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Goings on at the Gabba

I got one or two things right in my Ashes preview and one or two laughably wrong. I was not expecting great things of Ponting and Pietersen and so it turned out. I had sung the praises of Michael Hussey (195) in a midsummer piece. On the other hand my faith in the lower order England batting, Prior (first ball) Broad (first ball) and Swann was just a trifle misplaced!! Swann's bowling was a disappointment too but he will have plenty of opportunities to put this lack lustre effort behind him.
I also wrote disparagingly of Mitchell Johnson and he had a very poor game. Even when the pitch was green on the first day he made no impression and got worse as the match progressed. Another symptom of his lack of confidence was the way he batted. With 450 runs on the board already, it was the perfect moment to swing the bat and deliver the final thrust. There are few people who can fulfil that role better than Johnson and he was fresh from making a hundred in a Shield match. I was expecting fireworks but he never lit the fuse.
I thought the commentators missed the point about the first day's play. They made light of the way the pitch played and kept repeating a mantra of too few runs from England in the first innings. The ball swung, seamed and also turned. Some of the short stuff actually broke the surface. This was no ordinary first day pitch by any stretch of the imagination. Which is why I was pretty sanguine about our chances, even when Australia went past 400. If our bowlers were not taking wickets, they were still bowling tidily and, in the context of all the runs scored later on it was a great effort to knock over Australia's last 5 for 30 runs.
So we come to the record breaking batting of Strauss, Cook and Trott. Handsome is as handsome does and I have no intention of belittling their achievements. However they were a bit lucky to have Mitchell Johnson out of form and rooky spinner Xavier who looked for all the world like any number of club bowlers on view every week in parks all around the world. Oh! My Shane Warne. My Derek Underwood. My Murali.
Two cricketing buffs in this part of the world were also a bit taken aback when I pointed out that neither side had a batsman who would currently get in a world eleven and possibly not in a world second eleven. And this rather damning comment was born out by the ICC Test Batting Rankings – led by Sachin Tendulkar, of course – which listed no Brit or Aussie in the first 15 spots: apparently the first time such a thing has happened in all Test history.
I watched Strauss and Cook batting either side of lunch on the fourth day and was actually quite surprised at the number of false strokes being made: missed sweeps, sallies down the pitch without reaching the pitch of the ball and one total miscue of a pull shot by Strauss which lobbed up gently over cover. Sky shows replays of missed chances. It would be interesting to see the run of the mill errors as well.
It will also be interesting to see what the Rankings actually make of this plethora of runs because the mathematical formula used to evaluate one innings against another takes note of the attack you face, the runs per wicket throughout the match and is less generous in a drawn match than one with a result. For a long time it was Graeme Gooch's match winning hundred against the West Indians at Headingly that ticked all the boxes and held top spot. i.e. runs made against highly rated bowlers in an otherwise low scoring match and being on the winning side. The fact that he was captain as well made the innings all the more memorable.
So the caravan moves on to Adelaide. It was the great New Zealand batsman Martin Crowe who put a neat twist to the old saying about death and taxes being the only certainties. Crowe added “and a hundred at Adelaide”. We shall see. Four years ago Collingwood made a double hundred but England still lost. If he does it again it is hard to imagine a repeat result with these Australian bowlers.


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