21 July 2009

2nd Test conclusion: A BIG LOSS OR CRITICAL ERRORS?

History can't repeat itself in 2009, so the Lord's chapter is closed.
England take the Ashes so far 1-0, and that drawn 1st Test is starting to hit home a bit.
I have had my say over the last few days, and excuse my belated reply to the conclusion of the Test, but losing a big Test match is always a bit of a tough one for me to get my head around, otherwise I start to sledge every possible aspect of the game. But, as those of you know who have been following my site for over a year, I try my best too keep my blog in a good, competitive, opinionated and open-minded way.
I had my say on the Umpiring, but it's all irrelevant when you see a loss of 115!
But, there are positives!

The Strauss/Cook partnership (I say it yet again) nailed us badly, and the poor fielding and bowling in the 2nd innings didn't help one bit. When you look at how well we fought back in our 2nd innings, those uncharacteristically Australian field antics, in the English 2nd innings, had a big impact! Catches taken and better focus in not showing any intimidation regarding England's lead, would have minimised that lead too. But England had momentum, and it really does great things for a team. We can agree that England had huge momentum throughout most of the Test match!
We were outplayed, and my hopes for the Haddin/Clarke partnership to steer us closer didn't equate to much, as it was all done and dusted within a few deliveries.
Michael Clarke batted brilliantly, and can be very proud with how he handled his game! It was without a doubt at his best with the bat, but he even stated that his century seems irrelevant now, which is quite a big statement too make. It really shows how eager he is too lead as a senior, which should be a good sign for Australian supporters who maybe feel a bit concerned with him in leadership duties.
Sadly, he didn't even make the first hour of the day before yorking himself of Graham Swann's bowling.
With Hads and Pup back in the Pavillion, it was starting to look like 1-0!
Andrew Flintoff bowled like a demon, a one footed demon at that too! His taunts from 2005 are starting to emerge, but it seems the English supporters have clearly forgotten about 2006/07. It seems that Ashes series never occured!
Mitchell Johnson batted brilliantly, and I think we all knew he was batting like his life depended on it. Some may say, he was batting for his place! His bowling has been disappointing, and off-field incidents and obvious distraction haven't put him in a good place to show his true brilliance for us!
His batting was great, and when he was bowled I think we all dropped our heads with Mitch, knowing it was so close, but so far off still! His batting though is certainly in a professional category now!
115 isn't much when you think of the poor dismissals of Katto, Hughes and Huss, the early departure of Hads and Pup on Day 5, but that is it and now the lone figure of 115 is a horrible sight.
But, we fought back the Australian way, and let's be fair, it was a much better performance second time around!

Ben Hilfenhaus has continued to impress, but a bloke can only give so much if no-one else is applying the pressure from the other end! He has been consistent and reliable.
Hilfy was first in line to be made drinks man if either Stu Clark and Brett Lee returned, but now funny enough, Hilfy's performances have made this a little more difficult with regards to our bowling options!
Peter Siddle's ambitious over-drive and constant efforts to get the next wicket have not gone unnoticed! I believe he has deserved so much more up to this point in the series! I really do.
Nathan Hauritz, as my one readers Jawad and I have agreed, is a defensive bowler.
But he has shown more luring tactics. Better flight of the ball, better turn wide of the stumps, creating game plans etc. It is great to see and he has been able to get key wickets, and while he is nursing a rather buggered up middle finger, he has performed very well, with a lot of expectation on his shoulders as our only 'specialist spinner'. And any bloke who gets his finger dislocated and returns to the field deserves respect from every supporter!
He also needs to feel like he is meant to be there, and this HAS been a huge problem with a lot of younger, less-experienced guys coming into this team. It has affected our performances, and if I look at other teams regarding their spin bowling options, the few players that come to mind, are only performing as they are because they have been made to believe and given the edge that they are there because they have earned it, not because they are just filling the void!
Mitchell Johnson is the concern. His batting is very important, as we saw on Day 5, but we have him in the side as our strike-bowler, and maybe with Brett Lee looking good for Edgebaston, a rest would be best for Mitch. Just too clear his mind, get back into his rhythm and maybe at 1-1 he can get back in the squad to get some big wickets! Mitch is a top athlete and a highly promising bowler, but things just seem a bit too inconsistent right now, where we need the guys to be on the ball!
I am no cricketer, but as a supporter I am sure I am not the only one stating simply what I've observed!
And hey, maybe having an old-foe from the 2006/07 Ashes could get the Pom's just a little on edge, knowing the series is far from wrapped up, although, we have to take the next Test, we simply have too! We made the mistakes against India and The Proteas where we overplayed and over-relied on various players who weren't able to ride on with the form they had. Player's have form drops but when those signs are seen, it is best to move along till they have gotten it together, and it may even be just one game needed for some guys. Even during the Post-Waugh era, with all those guys around, if a few of them weren't playing to their best, he made way for another bloke, and 90% of the time that player would return to their old standards. Brett Lee showed indication of this against the Lions!
The last thing I would like to note with the bowling, is that maybe Hauritz will miss a few games if Lee or Clark come in the squad, maybe the part-time spinners will be given the heads up? The selectors may be doing some thinking, not too say it has been a bad show from our team, just that there are some players who may be fresh and ready to fire to push us up to leveling the series.
That is what it is about right now, just getting the right guys in there under the circumstances to push us up to a lead in the series.

Every guy in our team has a lot to play for, and we have a lot of positives from both these games, and these guys can well and truly set us up for a series win, but I hope the team really have identified their weaknesses and can fix them. The batting in the 1st innings was, as Ricky Ponting stated at the post match presentation, well short of what was needed to make that lead smaller.
I must admit Punter seemed rather relaxed about the whole outcome. Not sure whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, but the knowledge is that we can still win the Ashes and retain the Urn.

There is a practice match coming up before the 3rd Test, where I hope things will see a change and some good preps will be done.
Mistakes can be identified, players can be taken out of the Ashes hot-zone for a breather, and maybe we can find a more balanced approach to winning these remaining games.
People have a tendency to forget this is still a bit of groundwork with a less-experienced squad where most of the guys are participating in their first Ashes series outside of Australia, and that isn't the easiest. We also forget the Allan Border had a torrid time in rebuilding Australian cricket, and look, he set us up for things to come!
So stay positive as we were close, and let's not forget that while we have young guys learning game by game, and have a lot they are trying to live up too, we are in one of Test match crickets most epic battles, and winning this Ashes series, well, imagine the positives that will stream into the careers of these younger, less experienced Aussie cricketers! Let's hope for a good show to come!

The Ashes is alive though and so far proving a lot for Test cricket!

* DON'T FORGET to take a look at Chris Stocks' cricket column, from an English supporters perspective. He was at the game for all 5 days!
You will find his site in my links list!


Sylvester said...

Must say Hilfenhaus has gone really well. Hes got the ball that goes into the right hander which is making him more dangerous.

Johnson has been a real let down, can't believe how wayward he was in the 1st inns in particular. Siddle wasn't much better, I expected him to be a lot more economical. And the batting in the 1st inns was pathetic, no excuse for our lineup been bowled for just over 200.

Ian said...

Yeah, the mindset from Cardiff lived onto Lord's where batting needed a different approach.
I won't write Mitch off for a second, I simply believe alot has happened for him, which is maybe overwhelming when you pick up the type of bloke he is.
Non-confrontational and just does what he has too.
When I say he may need a break to clear his mind, it is anything but dropping him. I purely believe something isn't clicking with him mentally and emotionally. Just my opinion, but Mitch will be back to strike at the English line-up!

Chris @extracover said...

I think Johnson will be dropped for Edgbaston barring a miracle performance in the warm-up game. Stuart Clark will come in alongside Shane Watson.Brett Lee won't be fit. I expect Hauritz to be dropped, which would be a big call on a spin-friendly pitch.
As for England, Pietersen, baring yet another miracle, is out. Ian Bell will come in, as will Monty Panesar for Onions (who has an injury). Harmison will play only if Flintoff is injured, which he won't be for the next Test, or they 'rest' Broad.

Chris @extracover said...

That is my opinion by the way, not cast-iron fact, but spaking to a lot of the players that is my educated guess. I know McDonald, Watson and Clark are definetly in for the Northants game.
Australia have bad record at Edgbaston but my pre-series tip of a draw could be on! I take England to win at Edgbaston, lose at Headingley and then it will all go down to the final game at the Oval!