July 2009
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Peter Siddle: You can't worry about being dropped

July 29th, 2009 by peter siddle in England, Test cricket, The Ashes


We’ve had a week or so now to take stock of the first two Tests. The enormity of the occasion and the tour, and the excitement of playing is still there, we are just frustrated that at this point we are 1-0 down. There are still tree Tests to go though and I’m confident we can turn things around. Cricket is all about momentum and trying to keep that momentum as long as possible. You saw that with the way that England took their performance from the last day in Cardiff into the Lord’s game.

After Lord’s we’d had a big two weeks, with back-to-back Tests and bowling a lot of overs, so I was feeling physically tired and a bit worn down, but after a couple of days rest and not bowling a lot of overs during the tour match I’m feeling really good again and looking forward to a couple more weeks of cricket.

It seems there is a good chance that the weather will affect this match, which is a bit disappointing as we’re trailing and were hoping for a full five days of clear weather to give us the best chance of winning the match and getting back into the series.

We still don’t know what the selectors are thinking, they’ll have another look at the pitch and probably let us know the night before or maybe even at the toss tomorrow morning. Nets have been a competitive place, the bowlers are charging in and giving the batsmen a good workout, so it’s healthy for the team. It’s a big decision for the selectors, I’m hoping personally to keep my place, but there could be changes coming. Obviously the guys who haven’t had a chance in the Tests yet got their opportunities to impress the selectors at Northampton and they all did pretty well. They’re itching to play some cricket.

Shane Watson was striking the ball very well, he scored a fifty off 28 balls at Northants playing proper cricket shots and with his bowling getting back to his best and the pace he can bowl at he’s always great to have in the side. Andrew McDonald also showed form with the bat and I like the way he goes about his bowling – he blocks up one end, which is very handy. Stuart Clark bowled exceptionally, he’s another who keeps it tight and generates real bounce off the wicket. For guys like myself who have been the men in the possession of the spots it puts a bit of pressure on us, but we just have to be ready for it and focus on our own bowling. You can’t go out there thinking “I’m going to get dropped” or “I’m definitely in” – you can’t control anything apart from your own performance.

We’re aware that England have scored at a very quick rate so far in this series, and one of your aims as a bowler besides taking wickets is always to keep the opposition down to between three and three-and-a-half runs an over. We’ve been a little expensive, that could be down to the wickets being a little flatter but it’s definitely something that we’re aiming to cut down on in this match. That’s an asset that a couple of the guys on the sidelines have, so we’ll see what the selectors have in mind.

Mitchell Johnson looked good up at Northants, he got through 25-30 overs, his pace was back and he was charging through the crease, so he was reasonably happy with how he went. He was a bit disappointed not to take more wickets, but he was unlucky with a few chances that didn’t go his way. People have mentioned his economy rate, but we set attacking fields on a small ground and if you look at the figures a few of us went for some runs so in this case I don’t think that was an issue.

I’m pretty good mates with Mitchell and if the media attention he’s been receiving has affected him he hasn’t shown it. He’s been pretty strong, obviously it’s been tough but his mood has been good around the group and I know he’s enjoying his time over here. He just wants to get out there in this next Test and get back to his best and show everyone what he can do.

It’s really important that we get off to a good start at Edgbaston. It’s shown in the last two tests when we’ve bowled first, even in Cardiff we let them get away a bit in the first session and then at Lord’s they had that great partnership between Cook and Strauss which left us chasing tail for the rest of the match. Hopefully, be it with bat or ball, in this Test we can work hard and set the tone for the match.

Ian Bell will be slotting in for Kevin Pietersen at number four in the order for England, and it definitely makes their top-order look a bit more vulnerable. Losing KP for England is the equivalent of us losing Ricky Ponting, so it puts a bit of pressure on some of their guys. Hopefully we can get the openers early and that brings Bopara and Bell in. Bopara obviously isn’t at his best at the moment, so if we can keep the pressure on him and Bell that could be an opening for us. Bopara’s very calm normally, but like a lot of the more inexperienced blokes on both sides has not shown his best yet in this series. Maybe it’s the big occasion, but he does seem a little nervous, and we’ll be doing our best to squeeze him early on.

I’ve enjoyed the chance to see a bit of England over this tour, and we’ve had fun in Birmingham despite the bad weather. Mitchell and I went for a walk around the shops and the city centre the other day, it’s all quite new, and speaking to a few people it all seems to have come up in the last five years. We also had a few people coming up and reminding us that we were 1-0 down, and telling us we were going to lose at Edgbaston. We’ll see about that!

Posted in England, Test cricket, The Ashes | No Comments »

Lawrence Booth: Quiet Strauss deserves recognition

July 29th, 2009 by Lawrence Booth in England, The Ashes, The media


It could only happen to Andrew Strauss. He scores 161 on the first day of an Ashes Test at Lord’s to lay the foundations for an historic win and the man of the match award goes instead to a bloke with an acute sense of theatre and – dare we point out? – a first five-wicket haul for four years. While a nation goes gaga for one, it almost forgets the other. For Strauss, passed over for the Ashes captaincy in favour of Andrew Flintoff in 2006-07, there may even have been a shiver of déjà vu.

The fact is, Strauss is easy to overlook. Did you know that since he made 177 at Napier in March 2008, an innings that – ridiculous though it now seems – saved his career, no one in the world has scored more than his 1,712 Test runs? Or hit more than his eight Test centuries? No one in the world. Yet still we hear that Kevin Pietersen is England’s only truly world-class batsman.

So much for his quietly unerring accumulation of runs: what of the captaincy? At Lord’s, Strauss had to contend with criticism of his decisions a) not to enforce the follow-on, and b) to set Australia a mere 522. The first, we learned, was negative because he didn’t trust his bowlers to skittle Australia again; the second, apparently, did not quite bat Australia out of the game. In both cases the critics were wrong. Strauss could have sulked in his press conferences as one or two of his team-mates occasionally do. But he just got on with the job.

And what a job it’s been. Quite apart from knocking on the head the rule that states an England captain shall stop scoring runs, Strauss has had to turn around a squad which over the winter threatened to implode. Of course, from 51 all out in Jamaica, the only logical way was up, but the dressing room was divided and egos were running rampant. It has taken two relatively egoless figures in Strauss and Andy Flower to restore sense.

The last few weeks have reinforced the suspicion that Strauss is seen as lacking qualities that have traditionally made other England captains easy to write about. He is tough but not in the Ray Illingworth mould; cerebral but not up there with Mike Brearley; astute but still adrift of Michael Vaughan. But he has enough of each quality to form an understated whole. If Ricky Ponting is the sexier story this summer, Strauss will not mind one bit.

There was a nice moment at the end of the Cardiff Test, when Australian tempers were running high after England’s time-wasting tactics. One reporter grandly informed Strauss that Ponting was unhappy, thus inviting the England captain to hit back with a rather more colourful adjective. Instead, in a tone of voice that was sincere enough to draw the sting but retained a telling ounce of indifference, he replied: “If Ricky’s unhappy, that’s a shame.”

It was quiet and effective. Which is how Strauss is planning to be all the way to The Oval and beyond.

Lawrence Booth writes on cricket for the Guardian

Posted in England, The Ashes, The media | 3 Comments »

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