Durham

Wrung out yesterday, burned by Broad today – Aussie Ashes scattered

Armageddon?

After sleeping only 3 hours this morning after 3am, I’m substantially wrecked today, and so is Australian cricket. Some of you might think I’m being overly negative in response to the loss at Durham overnight, but we’ve a right to be armageddonist.

Remember how we felt in 2010-11 after England skittled us for 98 on Boxing Day at the MCG and replied with 0/150+ at stumps? Remember the 3-1 defeat, albeit three absolute thrashings, in that series over two years ago?

What about 4-0 down in India earlier this year?

How about being 3-0 down in England?

There shouldn’t be any bush beating here, Australia is at its lowest point for decades and it’s arguably a lower tide than the 1980s.

After an improved showing at Old Trafford last week I was amazed at how quickly the feeling of “we’re back” lurked behind media reactions. The phrase, while not quite spoken aloud, also seemed on the tip of tongues in conversations I’d had with fellow Australians. Sure, we’ve been in the odd decent position and our bowlers have often created that, but in a two-horse race run across five days there will almost always be a point where you can draw that bow.

The fact is, our batting collective is not Test standard, we lack resolve and fortitude and the evidence of this is plain and readily available. You won’t need Assange, Manning or Snowden to show it to you.

Don’t lose sight of the big issue

Without going on like a two-bob watch I must say that the odd positive on-field display should not distract us from the cancerous issues stymieing Australian cricket. The systematic destruction of our cricketing stocks is unintentionally orchestrated by dark, incompetent administrative forces and is first evident in the emaciation of talent available to Australia. Our stocks are thin. The numbers returned in the Sheffield Shield have been screaming it for years.

“Oh relax, we’ve had our time in the sun, it’s someone else’s turn”

This is the kind of statement made by those who concede defeat and disappointment with ease, and who lack the creativity and progressive attitude to launch remedial action. It’s the kind of statement that first permits, and then breeds mediocrity and it is spreading throughout Australian cricket – and many other sports – with devastating effect.

I’ve previously listed some of the issues I have with Australian cricket as early as 2011 and published more recent analysis of Australia’s Batting Demise, so I’ll now turn my attention to last night’s on-field events.

Day Four, Fourth Ashes Test – Durham

Congratulations England, you deserve the victory and the glory.

The poor application of some of Australia’s talented players can be blamed in part-only for last night’s collapse. Mostly it comes down to inferior ability and a higher quality of cricket played by England.

The morning began well for Australia, with the bowlers again doing their bit.

I was amazed at Aleem Dar’s decision to not give Tim Bresnan out when he didn’t bother to play a shot to Jackson Bird, who struck him on the pad, dead in front of the stumps. Height the only partial issue of pedantic concern. A review followed, but according to hawkeye, with half the ball smashing the stumps, Dar’s decision couldn’t be overturned. The bloke didn’t play a shot. May as well have tossed the bat away and was racked right in front. In my book that is out, all day, every day and it is only in this DRS/hawkeye world where this mantra has been eroded.

I ask then, how long will it be before the pitching outside leg criteria for LBW is questioned?

If the ball pitches outside leg you can’t be given out LBW. This rule hails from a pre-hawkeye world where umpires had to be sceptical of the angle, assuming the ball would need to do far too much to hit the stumps. Hawkeye’s exponents will argue that if it can be shown the ball will rattle the castle, then perhaps the old interpretation should be referred for review…

Ryan Harris is a superstar and his 7 wickets in England’s second innings included some absolute rippers to top order batsmen. At 33, Harris must be gutted at the realisation he may never win an Ashes Series. He will certainly never win one in England.

Crashing from 2/167 to all out for 224 in the final session last night was a bitter blow, but as I’ve written here it should remind us of the bigger issues in Australian cricket. Stuart Broad’s evening spell was a catalogue of high class bowling, deft captaincy and good fielding. How this Australian camp can regroup and perform well at The Oval in a week is beyond me. That dressing room must be an horrific place today…

Just think, we’ve got 6 more Tests against England and then we’re away for 3 against the world’s best Test side and bowling attack, South Africa. Look out.

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Chester le Street, Durham – Fourth Ashes Test

Two days grafting cricket have been played in the fourth Ashes Test in northern England. The match is in the balance and Australia have a slight edge, trailing by a few runs only and with five wickets in hand. Plaudits to Chris Rogers, Australia’s first centurion of the series, other than Michael Clarke. It was always a question of who else when assessing Australia’s batting.

I’ve been quiet on the blog as I’ve been away from home with a group of friends and partners enjoying the fruits of far northern Queensland. I’m sitting at present, in an airport lounge on route home, considering the prospect of a first innings lead for Australia and relishing one topic deserving scrutiny.

Team Changes

So after getting pollaxed at Lords in the second Test Australia put forth a massively improved effort at Old Trafford last week. We pinned down England with the ball, made runs with the bat and were in a significant position of ascendency on the final day, only to be thwarted by inclement weather. Finally we had strung together a collection of good sessions, so what do we do? Change the team.

Not because of fitness concerns or injury, both of which would form reasonable cases for change given the 3 days between this and the last Test. No we didn’t have any fitness issues or injuries, we just seem to dislike continuity and love a revolving door. Not only did we change a successful and well balanced bowling attack, we shuffled the batting order, again.

Jackson Bird is a very promising bowler, but that isn’t the point and I think Starc has a right to feel aggreived at this exclusion. I don’t believe David Warner should open the batting in Test Matches and instead, could become a brilliant middle order destroyer. Clearly, those who matter think otherwise. Warner failed last night and ironically, after a not too long, we ended up four wickets down with former opening pair Rogers and Watson having to dig us out. They put on about 130 together and Watto nailed a 66. People might suggest that batting at 6 helped him achieve that, I’m not convinced.

I just get annoyed at sticking the team in the blender every week and the lack of direction permeating from the camp, especially after we just played well and arguably had an opportunity to stabilise the team environment, which looks about as sound as a straw hut perched somewhere on the San Andreas fault line.

Naturally if we go on and win in Durham some will say I’m a mug and the selectors know best.

On the positive I am really looking forward to tonight’s play and hoping Rogers and Haddin can peel off the deficit and establish a lead. I think, having to bat last, we’ll need at least 100 runs between us and them after the first innings’ are complete.

See you all tomorrow!

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