The three cardinal precepts of cricket at the International level are pitches, players, and the public. Australia paid more attention to their P’s, and some of the Q’s have been answered.
Cam Sutherland, the curator at the WACA, should be a consultant for cricket pitches worldwide. He produced a stage that George Bernard Shaw would have been proud of.
It gave the protagonists every chance to display their talents. Some failed and others excelled. But this was a challenge that lay bare both technique and temperament. Some reputations were enhanced and some blemished.
Is it not a pleasure to see some help for long suffering bowlers? Is it not fun to see flat track bullies found out for what they are? This was not a minefield.
It had life for those bowlers adroit enough to hit the right areas. It was by no means dangerous. It did not have the craters that Ambrose exploited all those summers ago. It was fast but not frightening.
And what of the players? Cook who almost owned Australia last week was now all at sea. Trott displayed all his fancy shuffling to the off-peg and tried hard but was, in the end, found wanting. Even Pietersen, so majestic and domineering in Adelaide, was made to look mortal.
England missed the hustle and bustle of Stuart Broad. They also missed his batting. Anderson’s dash to England and back made his legs heavy and though he bowled some unplayable balls the consistency was lacking. Tremlett was the pick and he announced himself as a bowler of great potential.
Of all the batsmen on either side only Hussey, Watson and Bell enhanced their reputations. Their technique and temperament were seriously examined and all passed with distinction. Bell’s second innings dismissal was an aberration. He lost his composure in the face of an enervating defeat and cannot be censured too much in a cause that was hopeless.
Of the keepers, Haddin with his first innings easily outpointed Prior. Prior seemed more intent on verbals than virtuosity. It is futile to mouth off when you are being pounded. His penchant to hook regardless was foolhardy and not in the interests of his team.
England had the best of the bowling conditions and caught superbly to have Australia reeling in the first innings. In hindsight had England batted first the game may have been over sooner than it eventually did.
Melbourne may see Ponting win the toss and bat first but that is in the future. For now Hughes must gather himself and score runs in Melbourne. I do not believe the selectors will change a winning squad. Having recalled Hughes they should not discard him now. That they should not have discarded him in the first place was a grievous fault.
As I write this the selectors have named an unchanged squad for the Boxing Day Test and this is a welcome departure from the panic of the previous regime. Chappell has brought a much needed calmness to proceedings and is also the man fronting the media.
In the eyes of many, Johnson has given his captain a lifeline and room to breathe. The selectors have also showed their faith in the captain.
Just for the record Ponting has captained Australia to victory in 48 of the 76 tests he has been in charge. He has also been part of 99 test victories as a player. His batting has not been consistent or prolific in the last 14-18 months. His physical fitness and reflexes remain intact. As Hussey has demonstrated you write off champions at your peril.
Ponting has shown faith in this group of players. Johnson, Harris, Siddle and Hilfenhaus are beginning to repay the faith and will get better.
Siddle may miss out in Melbourne and it will depend on the drop-in pitch. But don’t rule out Beer carrying the drinks again.
Now we come to the public. And here I include spectators, administrators and the media. The Australian public has been failed by its cricket administrators and this has already been debated in detail. Spectators are still gouged at every turn. Food and admission prices remain high.
I was in Brisbane with Brett McKay and a one hour wait for a taxi on the second day was an improvement on the two hours the previous day.
The Barmy Army has been fun and a vital part of the Ashes atmosphere. Our own administrators should relent and not be killjoys with beach balls and some good natured boisterousness. It is after all the festive season and it is time to let the hair down and enjoy.
There are columnists like Darren Berry who are playing favourites. When one considers that Watson is part of the Rajasthan franchise, where Berry is coaching, it is not surprising that he has been mentioned as a likely Captain.
There is support among people for Cam White and this would make sense if White could bowl. Our number sixes of the past could bowl: Walters, Slasher, Lehman. I am not doubting White’s captaincy skills and he is our best slipper. Ponting will not be around forever and there is enough time for Clarke and White to state their case.
Cricket has a long memory and it will usually give champions a chance to redeem themselves. Ponting may well become the first captain to lose three Ashes series. On the other hand he may win in Melbourne and in Sydney. I would not bet against it.