December 4, 2006

Action: second Test

What HAS happened at Adelaide

Tim de Lisle
Andrew Flintoff only bowled four overs on the fourth day, Australia v England, 2nd Test, Adelaide, December 4, 2006
 © Getty Images


Today the Adelaide Test went from tortuous to worse. For much of the day it was like watching a traffic jam. If the match peters out into a draw tomorrow, it will be tempting to write it off as a non-event. But some signficant things have happened…

1. Matthew Hoggard has finally taken a big haul against Australia. His performance here was in a great Yorkshire tradition – not of Fred Trueman, but of Darren Gough and Craig White, who both worked out how to bowl wily cutters on subcontinental featherbeds. “I like a good s***heap,” White used to say. Hoggard, who learnt at the feet of those two, is the new king of the s***heap. Today, his Test career average quietly slipped below 30 – and passed Steve Harmison’s, travelling in the opposite direction.

2. We have again seen the folly of picking a defensive slow bowler whose main contribution is a few runs at no.8. And now both teams are doing it.

3. Of the six veterans in the match, five have struggled. Back-to-back Tests are hard on all the players, but especially on the old and/or infirm. Langer, Hayden and Martyn failed with the bat, Warne and McGrath with the ball. The only greybeard to do well was Adam Gilchrist with his 64 – easily the most fluent of the seven fifties in the match, and highly ominous for England.

4. The other thing about back-to-back Tests is that they are too apt to be an extension of the one before. This one has been played on a very different surface from Brisbane, yet half the players have continued in the same vein: Collingwood, Pietersen and Bell have again made the bulk of England’s runs. Ponting, Hussey, Clarke and Clark have again starred for Australia. Cook, Lee, Harmison, Anderson and Giles have again been virtually empty-handed. Only Langer, Warne, McGrath and Hoggard have had dramatically different fortunes in the two games. Test cricket needs that drama.

5. Andrew Flintoff has confirmed that he can’t do three things at once and shine in all of them. At Brisbane he bowled well, captained indifferently, and batted poorly. Here he batted better, captained a lot better, and bowled worse after a strong start. Now his ankle is hurting again. Something had to give.

6. The match has reiterated that high scoring is boring. We need a nice, tight, tense low-scoring Test at Perth, with the team batting first getting about 300. Whether there is any chance of the pitch allowing this is another matter.

7. England have dragged themselves back to respectability. They can even begin to think about winning the series. But only if they pick more than half an attack.

Tim de Lisle is the editor of Intelligent Life magazine and a former editor of Wisden

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Posted by Rich on (December 9, 2006, 17:44 GMT)

Rhino: we "won The Ashes by 2 runs". Err, no, we won it 2-1. We did win one of the Tests by 2 runs, but it'd have been 40-odd if Bowden had given Kasprowicz when he was plumb lb 1st ball. "If McGrath handn't got injured we'd not have got close" - fact, eh? No. Maybe we mightn't have, but to suggest that McGrath was certain to have made such a difference is highly presumptious. "Absolutely everything went right for England in 2005"? Utter nonsense. You missed the 25 (by some estimates) dropped catches? The copious amount of no-balls? The potentially-crucial not-out of Kasprowicz at Edgbaston (only saved by another contentious one the other way at the end)? The denial of victory at Old Trafford by the loss of almost a day's playing time? Get your head straight.

Dave - a "Duke swings more than Austin Powers"? What cricket have you been watching in England the last 6 seasons? Assuming you mean conventional swing (rather than reverse, which we saw plenty of in 2005 but not much of in any of the other 5) you're wildly mistaken - conventional swing has been notoriously hard to achieve in recent times. Virtually every bowler in the country commented on it in 2001, and it's been little different since.

Posted by Stuart on (December 8, 2006, 12:59 GMT)

Don't you love cricket? - and waiting until the game is finished to declare it boring? I haven't even started bashing the Poms at work - there's 3 tests left! If Australia can win or draw in Perth, I might be tempted to make some comments, but I'll wait until January 6 to any big statements. "Funny old game, cricket."

Posted by Rhino on (December 7, 2006, 13:25 GMT)

Honestly, some of you blokes are living in la-la land - I've heard people suggest that England THRASHED us in 2005... Fact - you won the Ashes by 2 runs (in the 3rd Test - if we'd won that, we'd have retained them) Fact - you won every toss bar one Fact - If McGrath hadn't been injured, you'd not have got close to the little urn Fact - absolutely everything went right for England in 2005 - as well as you could possibly have played - and we under-performed - yet you STILL ONLY JUST beat us. So why are you so surprised at what's going on over here now? Peter Clatworthy - we ARE "that good" - the truth is England played as if they were frightened to win - they played for the draw and screwed it up. And as usual, you and many of your mates - including our esteemed host, Mr. De Lisle - crowed just a little too soon. And the REASON we're "that good" is ATTITUDE...there is no way that any of the Aussies are that much more talented than Freddie Flintoff or KP - they're both guns - but it's the negativity of attitude that's killing England and this series. Neither of the abovementioned are negative players usually - so maybe you should be looking a tad further up the food chain...(a certain Mr. Fletcher?) PS - Incidentally, your best bat's a South African, your best spinner's Indian, and your keeper's a Welsh Aussie, or an Aussie Welshman (can't decide which). You've been doing it forever (witness Pataudi, Greig, D'Oliveira, Lamb, Smith, Malcolm, Headley, the Hollioakes - and others I can't think of right now). Try using some ENGLISHMEN like Freddie and Hoggard -they're good value!!!

Posted by Dave on (December 7, 2006, 12:18 GMT)

"re. your point no. 6 - will this essentially dull match (along with the prospect of some more to come) persuade the Australians to give up on the Kookaburra ball."

Why would we? The ball is not the issue - as any decent sportmen/supporter knows the impliments of the game are there to be used... quality will win out.

Just because a Dukes ball swings more than Austin Powers (and more frequently!) doesnt mean its better - just different.

If the english team did their homework they could have realised that: 1. Batting and playing in Aus is different 2. Kooka balls swing and seam differently. 3. Watching hours of domestic or previous test matches would have given them a hint about what to expect.

Me things the english team has suffered from a lack of preparation, discipline and willingness to put their hands up for the hard yards.

So blame the pitch, ball, selection, groundsman all you like... at the end of the day the English got beat from a position that was almost un-loseable.

Time to call a shrink - Monty might finally be of use on this tour but only for his mobile phone (and thats probably the only thing about him close to Warne in quality)

Posted by Taimur on (December 6, 2006, 2:04 GMT)

england basically let the match get away from them. they had the match firmly in control and they just give away the match to the aussies on a silver platter.

Posted by Sim on (December 5, 2006, 14:18 GMT)

Peter Clatworthy, you seem to be mistaken - unlike the Englishin 2005, Australian cricket teams do not go around calling ahead to tell curators what variety of pitch would best suit their bowlers. Because Australia has both fine pacemen and fine spinner, they make the most of whatever conditions they find at the ground.

Posted by Peter Clatworthy on (December 5, 2006, 9:27 GMT)

I just can't believe that Duncan Fletcher is still defending his safety first option - picking Ashley for his batting!

We MUST bowl Australia out twice and so now, there is no excuse. Anderson out, Panesar in.

Australia will, I am sure, continue to prepare flat tracks.

I am sorry to say that Freddy is evidently not up to the captaincy and it should be returned to Strauss who thinks more clearly and reacts much better when under pressure. The field placings and standards of leadership today were woefully inadequate. It was no coincidence that a vital Australian wicket was taken when Flintoff was off the field and fielders were brought in to save the one and to improve the catching options.

Freddy gave this Test away in the first 12 overs by being far too defensive, particularly when Ashley was bowling. Not enough catchers, a deep square leg and a deep square point? He also used Anderson at vital moments when he knew that he was expensive and not yet fully back from a long injury layoff.

I just hope that our team is thinking about how we can win the next one. What's done is done so let's get on with it and show what we can do.

This Australia side is not that good, we failed, they did not succeed. We had them for the taking and let them off the hook. England can still make history by coming back from two down. OK it has never been done before. All the more reason to have a go! Now, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain by being bold.

Posted by Slip on (December 5, 2006, 9:23 GMT)

It would appear on the fifth day of back to back tests it was not Dads Army that wilted.

Posted by Tim de Lisle on (December 4, 2006, 22:30 GMT)

Thanks very much for the comments.. even the ones that got the wrong end of the stick. As Justin realised, and Ben half-realised, item no 2 was a joke. Of course Giles isn't as good a cricketer as Warne.

Rich – re 3: the difference is that they're not veterans. The oldies are likely to struggle more in the second of back-to-back Tests, which becomes a factor when the six oldest players in the match are all on the same side. Re 5: I didn't say Flintoff should be replaced as captain, I was just pointing out that in each Test so far, he has struggled to get all three of his jobs going well.

Jay: nice one.

James W: sorry to have bored you. The accusation of anti-Aussie bias is quite tedious too. So far, this blog has carried more criticisms of England than of Australia. How do you explain that? Anti-English bias, perhaps.

Posted by John on (December 4, 2006, 22:03 GMT)

So Fletcher is still justifying picking Anderson over Monty. I read him using Hoggard's success as the reason to pick Anderson over Monty. Isnt Anderson quarter the bowler Hoggard is. At least right now in test match cricket. Who is Fletcher kidding.

Posted by Rich on (December 4, 2006, 22:00 GMT)

1, quite right, I've been thinking that for a while. Isn't it amazing that three bowlers from the most seam-friendly ground in the World have learnt to bowl better than anyone from England on "s***heaps". 2, I suppose MacGill and Panesar would've done SO much better? MacGill would likely have tried to keep attacking and been absolutely carted by Pietersen as he has by virtually everyone (except Bangladesh) in the last 5 years. 3, how about the non-veterans who've struggled? What's the difference? 4, back-to-back Tests in 5-Test series are pure folly and I hope this nonsense might be negated by the latest plan to un-synchronise The Ashes and World Cups. 5, yes, Tim, we know you don't like Flintoff being captain. Can't say I disagree, but do you seriously expect (or desire) a captain to be given a no-confidence vote in the middle of a series? Put it however you want, changing captain in the middle of an away series is virtually unheard of. 6, I know, I know, I know, I know... but there's just no getting away from the fact that cricket's finances need 5-day Tests! It's just one of those things - like bad weather in April and Zimbabwe being kept in the Full Member fold. Regrettable, but pretty much inevitable. People also talk a lot about the pitches, but a good ball, that swings in both conventional and reverse manners for a long time, is far more useful in that respect. 7, if Panesar doesn't play (hopefully ahead of Anderson - Harmison "bowled better than his figures", don't you know?) at The WACA I'll buy my tickets for the public hanging of the best thing to happen to English cricket in 23 years. Duncan simply HAS to pick him this time - even if the pitch is as flat as this one, he'll just be proved right for ignoring him all along, because Panesar is NOT a miracle-worker, he's a mortal fingerspinner like Saqlain and Harbhajan, but he also might just have some effect on a pitch like The WACA's in 2001\02 and 2005\06. We can only hope.

Posted by Sundhar Ram on (December 4, 2006, 21:30 GMT)

I totally agree with you Tim. Nothing is more boring than seeing scores of 1000 odd for the loss of 12 wickets in 4 days. What we need is a contest between the ball and the bat.

I am inclined to disgree with you on the `veteran' aspect. I want put any money on Hayden and Langer but Warnie and McGrath are definitely not down and out. You must have a lot of guts to write away McGrath after his 6-50 in the last test.

And I am really happy Shrek is among the wickets, though, nowdays I find him smiling less on the field. I saw him smiling (infact, giggling) when he was bowling on really flat tracks in the hot sun in India.

Posted by Tim on (December 4, 2006, 19:30 GMT)

Nice piece Tim. I would also love the Perth pitch to be a bit dodgy!

Posted by Jay on (December 4, 2006, 19:24 GMT)

What everyone seems to have forgotten is the emergence of England as a great spinning attack. They now have the top two finger spinners in the world since according to Fletcher some months ago Monty is the No 1 and since Giles is playing ahead of him then Giles is the new No 1 and Monty the new No 2. So we now have the two countries with the two best spinners; finger and wrist and both No 2 spinners cannot get in. Monty for England and Macgill for Australia. I expected Fletcher to proclaim Reed to be the best wicketkeeper in the world before he dropped him. I guess he probably missed the news conference in which he would have proclaimed this.What Fletcher should do is get Michael Vaughn fit and then he can replace Giles with Vaughn and England would then have the top 3 finger spinners! Way to go Fletcher!

Posted by Nick Carrington on (December 4, 2006, 19:16 GMT)

re. your point no. 6 - will this essentially dull match (along with the prospect of some more to come) persuade the Australians to give up on the Kookaburra ball.

Posted by alikhan on (December 4, 2006, 19:02 GMT)

every good team needs a mathew hoggard and a paul collingwood. if england could only realize that giles is not a test player they wud be better off. how important are 20 runs when u dropped a sitter which monty wud have done and u give up a 100 runs while only getting 1 wicket.

Posted by Ben on (December 4, 2006, 16:10 GMT)

How England can even begin to think of winning the series, as opposed to drawing it and regaining the ashes, seems a pretty ridiculous proposition even for a deliberately provocative and partisan English journalist. They have shown no real evidence of being able to bowl Australia out twice within 5 days. And this would have to be the first time i have anyone make even a thinly veiled comparison between warne and giles. that is hilarious. good work mate, keep it up!

Posted by Iain Weatherby on (December 4, 2006, 16:08 GMT)

Tim, I'd prefer it if you'd call Warne 'a defensive slow bowler whose main contribution is a few runs at no.8' AFTER the test is safely drawn.

Was Anderson any good? (Highlights are no help). If not, surely Mahmood brings trad Perth qualities and a bit of batting that might make Duncan see the light over Monty.

'A tense low-scoring Test at Perth, with the team batting first getting about 300.' Fine - provided that team is Australia.

If England get to Melbourne no worse than 1-0, the Ashes will be won (or, increasingly likely, retained in back-to-back tests). How many of the ice-pack uncles will be lining up for Advance Australia Fair at the SCG?

No word on Fred's ankle? At least it's not his metatarsal.

Posted by Justin on (December 4, 2006, 15:42 GMT)

LMAO at your comments re Warney in point 2 Tim. However the Poms can expect him to be a bit more aggressive on the final morning, and we know Warney never gives up. Of course he needs to take 4 or 5 in the session, which won't happen, and we'll be looking at a draw by the lunch break I think. England can't afford to give the Aussies a sniff with an early declaration now that Gilchrist has a few runs, he might just go up the order if we were set 6 or 7 an over to win.

Posted by ssundar on (December 4, 2006, 14:59 GMT)

It is not correct to compare Giles and Warne.Being defensive in one innings cannot make Warne comparable to Giles

Posted by jimmy on (December 4, 2006, 14:32 GMT)

Excellent blog as ever Tim.

All we need do now is sit and wait for a load of Australian's to complain about it.

I really don't mind them calling England rubbish if that is what they think...

I don't mind them slagging off our players, saying Giles is useless or Bell is warne's bunny etc.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Australian's seem to be serial criricisers of opposition players, forever writing them off - yet when an Englishman has the cheek to criticise one of the Australian squad... all hell breaks loose. All of a sudden we are 'whinging poms'

Que a succession of emails about 'champions' and how 'pigeon' or 'warney' couldn't possibly expected to take and wickets on a track that Mathew Hoggard (a man roundly ridiculed by many an Aussie) took 7 for.

Posted by Chris on (December 4, 2006, 14:14 GMT)

Englands selection has been well documented and plenty of people have commented on this site about it, but today we saw why it was so bad. England got two massive break-throughs in the final session the day before (ponting and hussey), leaving an under pressure clarke and an out-of-form gilchrist with a very competent tail. Victory was a possibility if we bowled well. Hoggard apart, we didn't.

I'm not undermining Clarkes performance or the unfortunate(for England) score for Gilchrist, but it would be interesting to see how Panesar got on today compared to Giles - only one wicket from 42 overs on a dry 3/4 old day pitch, not what you need on a pitch not tailor made for seamers. I can't see Fletcher changing policy half way thorugh a series though.

All things considering, a least this match was competitive, even if it has draw written all over it. Concern for Flintoff though as his workload is finally showing.

Posted by James W on (December 4, 2006, 12:47 GMT)

Great. Yet another Tim de Lisle article spattered with anti-australian bias. England reach 500+ in the first innings and its down to good batting, then Aus similarly pummel the bowling around and its because of the pitch.

Change your tone soon, because it's getting boring.

Posted by Josh on (December 4, 2006, 12:37 GMT)

Two of your points here that i agreed with most; High scoring pitches are boring. Unfortunately we will probably have to wait until Melbourne before 40 wickets can fall in five days. The responsibility for this has to be laid with the curators. Especially those tending to Adelaide- surely they know it's better for the game and both sides to get a result. Also, any sort of return to form from Adam Gilchrist certainly is 'ominous' for England. Australia have been hard enough to bowl out with Langer Ponting Hussey and Clarke in form, but if Gilchrist is hitting runs it makes a sub-300 total a very tough target for the tourists. Personally i thought Gilchrist batted with the best mindset in this match: the mindset to win. Runs needed to be scored quickly to give Australia maximum chance of bowling out England cheaply. If by some unlikely chance Australia have a shot to chase for a win tomorrow I would like to see Gilchrist bat at second drop in a hit-out or get-out situation.

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Tim de Lisle
Tim de Lisle is a former editor of Wisden. He fell in love with newspapers at the age of seven and with cricket at the age of 10. He started in journalism at 16, reviewing records for the London Australian Magazine, before reading classics at Oxford and writing for Smash Hits, Harpers & Queen and the Observer. He has been a feature writer on the Daily Telegraph, arts editor of the Times and the Independent on Sunday, and editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly, where he won an Editor of the Year award. Since 1999, Tim has been the rock critic of the Mail on Sunday. He is deputy editor of Intelligent Life, the new general-interest magazine from the Economist. He writes for the Guardian and makes frequent appearances as a cricket pundit on the BBC and Sky News.

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