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Batsmen,bowlers, Captains and field placings

Bowlers, batsmen, Captains and field placings.

Watching the Australian bowlers at Brisbane (I hesitate to call it an attack), only the addition of Pattinson can suspend sentence. Without him the same old faces bowled the same old fare. I thought that Hilfenhaus had learned a little during the series v India, getting the ball to nip back more often than against England but his arm seems to have dropped again and the ball swings too early to be much of a threat.

I felt for the persevering Siddle who is never anything but hardworking, when a tiny error on the front crease cost him Jack Kallis' wicket - sometimes the hawkeye system seems to get in the way of fair play - but he remains a second or third change bowler, not the opening strike man that every team is looking for.
Pattinson brings a bit more aggression to the party which is much needed but he has a way to go before he can command instant respect from batsmen like a Steyn or a Morkell and even an Anderson.

Of the batsmen there was the expected Amla/Kallis show which is deeply impressive whatever the conditions but make no mistake this was the flattest Gabba pitch in living memory. And it certainly needed to be to allow Michael Clarke to continue his remarkable run spree on this particular ground. Early in his innings he was frankly all over the place.

One particular incident made a strong impression - and not a very pretty one at that. One of the SA fast bowlers hung on to the ball just at the moment of release. Nevertheless Clarke was already committed to a big stride forward, almost falling over in the process. Not surprisingly he was in all sorts of trouble when the ball was short of a length, twice spooning up ballooning shots off the outside edge - both times getting away with it as the ball fell just clear. There were miscues through the gully area and inside edges past the stumps. But that is the essence of cricket.It seldom goes according to the script. And the resulting not out double hundred was not only one in the eye for the purists but a testament to Clarke's concentration and absolute self belief.

As the match unfolded with a DRAW looming larger by the day it became clear that a lack of variety in both attacks was a major drawback and with neither side having any obvious options, it may need a more sporting pitch if they are to get a result or two.

This morning interest switched to England's fitness problems before the 1st Test in India. It is hard to see them being a tight bowling unit from day one but at least every one of the batsmen has spent good time in the middle and will walk out to bat with a decent level of self confidence.

I was more taken with the Shane Warne column laying out a number of dos and donts for any team touring India. Some of it was a bit trite and self evident but his description of the carefully constructed bowling plans which he personally devised for the Australians in 2004 was a real eye opener - being, as he admits, largely counter intuitive. The theory is that when the ball is moving around enough for bowlers to experiment and give rein to their attacking instincts - the Captain should not overreact with attacking fields which give away runs. Conversely, when nothing is happening and bowlers are just bowling repetitively, then that is the time to post more close fielders. I may have tried something similar in my time but without having such a clear picture of the raison d'etre.

I certainly recognise an oft repeated failing of recent England Captains who insist on packing the slips and gullies for Anderson's away swing with little or no cover on the leg side. The result is all too often a string of off-side maiden overs with hardly a ball being played. It is only natural for any bowler to shy away from bowling too straight if there are gaping holes on the other side of the field. Captain Cook would do well to embrace the Shane Warne plan which makes more and more sense the more one opens up to the principles involved.


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