9.8.09

Dreadful

Notwithstanding the coruscating but ultimately irrelevant batting of Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann this morning, just about the best that can be said about England's dreadful performance at Headingley is that they held their catches. There was little else, apart perhaps from Stuart Broad's six wickets, although these only came after a long period during which large amounts of unrelieved dross were served up to a series of grateful Australian batsmen.

This has been a series of punch and counter-punch, but now Australia have all but floored England, and it'll be astonishing if England can come back to win at The Oval.

Much the strangest and most surprising aspect of this massacre has been the way in which, like some of the first Test at Cardiff, it's felt like being transported back to any of the series between 1989 and 2001 in which Australia routinely humiliated England. The interim contests at Lord's and Edgbaston, in which England carved out an advantage which looked like it might see them home, might as well never have happened.

It always looked as though England might be in trouble if Australia started to bowl well. In this match they have, with the returning Stuart Clark, the resurgent Mitchell Johnson, the resilient Peter Siddle and the redoubtable Ben Hilfenhaus holding the aces. The fact that this renaissance has been coupled with some awful batting and naive bowling by the home side has cooked England's goose very thoroughly indeed.

Underlying causes are difficult to pinpoint at times like these, but, in this match, and at times earlier in the series, the key distinction between the sides has been the level of discipline, maturity and technical expertise displayed, in particular, by the Australian batsmen. They seem to be less inclined to believe their own publicity and they understand the game - and their part in it - in a way which hardly any of England's players (Strauss fully excepted) do. In part this is because players like Marcus North are older and have been around the block (if not in Test cricket) in a way that Bopara and Bell simply haven't. Although, given the way that England players tend to think and react, you wouldn't bet on either of them ever emulating the type of all-round class which North has shown over the past few weeks (let alone that of Ponting or Clarke).

So many words have been written about the contrasts between the countries' systems (most recently by Justin Langer) that I'm reluctant to go there once again, but it's that which is at the heart of England's failure to produce large numbers of players who can perform consistently well at the game's highest level.

Is anything much ever likely to change? Even if you're at Headingley and the bookies are offering you 500-1, don't bet on it.

4 comments:

Cricket Tragic said...

I think I'd just save some time by posting the link to my opinion regarding this match, which I posted on Samir's Blog..

http://eye-on-cricket.blogspot.com/2009/08/nice-way-to-wrap-up.html

I haven't read the full version of JL's dossier yet, but from the summarised version on some website, all I can say is that, though he's put it harshly (such as calling Anderson a pussy), he's got it spot on. For some reason, the England team find it hard to really get themselves to raise their game when the chips are down.....

Though I only started following cricket as much as I do now since 2003, I've read plenty about the Ashes series that took place between 1990 and 2005 (excluding Ashes 2005) to agree with you that this seems to be a return to the dark times...an all-out defensive England is definitely on the cards, come The Oval test! :(

Brian Carpenter said...

Thanks, Tragic.

Well, they'll have to try to attack at The Oval as they aren't going to win the match or series without doing so, but the reality is that Australia have all the form and momentum now and The Oval pitch is always very good for batting. If Australia win the toss I can see them batting for the first two or three days and the game will be dead.

Most of what Langer said was very true - I cringe when I see Jimmy Anderson trying to prove how tough he is by chirping batsmen. He's a good bowler but that just isn't him, and he's only doing it because he thinks he has to. He should shut up and focus on getting people out.

Cricket Tragic said...

Brian,

I remember, once, reading somewhere that the West Indies express fast bowlers of the 70s and the 80s never felt the need to chirp...their bowling was dangerous in itself, and some staring once in a while (note, not sledging or any forms of verbal communicatioN) did the trick....

Quite often, you see that the better bowlers are the ones that concentrate on the job rather than sledging...I don't know if you've ever noticed, but RP Singh of India is such a good bowler and all he ever does is smile...there's always a big smile on his face! :)

Brian Carpenter said...

Quite right about the West Indian quickies.

I, too, am a great fan of RP - I saw his five wickets at Lord's in 2007 and really admired the gracious way he acknowledged his success.

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