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Finding survivors amongst the first Test casualties

Roar Guru
30th November, 2010
55
1180 Reads

The ‘Gabba Test confirmed that Australia deserves to be ranked number five in Test cricket’s pecking order. If there was a cholesterol test for cricket form then Australia should be worried. It is apparent the selectors cannot tell the good cholesterol from the bad.

The first diagnosis Hilditch and his team of spin doctors got wrong was Michael Clarke.

Alex Kountouris, the team physio, said at the outset it would be two weeks to get Clarke to the optimum fitness levels. A cursory batting examination and Clarke’s word were sufficient for him to play.

It should never have been his decision.

So he came through a batting session? Would any of his teammates have subjected him to a serious barrage of quick bowling? I would think not.

His batting in the first innings was tentative and spoke of a man not confident to test himself.

In saying all this, I am not suggesting Clarke has lost it. He remains one of the best around. His footwork, when fully fit, is second to none. He plays spin as well as anyone in the game. His work through covers and straight driving speaks of a man possessed of exceptional talent.

He has been our best performed over the last eighteen months. In short, he is no mug with the bat.

He was only ever going to be fully fit for Adelaide. That is why he is in the squad and no cover is necessary now. The lesson for the future is: do not rely on the batsman to declare himself fit.

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Or the bowler, for that matter.

The case for North’s continuing inclusion is perplexing. Australian cricket cannot afford to chart its course based on his luminance. This is flying blind. His apologists may point to the fact he was the only wicket taker in England’s second innings. When he joined Hussey with the score at 4-142 the stage was set for North to produce.

It was left to Haddin to show North what was required.

The indications are that North will play in Adelaide. The only two additions to the XI from Brisbane are Bollinger and Ryan Harris. The selectors have missed another opportunity to play Smith.

The batting from 1 through to 7 looks good except for North.

Coming to the bowling Australia were handicapped in Brisbane because of Johnson. Those that pointed to his recent Shield ton and fivefer as form and momentum seemed to have forgotten his waywardness in the Test arena.

Speaking without emotion he is a liability in his current form. Bowling, batting or fielding he is a shadow of his potential. A shell without substance. Whatever it is that ails Johnson the Test arena is not the place to cure it. An extended spell in Shield would be the way to go.

Bollinger for Johnson should be a fait accompli.

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Hilfenhaus and Siddle pick themselves and this then leaves Harris fighting with Doherty for the last bowling spot.

Doherty bowled too quick in Brisbane. One of his deliveries was clocked at 101 Kph. Impossible to get purchase and turn with speeds in the high 80s and above. In his defence Ponting would have asked him to keep it tight.

As a debut there have been worse so his sacking would be harsh.

I believe if there is no standout spinner then it is not necessary to include one. I would go with a four pronged pace attack of Siddle, Harris, Bollinger and Hilfenhaus. All these would relish taking the new ball. I would open with Bollinger and Hilfenhaus. It is time Clarke and Katich shared the spinning duties.

Watson is now a clever bowler and becomes a handy fifth option.

Fast bowlers the world over could well be singing the words from Merle Travis’s Sixteen Tons: You load sixteen tons, what do you get?

Another day older and deeper in debt.

Hilfenhaus bowled 51 0vers for the match, Siddle 40 and Johnson 42. Watson chimed in with 27. Anderson bowled 42, Broad 40 and Finn37.4. Running 12-15 kilometers on a hot day is about one third of a marathon at 400 metre pace. Enough to put off even a junkyard dog.

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On flat pitches there is a case for four frontline pacers and a backup from someone like Watson. England may well decide to include Tremlett and drop Collingwood who had a poor match. That would be a bold move and I don’t expect England is that emboldened. Fast bowlers should be treated as National Heritage and protected from the demands of avaricious administrators.

My team for Adelaide: Watson, Katich, Ponting, Clarke, Hussey, North (reluctantly), Haddin, Harris, Siddle, Hilfenhaus and Bollinger.

Ideally, I would have liked Smith for North, but the selectors have shown their reluctance by keeping the same XI plus Harris and Bollinger.

And what do we make of England?

They have shown that they deserve to be ranked as high as number 3, just above Sri Lanka. The batting, except for Pietersen and Collingwood, has good form and substance. It will not be long before these two also strike form. They are big match performers and will strike some important blows for England as the series progresses.

In Prior and Broad they have capable and fighting all rounders. 8-11 in the batting is decidedly better than what Australia can put on the field. This will become important in low scoring matches.

All in all England look the better side in all departments. The one advantage Australia had in the past was fielding. That is not the case anymore. It is no good excusing Clarke and Johnson’s dropped catches. In Clarke’s case he was not fit. In Johnson’s case he was off his game.

Unless Australia bat with more conviction and bowl with more purpose the Ashes will remain with England. It is time for Australia to put up or shut up. At least Ponting had had enough. He advanced down the wicket and smacked Swann for a six late on the fifth day. His 51 was a show of controlled anger.

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He is a proud man, and irrespective of his captaincy credentials, showed he is one of Australia’s best ever.

England is on the ascendancy.

Australia won the first three days but was badly mauled on the last day and a half. Ponting and Watson salvaged some much needed pride and the draw while seen as a moral victory to England is still a draw. Adelaide beckons and Australia can win but it will need 11 men with a singular purpose and resolve of the highest order.

The blame games are over. It is time to produce on the pitch.

The Barmy Army has silenced Australian supporters for the time being. A bloody nose and a black-eye should not stop Australia. To win you need to bleed.

My final bit of advice to the selectors comes from John F. Kennedy: There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.