Fourth ASHES test

Australia cruise to a 4 nil lead as England capitulate, again

A short time has passed since I last doused this blog with fresh words analysing the Ashes Series. Christmas commitments, holidays and playing host to international guests squeezed my time and robbed me of the personal creative introspection I need to write anything worth glancing at.

Despite being time poor in the festive season, as I’m sure all of you were too, I still managed to absorb the ultimate cricket exchanges. I’ve spent much of the last couple of days at the Melbourne Cricket Ground watching the action live in human eye definition.

I spent time with the “Aussie Army”, had a few beers at the Cricketer’s Arms on Punt Road and stood among the Barmy Army. Good friends are always an asset in life and especially when they’re members of the Melbourne Cricket Club, an elite and privileged crew with an average 25 year waiting list. My MCC member friends allowed me, as a guest, to enjoy Day 4 in the comfortable surrounds of the members section. An amazing experience complemented by padded seats, good food and generous wine portions.

What a day; a Chris Rogers century, 8000 Test runs for Michael Clarke (Alistair Cook reached this milestone on Day 3), an unbeaten and entertaining Shane Watson 81 and a fourth consecutive resounding victory for Australia. The ease with which Australia finally took England’s scalp in this Test defies or inaccurately portrays how close England came to setting up a win.

England had Australia in a submissive position on Day 3 of the fourth Test at Melbourne when they began their second innings with a lead of around 50. At 0/65 after the luncheon England looked to be erecting the relevant foundation to build a solid lead. At 4/87 the foundation was still there, but the scaffold required to support the lead had begun to fall away. I think that had England established a lead of over 300, Australia would have capitulated, but when England lost 5 wickets for 6 runs near the close of Day 3 and Australia’s openers finished on 0/30, the hosts needed only 201 to win with 2 days of play remaining. England threw it away with devastating style, in part due to relentless high quality bowling from Australia, but also in part due to whatever cancer is eating away at England’s dressing room morale and attitude.

This has been a disastrous series for the tourists. It seems that internal conflicts exist, perhaps factions and cliques are at play and I’m sure that we will here more about these in future as players’ and coaches’ tongues are inevitably freed from the restrictions of international cricket. The leadership of coach Andy Flower and captain Alistair Cook will be questioned. I think that, at least, Ashley Giles will replace Flower in the near future.

The early-series departure of Jonathon Trott – a fine player – and the mid-series retirement of Graeme Swann – possibly England’s greatest spinner – added to the turbulent and unsettled disposition of the England squad. Something or many things have gone awry, but this shouldn’t detract from the super performance by Australia. Four Tests have been played and the same 11 players have provided Australia four victories. Five of Australia’s top 6 batsmen have scored centuries, as has wicket-keeper Brad Haddin, and all four bowlers have taken wickets. Mitchell Johnson has taken over 30 for the series, an enormous return for a man previously condemned by many opposition and Australian cricket fans.

Onwards to Sydney where the fifth Test begins on 3 January. Can England resurrect some of the high quality we know exists in the squad? Or will Australia execute the clean sweep?

Paying Homage

I must make special mention of one of the world’s finest cricketers, Jaques Kallis, who at 38 announced his retirement from Test cricket earlier this week. Kallis just scored a century against India and has 45 Test centuries in his career, second only to Sachin Tendulkar. The South African will bow out having scored over 13,000 runs at an average in excess of 55, at least 292 wickets at a bowling average of 32 and over 200 catches. What a wonderful player.

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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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