The Ed Cowan conundrum

Cameron Rose Columnist

By Cameron Rose, Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    Are players like Ed Cowan a thing of the past? (AAP Image/Julian Smith).

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    Most are agreed that this summer’s Test cricket asked more questions than it answered about the state of our national team, especially when we have all had one eye on the upcoming Ashes the entire time.

    Be it through confounding selection decisions like the ‘Rob Quiney thrown to the wolves’ saga, the absurd rotation policy that saw the weakness of the NSP on full display when playing five bowlers in Sydney, or the trials and tribulations of Shane Watson, we are no closer to knowing what our best Test XI is right now, let alone in six months’ time.

    But I’ve grappled with one theme more than any other over the course of the last few months – is Ed Cowan good enough for Test cricket? Does he ultimately have the class to succeed?

    Depending on the day, or even the hour, my answer may change.

    After seeing his first few innings at Test level and seeing the old-fashioned, ‘take the shine off the ball’ opening batsman he was, I remember thinking that with the apparent dearth of Test-quality batsmen in the country, if he could average 35 in his position we could view that as a success.

    It was noted that his application and intensity between wickets made Bernard Tomic look like Lleyton Hewitt, but purely as a batsmen there seemed enough there to suggest that he could make the grade.

    In fact, watching poor old Ed get run out twice this summer, it struck me that he was cricket’s version of AFL’s intellectual ruckman Will Minson, who was once called “the dumbest smart bloke in football” by his former coach Rodney Eade.

    Looking at Cowan’s six Tests over 2012/13, his supporters will point to one century, two fifty’s and 364 runs at 36.4 as not so bad facing the new ball, especially when the hundred at the Gabba was against the mighty South African attack.

    Detractors will say that Steyn and Philander were mere shadows of themselves in Brisbane, and four scores of 10 or less from six first innings isn’t good enough at the highest level, and his performance against popgun Sri Lankan quicks didn’t pass muster.

    Cowan’s last innings, a hard-fought 36 on a wearing pitch in Sydney, was in some ways a microcosm of his career.

    Those in his corner saw a gritty performance of intestinal fortitude when the more glamorous trio of Warner, Hughes and Clarke fell by the wayside. They point to him top scoring for the innings, not falling until over 100 runs were on the board, and playing a leading hand in securing victory in a dangerous situation.

    Those yet to be convinced about Cowan saw only stodginess at the crease which put pressure on the batsman at the other end to score, and struggles against spin that would bring about his regular downfall in India and against Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar in England.

    Over the course of his Test career, one of his main problems is that he looks solid when ‘in,’ but then has a bad habit of soft, lazy dismissals. This isn’t a good sign for a player who has got to where he is due to concentration and discipline.

    The feeling is that he doesn’t quite capitalise, failing too often to make hay under the shining sun.

    To add a bit of spice to the mix, the whisper has Shane Watson approaching selectors with the intent of becoming an opening batsman again, happy to push his bowling duties aside.

    Watson, most people don’t need reminding, had great success as an opener at test level. With most of his appearances occurring overseas, he provided a consistent platform against some renowned bowling line-ups, scoring some 1878 runs at 43.7, including his only two centuries.

    And his record as an opener in India, where Australia embarks on a four test series next month? 271 runs from four innings at 67.75, including a hundred and two half-centuries.

    So Shane Watson is certainly putting his hand up at the right time, or at the very least, the right time for Shane Watson.

    So, where do I stand on the Ed Cowan conundrum? This is where I have contradictory thoughts.

    As the incumbent test opener, based on what Ed Cowan has done to date, I’d like to see more of him, and think he should be allowed to hold his spot through India and England.

    Yet, if I was selecting the side from scratch, he wouldn’t be in it, and Watson would take his place.

    Has Cowan under-performed to the extent that he should be dropped? No, I don’t believe so.

    Is he a better batsman than Shane Watson, who is now his challenger for the role? Again, I’d have so say no, I don’t believe so.

    It’s worth nothing that both are head cases in their own right and, one suspects, riddled with insecurity.

    As we’ve seen when nearing Test hundreds, Watson has the mental strength of a yellow chick pea, and is a bloke who needs ‘a few days’ to get his head around batting at four. I say, what’s to get your head around? Simply strap the pads on when the first wicket falls, and walk out to the middle with bat in hand once the second bloke is out.

    Cowan, as a man with a more cerebral take on cricket than most, is a renowned over-thinker and over-analyzer of his game. You can almost see the mechanics of his mind driving his inner turmoil when dismissed by his own hand.

    Is there room for both in our Test side going forward? It appears not.

    As he seems one of the most likeable guys in cricket, I’m on Cowan’s side whenever he walks to the crease, and I sincerely hope he does well for his own sake.

    But if the selectors opt to go down a different path, I can see where they’re coming from too.

    Fifteen months ago, when thinking about who the best pure batsman in the country was, I argued the case for Shane Watson.

    Michael Clarke has clearly taken that mantle, yet a Watson that is fit, confident and in-form provides an air of stability at the top of the order that is beyond even our captain, and is also, I fear, beyond that of Ed Cowan.

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.

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    The Crowd Says (144)

    • January 10th 2013 @ 4:40am
      Roy said | January 10th 2013 @ 4:40am | ! Report

      A conundrum indeed…

      Is it ridiculous to suggest Cowan and Watson open with Warner to bat at 3, Hughes at 4, Clarke at 5, Kawaja at 6 … ?

      I understand there’d be reluctance to shift Warner given his superior form, but perhaps the other blokes are better fodder to put in front of the moving new ball in England with Warner the weapon to follow.

      There’s probably better arguments against this than for it, but maybe worth a thought.

      • January 10th 2013 @ 8:30am
        Train Without A Station said | January 10th 2013 @ 8:30am | ! Report

        It’s not but it looks like the selectors are hell bent on playing an All-Rounder to provide a 5th bowling option so whilst ideal, probably not really likely. The good thing about that line up is nobody is being played in a spot they are known to struggle and Uzi is capable of playing up the order, so as he performs, in case of injury he can move up and leave 6 vacant for the next bloke to slot in and find their feet.

        • Columnist

          January 10th 2013 @ 9:15am
          Cameron Rose said | January 10th 2013 @ 9:15am | ! Report

          Roy, I wouldn’t mind seeing that line-up given a chance.

          As Train says though, the selectors do want a genuine 5th bowling option. If we could be confident in four bowlers taking 20 wickets, I’d go with that top six for a while.

    • January 10th 2013 @ 7:27am
      Red Kev said | January 10th 2013 @ 7:27am | ! Report

      Cowan’s future rests on Watson’s fitness. Although I believe Watson should be considered a limited overs specialist, if he gives up bowling and can stay fit the selectors will give him the opening spot and dump Cowan.
      Personally I see Khawaja, Hughes, Clarke, Burns, Wade as our batting order. The openers are Warner plus partner. If it is Cowan or Watson (or Henry in three years time) so be it.

      • Columnist

        January 10th 2013 @ 9:17am
        Cameron Rose said | January 10th 2013 @ 9:17am | ! Report

        I keep seeing this Burns pop up from time to time, but I don’t know anything about him.

        Red Kev, can you elaborate on why you think he’s in the best six bats in the country, or why he will be if we invest time in him now?

        • January 10th 2013 @ 9:47am
          Red Kev said | January 10th 2013 @ 9:47am | ! Report

          Stats wise he is 23, average of 42 from 23 first class matches.
          I saw him last season in the shield highlights and a few domestic limited overs matches – I was also lucky enough to see his highest Ryobi Cup score (82 against WA last year). Every time I see him bat he looks good – solid technique, sweet timing and the ability to score quickly. He just looks comfortable and capable in a way that guys like Marsh and Quiney never have in the middle (to my eye at least). I see him more as a middle order player and was disappointed to see Lehmann play him at opener in the last shield match against NSW (he didn’t score well).
          Ideally I would like to see him given a couple more years in the Shield to ensure he isn’t a flash in the pan, but as young prospects go he looks excellent. There is a good argument for a year of D.Hussey while we wait for Burns, but I’ve always been more of a throw the young guy in kind of couch commentator.

          • Columnist

            January 10th 2013 @ 9:53am
            Cameron Rose said | January 10th 2013 @ 9:53am | ! Report

            I prefer to throw the young guys in too, and not just for two or three tests where they have to make a score. Give them time and the confidence to relax. If the selectors are going to trust their judgement with a young player, I’d like to see them given an extended run. It’s exactly why Khawaja should never have been dropped. We could see enough that he was going to be a player, so should be given the time to make that big score, and then hopefuly never look back.

            It’s probably fair to say that most test players bat in the top three or four at Shield level, so perhaps that was Lehmann’s reasoning for pushing Burns up.

            • January 10th 2013 @ 10:17am
              James said | January 10th 2013 @ 10:17am | ! Report

              Cameron is correct, Khawaja should never have been dropped, he didn’t even get half the chances Cowan has go. After 13 tests Cowan has not done enough and I oul get Watto and Warner to open with Khawaja at 4 and Hughes at 3, thats a good top order.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 11:24am
                Disco said | January 10th 2013 @ 11:24am | ! Report

                Khawaja was dropped because the selectors were sentimental with respect to Ricky Ponting. Many saw that at the time, called it and were criticised for bashing ‘a legend’. It was a big mistake, such that now Khawaja isn’t an established Test batsman going into overseas tours to India and England.

                It’s no coincidence that NSW were choosing Khawaja over Cowan, Forrest and Warner a few years back.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 3:17pm
                Rohit said | January 10th 2013 @ 3:17pm | ! Report

                Disco makes a very good point, Khawaja should never have been dropped after the NZ series otherwise we would have had a quality number 3.He was unlucky to be dropped last year after top scoring against South Africa 2 games before in a record 300 chase and getting run out the game before at 40 when called for a risky run first ball after tea. You have to feel for him but a classy player such as him can’t be kept out for too long and should be in th Indian series and is on the right path under Lehman.

        • January 10th 2013 @ 9:51am
          jameswm said | January 10th 2013 @ 9:51am | ! Report

          Ha – I’ll let Kev explain that one without mentioning the Red in his pen name, or that Burns is from Qld.

      • January 10th 2013 @ 10:20am
        James said | January 10th 2013 @ 10:20am | ! Report

        Red Kev my linep would be similar to you, Watto, Warner, Hughs, Khawaja, Clarke, Burns, Wade and there is no doubt you would go for Watto over Cowan.

        • January 10th 2013 @ 10:24am
          Red Kev said | January 10th 2013 @ 10:24am | ! Report

          I would not go for Watson over Cowan – so yes there is doubt.

    • January 10th 2013 @ 9:12am
      D.Large said | January 10th 2013 @ 9:12am | ! Report

      When push comes to shove if it is a straight decision between Watson and Cowan, Watson has to get the nod.

    • January 10th 2013 @ 9:24am
      Rob said | January 10th 2013 @ 9:24am | ! Report

      With as weak an Indian team as has been seen for some time Cowan has a chance to survive the sub-continent and push on to England. I think it’s very hard not to think that Watson is the better batsman at this point when fit. Him and Warner as an opening pair has the potential to put England on the offensive, an ability that Australia isn’t full of currently.

      Cowan’s innings in Sydney was full of merit and that kind of stability could be invaluable in England where with the exception of Clarke, the top order still needs to prove themselves.

      Time to be decisive now, two Ashes series coming up, Watson, Cowan as back up.

    • Columnist

      January 10th 2013 @ 9:45am
      Ryan O'Connell said | January 10th 2013 @ 9:45am | ! Report

      Great article, if only for the arrogant reason that it’s EXACTLY how I feel about Cowan. It’s a strange situation in which he’s given his detractors as much ammunition as he as his supporters.

      It wouldn’t surprise me to see him dropped any more than it would to see him selected to open the innings.

      I’ve got not idea what to do with him, but I do fear that if Watson is to return, for the balance of the side, it will probably be as an opener. . .

      • Columnist

        January 10th 2013 @ 10:00am
        Cameron Rose said | January 10th 2013 @ 10:00am | ! Report

        It’s funny isn’t it Ryan, I can’t quite remember a player like him.

        As someone who generally loves to debate, when Cowan comes up I’m happy to take either side depending on who i’m talking to and what they think.

        In essence, I’d support whatever decision the selectors make on him, because I can see where they’d be coming from.

        Now, back to the BBL…

        • Columnist

          January 10th 2013 @ 11:44am
          Ryan O'Connell said | January 10th 2013 @ 11:44am | ! Report

          I’m the same, mate. it’s hard to have an opinion when I’m not entirely sure what my opinion is!

          I’ll keep you up-to-date with the BBL, don’t worry!

    • Roar Guru

      January 10th 2013 @ 9:50am
      Andy_Roo said | January 10th 2013 @ 9:50am | ! Report

      I also see a choice having to be made between Watson and Cowan. Both are about the same age, with about the same ability with the bat. Watson has more experience but is still injury prone and questions will always be asked about his fitness, even if he plays as a batsman only. I would assume that watson will still bowl in ODI and T20 matches so he will still be risking injury which would keep him out of the test team.
      My choice, Cowan.

      • January 10th 2013 @ 9:59am
        Red Kev said | January 10th 2013 @ 9:59am | ! Report

        I agree, make Watson open and bowl and captain the ODi and T20 sides (yes captain ODIs over Clarke – maybe that is a little bit of political ego soothing, but I still think he is our best limited overs cricketer) and leave him out of the test side.

        • Columnist

          January 10th 2013 @ 10:06am
          Cameron Rose said | January 10th 2013 @ 10:06am | ! Report

          There are quite a few who think Watson should be a short-form specialist, and those in that corner certainly have a case.

          But I have to have him in my test side. I really do think he can be a key plank as a batsman-only. We need many, many things to go our way to be in with a chance in England, and an in-form Watson is one of them.

          • January 10th 2013 @ 10:31am
            Red Kev said | January 10th 2013 @ 10:31am | ! Report

            A fit and bowling Watson is one of them, as a batsman only he’s just another Cowan or Quiney or Marsh or North.

            • Columnist

              January 10th 2013 @ 10:37am
              Cameron Rose said | January 10th 2013 @ 10:37am | ! Report

              I have to disagree on that Red Kev.

          • January 10th 2013 @ 12:56pm
            Rob from Brumby Country said | January 10th 2013 @ 12:56pm | ! Report

            “We need many, many things to go our way to be in with a chance in England”

            So do they.

            Cam, why is it that you feel that Australia are the underdogs? In what area of the game are we noticeably inferior to this English team? It may have escaped your notice, but the Lobsters haven’t been in great form over the last twelve months. A series victory over a diabolically conflicted Indian side in the subcontinent has papered over the cracks.

            Broad and Anderson have struggled for form against quality batting. Over the last twelve months or so they have outbowled their rivals from the West Indies and Sri Lanka, but were completely shown up by the South Africans and were handily outperformed by the Pakistanis. Handily.

            None of the English batsman averaged over 50 in 2012, and only two (Cook and Pietersen) averaged over 40. Their collective strike rate meandered well under 50, and while that is not usually spoken of in Test cricket, I mention it because it indicates that they will struggle to win more games than they draw.

            Really their only shining light has been their spin bowling. Between Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, they have two of the finest spinners in the world. And YET… And yet it is not very likely that they will have the conditions nor the resolution to prepare pitches to suit carrying two spinners. I think it is far more likely that we will see them churn out flat pitches tailored to prevent results. The English aren’t going to try to win the Ashes, they are going to try to retain them.

            Now it is true, our batting order has its issues. The tour of India will be very instructive as to whether these batsmen have the constitution to see off the inevitable and prolonged examinations that Graeme Swann is likely to give them. But I don’t really see how you could say at this point that England are the clear frontrunners when their form (and our form) does not indicate this.

            • January 10th 2013 @ 1:04pm
              Red Kev said | January 10th 2013 @ 1:04pm | ! Report

              How about because England just beat India in India (no mean feat) and towelled us up in the last two Ashes series. They are also ranked ahead of us in the test cricket world rankings.
              If you followed England’s tour of India you’d know that scoring rate was essentially meaningless thanks to the conditions there. What they did show was mental toughness instead of the fragility the Australian team has shown.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 1:25pm
                Rob from Brumby Country said | January 10th 2013 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

                Come off it, Red Kev. The Indians in India these days are less the Springboks on the highveldt and more like the Welsh in Cardiff. Their senior batsmen are being out to pasture, and their young guns are too immature and impetuous to bring home the bacon. It would have been a disgrace if the English didn’t win their tour of India, just as it would be a disgrace if we manage to lose ours.

                It is true that the English gave us a thrashing in the last Ashes, but you seem to have forgotten that we completely outplayed them in the Ashes series before that. Everywhere but in the ‘Win’ column, that is… The point is that times change, and that a similar kind of loss is not likely to happen again.

                If you just have a look at those facts I presented to you, I’m sure you would have to agree that the English simply aren’t the Goliath that they were a few years ago.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 1:35pm
                Red Kev said | January 10th 2013 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

                No they aren’t, but on home soil they are still better than Australia.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 1:39pm
                Rob from Brumby Country said | January 10th 2013 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

                So you say. The South Africans gave them a good mauling on their recent tour of England, and I don’t think we’re that far behind the Saffas…

              • January 10th 2013 @ 1:49pm
                Red Kev said | January 10th 2013 @ 1:49pm | ! Report

                We’re a long long … long … way behind South Africa.
                They lost a batsman on day on of the first test giving them a 10 man batting order and we couldn’t beat them.
                They lost Kallis’ bowling on the first day of the second test (and Philander before the toss) and we couldn’t beat them despite them having to bat for over a day to save the match.
                They comprehensive beat us with a fully fit side in Perth.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 1:58pm
                Disco said | January 10th 2013 @ 1:58pm | ! Report

                Um, Perth showed that South Africa is far better than Australia.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 2:24pm
                Rob from Brumby Country said | January 10th 2013 @ 2:24pm | ! Report

                A long, long way behind South Africa? I doubt it. Of the last three series that we played against South Africa, we’ve tied two and lost one. It is true that they beat us decisively in Perth, but that amounted to one good performance from three attempts. You can’t deny that without Faf du Plessis, they would surely have lost the series.

                But they weren’t without him, and they won, but they won because of him. This one player – this guy who’d never played a Test before touring here – he was hugely influential. Damn near single-handedly, he managed to save South Africa in both Adelaide and Perth. Yes, Perth. That place where we lost. Without du Plessis, South Africa are dismissed in the first dig for 150ish, and at that stage the match could go either way.

                You will note at this stage that I am not trying to say that we are better than (or even the equals of) the South Africans. I’m just saying that right now the two teams aren’t split by much. Sure they lost Philander at the start of the series, but so did we lose Pattinson and Cummins. They lost Duminy and replaced him with the player who should have been Man of the Series. $hit happens.

                The point is that when you examine our performances against the Team that is indisputably the best Test team in the world, we don’t shape up so badly. I think it just goes to show that our inferiority complex at Test level is ridiculous and unwarranted. If we were really that bad, we would have gotten flogged by now, just like England did in the UAE. But that hasn’t occurred, and there is no evidence that it is likely to in the near future.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 2:53pm
                Red Kev said | January 10th 2013 @ 2:53pm | ! Report

                Do you know for a fact that Duminy wouldn’t have scored more than Du Plessis?

              • January 10th 2013 @ 2:55pm
                Rob from Brumby Country said | January 10th 2013 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

                I do not. But even if he had, the difference between the two XIs would still only be coming down to one man.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 3:42pm
                Red Kev said | January 10th 2013 @ 3:42pm | ! Report

                No the difference would come down to Amla and Kallis were massively superior to Quiney and Ponting, and Morkel was the best of the bowlers. Without Clarke Australia loses that series 0-3, so you can’t say the only reason South Africa won was Du Plessis.

            • January 10th 2013 @ 1:39pm
              Disco said | January 10th 2013 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

              Anderson bowled very well in the UAE and India. He’s a far more skilful bowler than any of Australia’s bowlers.

              Completely outplayed England in 2009? Yeah, you believe what you want to believe.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 1:45pm
                Rob from Brumby Country said | January 10th 2013 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

                We did. We took more wickets and scored more runs.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 1:51pm
                Disco said | January 10th 2013 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

                Anderson, Broad and Onions did the business at key moments and Australia’s propensity collapse was on show. Throw in Ponting’s mismanagement of the bowlers at Cardiff.

                Yes, Australia dominated in the 4th Test at Headingley, but Broad and Swann’s batting in the last innings was a sign of things to come in the 5th match.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 1:58pm
                Disco said | January 10th 2013 @ 1:58pm | ! Report

                England won more Test matches.

                Australia should have won at Cardiff but failed to do so.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 3:01pm
                Rob from Brumby Country said | January 10th 2013 @ 3:01pm | ! Report

                Dominating two or three sessions while being slaughtered in at least half a dozen does not make you a better team than the other lot. The English to their credit showed more resolution and tenacity in high pressure moments that won them their two matches – and that’s the stuff that wins you series.

                But it does not change the fact that they were outplayed for most of the series. My point is that their victory was against the odds and is unlikely to recur.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 3:28pm
                Disco said | January 10th 2013 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

                Indeed. And as such England were superior to a flawed, vulnerable Australian team.

            • Columnist

              January 10th 2013 @ 1:45pm
              Cameron Rose said | January 10th 2013 @ 1:45pm | ! Report


              I simply look at the England line-up and see us as inferior in almost every position.

              For their Cook, Trott, Pieterson and Bell, we have Clarke.

              Prior has the edge over Wade.

              Anderson, Swann and whatever combination of Broad, Bresnan, Panesar you want is superior to our rotation policy plus Nathan Lyon attack.

              Only Clarke and Pattinson would be walk-up starts in their test XI, while they would have, at absolute minimum, seven players walk into ours.

              That’s a pretty big gap in quality if you ask me.

              4-0 England.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 2:00pm
                Disco said | January 10th 2013 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

                Finn’s ahead of Bresnan now I’d imagine.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 2:02pm
                Rob from Brumby Country said | January 10th 2013 @ 2:02pm | ! Report

                4-0, is it? And you’d pin your journalistic credibility to that prediction, would you Cam? :p

                For Trott we have Warner. For Cook AND Pietersen we have Clarke. And for god’s sake – for Ian Bell we have just about anybody else.

                I’ll grant you that they have the edge in spin bowling and keeping, but how can you say that their pace attack is better than ours? When South Africa toured England, the English pace bowlers managed 31 wickets. When South Africa toured Australia, our fast bowlers took 35. And we managed to do that on Australian pitches without getting steamrolled, I might add.

                Anderson is not what he once was. Neither is Broad. I would choose both Pattinson and Siddle over either one of them. Hell, I might even choose Hilfi.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 2:03pm
                Rob from Brumby Country said | January 10th 2013 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

                ‘Finn’s ahead of Bresnan now I’d imagine.’

                You’d better bloody hope so!

              • Columnist

                January 10th 2013 @ 2:09pm
                Cameron Rose said | January 10th 2013 @ 2:09pm | ! Report

                I don’t understand why some comments have the ‘reply’ function, and others don’t.

                Anyway, in response to Rob FBC below, we can only wait and see.

                Assuming one test for a draw, I’ve constantly maintainted 4-0 or 3-1 England. As I’ve also said on these pages, there are circumstances that could see us pull off a miracle.

                I’d like to see your combined XI from Aus/Eng.

                Warner, Cook, Trott, Pieterson, Clarke, Bell, Prior, Swann, Pattinson, ?????, Anderson.

              • Columnist

                January 10th 2013 @ 2:21pm
                Brett McKay said | January 10th 2013 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

                Cam, the Reply option disappears once you get five levels in, but you can keep going back to the level above and it will keep listing them below (as I’ve done here..)

              • January 10th 2013 @ 2:48pm
                Rob from Brumby Country said | January 10th 2013 @ 2:48pm | ! Report

                Based on what I’ve seen of them over the last twelve months? Yeah, that’s easy:

                Dave Warner
                Alastair Cook
                Phil Hughes
                Kevin Pietersen
                Michael Clarke
                N/A (not enough data for either Joe Root or Usman Khawaja)
                Matt Prior
                Graeme Swann
                Ben Hilfenhaus
                Peter Siddle
                Jackson Bird

                12th man: Monty Panesar

                Trott scored over 1000 runs last year, but at a mediocre average of 38, so I’ve gone for Hughes who looks much improved. Ian Bell is a complete non-entity with a worse average than even Ed Cowan. Anderson was overbowled and had a bad year, while Broad underperformed. The less said about Bresnan, the better.

                To be fair, I have also singled out Shane Watson, the much maligned Ed Cowan, Matthew Wade, and James Pattinson as being not good enough. I’m sure people will have a beef for including Hilfi at the expense of Pattinson, but I’m choosing on 2012 form, here, and even taking into account his bad series against South Africa, Hilfenhaus was the better bowler.

                Does that line-up seem unreasonable to you? I could understand choosing Trott over Hughes simply because Trott had to face much more than Hughes did, but it’s not like you can say that Trott played with any distinction. It’s pretty commonly accepted amongst English cricketing circles that he had a bad year.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 2:55pm
                Red Kev said | January 10th 2013 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

                Congratulations, with that side you lose all credibility.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 3:03pm
                Rob from Brumby Country said | January 10th 2013 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

                All credibility?

                How could I regain some credibility, Red Kev? By picking bowlers with 2012 strike rates over 60 and averages that are at or are over 30 – just because they’re English? Get out of here.

              • Columnist

                January 10th 2013 @ 3:06pm
                Cameron Rose said | January 10th 2013 @ 3:06pm | ! Report


                You may well be the only person on the planet who wouldn’t have Trott and Anderson in a combined side.

                Admittedly, Trott did play 15 tests in 2013, but I’m pretty sure we’d jump at a player scoring over 1000 runs with two centuries and six fifty’s, especially a known quantity like him. And that’s a pretty good ‘bad’ year. We know he’s capable of more than that.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 3:24pm
                Rob from Brumby Country said | January 10th 2013 @ 3:24pm | ! Report

                Trott vs Hughes is not that clear cut to me, not in a year when Trott averages 38. Perhaps Trott qualifies by sheer weight of runs and Hughes small sample size, but it isn’t cut and dried. We don’t really know where Hughes is at.

                As for James Anderson, well what can I say? His strike rate was 70 and his average almost 30. That’s not a good year by any bowler’s standards, and it’s certainly not better than how the Aussie bowlers fared. Perhaps you could argue (similar to with Trott and Hughes) that Anderson should get Bird’s spot simply by dint of the sheer weight of wickets. Fair enough. That’s not how I would make my decisions, but I can see why someone might come to those conclusions.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 3:26pm
                Red Kev said | January 10th 2013 @ 3:26pm | ! Report

                How about picking a side based on more than pure statistics over the arbitrary last 12 months. Anderson is a better bowler than anyone Australia can put on the park; the only Australian bat better than Trott is Clarke; and you are dreaming if you think Bird based on two tests makes a combined Ashes team. Take your meds and go to bed.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 3:26pm
                Disco said | January 10th 2013 @ 3:26pm | ! Report

                Yep. They’re a joke.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 3:43pm
                Rob from Brumby Country said | January 10th 2013 @ 3:43pm | ! Report

                Gee, I’ve stirred up the hornets’ nest it seems!

                Disco and Red Kev, it is hard to counter your arguments when you don’t seem to have any facts.

                Red Kev, you say that Trott is a better batsman than any Australian than Clarke. You don’t offer any explanation of this, so I have to assume that you’re not talking about recent form, but that you’re referring to his career as a whole. Perhaps that is true, but where’s your evidence? If I said that Dave Warner, for example, is right now a better batsman than Trott, how would you refute that?

                You might be right to accuse me of a reliance on statistics, but what else can I give you? Anecdotes and conjecture? Nonsense.

                And Disco, I really have nothing to say to you. I’ve given you an argument, and I have supplied some evidence for my case – to wit, that Australia have at least as good a side as England. Perhaps the English team will prove how brilliant they are the next time our nations meet, but there’s no evidence for their clear superiority at this stage. I put it to you, what’s your case for England beating Australia in the next series? If you’re prepared to list your own argument, I will consider it. But come on, “jingoism”? You can do better than that…

              • January 10th 2013 @ 3:52pm
                Red Kev said | January 10th 2013 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

                You want facts?
                Trott averages 86 against Australia.
                Trott averaged 40.6 in 2011 and 38.6 in 2012.
                Trott’s career average is 49.5.

                Clarke, Watson, Hughes and Khawaja are the only players of our likely lineup that have played against England…
                Clarke averages 45 against England but is in imperious form averaging 106 in 2012.
                Watson averages 48 against England but only 24 in 2011 and 31 in 2012.
                Hughes averages 17 against England, 36 for his career and 37 for 2012.
                Khawaja has an average of 29 against England and overall.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 5:10pm
                Disco said | January 10th 2013 @ 5:10pm | ! Report

                Since when did only the past 12 months form matter, Rob?

                It is quite a ridiculous and biased assessment of Anderson you keep making. He’s been at the heart of the last two Ashes victories, so I’d say he’ll be a factor next time out.

                Ian Bell a “non-entity”? Where’s the factual basis for that?

                Clarke as good as Cook and Pietersen put together – same question.

                Other than Clarke and possibly Siddle, I wouldn’t pick any Australian player in a composite side presently (I’m not at all sure about Warner on English pitches against decent swing bowling) That, of course, may change after the next series.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 5:38pm
                Rob from Brumby Country said | January 10th 2013 @ 5:38pm | ! Report

                Hmmm, interesting statistics. That’s pretty much what I’d have expected, except for Khawaja who has only played one Test against England.

                I want to make it absolutely clear what I am saying at this point.

                My argument is this:

                Right now, Australia are at least as good if not better than England.

                My reasoning:

                1) My main argument is the recent good form of Australia’s bowlers.
                2) My secondary argument is the recent bad form of England’s fast bowlers.
                3) My tertiary argument is that the batting is about equal.

                To recap, I have said

                1) That Australia’s pace bowlers have been in good form. This is reflected statistically by their strike rates for 2012, which were generally below 60, and their averages, which where below 30;

                2) That England’s pace bowlers have not been in good form. This is reflected statistically by their strike rates for 2012, which were generally above 60, and their averages, which were above 30;

                3) That the form of the two batting line-ups is about equal where they can be fairly compared. (Cook is in better form than Warner, but Cowan is in better form than Compton. Trott is in better form than Watson, but Pietersen is in worse form than Clarke, etc. etc.)

                I think the best case-studies for my case are the South African tour of England and the South African tour of Australia.

                In the former, the English fast bowlers failed badly on their home turf against the South African batsmen. Not one English bowler averaged under 30, and only Steven Finn spared England’s blushes by having a decent strike rate of 54. Broad and Anderson both averaged around 40 runs per wicket at abominable strike rates of 71 and 98 balls per wicket respectively.

                These results can’t be blamed on the conditions as both Philander and Steyn found it within them to perform much better than their English counterparts. To emphasise this point, the English batsmen struggled in the series; in fact, five of the top six batsmen of that series (who played in every match) were South African.

                In the South African tour of Australia, the Australian bowlers failed badly on their home turf against the South African batsmen (with the exception of Johnson and Starc). Not one Australian bowler bowled 50 overs or more for an average under 30. Only Johnson and Starc spared Australia’s blushes by getting good returns on a lively Perth wicket. Siddle and Hilfenhaus both averaged in the mid to late 30s, and returned abominable strike rates of 78 and 101.

                These results absolutely can be blamed on the conditions, as neither Siddle nor Hilfenhaus were given the same facility to ameliorate their series figures by bowling on the much livelier deck in Perth. Morkel and Steyn were closer to the rest of the pack before the match at the WACA, averaging 29.3 and 51.6 runs per wicket respectively before the match in Perth.

                As far as batting is concerned, the Australians put up much more resistance than did the English – with three Australian batsmen being amongst the top six of batsmen in the series (who played in every match).

                In conclusion – I assert that the Australian cricket team outperformed the English cricket team in 2012 without ever playing against the English cricket team. This should not be taken as an assurance that Australia will outperform England in 2013, but it raises doubts over England being automatically considered outright favourites. It certainly raises doubts as to whether England could muster a 4-0 series victory over Australia – something that England have never achieved in a home series.

                I assert furthermore that the most likely outcome is a tied series. I expect England to retain the Ashes 1-1.

              • January 10th 2013 @ 5:48pm
                Rob from Brumby Country said | January 10th 2013 @ 5:48pm | ! Report

                Disco, I’m not discounting Anderson from having a major impact on the next Ashes series, I’m just saying that in his current form it does not seem likely.

                Look at the 2010 Ashes series. Hussey ended up scoring plenty, but before the series he’d had an awful run. Ask yourself truthfully: going into the 2010 Ashes series, did you think it likely that Hussey was going to score a pile of runs? Of course you didn’t.

                If the question was “do I think James Anderson is a good bowler?” the answer would obviously be yes. But the question is “do I think James Anderson is such a good bowler that we can write off the Australians right now in spite of the fact that his current form is no good?”. What conclusion would you reach? Apparently you’ve reached “Yes.”. Excuse me if my conclusion differs.

                And Ian Bell IS a non-entity. I’m about as concerned of Ian Bell as any right-thinking Englishman would be of Ed Cowan. What’s Bell’s average against Australia in England? Pathetic.

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