15 August 2009

The Poms blink.

This is a minor update and premature gloat on developments in the current Ashes series in England.

The Third Test was a pretty tame draw, due mostly to English wet weather (which doesn't seem to have changed all that much afterall). Michael Clarke did score a classy second innings century to make the game safe for Australia, but it will otherwise be a forgotten match.

The Fourth Test at Headingly in Yorkshire resulted in Australia inflicting a crushing innings defeat on England. There have been two main reactions from the English:

Firstly, the fickle and superficial British press have suddenly and savagely turned on their own. Their batsmen are now apparently too fragile for Test cricket and their bowlers inept under pressure. Yeah, I know, it's a return to situation normal for the English press, and we are reminded yet again that they know not the meaning of steadfastness, nor dignity under fire; but how quick was that?

Secondly, there is the betrayed hero: Freddy Flintoff. This story line has been trotted out to salve wounded pride and sell pommy papers. It seems England also lost because their limping and now retiring champion, Lancashire allrounder Flintoff, was not selected for the match, even though he had told his captain and manager that he could play. Oh please! How can anyone seriously buy this bill of goods after all the blather about him carrying his injury wracked body beyond human limits in the previous Tests? This truly is a sentimental pommy whinge on a grand scale.

Finally, there is now the delicious prospect next week of the Fifth Test at the Oval in London, with the teams at one match a piece. But there is a minor issue niggling away at me in the lead up to this match: the likelihood of the rough treatment that the Australian selectors are to mete out to Stuart Clark, the Trojan seam bowler who played such an instrumental role in breaking through the English batting in his return from injury in the Fourth Test. Amazingly it seems the selectors seem likely to leave him out of the Fifth Test, because they reckon Johnson, Siddle and Hilfenhaus are better credentialled as fast bowlers, and that they need their sole spinner, Hauritz to take the fourth bowler slot.

Selectors aren't doing their job if they can't make tough choices when picking Australian Test teams. But this isn't even all that tough. Neither Johnson nor Siddle are well suited to these seaming English pitches and both of them have struggled for extended periods in the first four Tests. Just drop one of them for Clark. His record against England speaks for itself and any decent judge of the game will tell you he is in the ideal Terry Alderman/Mike Hendrich "line and length" mould for English conditions. Dear God if Mitchell Johnson's sensitive ego is too fragile to deal with the disappointment of being dropped, then just dump Siddle, who seems to be a robust and resilient enough character to take such a minor setback in his stride.

Australia's bowling attack would then consist of two "hit the deck" speedsters: Johnson and Watson, two canny seamers: Clark and Hilfenhuas, and the finger spin of Hauritz with occasional back up from Michael Clarke and Kattich. Not that shabby.

Roll on Thursday night.

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