Aussies level Ashes, but chart suggests English win

Geoff Lawson Columnist

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    Australia's Mitchell Johnson, right, celebrates after taking the wicket of England's Graham Onions on the third day of the fourth cricket test match between England and Australia, at Headingley cricket ground in Leeds, England, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2009. (AP Photo/Tim Hales)

    Australia's Mitchell Johnson, right, celebrates after taking the wicket of England's Graham Onions on the third day of the fourth cricket test match between England and Australia, at Headingley cricket ground in Leeds, England, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2009. (AP Photo/Tim Hales)

    I’m always inwardly pleased when the Headingly Ashes Test finishes. It generally means I don’t have to put up with the Poms carrying on about 1981. They have a national holiday in Yorkshire (no, that’s not a contradiction in terms, the Western Australians will understand) to celebrate Sir Ian’s heroics.

    At times it seems like the whole body of English cricket has THAT match as its base.

    The English have learned through their folklore and storytellers that cricket matches are won by individuals performing one in a thousand heroics.

    This is of course leads to the expectation that miracles will happen every Ashes series. They don’t, and even though the ghosts of Botham, Dilley and Willis were invoked yesterday as Broad and Swann swatted the bowlers to all parts, no manner of prayer or invocation were going to get England anywhere near a repeat of 1981.

    England were outplayed in all departments.

    The Australians have displayed some schizoid tendencies during the first three Tests but fortunately the improvement curve has been trending in the right direction since day three at Edgbaston.

    Mitchell Johnson has emerged from his horror stretch of akimbo body angles and spreadeagled wicketkeepers to approach some reasonable consistency and the occasional inswinger.

    He still has a way to go before restoration as the strike bowler but at least the Australians have bowled as a team unit at Headingly with no one man being outstanding.

    The four seam bowlers each made a useful contribution to the victory and I believe they can do much better, and that is bad news for an ailing English batting lineup.

    Marcus North has shored up the lower middle order with measured and thoughtful methods which can make extensive partnerships with batsmen either side of him.

    The only worry at the moment is Mike Hussey whose rate of decline has decreased but is still trending downwards (I read that phrase on my superannuation statement and like Mr Cricket’s batting it didn’t fill me with reassurance).

    Last week the big question for Australia was ‘could they get the 20 wickets for a win?’. The same now applies to England.

    Without the talisman Flintoff and the luminant Pietersen, England have lacked an inspirational spark in both attack and defense.

    Andrew Strauss is a solid citizen rather than a demagogue but he will have to find both actions and words to get his troops motivated for the final battle.

    Firstly he must erase the memories of this debacle and then he has to lift the morale and the performance level in the manner of Mike Brearley (did I mention that I’m trying to forget 1981?).

    Perhaps the miracle England are seeking is the restoration to useable health (just for one Test please, please, please) of the 21st Century Botham. Andrew Flintoff may be the most pampered and medicated man in Britain over the next ten days. And he can certainly expect hourly calls from his nervy captain.

    It would indeed be a fairytale if Freddie can get fit and deliver a Test win, an Ashes recovery and career finale to match no other.

    They wouldn’t bother with a Knighthood, he could move directly to Saint Freddie.

    The problem for England is finding ten others who can play well enough to back him up and be inspired by him.

    Australia’s main trouble will be who to leave out given the success of spinners at The Oval.

    My one last note of caution is based on the most curious of notions: the form line of this series has been jagged. No straight lines on the graph for consistency in skill or failure indicates that England might bounce back as they did at Lords after a woeful performance and lucky escape at Sophia Gardens.

    It doesn’t really make sense, but then again neither did the events at Headingly 1981.

    Geoff Lawson
    Geoff Lawson

    Geoff Lawson OAM is a former Australian cricketer and the former coach of the Pakistan cricket team. Nicknamed "Henry" after the Australian poet, Lawson was a fast bowler for New South Wales and Australia.

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    The Crowd Says (20)

    • August 10th 2009 @ 8:26am
      sheek said | August 10th 2009 @ 8:26am | ! Report

      So Henry,

      Changes for the last test, if any? They say the Oval has turn.

      Australia. I would imagine a straight swap, Hauritz back in for Clarke? Does Hussey deserve to remain in the team? Has Hughes rectified his technique to the satisfaction of the selectors?

      England. Will Flintoff be ready for the last test? Panesar perhaps for Swann, despite his good batting? Do England have two competent middle-order replacements, for Bopara & Bell?

    • August 10th 2009 @ 8:43am
      Justin said | August 10th 2009 @ 8:43am | ! Report

      Sheek – selections will be crucial. I wouldn’t drop Clarke for anyone. Yes he was whacked about yesterday butthe match was over with no pressure on the batsmen. They could swing and bugger the consequences. I’ll take someone gets top order wickets. When theatch was there to be won Clarke took the vital wickets.

      I would bring in Hughes and replace Hussey with Watson in the middle, but they won’t do that.

      England have no class batsman besides Strauss, the rest are very average. Panesar is rubbish, at least Swann contributes with the bat and fielding. If Aus play well the Ashes are staying put, whether or not “I am God” is playing…

    • August 10th 2009 @ 9:12am
      Kyle said | August 10th 2009 @ 9:12am | ! Report

      nice post Geoff. Getting the 20 wickets does strongly suggest that day 3 in Birmingham was the turning point for this team (statistics, confidence, will, etc). I really hope Flintoff (England’s best and most inspirational player) is available fort the final London Test to negate dilution of a possible OZ win in his absence (KP, too). Australia should include a specialist spinner; however, we have seen in the past that OZ selectors often have a predilection to stay with a stable of batsmen and utilize part-timers….typically to the detriment of the team!

    • August 10th 2009 @ 9:23am
      sheek said | August 10th 2009 @ 9:23am | ! Report

      Justin,

      Clarke bowled especially well in the first innings. However, he was the least successful of the Aussie pacemen overall. Hilfenhaus & Siddle have been our consistent best, while Johnson appears to be regaining form. So, Clarke is the one to give way.

      Balance is essential, especially benefitting from any spin in the pitch, so I would bring back Hauritz, who has bowled quite well. Besides, the Aussies have Watson as a 4th quickie.

      Agree with the Hughes/Watson/Hussey scenario – should happen but won’t.

    • August 10th 2009 @ 9:39am
      Worlds Biggest said | August 10th 2009 @ 9:39am | ! Report

      Henry, as your old mate Beefy mentioned last night in the commentary, ” it will have to take something very special for England to win at the Oval “. Freddie is that person to lift the team. In your opinion which team benefits more from the 10 day break before the Oval ?. Australia will be reluctant to make changes given the dominant performance. If the Oval is a turner then Hauritz will come in for a seamer but which one ?. I would take Clark over Siddle if one of them has to make way. BTW – how ordinary was the booing of Punter, pathetic really. I thought the northern folk were supposed to be the friendlier bunch compared to down south. Some Yorkshiremen showing there true colours. I don’t think it would bother Punter one iota however it is poor form, he is one of the greatest batsmen in modern times and deserves respect.

      • August 10th 2009 @ 11:27am
        Colin N said | August 10th 2009 @ 11:27am | ! Report

        “I thought the northern folk were supposed to be the friendlier bunch compared to down south”

        Of course we are. Yorkshire’s a great place. I assume you haven’t been.

        “Some Yorkshiremen showing there true colours”

        I think this phrase is fantastic, the best cliche ever. What is meant by ‘showing your true colours?’ Is it that one is an ignorant violent thug? Or a person conforming to a typical stereotype? Yorkshire people and cricket fans (just to be PC) aren’t particularly people who I consider to be ignorant.

        The booing of Pointing was made worse by by the media and no was worse than the English being booed onto the ‘home of cricket’ by the Indian fans, or the stick the Australian fans have given Murali over the years.

        The Oval generally has pace and bounce so if I was Australia I would keep Siddle over Clark, if you opted for Hauritz. But, what’s the point when this attack has worked so well as a unit and if needed, the likes Clarke and Katich can act as part time spinners”

    • August 10th 2009 @ 9:55am
      Jameswm said | August 10th 2009 @ 9:55am | ! Report

      Yes I must agree on the booing of Ponting.

      It was probably a minority and I did see large sections of the crowd (obviously English) standing and applauding Ponting’s innings. But the booing of a world great makes the spectators look like boorish bad sports – basically what everyone criticises the Aussies of being.

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