be.

Hope not, though.

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