03 August 2009

Day 5, 3rd Test: ASHES HOPES ARE STILL ALIVE!

If this had ended up being a full 5 days of play, it may have been another massive encounter in this 2009 Ashes series!
While this was not the greatest of results any Australian supporter would want, the good news is we are still in the series, and in with a fighting chance to win this series.
It won't be easy though, but it can be done.
I strongly believe England were very confident that they had a chance to take this Test on Day 5, but with some determination by Michael Hussey, Shane Watson, a terrific Marcus North and ever-improving Michael Clarke, the momentum may have just been snatched to lead the boys into the 4th Test.

Firstly I think Ben Hilfenhaus deserves the credit for his bowling, which will be overshadow by Pup and Marcus' fantastic partnership.
Hilfy's story has been a patient one. Ok, now it's no Michael Hussey story (similarly Marcus North too in time frame) but he has had plenty time sitting on the sides looking on since his debut season for Tasmania, which caused immediate interest in his bowling, including Tassie senior Ricky Ponting.
Hilfy was often present in the squad at various matches, but had the drink's man duties for a couple of season's.
He won the Young Bradman Cricketer of the year award a few years back at the Allan Border medal award in 2007, and continued to perform strongly at the top of the Domestic bowling ranks. Wickets and promising Australian squad selection's followed, lining him up for a few T20 appearances and in recent times his ODI career got off to a start. But all the talk was centered around his Pura Cup/Sheffield Shield performances, which were edging the hopes towards a Baggy Green cap, ultimately debuting in Test cricket for Australia.
In the 3rd Test against The Proteas at the SCG (Sydney), Doug Bollinger was given the cap and made his debut, after a friendly contest in the media had tipped Hilfy to get the nod ahead of Douggie. There's little doubt in my mind Bollinger will be apart of the ODI squad to take on England after the Ashes, but Hilfy has got the Test attributes for the Australian team to move ahead.
His Test call up came against the Proteas at the Wanderers, and since then it has been a quiet, yet effective progression for him. His average of 38.05 is nothing special, but after reaching his best figures in this recent Test match, where our bowlers as a unit have lacked the synergy needed with the series at a critical state, Hilfy has continued to perform consistently, almost in his own world.
He may not be getting 5 wicket hauls, and 8 wickets per game, but he can tie the batsmen up, and keep at it for long periods of time! When he does get a wicket it is always a spectacle and thus far each wicket has seemed a result of genuinely well executed seam bowling. Those 20 wickets in his fresh career are well deserved!
It's great to see Hilfy get so well settled, but with 2 Test's to go I really hope to alot more from this powerful Tasmanian.
With Mitchell Johnson looking better it is encouraging, but as my one reader, Sylvester, pointed out, if this were a three-match series, it would have proven to be a highly ineffective performance from Mitch, and the ongoing verbals between himself and English players may have shown a few dents in the armour. But I feel a clean sheet after a much better performance will surely set Mitch up for two more chances to prove the critics wrong. It has been disheartening to see him really struggle in this series, but his lack of impact has shown how it has affected the team, and how important Mitch has become for our side. I am sure that many are hoping Brett Lee will be able to get the fitness approval to make an appearance in the 4th Test, where we will need as much firepower as we can in order to take on the English who lead this series 1-0. With two chances left, where two wins are needed, it would be a great time for Brett to make an appearance, and heal some of those possible scars from 2005. This is a wait and see matter, but with himself and Stuart Clark well in the running's for the 4th test, I just get the feeling that the 4th test will see a change or two with our bowling ranks. Not too much though, as playing with the formula could be a risk too many.
Peter Siddle looks the most likely bowler to make way for Brett or Stuart, but Sids' efforts mustn't be overlooked if this is the case. He has given his total energy and the ambition he shows is very encouraging for upcoming Australian cricketer's. Sid's is unlikely to be a front-line mass wicket taker any time soon, but I feel his role will be similar to a Merve Hughes, and the more time in the middle to face more opponents, and create more enemies will strengthen his development as a frontline bowler. But with the Ashes at stake, it may be Sid's who makes way for one of our more experienced players.

Shane Watson bagged two half-centuries and looked very comfortable opening the batting. Throwing him in a pressure situation has worked, and it was a major relief to see him work his way through the English bowlers with total control and not afraid to play his shots. As an ODI opener, Watto has taken his opportunity and will be in-line for another. I do feel sorry for Phillip Hughes and I really do believe his playing wasn't as down and out as many perceive it to be, but I am also sure that by ommitting him from this Test it may have saved his confidence, as another failure may have deepened some worry with his game. Mitchell Johnson has his batting as a strength to add to his growing stature as a bowler, but as a bowler the failure is less evident as opposed to a batsman, where fifty to one hundred is the only safe zone.
So, under the circumstances Watto did a fine job, and for the first time in a while Simon Katich didn't make a fifty plus.
Michael Hussey was dismissed first ball in the 1st innings in a way that we have already seen in this series so far, but it was very encouraging to see Huss manage 64 runs in a situation that had mounting pressure upon him from a personal point of view and a team perspective. He showed little fault out there, and the inning's was built around powerful strokeplay as 52 of his 64 runs came in boundaries! I have always had plenty belief is Huss' batting, so I have little doubt (despite the last few months' rollercoaster ride for him) he has a ton awaiting him. He needs it and I know his supporter's want to see it, and miss the three-figures next to the name 'Hussey'.
Marcus North deserved a century. Simple as that. He has frustrated with his inconsistency, but when he gets going, his unique style of batting, with elegant whipping to the legside and heaving cover drives (where he throws everything at it) can prove to be decisive in an innings where we often rely on middle order heroics due to top order failure. He showed plenty aggression in a stage of his innings which was very un-Marcus like, but it ended up being his downfall to a great catch by James Anderson, but his 96 runs was impressive none-the-less and he really played well in a situation that Tested him!
Michael Clarke did make his 12th century in Test cricket, and has shown how he is maturing as a player and is much better in the English conditions, but he had luck on his side. In the nineties a delivery from Stuart Broad brushed his off-stump and the bails didn't dislodge, and even better was after being caught on 96, Rudi Koertzen spotted the front-foot no-ball, and Pup had another chance.
He made his century with a cracking boundary, and that was that. He raised his helmet, reached the milestone, but their was little more for both teams to fight for.
One conclusion is that 96 nearly became the new 87, and we had some luck at last!

Great batting from Pup, and his partnership with Marcus North was the highest partnership for Australia in an Ashes series for the 5th wicket at Edgebaston. The previous record was held by the Waugh brothers, dating back to 1993.
Pup also played his 50th Test, and this century is very fitting!
Shane Watson became the first right handed batsman to open for Australia in Test cricket since Michael Slater, dating back to 2001.
Unless you been sleeping the last 5 days, you will know Ricky Ponting is now the leading run scorer in test cricket for Australia having overtaken Allan Border's record that has been standing for the last 15 years! AB was a classy character, a pioneer of the Australian way of cricket, and Punter deserves the respect from all Australian supporters in achieving this record, in a much sooner time than AB did. While this achievement has been overshadowed with being 1-0 down and an ineffective batting display from Punter, it is a brilliant achievement. It places him at the most elite level, and he will now be chipping the runs off to pass Brian Lara's record. Punter is now the 3rd Highest run-scorer in Test cricket's history, with Sachin Tendulkar quite comfortably leading the way.
A funnier stat is that James Anderson has not been dismissed for a duck in 53 innings! That is quite a record, and I have to hand it to Jimmy, as it really is an awesome record to have! I wonder now whether we can start his duck run?

Stats as well as my player and performance analysis aside, the next 2 Tests will be eagerly watched by many, and for Australia the standing's are hopeful that it hasn't become 2-0 to England. The chances to take this Ashes series 2-1 are here.
How fitting would 2-1 be after 2005!

6 comments:

Sylvester said...

Totally agree about Hilfy he has finally made his mark. He doesn't seem to be swinging it as much over here and definitely not as much as his T20 debut. When I saw his debut I was like wow. But he certainly is getting the job done and is someone that Ponting can rely on. He does need to bowl the off cutter or the ball that goes into the right hander a bit more and he needs to quickly realise when the ball isn't swinging to drop his length.

It was good to see us finally saving a match, North played his best knock since his debut. Hussey looked good but since India he has failed to convert his 50. For a number 4 you expect a better conversion rate.

I just don't believe we can keep both Siddle and Johnson. Both keep going at 4 an over. Johnson looks the more threatening of the two when he gets his swing going. Also it is one reason why I would have Clark over Lee. Lee is another that can go at 4 an over and he could break down again not to mention we don't know if he still has his form from the tour match. Too risky playing him with no game time.

Baiju Nair said...

The Aussies played out the final day without much scare thanks to a scintillating innings from 'Pup'. It has been great to watch the way he has matured over the last 18 months or so. I think Siddle should make way for Lee (if he is fit) or for Clark. Johnson is still not fully convincing but he showed glimpses of his abilities in the 3rd test.

Ian said...

Hi guys.

Yeah Huss' conversion rate at number 4 hasn't been consistent or convincing, which is why I notice a few people hope to see him climb down the order to 5 or 6 to give himself some time to ease in at a medium between his ODI temperament where he builds with patience but eases into his shots easier when the ball is roughed up. It makes sense. But it was great to see him get some runs, and in hindsight it was an important contribution in the circumstances.

I remember that T20 debut for Hilfy. It was pretty mean the way he managed to swing it. Maybe we may see a few more ODI's with the new ball. He has grown in confidence since then, but to me he has appealed more as a Test cricketer.

If Marcus North can find better consistency he will be well on his way as a middle order mainstay.

Siddle seems to be the bloke to miss out next Test from the supporter's opinion's. Alot depends on the situation with Stuart Clark and Brett Lee come Friday. Clark is in a better position, but when you leave out Siddle you losing a pace factor over a swing factor, which would mean Brett lee would be the better candidate, but his injury risk is still a concern.

Baiju, thanks for stopping by mate and sharing your input. Pup has developed into a very good Test cricketer. He has his off-days which usually don't amount to much, but when he gets stuck in, he is a great batsman too just sit back watch how he handles his inning's.
Mitchell is far from his best, but he showed better character out there, and his control was ALOT better than what we have seen in recent weeks.

Sylvester said...

You could go Clark, Lee, Hilfenhaus and Johnson. From what I hear the pitch at Leeds is very seam faovured.

But if we are keeping Hauritz, then its just too risky to take Lee atm. His record in England ain't flash so with all that added he shouldn't be selected. If we had a tour match between the 3rd and 4th match then you could make a case for him depending on the match.

greyblazer said...

Hi,

Hilfy is a good bowler as he is consistent and doesn't spray it around.

Please have a look at this blog too.

http://greyblazer.blogspot.com/

greyblazer said...

Watson is ok but if the bowlers keep bowling full and swing it he is vulnerable and as he does push hard at the ball it may encourage spinners.