20 January 2014

2014 AB Medal & Australia Test Squad analysis

Having recently purchased my copy of the 2013/14 Ashes 5-0 victory on DVD, I can now relive the moments that saw our boys return the urn. I am now on another high as we have won the limited overs series, currently leading 3-0 with 2 matches remaining. It's been a splendid summer.

Some disturbing news has hit the cricket world, with a proposal from the super powers of cricket (in terms of the financial players) which may see a revamp of the ICC and the gradual destruction of competitive cricket of varied nature. The current model serving cricket is not the best solution, along with fixtures that do little to assist organisations to build demand and hype with supporters, but this recent one could dent the game beyond measure. I am very much about getting all the facts before having a thorough opinion, but here's a link to an article which should explain this recent burst of news.

Jarrod Kimber (Cricket with Balls) has summed up the issue by answering some FAQs. If I find the article, I will add it here.

Massive congrats to mighty Mitchell Johnson on winning the Allan Border Medal for 2014. Sensational achievement in such a short space of time. Well done champ!

Mitchell's Ashes stats:
165 runs @ 27.50. HS 64, x1 50
37 wickets @ 13.97. BBI 7/40, BBM 9/103

Michael Clarke seemed set to win it for a record fifth time, but Mitchell's heroic summer earned him the prize. His efforts with ball in hand for all 5 Tests, as well as a defining Ashes innings with the bat in hand at the Gabba with Brad Haddin - who was breathtaking to watch - was enough for him to win the prize. Usually the player who wins the medal does so for all round excellence across formats, but Mitchell's efforts were vital in us winning back the Ashes, and Test cricket is the pinnacle of the game.

Michael Clarke (Test award), George Bailey (ODI award), Aaron Finch (T20 award), Meg Lanning (Women's award), Cam White (State Player award), and Jordan Silk (Young Bradman award) all walked away with recognition for their elite efforts for Australian Cricket.

Well done to them all, but cannot forget their team mates.

Now, the big news is the Test squad announced for the South African tour. With out further to do, below is the squad, fixtures, and some squad analysis.

Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin, Jackson Bird, Alex Doolan, James Faulkner, Ryan Harris, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Marsh, Nathan Lyon, James Pattinson, Chris Rogers, Peter Siddle, Steven Smith, David Warner, Shane Watson.

Wed Feb 5 - Sat Feb 8
South African Invitation XI v Australians
Senwes Park, Potchefstroom   

Wed Feb 12 - Sun Feb 16
1st Test - South Africa v Australia
SuperSport Park, Centurion   

Thu Feb 20 - Mon Feb 24
2nd Test - South Africa v Australia
St George's Park, Port Elizabeth   

Sat Mar 1 - Wed Mar 5
3rd Test - South Africa v Australia
Newlands, Cape Town 
The only exclusion for our victorious Ashes side is that of George Bailey. I anticipated this and think it was a wise call by John Inverarity's selection panel.

Here's what I wrote about George, shortly before the Ashes was concluded: "George Bailey, possibly playing his last Test innings, evidently enjoying himself just found the gaps, worked the ball away, lived on the edge but survived to stumps. He has 20* runs and tomorrow could be a memorable one for him if he just gives hit his best. He has little to lose. He is in our ODI team as a regular member, has now been a member of a winning Ashes campaign, and did manage a half-century in Adelaide."

A weakness outside of off stump was exposed by James Anderson, and this would have been far too easy for the South African pace attack to both target and further expose. The wickets in South Africa and Australia draw many similarities, so this weakness would have been a concern heading to their turf. He will always have the memory of being a member of a winning side, along with that record of 28 runs off one over against James Anderson (level with the record).

The head scratch comes with the inclusion of Shaun Marsh at Bailey's expense.

I have always viewed Shaun Marsh as a player of high class and a technique tailored to Test cricket. However, this selection was based on limited overs form and, once again, his potential which often doesn't reflect at the elite level. We saw what this did to George Bailey. Test players must be selected on the basis of the form for Test cricket, being the Sheffield Shield contest.

Shaun scored a Test century on debut against Sri Lanka in 2011, and has shown numerous moments of elite composure and ability but, like Mitchell Johnson, he is a confidence player and seems to be his own worst enemy. His Shield form has been poor to say the least and doesn't warrant selection.

He currently sits in position 34 for most runs scored this Shield campaign, with one century from 9 innings, averaging 31.

In contrast, Phillip Hughes was expected to make the tour based on his return to Shield cricket to score runs and earn his place. He currently has 549 runs at 61.00, and this includes his maiden double century of 204. Go figure and never mind this is a man who has somehow found a way to handle the South African attack time and time again.

Even Marcus North may have seemed a brighter option, while not long term he leads the Shield run scorers list. Don't forget this man scored a century against South Africa on debut at the Wanderers on the same tour where Hughesy scored back to back centuries at Kingsmead, Durban.

All in all, Marsh is the type of player that if he gets into his stride he can genuinely control any bowling attack, but his current form does not suggest this is a likely mindset he has right now. ODI form cannot justify this. Having written this, I know what he is capable of, most of us do and he is now in the side so we just have to hope that should he get a game (probably at number 3, moving Watson down to 6) he will put invaluable runs on the board for us to better our chances of winning this series.

Alex Doolan has been on the radar for some time. This is a long term look from the selectors and previous Shield seasons have showcased the man is a fine batsman. This campaign he has been well below his best but it hasn't affected the confidence in his skills from the selectors. At present he is the 17th highest run scorer in the campaign with 391 runs at 39.10.

These two players will have a chance to showcase against the South African Invitational, before the three match series gets underway.

Chris Rogers will partner David Warner at the top of the order. This is Davey's first Test tour to South Africa, while Chris Rogers has never even been to the country before so it is a first for him.

Michael Clarke was in the early stages of his sublime run of form when we last toured South Africa in 2011. I was at that weird match at Newland's where he scored 151 runs in our 1st innings, only to see us bowled out for 47 runs in the 2nd innings, as well as South Africa been bounced for 98 runs in their 1st innings. It was the best I'd seen Clarkey bat, but it was in vain. He changes Ashes fortune, time to do it again this time.

Steven Smith is on this tour to assist Clarkey in the middle order. Stevo came of age at the WACA and he's become a fine young cricketer, courtesy of the current selection panel giving him time away from international duty to define his role. Similar to Steve Waugh's story in some ways.

Our bowlers from the Ashes will all make the tour.

Mitchell Johnson
may very well be the danger man for this tour, with Graeme Smith having the ambulance on standby, but Ryan Harris is the bowler I tip to be our key player tactically. His menacing swing and precision is perfect for South Africa conditions. He can best mirror Dale Steyn, so this series is definitely one where people will salivate come the contest of the fast bowlers. This is the contest that world cricket should care about!

Ryano also cast aside IPL duties to get his knee operation complete, which he's delayed so he can make this tour. Sacrifice at it's best. What a true champion.

Mitchell was so low on confidence on his last tour to South Africa, quite a contrast to his brutal tour there is 2009 where he took 16 wickets at 25.00, including the destruction of Graeme Smith's hand (round 2) and Jacques Kallis' jaw. In 2011 his run up was weak, and he was just not in it. Another reason to be so proud of his return to our side thinking back to those dark days.

Peter Siddle will be greeted by the chants of "Siddle is a wanker". The Newland's crowd in 2011 did substitute the word "wanker" with the word "anchor" in 2011 as they'd grown fond of Sids attitude. That is what Sids need to be though, the anchor of this bowling attack. He needs to play the anchor role, but no doubt the chants will return with the word "wanker" if he bowls well.

James Pattinson returns to the team. He looks very inspired at the moment and quite aggressive. The South African's don't like an aggressive Australian cricketer and there's a few of them in our team. JP is one of the main guns in this regard, so he will be eager to get out there. I hope he stirs with them.

I am also excited about Jackson Bird's inclusion. His Big Bash stint for the Stars has been brilliant, but what's most notable is his consistency come line and length, ability to bang in a short ball with a troublesome angle for the batsmen to stand up to, but best of all is he looks fit and ready to play. I think an attack of Johnson, Harris and Bird is very exciting.

Nathan Lyon remains the spinner of choice and rightly so. South Africa is the not the desired place for a spin bowler to perform, but it serves a purpose. Lyon is now a spin bowler rising to a higher quality of standard than when he first toured there with the 2011 squad. The South African attack is not one usually tipped to be the best against spin - with the exception of AB de Villiers. Lyon may have a decent role to play.

James Faulkner and Shane Watson stack up as our all-rounders and unless Watto is injured, James will likely be the drinks man for the 1st Test. Watto still needs to showcase better consistency to cement his spot for a while longer and we desperately need him to do so this tour. He was hit and miss in the Ashes, but we need the best of Watto this tour. It will make a massive impact on the series.

Brad Haddin gets the nod as keeper of choice. Two years ago I would not have imagined this to be the case, so that is just terrific for Hads that he still has so much to offer us. His ability to initiate rescue missions of late to our 1st innings inconsistencies was urn saving, but he can't do it all the time. In 2011 at Newland's he charged down the track when our team was in trouble. We were bowled out for 47 runs and it's a dismissal many of us just haven't been able to forget.

This is a firm reminder our batsmen need to find ways to believe in themselves to handle the 1st innings pressures in the top of the order. They can.

Other than that, it's now just a case of counting down the days. More build up analysis and opinions to follow. For now, enjoy the final two ODIs. I will be at the Australia Day ODI. Still quite surreal.

Welcome to The Baggy Green Blog!
Thanks for reading this article written by Ian.
To comment on this article, click on the 'Comments' tag at the end of the article.


No comments: