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Got your New Year resolutions sorted? Me too (must spend less time blogging). But I wonder if the players have… Here are some friendly suggestions.
AUSTRALIA Must remember to give opponents a chance. Declining to bring any bowlers out of retirement should do the trick.
Must stop John Buchanan giving press conferences. It’s one area where he and Duncan Fletcher are as bad as each other – one defensive, the other passive-aggressive.
Must see if they can collapse even more dramatically than at Melbourne and still win. Maybe let things go to 84 for 9 this time.
ENGLAND Must play an extra batsman. Kevin Pietersen hasn’t been a place too low at number five – the four men after him have been a place too high. Picking Jamie Dalrymple at seven will help, but Andrew Flintoff, in his present lack of form, will still be too high at six. There’s no point playing five bowlers if the captain doesn’t have faith in them.
Must reach 100 with just one wicket down, something they have managed only in the second innings at Perth.
Must be aggressive with the bat and patient with the ball. Just bowl at the top of off stump: as Matthew Hayden helpfully pointed out, that’s all a Test-match bowling plan needs to say.
Must remember how to play overseas. Since the successful tour of South Africa two years ago, their home record reads won 8 (7 if you disregard the Pakistan forfeit), lost 2, while their away record is won 1, lost 7.
Must not publish any more autobiographies until they have the Ashes back.
SHANE WARNE Must announce his retirement from international hair-replacement ads with immediate effect.
Must agree not to take any more tail-end wickets in this match – they’re beneath him, aren’t they?
ANDREW FLINTOFF Must bat as if he’s no longer captain.
Must keep smiling, even in defeat – Brett Lee showed the way last year.
Must give Monty Panesar an early bowl and a reasonable field.
GLENN McGRATH Must allow himself to have a tear in his eye, so that he can’t see where he is landing the ball.
Must do something about his batting average. In an age of multi-dimensional cricketers, 7.36 is rubbish. Should aim to finish in double figures, which will mean scoring 237 for once out. If Jason Gillespie can do it …
STEVE HARMISON Must stand up and think of Durham, grab the new ball and repay all the faith that has been placed in him.
DUNCAN FLETCHER Mustn’t play the blame game, unless he is prepared to take some of it himself.
Must take the players to a bar afterwards and have a drink with the travelling fans, whose support has been beyond barmy and well into the realms of certifiable.
THE COUNTIES Must not offer a contract to Shaun Tait, Mitchell Johnson, Ben Hilfenhaus or anyone called Cullen until at least 2010. Exceptions may be made if the state the player represents offers a contract to a young Englishman in return.
JUSTIN LANGER Must come clean about whether he is retiring. His dad has hinted as much, but that may be just a New Year tradition – an old Langer sign.
Happy New Year.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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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.