The End of the Beginning

While England's success in Australia hasn't been especially surprising, the same can't be said of the way in which it has been achieved. Leaving aside Perth as an exception which proves the rule (that England are the better team), Adelaide and Melbourne have seen England dismantle and humiliate Australia in ways that would have been completely implausible just a few short years ago.

They have been assisted by Australia's timidity and confusion, both on the field and in the selection rooms, where there are deluded people who think that Steve Smith is a Test match number six batsman, or that Ryan Harris is a number eight, or that Xavier Doherty and Michael Beer are better cricketers than Nathan Hauritz. This was a team which used to set the standards for the whole world. At times these past few weeks they have been a shambles.

And, as Andrew Strauss made certain to acknowledge in his post-victory interviews, much of England's achievement can be attributed to that satisfyingly familiar cliche, the 'team effort', to which everybody contributed. This is broadly true, but some players contributed more than others.

Paul Collingwood has many virtues, but these cannot obscure the fact that he is the only one of England's specialist batsmen who has failed even to make a single half-century, and much of the time he has batted with the elegance and sure footedness of an inebriated man trying to walk across an ice rink. Not that you ever went to him for elegance - just resolution, unquenchable spirit and the best damn catching ever seen in an England shirt - but this must have been one of the last great days he will ever know in England whites.

Today has been a clammy, foggy day in the English Midlands and Stuart Broad's thoughts will, of course, have strayed far from his
Nottingham home. Unlike Collingwood, though, he will have further opportunities to be part of triumphs such as this, for the England team forged by Strauss and Flower will have many more days like these before they're done.

Two contrasting players. One old, one young. One in Australia, one at home. One at the beginning of the end, the other at the end of the beginning.

Now that the MCG cheers have faded, a penny for their thoughts tonight.


Dean @ Cricket Betting Blog said...

I like the description of Collingwood's batting, Brian. Especially when it could be summed up in one short, rude word.

England's selectors have stood by Collingwood, Bell and Cook over the years. But the big difference now is that Collingwood is nearly 35, while when Bell and Cook struggled, they were long term investments and (despite my opinions that Cook should have been dropped in the past, just to kick him up the backside) worth persisting with.

I'm not sure what cycle they build the team around. But if it is Ashes, or 50 over World Cups, then surely the world cup has to be his farewell.

Even if they decide he can carry on at ODI level, Sydney has to be his last test. How can Bell stay at number 6? And come May when we play are next test, the next Ashes will be just over 2 years away, so it must be time to invest in Eoin Morgan or another promising youngster.

The other bonus the selectors have is that Trott can play the anchor role innings now, in the past there was no one else, and that might have saved Collingwood.

At the moment Colly is going nowhere and just clogging up a batting spot.

Golandaaz said...

i quite like the promise of Steve Smith. I think he is a natural...a bit unfinished but looks real to me

The Old Batsman said...

I'd rather be Broady than Finny, though, for the next couple of years at least...

Brian Carpenter said...

Steve Smith will be a useful player in the long run but he's no more than a number eight at the moment. He should never have been batting above Haddin. Both his batting and bowling will develop.

Re Collingwood, Mike Selvey wrote the other day that he thought he'd retire from Test cricket after Sydney to avoid being dropped before the English season starts. He'll be at the World Cup, though, and may have a bit of an ODI future after that.

Morgan will of course get first go at his Test spot but, as a Somerset man, I hope James Hildreth gets a chance before too long. He's class.

Brian Carpenter said...

Cheers, OB. Unless he gets injured (which, you never know, could happen) Tremlett must be there for a while. With Broad to come back and Bresnan suddenly a hero, Finn might be back with Middlesex for a bit.

But his age, talent and personal qualities mean that he'll come again, no problem.

The Old Batsman said...

I agree, it could be a blessing for Finn, who's only just stopped falling over when he bowls. I hope Tremmers has a nice career now, free of injury and full of confidence, because he has all of the physical gifts a bowler could want. The real losers I think will be Saj Mahmood, Plunkers and, sadly, probably Graham Onions

Dean @ Cricket Betting Blog said...

No loss on the part of Mahmood, he's had enough chances over the years. Not sure about Plunkett, he returned to the squad a year back, but the fact that he wasn't retained shows Strauss or Flower, or both didn't like something they seen in him. Onions is very unlucky though.

I agree with OB's point about Tremlett, just after his move to Surrey I blogged that I hoped it would give him the boost to push on and show his true class.

I know it's only two tests into his return, but how good does he look? To me he already looks England's best bowler, and I'm a person who dosen't usually get carried with things after one or two good performances.

Also, a good run in county cricket won't be the worst thing to ever happen to Finn, he's had a good taste of international cricket and this might give him the chance to put into pratise any modifications or changes to his game to help him when he returns to international cricket, which won't be too long coming.

Brian Carpenter said...

Personally I never thought Mahmood had much going for him apart from raw pace and the fact that Duncan Fletcher really liked him (because of that pace). He'll never play for England again.

Plunkett could, but again I'm doubtful. If you go outside the names we've mentioned it's obviously Shahzad next (and I liked what I saw of him last summer) and then probably Chris Woakes, who looks a very handy cricketer.

Good to see everyone's trawling the blogs rather than the pubs this evening.

Dean @ Cricket Betting Blog said...

I'm through with that new year's eve rubbish, getting too old, will have a couple tonight instead.

Anyway, Happy New Year to you Brian.

And I agree with your view on Mahmood. As a Warwickshire man, I like Woakes, I get the feeling that the selectors (probably on Ashley Giles recommendation) have already earmarked him for England.

Subscribe in a reader