Second Test, Adelaide December 6, 2006

England's 'good cricket' makes failure worse

England’s good cricket doesn’t redeem its failure; it makes the failure worse.
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Uncertainty is a glorious feature of cricket – except occasionally when you’re writing about it. Such an occasion has just been had, when almost to a man the media consigned the Adelaide Test to the oblivion of a drawn, only to see Ricky Ponting’s team turn around and win it. I didn’t explicitly tip a draw, but I didn’t think Ponting had done enough to win it – nor did I think Australia really deserved to. I’ll leave being wise after the event to others. It’s time to grab that mirror and take a good hard look at myself!

I didn’t think England would be as bad as at Brisbane. In fact, they were better for four days and hugely worse on the last, so I can’t take much credit for that. I didn’t think the toss would be decisive, any more than it was during the very similar Test here three years ago between Australia and India; on the other hand, I also believed that Australia had been shut out of the game by the second evening. Poor mad fool.

In a podcast before the game, I said that Les Burdett prepared his pitches with a result in mind in the last hour of the last day, and I thought the pitch played pretty fairly throughout: the best bowlers of the first four days, Clark and Hoggard, got the results. So I refrained from writing a ‘these pitches are destroying Test cricket’ piece. Phew.

Mind you, I also expressed the belief that Australia on the fourth day had reverted to a bad habit of indulging individuals at the game’s expense, and dawdled towards the end of their innings, intent on preserving their series lead rather than striving to extend it: an admission of some weakness. I was surprised that Ponting didn’t do more to make England uncomfortable, whether by pushing on more obviously, declaring earlier, or opening the bowling in the second innings with Warne supported by a flock of close-in fielders, perhaps with Clark at the other end. I expected Warne to be a threat on the last day, but didn’t believe he’d been given enough time to do his thing. So I bollocksed that up. Actually, this wasn’t one of those relentlessly efficient Australian wins of yore. Five players contributed next to nothing. The batting is frightfully dependent on Ponting and Hussey. The bowling is still reliant on Warne’s varying humours; McGrath’s spell on Tuesday was embarrassing. But by golly, they trailed that whiff of victory like a bloodhound, a veritable Hound of the Baskervilles.

In one of his famous Roses despatches, Neville Cardus reported wending his way home after a disastrous Yorkshire collapse at Headingley, and being accosted at Leeds railway station by a local eager for the cricket score. Lancastrian Cardus perkily reported that Yorkshire had been rounded up for less than 100 and slumped to heavy defeat. His interlocutor looked grave. After a pause, he said finally: ‘They did that, did they? Ah thowt better of them.’ Well, having seen them play with such spunk and spirit last year, I thought better of England. You always overvalue that which you see with your own eyes. Having not seen England choke in similar circumstances at Multan a year ago, I did not factor it in as a precedent. This leads me to suspect that we’ve all underestimated the significance of Michael Vaughan, behind whose veneer of civility lurks a far steelier individual than Andrew Flintoff. Vaughan would not have trotted out Flintoff’s daft line of reasoning last night, that the match was pretty good for England because they dominated so much of it. England’s good cricket doesn’t redeem its failure; it makes the failure worse.

Gideon Haigh is a cricket historian and writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Caroline on December 8, 2006, 12:41 GMT

    Glad to see the comments about Vaughan - he seems to be a very psychologically-minded Captain, who measures his actions and responses very carefully, as opposed to Flintoff, who works by instinct. I don't know if it makes it worse that they played well for four days - it just feels pretty bad allround!

  • Kevin Framp on December 8, 2006, 7:30 GMT

    Gideon....a pleasure to read the blog, as always, and I think you're absolutely right about Vaughan. It's been noticeable I think that England's team selections and tactics have been more conservative on this tour-and one wonders if that is the influence of the (always conservative) Fletcher over the neophyte captain Flintoff? England never took a backward step under Vaughan in 2005, even in the game they lost. They have rarely threatened to take a forward step without him on this tour-from selection to crease.

  • Mark on December 8, 2006, 2:34 GMT

    No doubt the absence of Vaughan is crucial. His captaincy was a primary reason behind Englands success last year. Indeed he is such an excellent captain that, like Mike brearley, he is worth selecting for his captaincy alone. He has such a wonderful combination of competitive focus, tactical acuity, calmness of demeanor and psychological alertness that his presence in the team instantly enhances its perrformance. Even though his batting has appeared to suffer since he took over the captaincy, he would still be preferable to Ian Bell at no. 3 because he is so much more assertive in his approach. To have selected Flintoff as a captain always seemed a mistake. Strauss would have been a wiser choice. The manner of Flintoff's cricket, particualrly his batting, does not suit the demands of captaincy. He is primarily a player of the heart, and captaincy requires him to be a player of the head. Though Flintoff is in many ways a good captain, the captaincy does not enhance but detracts from his performance as a player. He is too good a player, and too important to England's prospects, to be compromised in this way. How stark is the contrast between his titanic performances of 2005 and the way he lamely surrendered his wicket on Tuesday. By selecting Flintoff as captain England have sacrificed much of the influence of their best player. Without the captaincy, Flintoff could focus his efforts on being the side’s champion and inspiration. This he did magnificently. With the captaincy he is still demonstrably an outstanding cricketer, but his exuberance is muted and his batting seems uncertain.

    Similarly, the absence of Panesar - of a spin bowler capable of causing the Australian batsmen even a modicum of the discomfort Warne elicits - would seem to have proved fatal. In 2005 there were three noticeable weaknesses in England’s performance: the lack of authority in Bell’s batting, Jone’s inability to concentrate, and the absence of a counterpart to Warne - Giles is a good cricketer who contributes to the team well in all phases of the game, but his bowling lacks menace. The first of these concerns has been partially addressed, but on the evidence of this match, continues to be a problem. There is much to suggest the other two areas of concern could easily be remedied by the selectors. The obdurate refusal on the part of the team’s management to do this constitutes an almost criminal negligence, the price of which would seem the premature end of the series as both a contest and a spectacle.

    It ought be pointed out that this preoccupation with Gile's batting, though not entirely mistaken, is indicative of a defensiveness which England can ill afford. Surely, there performances of 2005 should have demonstrated the necessity and effectivenss of a relentlessly aggressivee approach. Rather than worrying about being not having enough runs , the emphasis should be on bowling the opposition out for less. The reasons given for the non-selection of Panesar and Read reveal an outlook which can retrospectively be recognised as the seed of Englands bewildering tentativeness on Tuesday.

    What is so frustrating is that each of these problems: the selection of the captain, and the selection of the team - are simply a consequence of poor judgement and are entirely self inccurred liabilities without a ball being bowled. Given how formidable a team Australia is, given the absence of Trescothick, Vaughan and Jones, it was an imperative to ensure England made best use of what resources it had available. That is has not done so is reason to lament.

  • Kathryn on December 7, 2006, 12:49 GMT

    The messaage to England from the last day of the second test of the 2006-7 series is simples as it is stark. It doesn't matter how few players Australia rely on in batting or bowling. It doesn't matter how old the Australian players are. It doesn't even matter how bad the English mindset was The simple fact is that England lead by about 100 runs and had 9 wickets in hand, before the fourth innings was to begin, on the morning of the last day - YOU SIMPLY DO NOT LOSE TEST MATCHES FROM THAT POSITION!! but with a stunning bowling effort, a team can WIN from such a poor position.

    Australia may be a "dad's army", it may rely on Warne, McGrath, and Lee too much in Bowling, and may rely on Ponting, Hussey, and maybe Clarke in the batting - with all that against Australia, who could England rely on in a crisis??

  • Richard on December 7, 2006, 11:23 GMT

    Your assertion that Australia's batting is overly reliant on Hussey and Ponting is not backed up by the facts - Langer and Clarke each scored centuries in the last two tests (the latter being particularly important in getting Australia's score on a par with England's), while Gilchrist's quick 60 on the morning of the 4th day was highly important in getting the game back on track. You also underestimate McGrath. England had lost the 1st test when they were dismissed cheaply in the first innings - this was largely McGrath's doing. Australia were dawdling at the end of their first innings? Chasing a score of 550 sometimes requires some patience and accountability - the extra 50-odd runs achieved towards the end were important in getting the total close to England's. If the rest of the tail tried to bat as brazenly as Stuart Clark, they may well have got out just as cheaply. Aside from this, Australia's "dawdling" was nothing compared to that of England's on the final morning.

  • John on December 7, 2006, 10:19 GMT

    I love your blogs, Gideon. Failure by the Poms (or incredible success by the Aussies) - the result is the same for me. It healed a wound I have carried since the Summer of '78-79. I witnessed the complete dismemberment of the shadow Aussie-eleven by Brearley and his team. In my eyes it was a case of kicking someone really hard when they were down. If truth be told, I still felt the anger about that - until the other day.

  • Tony on December 7, 2006, 6:57 GMT

    Dear Gideon I have to say I agree with practically everything you wrote in this article. Which is nice I suppose as you have probably already received a number of less complimentary responses taking you to task for daring to imply that some of the after-match bragging from the Australian team rather overstated the positive thinking great cricket line while ignoring the fact that the loser in this case was hugely complicit in its own downfall.I must say I initially felt they did rather sneak in the cat-door and steal this match, but it seemed churlish to deny them the accolades..... Not that it matters: in any war the victors write the history so the chest thumping version will doubtless reign. Funny is it not , how so many extremely agressive players often fall into defensive mindedness when captaining their teams? I would suggest Flintoff is looking a little that way, as is Ponting on the rare occasions when his team is forced on to the back foot. My memory goes back to Dexter - a sublime strokeplayer who rarely blocked when he could drive but a frequently negative captain.And Kim Hughes, and I'm sure there are others... Incidentally , you mention Multan, which I saw, and the parallels are interesting.In both cases England had bossed the game and needed only a normal ,modest batting effort to secure their objective- a win in Multan, a draw here , and both times a fairly useful start (60+ for 1) was followed by the careless loss of 3 wickets and subsequent panic.They nearly did something similar in the last Test in South Africa in 2004/5,when they contrived to lose 4 quick wickets when faced with batting just 40 or so overs to secure draw and series. It is almost as if they tend to switch off when it appears that the hard work is done , and try to just coast to the line . One for the sports psychologists?

    Let us hope they can come back from this to give us a memorable match in Perth.

  • Suresh Kulkarni on December 7, 2006, 5:03 GMT

    Hi Gideon. I am a regular reader of your articles and find them really absorbing.

    Coming to the adelaide test, I tend to agree with you that Australia didn't realy deserve to win it. However I do believe that England deserved to lose it through their weird selection thought process. The defensive, negative mindset was the main reason for this defeat. Its difficult to believe that its the same side that won a thrilling ashes campaign last year. But then its not the same really. I think what is missed most is Michael Vaughn's astute and attacking leadership. Perhaps he had more say in the team selection over Duncan Fletcher than Andrew Flintoff seems to have. To me the game was lost not really on the last day but on day 3 and 4 when England did not have the bowlers to put Australia under pressure. What are the considerations for playing Giles, Anderson and Jones is beyond anybody's common sense except that of Fletcher and Flintoff (who said that he was happy woth the side he got).

  • gordon on December 7, 2006, 2:29 GMT

    Gideon this is my first response to your blog. Its an ok piece and I guess captures the feeling of surprise many Aussie fans are experiencing after this result. However along with most writers and particularly those of UK heritage , I feel you are somewhat damned by your faint praise.

    Why is it that this Australian team that has now one 13 out of 14 matches since the tour of the UK ( and nine on the trot) after an incredible 53 out of the previous 69 prior to that tour ( ie from the time the last 16 game winning streak began under Steve Waugh), why are we not proclaiming them for their spirit and skill. We/you should be celebrating their aggressive approach. This team has changed the way cricket is played through their thrilling aggressive batting led by Gilchrist and Ponting, their wonderful fielding and interesting diversity in bowling from Lee and McGrath to Clark and of course Warne.

    Cricket has never had it so good and the crowds that come to watch Australia not just here in Australia or this season but since the late 90's are a testimony to that fact.

    This success is not just down to Ponting and Hussey. Clarke ( and what a refreshing statement he is) has scores of 56 and 124 to his name, Langer 82 and 100 no, Gilchrist here a fine 64. Even Warne 43 here, Lee 43no and 7no and Clarke in Brisbane 39 have scored runs in these two wins.

    So come on mate, don't fall into that habit of patronising the Poms and playing to that audience with your Roebuck in reverse.Give credit where it is due. Write a piece that tells your readers that we are witnessing perhaps the final years of the greatest Aussie era and represented by a team who have proved yet again the value of aggressive passionate and above all a never say die team approach to the game.

    Incidentally this was just as apparent in the UK in 05 when this spirit gave the series its life and memories. Time to give em a pat on the back and say thanks for showing us yet again what team play is about..not just two batsmen or two bowlers please!

  • Steven on December 7, 2006, 2:01 GMT

    As the ABC radio commentary suggested on Monday afternoon 'England could lose the test match rather than Australia win it'. How true big match experience on foreign soil is something that you gain not learn. When playing Australia in cricket you are playing the best, you have to play for five days not four. Well Mr Fletcher you say that A Giles and G Jones are in the side for their batting ability so England can bat down to 8, like Australia do. Well not everyone has an Gilchrist or Warne, don't tell Brad Haddin or Brett Lee and co. Surely if you want to bat to no.8 pick an allrounder and have three specialist bowler not four that make three positions. It should be said that G Jones kept wellwhich is his main job. How can England win a game without attacking for five days and without using the arsenal to do so.

    The Ashes are coming home.

  • Caroline on December 8, 2006, 12:41 GMT

    Glad to see the comments about Vaughan - he seems to be a very psychologically-minded Captain, who measures his actions and responses very carefully, as opposed to Flintoff, who works by instinct. I don't know if it makes it worse that they played well for four days - it just feels pretty bad allround!

  • Kevin Framp on December 8, 2006, 7:30 GMT

    Gideon....a pleasure to read the blog, as always, and I think you're absolutely right about Vaughan. It's been noticeable I think that England's team selections and tactics have been more conservative on this tour-and one wonders if that is the influence of the (always conservative) Fletcher over the neophyte captain Flintoff? England never took a backward step under Vaughan in 2005, even in the game they lost. They have rarely threatened to take a forward step without him on this tour-from selection to crease.

  • Mark on December 8, 2006, 2:34 GMT

    No doubt the absence of Vaughan is crucial. His captaincy was a primary reason behind Englands success last year. Indeed he is such an excellent captain that, like Mike brearley, he is worth selecting for his captaincy alone. He has such a wonderful combination of competitive focus, tactical acuity, calmness of demeanor and psychological alertness that his presence in the team instantly enhances its perrformance. Even though his batting has appeared to suffer since he took over the captaincy, he would still be preferable to Ian Bell at no. 3 because he is so much more assertive in his approach. To have selected Flintoff as a captain always seemed a mistake. Strauss would have been a wiser choice. The manner of Flintoff's cricket, particualrly his batting, does not suit the demands of captaincy. He is primarily a player of the heart, and captaincy requires him to be a player of the head. Though Flintoff is in many ways a good captain, the captaincy does not enhance but detracts from his performance as a player. He is too good a player, and too important to England's prospects, to be compromised in this way. How stark is the contrast between his titanic performances of 2005 and the way he lamely surrendered his wicket on Tuesday. By selecting Flintoff as captain England have sacrificed much of the influence of their best player. Without the captaincy, Flintoff could focus his efforts on being the side’s champion and inspiration. This he did magnificently. With the captaincy he is still demonstrably an outstanding cricketer, but his exuberance is muted and his batting seems uncertain.

    Similarly, the absence of Panesar - of a spin bowler capable of causing the Australian batsmen even a modicum of the discomfort Warne elicits - would seem to have proved fatal. In 2005 there were three noticeable weaknesses in England’s performance: the lack of authority in Bell’s batting, Jone’s inability to concentrate, and the absence of a counterpart to Warne - Giles is a good cricketer who contributes to the team well in all phases of the game, but his bowling lacks menace. The first of these concerns has been partially addressed, but on the evidence of this match, continues to be a problem. There is much to suggest the other two areas of concern could easily be remedied by the selectors. The obdurate refusal on the part of the team’s management to do this constitutes an almost criminal negligence, the price of which would seem the premature end of the series as both a contest and a spectacle.

    It ought be pointed out that this preoccupation with Gile's batting, though not entirely mistaken, is indicative of a defensiveness which England can ill afford. Surely, there performances of 2005 should have demonstrated the necessity and effectivenss of a relentlessly aggressivee approach. Rather than worrying about being not having enough runs , the emphasis should be on bowling the opposition out for less. The reasons given for the non-selection of Panesar and Read reveal an outlook which can retrospectively be recognised as the seed of Englands bewildering tentativeness on Tuesday.

    What is so frustrating is that each of these problems: the selection of the captain, and the selection of the team - are simply a consequence of poor judgement and are entirely self inccurred liabilities without a ball being bowled. Given how formidable a team Australia is, given the absence of Trescothick, Vaughan and Jones, it was an imperative to ensure England made best use of what resources it had available. That is has not done so is reason to lament.

  • Kathryn on December 7, 2006, 12:49 GMT

    The messaage to England from the last day of the second test of the 2006-7 series is simples as it is stark. It doesn't matter how few players Australia rely on in batting or bowling. It doesn't matter how old the Australian players are. It doesn't even matter how bad the English mindset was The simple fact is that England lead by about 100 runs and had 9 wickets in hand, before the fourth innings was to begin, on the morning of the last day - YOU SIMPLY DO NOT LOSE TEST MATCHES FROM THAT POSITION!! but with a stunning bowling effort, a team can WIN from such a poor position.

    Australia may be a "dad's army", it may rely on Warne, McGrath, and Lee too much in Bowling, and may rely on Ponting, Hussey, and maybe Clarke in the batting - with all that against Australia, who could England rely on in a crisis??

  • Richard on December 7, 2006, 11:23 GMT

    Your assertion that Australia's batting is overly reliant on Hussey and Ponting is not backed up by the facts - Langer and Clarke each scored centuries in the last two tests (the latter being particularly important in getting Australia's score on a par with England's), while Gilchrist's quick 60 on the morning of the 4th day was highly important in getting the game back on track. You also underestimate McGrath. England had lost the 1st test when they were dismissed cheaply in the first innings - this was largely McGrath's doing. Australia were dawdling at the end of their first innings? Chasing a score of 550 sometimes requires some patience and accountability - the extra 50-odd runs achieved towards the end were important in getting the total close to England's. If the rest of the tail tried to bat as brazenly as Stuart Clark, they may well have got out just as cheaply. Aside from this, Australia's "dawdling" was nothing compared to that of England's on the final morning.

  • John on December 7, 2006, 10:19 GMT

    I love your blogs, Gideon. Failure by the Poms (or incredible success by the Aussies) - the result is the same for me. It healed a wound I have carried since the Summer of '78-79. I witnessed the complete dismemberment of the shadow Aussie-eleven by Brearley and his team. In my eyes it was a case of kicking someone really hard when they were down. If truth be told, I still felt the anger about that - until the other day.

  • Tony on December 7, 2006, 6:57 GMT

    Dear Gideon I have to say I agree with practically everything you wrote in this article. Which is nice I suppose as you have probably already received a number of less complimentary responses taking you to task for daring to imply that some of the after-match bragging from the Australian team rather overstated the positive thinking great cricket line while ignoring the fact that the loser in this case was hugely complicit in its own downfall.I must say I initially felt they did rather sneak in the cat-door and steal this match, but it seemed churlish to deny them the accolades..... Not that it matters: in any war the victors write the history so the chest thumping version will doubtless reign. Funny is it not , how so many extremely agressive players often fall into defensive mindedness when captaining their teams? I would suggest Flintoff is looking a little that way, as is Ponting on the rare occasions when his team is forced on to the back foot. My memory goes back to Dexter - a sublime strokeplayer who rarely blocked when he could drive but a frequently negative captain.And Kim Hughes, and I'm sure there are others... Incidentally , you mention Multan, which I saw, and the parallels are interesting.In both cases England had bossed the game and needed only a normal ,modest batting effort to secure their objective- a win in Multan, a draw here , and both times a fairly useful start (60+ for 1) was followed by the careless loss of 3 wickets and subsequent panic.They nearly did something similar in the last Test in South Africa in 2004/5,when they contrived to lose 4 quick wickets when faced with batting just 40 or so overs to secure draw and series. It is almost as if they tend to switch off when it appears that the hard work is done , and try to just coast to the line . One for the sports psychologists?

    Let us hope they can come back from this to give us a memorable match in Perth.

  • Suresh Kulkarni on December 7, 2006, 5:03 GMT

    Hi Gideon. I am a regular reader of your articles and find them really absorbing.

    Coming to the adelaide test, I tend to agree with you that Australia didn't realy deserve to win it. However I do believe that England deserved to lose it through their weird selection thought process. The defensive, negative mindset was the main reason for this defeat. Its difficult to believe that its the same side that won a thrilling ashes campaign last year. But then its not the same really. I think what is missed most is Michael Vaughn's astute and attacking leadership. Perhaps he had more say in the team selection over Duncan Fletcher than Andrew Flintoff seems to have. To me the game was lost not really on the last day but on day 3 and 4 when England did not have the bowlers to put Australia under pressure. What are the considerations for playing Giles, Anderson and Jones is beyond anybody's common sense except that of Fletcher and Flintoff (who said that he was happy woth the side he got).

  • gordon on December 7, 2006, 2:29 GMT

    Gideon this is my first response to your blog. Its an ok piece and I guess captures the feeling of surprise many Aussie fans are experiencing after this result. However along with most writers and particularly those of UK heritage , I feel you are somewhat damned by your faint praise.

    Why is it that this Australian team that has now one 13 out of 14 matches since the tour of the UK ( and nine on the trot) after an incredible 53 out of the previous 69 prior to that tour ( ie from the time the last 16 game winning streak began under Steve Waugh), why are we not proclaiming them for their spirit and skill. We/you should be celebrating their aggressive approach. This team has changed the way cricket is played through their thrilling aggressive batting led by Gilchrist and Ponting, their wonderful fielding and interesting diversity in bowling from Lee and McGrath to Clark and of course Warne.

    Cricket has never had it so good and the crowds that come to watch Australia not just here in Australia or this season but since the late 90's are a testimony to that fact.

    This success is not just down to Ponting and Hussey. Clarke ( and what a refreshing statement he is) has scores of 56 and 124 to his name, Langer 82 and 100 no, Gilchrist here a fine 64. Even Warne 43 here, Lee 43no and 7no and Clarke in Brisbane 39 have scored runs in these two wins.

    So come on mate, don't fall into that habit of patronising the Poms and playing to that audience with your Roebuck in reverse.Give credit where it is due. Write a piece that tells your readers that we are witnessing perhaps the final years of the greatest Aussie era and represented by a team who have proved yet again the value of aggressive passionate and above all a never say die team approach to the game.

    Incidentally this was just as apparent in the UK in 05 when this spirit gave the series its life and memories. Time to give em a pat on the back and say thanks for showing us yet again what team play is about..not just two batsmen or two bowlers please!

  • Steven on December 7, 2006, 2:01 GMT

    As the ABC radio commentary suggested on Monday afternoon 'England could lose the test match rather than Australia win it'. How true big match experience on foreign soil is something that you gain not learn. When playing Australia in cricket you are playing the best, you have to play for five days not four. Well Mr Fletcher you say that A Giles and G Jones are in the side for their batting ability so England can bat down to 8, like Australia do. Well not everyone has an Gilchrist or Warne, don't tell Brad Haddin or Brett Lee and co. Surely if you want to bat to no.8 pick an allrounder and have three specialist bowler not four that make three positions. It should be said that G Jones kept wellwhich is his main job. How can England win a game without attacking for five days and without using the arsenal to do so.

    The Ashes are coming home.

  • CJ on December 7, 2006, 1:37 GMT

    Ponting's hundred was scratchy in my opinion, i guess you make your own luck, He's in rare form, England certainly made theirs by picking Giles.

    Hussey was brilliant in both innings, and continues to impress. But the finest innings in the match came from Michael "pup" Clarke.

    Why has nobody written about Les Burdetts genius? He produced the same pitch he's produced time and again, a belter for 2 and a half days that declines rapidly. Balls from Harmison and Hoggard on the 4th morning were going sideways out of cracks, making Gilchrist and Clarkes runs all the more special. Just because Australia made 500 in their first dig doesn't mean they should have. If Australia batted first they would have made 800 in the time it took england to make their 550. And the game would have been over. In my opinion Englands tactics were dreadful throughout, and they should never have lost once they won the toss. Look at Adelaides results this past decade. Thats the 6th first innings score of 500 in the past 5 tests. and the 9th result in the last 10 test matches. It seems to me that too many bloggers are overly keen to read scorecards rather than watch cricket. A keen knowledge of the venue would produce blogs about Clarke's coming of age, and Les Burdett's continued brilliance with his Adelaide wickets. Playing test matches 2 months earlier in south australia hasn't stopped him making wickets that produce 5 day results. Every blogger that wrote this game off as a draw has been spoilt by Steve Waugh's aggressive captaincy with his flawless side early this decade. 4 and a half runs an over, and results inside 4 days would have been viewed as ridiculous in the 80's. Ponting has a weaker side, and therefore is proving himself to be a wickedly good captain. He will get himself a very good, young side though, mark my words.

    When the inevitable mass exodus occurs, best believe australia has ready made replacements. Mitchell Johnson, Dan Cullen, Shaun Tait, Mark Cosgrove, Andrew Symonds, Phil Jaques, Simon Katich, and Brad Haddin to name a few. Thats all without mentioning the only one they tirelessly press to play, our sad excuse for a flintoff, Shane Watson, who my jury is out on at present. Do yourself a favour and just check some adelaide stats. England imploded yes, but Australia's first innings 500 is one of the best batting displays I've ever seen, knowing the wicket they were playing on. When Gilchrist reached 50 on the 4th morning, Australia became the only side that could win, few people backed me when i made that statement. well...suffer in your jocks.

  • Vishnu on December 7, 2006, 1:10 GMT

    Good work Gideon. Nice to see a level-headed perspective on things, rather than the standard English rose tinted dross doled out by Mr.T. de Lisle.

    Duncan Fletcher = buck passing d*#@khead. He needs to fall on his big sword & have some grace about it. He has ruled that team with an iron fist & this is all he has to show for it (i.e. not much right about now). Birds coming home to roost....

    Good luck England with him in charge. Progression is the key.

  • prasad on December 7, 2006, 0:35 GMT

    poor poms. you guys are depressed. there are 3 matches left, and the series is not lost yet. England just has to pick its best 11, put aside all reputations and parallels from 2005, and go out and give australia hell. Dragging in Vaughan, or playing Giles, or Geraint Jones reminds me of the schoolboy athelete who wears the same pair of 'lucky' socks, without any thought to his real reasons for winning. England need to see reality and start thinking objectively and clearly.

  • Zhivan on December 6, 2006, 21:01 GMT

    If Australia are so dependent on Ponting and Hussey, England are even more dependent on Collingwood and Pietersen. Clarke picked up a ton, Warne contributed again, Langer scored a ton in the first test... etc etc...

  • Srinivas on December 6, 2006, 20:53 GMT

    When England declared at 551/6 in the first innings , i knew they have left a window of opportunity open. I knew that Australia being australia will go for the win, i was right. Especially after their first innings 513.

  • P.Satish Kumar on December 6, 2006, 15:51 GMT

    It seems most readers are too shocked to post comments! I was shocked too watching the game unfold. I did tell my dad on Day 4 that the game has reached a stage where England can't win but Australia can with Warne!

    It has a lot to do with mindset. If the tactic of keeping Giles and getting a draw could have worked in Brisbane the England management would have had every reason to continue with him. However a test down and with a promising bowler like Panesar in the wings it was silly not to play him. Fine, he could have gone for 200 with no wicket in the game but you will never know till you play him.

    Fletcher has made the mistake of believing he could get away with five draws in this series.

    It is funny how coaches and captains seem to get stuck when the going gets tough. Last year, Hussey was never played even though the Ashes was slipping away and the Australian middle-order was collapsing. This year Panesar and Mahmood were not played when the bowling attack was actually being carried by one fit man, Hoggard and an unfit captain.

    Its too late for England now!! Its bad enough to try and keep a series alive after going one down to Australia. Its well-nigh impossible to do it 2 down.

    England should still come out firing. Just throw that play-for-a-draw mentality in the dustbin. They now have pretty much nothing to lose. They should atleast leave after showing that one hour of madness was what stood between defeat and retaining the Ashes.

    Satish India

  • Axeman on December 6, 2006, 15:31 GMT

    The result in the Adelaide Test turned on four factors- leadership; preparation; team commitment; and intangible moments of greatness. In the first instance, I believe that England management has badly failed the playing squad, making false assumptions about the capabilities and determination of the Australian squad to avenge their loss in England that they as a team undoubtedly felt very deeply. In 2005, Murphy's Law applied to the Australian team, eg the freakish loss of Glenn McGrath prior to the second test. England Management has applied O'Toole's Corollary to Murphy's Law (ie Murphy was an OPTIMIST!)to their preparation for this series. Some of the various selection issues (eg Panesar vs Giles; Mahmood vs Anderson; Read vs Jones) should have been resolved well before the series began, so that media debates about selection did not govern or impact on team and individual stability. Botham should coach- not Fletcher. A top class coach would have reflected on his own errors and performance, not blame the players publicly to save his own skin. That change needs to be made now. It is also true that Ricky Ponting wasn't the greatest captain in his early tests in the role. It took time for Ponting to gain some mastery of the captaincy art and to manage his batting performance at the same time. Flintoff is young and carries the additional burden of all round expectations with a squad that has in part been divided by badly-managed selection issues and poor preparation. Then there are the intangibles- those moments of pure inspiration and invention- that build collective and individual confidence or destroy confidence. Warne's bowling and Hussey's batting (plus Gilly's fourth day attack) were the final day ingredients that turned the match Australia's way. 'I'll never be bowled around my legs' That one comment explains England's present predicament.

  • sim on December 6, 2006, 14:57 GMT

    I do hope one or two Yorkshiremen can make the Poms look at least respectable.

  • Vineet Gupta on December 6, 2006, 14:29 GMT

    To be really frank and realistic Gideon you should take back your following words "Actually, this wasn’t one of those relentlessly efficient Australian wins of yore"...how the hell on Earth you can say that..what else you want..all the Australian top 6 should score 100 or you want all the Aussy bowlers to take 5ers..but alas there are only 20 wickets to take in a Test Match.Every Team heavily depends on 5-6 players and so is the case with Australia. But let me tell you the day Ponting or Hussey fails(to be frank which looks impossible) others will come to party, probably the only batsman who will be under scruitny is Martyn but I have no doubts on his capabilities and there is no point changing a winning commbination. And I think all the bowlers have done a pretty decent job. Brett Lee kept pressure on from other End in 2nd inning of Adelade.The only word for warne is Magician, Clark has been phenomenal and do u still have any doubts over Mcgrath, dont do that man,I am sure he will make you eat your words..It was a brutal display of Aussie dominance accept it and if(a BIG if) England can make a comeback from here it would be 8th wonder for me, they are dead and burried.

  • nigel on December 6, 2006, 14:10 GMT

    It seems to me you totally mis-read the fourth day. The afternoon session was the one in which English cricket and English captaincy ensured the only winner could be Australia.That session showed Flintoff's captaincy in the worst light and the selection of Giles to be almost insane.Allowing the Aussies to accumulate at will,under no threat whatsoever by virtue of Giles's over the wicket bowling was just poor cricket all round.It meant that we tried to gain no meaningful lead and led to the scenario that a poor England second innings would give Australia a shout.It was in that session that it all started to go wrong.Brain-dead cricket from Giles and Flintoff is at fault for just allowing him to carry on over after dismal over.The "mad hour" on the fifth day gave the game to Australia but the second session on the fourth day gave them the possibility.

  • Marty on December 6, 2006, 13:20 GMT

    I really feel for the English supporters. The English team have the talent, but they lacked the resolve and leadership. Having seen those shortcomings in our Aussie team in last year's Ashes, I can sympathise. Good luck for the other matches; I reckon they'll be interesting.

  • Ben Dudley on December 6, 2006, 13:02 GMT

    Gideon You've managed to sum up my feelings of gobsmacking embarrassment on this result very well. As a friend of mine said shortly before England were bowled out "England are back to being [bad] again"

  • Geoff Green on December 6, 2006, 12:26 GMT

    All this talk about Vaughan. He looked good because Australia (1)persevered with some old dead beats well past their use by date. (2) Lost the use of McGrath. (3) Became bored with winning - ennui set in. (4) The principle of the territorial imperative grasped England - cricketers, supporters - everyone lifted themselves beyond their usual capabilities.

    And even then Vaughan only just won.

    He would have fared no better than Flintoff.

    And what about Flintoff?. The poor bugger was totally alone in Adelaide. Ponting came under some fire when he lost the Ashes but his mates and the hierachy gathered around him and helped him maintain his resolve but as for old Freddie - abandoned totally. The look of despair on his face was based on loneliness - God help any Pom who receives a setback, no true blue Brit wants to be associated with failure. Yet Flintoff is a winner at heart, but... and so on and so on.

    Vaughan was lucky to be in the right spot at the right time. That's all. Now give Flintoff everything he needs - belief, friendship, encouragement and he can still come out of this mess with some self respect and be like Border, grit his teeth, plan ahead and win properly next time.

    I speak as an Aussie who felt real compassion for Flintoff.

  • Krishi on December 6, 2006, 11:51 GMT

    Haven't you heard of the curse of the 550+ first innings total at Adelaide Oval ?

  • John Boxsell on December 6, 2006, 11:29 GMT

    Don't feel bad Gideon - everybody expected Australia to bowl as attacking as they did, but nobody in the world could have possibly predicted that England would be so negative. England don't deserve to win another match after batting like that. Disgraceful.

  • Ian on December 6, 2006, 11:18 GMT

    The final day was a mass contradiction of emotions.

    When I saw Strauss being given out and the consequential collapse I was annoyed that the Poms could argue the rub of the green that went their way last year was going our way this.

    Then I thought it might be a good thing for England for it would force their hand to be aggressive and ensure Australia would have a challenging target, and actually bring both teams into the game with a chance of winning.

    Then I was annoyed the Poms had no Vaughan and Simon Jones so that last year's bad memory could be properly extinguished, for both those players were key to their victory. And their absence is probably why they're not up for it this year.

    Finally I decided I was annoyed that England had in effect thrown it away, aided by a bad umpiring decision. To soothe that, I also saw the smug Fletcher squirming in his seat unable to publicly admit that he hadn't the cattle to take advantage of a wearing pitch with the ball, for that was largely his call. I wonder if he caught Ponting's eye this match?

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  • Ian on December 6, 2006, 11:18 GMT

    The final day was a mass contradiction of emotions.

    When I saw Strauss being given out and the consequential collapse I was annoyed that the Poms could argue the rub of the green that went their way last year was going our way this.

    Then I thought it might be a good thing for England for it would force their hand to be aggressive and ensure Australia would have a challenging target, and actually bring both teams into the game with a chance of winning.

    Then I was annoyed the Poms had no Vaughan and Simon Jones so that last year's bad memory could be properly extinguished, for both those players were key to their victory. And their absence is probably why they're not up for it this year.

    Finally I decided I was annoyed that England had in effect thrown it away, aided by a bad umpiring decision. To soothe that, I also saw the smug Fletcher squirming in his seat unable to publicly admit that he hadn't the cattle to take advantage of a wearing pitch with the ball, for that was largely his call. I wonder if he caught Ponting's eye this match?

  • John Boxsell on December 6, 2006, 11:29 GMT

    Don't feel bad Gideon - everybody expected Australia to bowl as attacking as they did, but nobody in the world could have possibly predicted that England would be so negative. England don't deserve to win another match after batting like that. Disgraceful.

  • Krishi on December 6, 2006, 11:51 GMT

    Haven't you heard of the curse of the 550+ first innings total at Adelaide Oval ?

  • Geoff Green on December 6, 2006, 12:26 GMT

    All this talk about Vaughan. He looked good because Australia (1)persevered with some old dead beats well past their use by date. (2) Lost the use of McGrath. (3) Became bored with winning - ennui set in. (4) The principle of the territorial imperative grasped England - cricketers, supporters - everyone lifted themselves beyond their usual capabilities.

    And even then Vaughan only just won.

    He would have fared no better than Flintoff.

    And what about Flintoff?. The poor bugger was totally alone in Adelaide. Ponting came under some fire when he lost the Ashes but his mates and the hierachy gathered around him and helped him maintain his resolve but as for old Freddie - abandoned totally. The look of despair on his face was based on loneliness - God help any Pom who receives a setback, no true blue Brit wants to be associated with failure. Yet Flintoff is a winner at heart, but... and so on and so on.

    Vaughan was lucky to be in the right spot at the right time. That's all. Now give Flintoff everything he needs - belief, friendship, encouragement and he can still come out of this mess with some self respect and be like Border, grit his teeth, plan ahead and win properly next time.

    I speak as an Aussie who felt real compassion for Flintoff.

  • Ben Dudley on December 6, 2006, 13:02 GMT

    Gideon You've managed to sum up my feelings of gobsmacking embarrassment on this result very well. As a friend of mine said shortly before England were bowled out "England are back to being [bad] again"

  • Marty on December 6, 2006, 13:20 GMT

    I really feel for the English supporters. The English team have the talent, but they lacked the resolve and leadership. Having seen those shortcomings in our Aussie team in last year's Ashes, I can sympathise. Good luck for the other matches; I reckon they'll be interesting.

  • nigel on December 6, 2006, 14:10 GMT

    It seems to me you totally mis-read the fourth day. The afternoon session was the one in which English cricket and English captaincy ensured the only winner could be Australia.That session showed Flintoff's captaincy in the worst light and the selection of Giles to be almost insane.Allowing the Aussies to accumulate at will,under no threat whatsoever by virtue of Giles's over the wicket bowling was just poor cricket all round.It meant that we tried to gain no meaningful lead and led to the scenario that a poor England second innings would give Australia a shout.It was in that session that it all started to go wrong.Brain-dead cricket from Giles and Flintoff is at fault for just allowing him to carry on over after dismal over.The "mad hour" on the fifth day gave the game to Australia but the second session on the fourth day gave them the possibility.

  • Vineet Gupta on December 6, 2006, 14:29 GMT

    To be really frank and realistic Gideon you should take back your following words "Actually, this wasn’t one of those relentlessly efficient Australian wins of yore"...how the hell on Earth you can say that..what else you want..all the Australian top 6 should score 100 or you want all the Aussy bowlers to take 5ers..but alas there are only 20 wickets to take in a Test Match.Every Team heavily depends on 5-6 players and so is the case with Australia. But let me tell you the day Ponting or Hussey fails(to be frank which looks impossible) others will come to party, probably the only batsman who will be under scruitny is Martyn but I have no doubts on his capabilities and there is no point changing a winning commbination. And I think all the bowlers have done a pretty decent job. Brett Lee kept pressure on from other End in 2nd inning of Adelade.The only word for warne is Magician, Clark has been phenomenal and do u still have any doubts over Mcgrath, dont do that man,I am sure he will make you eat your words..It was a brutal display of Aussie dominance accept it and if(a BIG if) England can make a comeback from here it would be 8th wonder for me, they are dead and burried.

  • sim on December 6, 2006, 14:57 GMT

    I do hope one or two Yorkshiremen can make the Poms look at least respectable.

  • Axeman on December 6, 2006, 15:31 GMT

    The result in the Adelaide Test turned on four factors- leadership; preparation; team commitment; and intangible moments of greatness. In the first instance, I believe that England management has badly failed the playing squad, making false assumptions about the capabilities and determination of the Australian squad to avenge their loss in England that they as a team undoubtedly felt very deeply. In 2005, Murphy's Law applied to the Australian team, eg the freakish loss of Glenn McGrath prior to the second test. England Management has applied O'Toole's Corollary to Murphy's Law (ie Murphy was an OPTIMIST!)to their preparation for this series. Some of the various selection issues (eg Panesar vs Giles; Mahmood vs Anderson; Read vs Jones) should have been resolved well before the series began, so that media debates about selection did not govern or impact on team and individual stability. Botham should coach- not Fletcher. A top class coach would have reflected on his own errors and performance, not blame the players publicly to save his own skin. That change needs to be made now. It is also true that Ricky Ponting wasn't the greatest captain in his early tests in the role. It took time for Ponting to gain some mastery of the captaincy art and to manage his batting performance at the same time. Flintoff is young and carries the additional burden of all round expectations with a squad that has in part been divided by badly-managed selection issues and poor preparation. Then there are the intangibles- those moments of pure inspiration and invention- that build collective and individual confidence or destroy confidence. Warne's bowling and Hussey's batting (plus Gilly's fourth day attack) were the final day ingredients that turned the match Australia's way. 'I'll never be bowled around my legs' That one comment explains England's present predicament.