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Aftermath of England Victory at Adelaide

There was one line of commentary from Adelaide that summed up the plight of the Australian team. Nasser Hussein provided the following pithy insight. “Xavier Doherty was picked to get Pietersen out. But they can’t get Pietersen IN to get him OUT.” Of course when they did eventually get him in, Pietersen went on to his highest ever Test score which sealed the match for England. So much for my doubts about the Pietersen technique and resolve.
I remember a newspaper quote after Pietersen secured the Ashes at the Oval in 2005` with a swashbuckling 150+. The scribe introduced a whimsical footnote after all the plaudits wondering whether Pietersen had already played the finest innings of his England career. Until last week this assessment was proving uncannily accurate but I would put his Adelaide innings in the same bracket as that at Oval.
It was hard to fault England at any stage through the five days. They caught everything, they fielded slickly, including two sharp run outs and bowled to a plan. What more could a Captain wish for. There was only one possible missed opportunity that struck me.
It was well into the Australian second innings during a fairly ordinary spell of bowling by the tall right arm Finn. As a variation against the obdurate Hussey he gave it a try from round the wicket and immediately beat the bat a couple of times. He did the same in his next over before even the commentary box woke up to the fact that, for the first time in the match, the Kookaburra ball was starting to reverse swing.
I expected Strauss to pick up on this possible lifeline with a change of field, an extra slip or at least something to make the batsman think and have to reassess. An option was to give the toiling Swann a breather and see if Anderson could get the same movement. In fact Strauss just took Finn off as though nothing had happened. I know that Raymond Illingworth would have done no such thing.
Going back to the Australian plight, you only have to see their selections for the Perth Test to realise how limited their options are. It was no surprise that Mitchell Johnson was dropped after Brisbane but to bring him back so soon is a desperate measure. I was surprised that they dropped Hilfenhaus and he deserves to be back. I wouldn’t be surprised if they actually play four fast bowlers hoping for a repeat of Headingley 2010. If they do I trust that Strauss will bowl first if he wins the toss.
Losing Broad is the last thing that England wanted and he will definitely be missed despite his lack of wickets in the first two matches. What he provided was really good control going for less than three an over whilst shouldering his full share of the workload. Tremlett is the logical replacement.
The possible pitfall for the two very tall men, Finn and Tremlett, will be to bowl too short on the livelier Wacca pitch. When they see the ball bounce shoulder high through to the keeper there is a tendency to shorten up just for the fun of seeing the ball fly. They will need good advice and good discipline to get their length right.
Already there has been a huge improvement in these basics by the England attack. When I did my selection stint in the early 90's, I made a habit of counting the number of balls that “MIGHT” have hit the stumps in the first hour on the field. That I never reached ten was a damning indictment. I can’t say that I have been religiously ball counting this Series – considering that it is more a case of when I wake in the night when I get to watch – but I am pretty sure that there would be at least double the tally.
The rather lack lustre England showing against Victoria should have a sobering effect on the dressing room, which may not be a bad thing. There is much hard graft yet before any idea of keeping the Ashes can be assured.


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