August 2009
« Jul   Sep »

Paul Coupar: “Australia, breathe a sigh of relief”

August 10th, 2009 by TWC in The Ashes, The media

Readers of the Sydney Morning Herald awoke on the morning after the Headingley Test to read the Ashes scoop to end them all.

“Australia, breathe a sigh of relief,” said the front page, “for the Ashes will remain ours for at least two more years.”

Despite the series being tied 1-1 with the Oval match to go, the “horror”, “massacre” and “devastation” of the fourth Test persuaded the SMH’s man on the spot that the series was officially over.

“Sure, England may conjure a remarkable victory at the Oval … but those who seriously believe that underestimate their lack of resolve, as outlined by the former opener Justin Langer in a humiliating dossier …” Cue several paragraphs quoting liberally from Langer’s ‘pussy-gate’ revelations in London’s Sunday Telegraph.

The SMH’s certainty about the result at The Oval stemmed not from a clairvoyant or from a chat with an illicit bookmaker called John but from a deeply damning view of England’s performance.

“The savaged home side claim they will not be haunted by some of their most humiliating days of cricket on home soil … But it’s difficult to see how they can pick themselves up,” wrote their reporter Jamie Pandaram.

The SMH’s headlines told the tale. “Seismic shift rocks Poms to the very core” hinted that the landscape of the series had been irrevocably changed. “Shock and Aura” poked fun at Andrew Strauss’s recent claim that the current Australian team lacked an intimidating presence.

The tabloid Telegraph was almost as confident: “Ricky Ponting last night savoured one of the greatest triumphs of his career by shoving England into the ashes guillotine in which Australia plunged four years ago,” wrote Ben Dorries with all the relish of a pastis-swilling former inhabitant of the Bastille.

So why had the shift come about, and was there anything England do about it? Pandaram in the SMH pointed to the renaissance of Mitchell Johnson, contrasting his “throat-seekers” and dangerous “in-swingers” with the “petty pies” served up by England as Australia scored “a tidal wave” of runs.

In the same paper, Peter Roebuck diagnosed a much deeper malaise after Warwickshire’s Anglo-African Jonathan Trott was called up as batting cover.

“Trott is the fourth South African to appear this summer - an extraordinary statistic …”, wrote Roebuck before the Test.

“Vast resources have been invested in setting up institutions that fail to produce players of high calibre. Huge sums of money are bestowed upon smooth-talking impostors with vague job descriptions and most of it is wasted.

“English cricket might as well close down its numerous academies and replace its large collection of coaches and assorted cream-lickers and start over again.”

Malcolm Conn in The Australian thought the absence of Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff had been a crucial psychological blow, revealing: “ a fragile mental attitude [which] sees a lack of self-belief against Australia.

“England’s current state also raises more serious questions about the health of world cricket

“Ranked five of nine Test-playing nations, England absolutely flogged the hapless West Indies in a two-Test series in May, with all sorts of seeming modest players dominating.”

Little surprise that singled out as chief among the most modest of these modest performers was Ravi Bopara, whose strut continues to irritate many Australians besides Justin Langer.

In the Telegraph Warne singled out Bopara as vulnerable to the axe and revealed that, surprise surprise, it might be time to terminate ‘The Sherminator’, aka Warne’s familiar butt Ian Bell.

However, despite the rout, Ashes fever remains less virulent in Australia than in the UK. At 4pm on the day after the Test, the Morning Herald’s match report had not even made the top 10 most-read stories of the day, languishing some way behind the 10th-placed ‘Naked Aussie wanders into wrong hotel room and falls asleep’.

By contrast, The Guardian’s over-by-over coverage of the last rites was the most-read story of the day, beating Chelsea’s win over Manchester United in football’s Community Shield.

Clearly Britain’s secret and masochistic taste for gruesome reverses remains alive and well.

Paul Coupar is a freelance journalist based in Sydney, and former features editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in The Ashes, The media | No Comments »

Jrod: England's top-order problem

August 10th, 2009 by Jrod in England, Test cricket, The Ashes

I thought the only way Australia could win the Ashes after Edgbaston was from a collapse. I didn’t expect England to collapse three innings in a row, lose inside three days, and trudge to The Oval.

There are a lot of reasons for a collapse like this, but it is hard to go past three of England’s top four. Not just their output, but how they are perceived.

When Alastair Cook fell for 30 (the second 30) he walked off the ground like a kid who had found out he wasn’t going to Disneyland. He wasn’t holding his bat; it was barely in his fingers being dragged along the ground.

Cook is a very talented batsman with some technical flaws, but you always feel you can get him out no matter how set he is. He has less aura than a pretzel.

No one has listened to Shane Warne more than Ravi Bopara. I think every time Bopara has fallen in this series Warne should be getting another wicket to his name.

Remember when Ravi compared himself to a wild dog roaming the streets. I’ve seen more vicious guide dogs. He has got some bad decisions, but you can’t blame the umpires – he comes out looking like a guy who knows he won’t make runs. They just want to get him off before he embarrasses himself.

When Ian Bell was brought back in, he and several of his backers in the media talked about how much he had learnt since he lost his spot.  There has no been no evidence of this. Not a hint. Not a whisper.

He has looked like a man that doesn’t think he can handle Test cricket.  Bell just seems to have the fear. He doesn’t look like he believes he belongs, and he doesn’t seem to want to fight for it.  Watching him bat should be great, but instead it feels very uncomfortable.

It would be unfair to blame these three for this Test loss. They didn’t decide on short, wide and crap bowling. They are only three batsmen in a top order of six that struggled twice. And they had very little to do with Australia finally finding form.

Yet they are the engine room. The young guns in the top-order that England need to fire. Australia has absolutely no fear of them. Why should they?

Jrod is an Australian blogger, and now author. His book The Year Of The Balls 2008: A Disrespective is available now

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

Site by Anson Robson Marketing © 2010 The Wisden Cricketer All Rights Reserved