Action: fifth Test January 2, 2007

Thx Fred

The pattern of a long series is seldom uniform – men who make double hundreds at the start often find ducks waiting for them at the end
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The pattern of a long series is seldom uniform – men who make double hundreds at the start often find ducks waiting for them at the end. But long series are not as long as they used to be, so fragments of pattern are apt to survive. England’s openers stuttered yet again; they may be just too alike. Yet another Aussie retired. Hunter S Thomspon may have got it wrong: when the going gets soft, the tough get going.

Ian Bell compiled another of his fighting fifties, rather than one of the hundreds he reels off when he is in his rightful place at number six. Kevin Pietersen again mixed genius with rushes of blood. England made another baffling selection, opting to field all three of their seaming liabilities (Harmison, Anderson, Mahmood) rather than a second spinner (Dalrymple) who might have provided the missing cement at number seven. For the second Test running, they missed Jon Lewis, who could have been their best bowler on the Melbourne Christmas pudding, and the most natural understudy for Matthew Hoggard here.

They had as good a day as their long-singing fans could have asked for, yet they stand only a couple of nicks away from another insipid total. The difference is likely to depend, as so much has in this series, on Andrew Flintoff. “New year, new you,” the newspapers are all saying, but Flintoff prospered by finding his old self today, for the first time in nine months.

Lately he had regressed to his callow younger self, hanging out half a bat at stock deliveries. Today, even though he arrived in a mini-crisis, he was instantly decisive. He looked busy, ran freely and hit out selectively, using more of the face (and therefore saving a little of it). Off Stuart Clark and Brett Lee, he made 26 at a run a ball. Finally someone has worked out that just because Clark is a commercial lawyer is no reason to be silenced by him. This was the Flintoff of Edgbaston 2005, and the scorecard half-resembles that one. Ricky Ponting, sensing trouble, lurched on to the defensive.

It’s often a good sign when Flintoff is not out overnight. Last time it happened was in Perth, when he at least managed a semi-defiant fifty, and the time before was Mumbai in March, when he and Collingwood were at the crease as England finished the first day on 272 for three. Flintoff made 50 twice, sang Ring Of Fire, and led the way to his only overseas victory as captain. Today, he made sure that a mass leaving party was also an even contest.

It was a great idea for the adverts on the grass, usually so charmless, to say a big thank you to Warne, McGrath and Langer. But let’s also, in a smaller way, salute a man who managed to be carefree when the cares of the world were on his shoulders. Thx Fred.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • David on January 4, 2007, 10:56 GMT

    In response to Jez's negative comment about Chris Read: Six Australian victims for the second test running, and once again no byes conceded. At least the guy is a world-class wicket-keeper! Give him more than one and a half test matches and he might make some runs too.

  • David McDaniel on January 4, 2007, 1:16 GMT

    The problem is, Jones and Giles didn't do anything with the bat anyway.

  • macca on January 3, 2007, 18:03 GMT

    thank god its nearly over and we can all stop snapping at each other and searching for the holy grail of why we lost.fletch was right after all,our tail is huge(you only have to get england 5 down and its all over)no wonder he took a gamble on jones and giles,read is class behind the stumps but looks out of his depth batting.flintoff was clearly rusty and is not fit and so we couldnt bat him 7 and have just 3 other bowlers,we cant rely on harmy to get wickets.another batsmen at six is a luxury we needed but couldnt afford.mahmood is one for the future,get colly or strauss to become keepers, how hard is it?,get harmy to work on his batting at eight,get the captaincy away from flintoff and let one of the worlds top fast bowlers(who is a solid batsman)bowl his arse off when fit.also nice bit of rug pulling spin from england to be saying how their ashes09 prep starts here,with warneys poor bowling and langers 3 drops the whole ashes finale seems to be fizzling out as england shrug and act not too bothered and slope off ,they might even get away with it in the press.also loved boycott moaning about ponting killing the game (literally)by putting everyone on the boundry while flintoff turned down singles,even bradman would have struggled he moaned.priceless.what a bizarre dull game of chess it sometimes is.

  • Jonathan Evans on January 3, 2007, 11:35 GMT

    Re selection, this Test has demonstrated how ludicrous it is to have a bottom 5 of Read, Mahmood, Harmison, Panesar and Anderson/Hoggard. Whatever you think of the Jones/Giles selections, it's very clear what motivated them.

  • stevelbw on January 3, 2007, 8:26 GMT

    Your analysis is flawed, England were simply not ready day one in Brisbane, they needed a couple more matches. Under that scenario, England would have been combative and performed, Flintoff would quite possibly had more options and had been less shackled in his own performance.

    Although I will add, that he is poor at setting fields for spinners.

  • Sean on January 3, 2007, 8:03 GMT

    It seems like that England were hedging their bets by picking both Mahmood and Anderson, and while it may not be an attacking move I think the Hoggard sickness may have forced their hand. I thought that Dalrymple would come into the team, but with Hoggard out I feel that England didn't trust an out of sorts Harmison, an injury restricted Flintoff, and one of Anderson/Mahmood to carry the seam bowling.

    As for Bell at six, that's fine - but who bats at three? Are Key or Shaw brought into the team? Surely bringing in the relatively inexperienced Joyce at number three against Australia is not such a better move? I'm an Australian, so I'm interested in hearing thoughts on the team balance.

    As for Flintoff, I do like him as a cricketer. However, I don't think he deserves a position as a bastman and if he cannot bowl the overs required for a frontline player it really hurts the balance of your team.

  • Pete on January 3, 2007, 7:15 GMT

    It was good to see Flintoff go on to make a decent score, but he got out doing something really stupid. Still, imagine if that knock came at number 7 with an extra batsman making a start at the top of the order. England would be 350 instead of 291. Why Mahmood is there is beyond me. I live in Australia so I don't see any county cricket, but he just seems out of his depth in Australia, and the captain rarely bowls him too. Why not have Joyce in there to give the batting some extra depth, and it will also help those lower order collapses cos Flintoff will be at 7. Joyce to bat at 3, Bell then back at 6 to churn out those 100s apparantly, and Freddie counter-attacking at 7 Gilchrist style. Anyways, the test is going fairly evenly at the moment, so I'm going to get back to watching it.

  • Si on January 3, 2007, 4:42 GMT

    Playing Dalrymple - who has two first-class centuries and a first-class batting average of 36 to his name - at No. 6 at Sydney would have (a) provided valuable middle-order runs; (b) released the all-too-manifest pressure on both Flintoff and Read to make significant contributions with the bat as well as with, respectively, the ball and the gloves; and (c) provided England with a genuine second spinner with whom to help Panesar bowl Australia out on the fourth and/or fifth days on a wicket which ALWAYS turns sharply on the final two days. Instead - as, nowadays, is his wont - Fletcher elected to go for the most risible selectorial options open to him: the two non-batting pie-throwers Mahmood and Anderson (combined figures during this series: 7 wickets at 75 each - at 4.7 an over).

    Still, at least we've learned a few valuable lessons during the last few weeks:

    1. Fletcher is no longer a viable international coach. Anyone who - against the advice of every pundit, coach and player in the game who is not clinically moronic - has not only erred so badly in almost every selectorial decision he's had to make, but has managed to compound this by publicly undermining the confidence and credibility of young players such as Panesar, Read and Broad with asinine comments about 'the need for multidimensional cricketers'(never mind that he then neglected to pick the very players - i.e. Broad and Dalrymple - who fitted most neatly into this category) and 'lack of big-match nerves'(a barb aimed at Read), deserves to be put out to pasture at the earliest convenient opportunity. Thank you, Mr. Fletcher: quieter, less taxing days await you at Sophia Gardens.

    2. Flintoff is not a viable international captain. His field placings and bowling changes during this series have made even Ponting's look cavalier, he has shown no evidence whatsoever of any tactical nous and his own game has clearly suffered as a result of the extra load he has - albeit nobly - taken upon himself. It has been a curious experience indeed to contrast his plodding, captaincy-by-numbers approach to the job with the derring-do he displayed in his best days among the ranks. Thanks, Freddie, but no thanks - can we have the real you back now, please?

    3. It has now been adequately proven that neither Giles nor Jones are Test-class cricketers. With spinners such as Panesar, Rashid and Doshi (and, if you're looking for spinning all-rounders, Dalrymple and Loudon)in the wings - as well as young keeper-batsmen like Davies, Foster and Prior twiddling their thumbs in county and England Academy and A sides, now is the time to bid both Giles and Jones farewell. Yeoman cricketers, both: but in the final analysis simply not good enough.

    4. Poor Marcus Trescothick is, sadly, finished - at least for the foreseeable future. It would be unfair to expect someone in his current lamentable state of mind to provide five days of sustained intensity and focus at the highest sporting level. The best thing the ECB can do for him now is to give him as much time as he needs out of the game and - for as long as ne needs to reconstruct his fractured psyche - neither to put any pressure on him to return to professional cricket nor to impose (or even suggest)any deadline for his return.

    5. The positives: Cook, Bell and Pietersen - i.e. the nucleus of the England batting line-up for at least the next six or seven years - have come through their trial by fire relatively unscathed and with their reputations largely intact; Flintoff showed at Sydney that the real Freddie is dormant rather than irrevocably lost; and Panesar again demonstrated that he is a spinner of rare talent.

    Let's hope that the new English coach - whoever it is (my money's on Tom Moody) has the vision and courage to blood Broad, Davies and Rashid over the next 12 months or so, so that we can rebuild meaningfully for a 2009 Ashes contest with a side shorn of its finest and most experienced players - and therefore more vulnerable than at any time in the last decade.

  • Nath on January 3, 2007, 3:46 GMT

    Thx Fred.

    Your captaincy and poor on field performances were more than Australia could have hoped for. I'm sure Symonds is more than thankful for the field placings after lunch day 2 in Melbourne as well.

    Great job Fred!

  • glen on January 3, 2007, 3:08 GMT

    If you are going to take 5 sessions to score 420+ runs and be competitive well your on the back foot from the start.Monty should have been in the side from Brizzy im convinced he is one of the better spinners around only given the chance.Being belted for 22 in an over well there was a chap from oz that got belted .But alas we had border who kept throwing him the ball didnt he warnie.

  • David on January 4, 2007, 10:56 GMT

    In response to Jez's negative comment about Chris Read: Six Australian victims for the second test running, and once again no byes conceded. At least the guy is a world-class wicket-keeper! Give him more than one and a half test matches and he might make some runs too.

  • David McDaniel on January 4, 2007, 1:16 GMT

    The problem is, Jones and Giles didn't do anything with the bat anyway.

  • macca on January 3, 2007, 18:03 GMT

    thank god its nearly over and we can all stop snapping at each other and searching for the holy grail of why we lost.fletch was right after all,our tail is huge(you only have to get england 5 down and its all over)no wonder he took a gamble on jones and giles,read is class behind the stumps but looks out of his depth batting.flintoff was clearly rusty and is not fit and so we couldnt bat him 7 and have just 3 other bowlers,we cant rely on harmy to get wickets.another batsmen at six is a luxury we needed but couldnt afford.mahmood is one for the future,get colly or strauss to become keepers, how hard is it?,get harmy to work on his batting at eight,get the captaincy away from flintoff and let one of the worlds top fast bowlers(who is a solid batsman)bowl his arse off when fit.also nice bit of rug pulling spin from england to be saying how their ashes09 prep starts here,with warneys poor bowling and langers 3 drops the whole ashes finale seems to be fizzling out as england shrug and act not too bothered and slope off ,they might even get away with it in the press.also loved boycott moaning about ponting killing the game (literally)by putting everyone on the boundry while flintoff turned down singles,even bradman would have struggled he moaned.priceless.what a bizarre dull game of chess it sometimes is.

  • Jonathan Evans on January 3, 2007, 11:35 GMT

    Re selection, this Test has demonstrated how ludicrous it is to have a bottom 5 of Read, Mahmood, Harmison, Panesar and Anderson/Hoggard. Whatever you think of the Jones/Giles selections, it's very clear what motivated them.

  • stevelbw on January 3, 2007, 8:26 GMT

    Your analysis is flawed, England were simply not ready day one in Brisbane, they needed a couple more matches. Under that scenario, England would have been combative and performed, Flintoff would quite possibly had more options and had been less shackled in his own performance.

    Although I will add, that he is poor at setting fields for spinners.

  • Sean on January 3, 2007, 8:03 GMT

    It seems like that England were hedging their bets by picking both Mahmood and Anderson, and while it may not be an attacking move I think the Hoggard sickness may have forced their hand. I thought that Dalrymple would come into the team, but with Hoggard out I feel that England didn't trust an out of sorts Harmison, an injury restricted Flintoff, and one of Anderson/Mahmood to carry the seam bowling.

    As for Bell at six, that's fine - but who bats at three? Are Key or Shaw brought into the team? Surely bringing in the relatively inexperienced Joyce at number three against Australia is not such a better move? I'm an Australian, so I'm interested in hearing thoughts on the team balance.

    As for Flintoff, I do like him as a cricketer. However, I don't think he deserves a position as a bastman and if he cannot bowl the overs required for a frontline player it really hurts the balance of your team.

  • Pete on January 3, 2007, 7:15 GMT

    It was good to see Flintoff go on to make a decent score, but he got out doing something really stupid. Still, imagine if that knock came at number 7 with an extra batsman making a start at the top of the order. England would be 350 instead of 291. Why Mahmood is there is beyond me. I live in Australia so I don't see any county cricket, but he just seems out of his depth in Australia, and the captain rarely bowls him too. Why not have Joyce in there to give the batting some extra depth, and it will also help those lower order collapses cos Flintoff will be at 7. Joyce to bat at 3, Bell then back at 6 to churn out those 100s apparantly, and Freddie counter-attacking at 7 Gilchrist style. Anyways, the test is going fairly evenly at the moment, so I'm going to get back to watching it.

  • Si on January 3, 2007, 4:42 GMT

    Playing Dalrymple - who has two first-class centuries and a first-class batting average of 36 to his name - at No. 6 at Sydney would have (a) provided valuable middle-order runs; (b) released the all-too-manifest pressure on both Flintoff and Read to make significant contributions with the bat as well as with, respectively, the ball and the gloves; and (c) provided England with a genuine second spinner with whom to help Panesar bowl Australia out on the fourth and/or fifth days on a wicket which ALWAYS turns sharply on the final two days. Instead - as, nowadays, is his wont - Fletcher elected to go for the most risible selectorial options open to him: the two non-batting pie-throwers Mahmood and Anderson (combined figures during this series: 7 wickets at 75 each - at 4.7 an over).

    Still, at least we've learned a few valuable lessons during the last few weeks:

    1. Fletcher is no longer a viable international coach. Anyone who - against the advice of every pundit, coach and player in the game who is not clinically moronic - has not only erred so badly in almost every selectorial decision he's had to make, but has managed to compound this by publicly undermining the confidence and credibility of young players such as Panesar, Read and Broad with asinine comments about 'the need for multidimensional cricketers'(never mind that he then neglected to pick the very players - i.e. Broad and Dalrymple - who fitted most neatly into this category) and 'lack of big-match nerves'(a barb aimed at Read), deserves to be put out to pasture at the earliest convenient opportunity. Thank you, Mr. Fletcher: quieter, less taxing days await you at Sophia Gardens.

    2. Flintoff is not a viable international captain. His field placings and bowling changes during this series have made even Ponting's look cavalier, he has shown no evidence whatsoever of any tactical nous and his own game has clearly suffered as a result of the extra load he has - albeit nobly - taken upon himself. It has been a curious experience indeed to contrast his plodding, captaincy-by-numbers approach to the job with the derring-do he displayed in his best days among the ranks. Thanks, Freddie, but no thanks - can we have the real you back now, please?

    3. It has now been adequately proven that neither Giles nor Jones are Test-class cricketers. With spinners such as Panesar, Rashid and Doshi (and, if you're looking for spinning all-rounders, Dalrymple and Loudon)in the wings - as well as young keeper-batsmen like Davies, Foster and Prior twiddling their thumbs in county and England Academy and A sides, now is the time to bid both Giles and Jones farewell. Yeoman cricketers, both: but in the final analysis simply not good enough.

    4. Poor Marcus Trescothick is, sadly, finished - at least for the foreseeable future. It would be unfair to expect someone in his current lamentable state of mind to provide five days of sustained intensity and focus at the highest sporting level. The best thing the ECB can do for him now is to give him as much time as he needs out of the game and - for as long as ne needs to reconstruct his fractured psyche - neither to put any pressure on him to return to professional cricket nor to impose (or even suggest)any deadline for his return.

    5. The positives: Cook, Bell and Pietersen - i.e. the nucleus of the England batting line-up for at least the next six or seven years - have come through their trial by fire relatively unscathed and with their reputations largely intact; Flintoff showed at Sydney that the real Freddie is dormant rather than irrevocably lost; and Panesar again demonstrated that he is a spinner of rare talent.

    Let's hope that the new English coach - whoever it is (my money's on Tom Moody) has the vision and courage to blood Broad, Davies and Rashid over the next 12 months or so, so that we can rebuild meaningfully for a 2009 Ashes contest with a side shorn of its finest and most experienced players - and therefore more vulnerable than at any time in the last decade.

  • Nath on January 3, 2007, 3:46 GMT

    Thx Fred.

    Your captaincy and poor on field performances were more than Australia could have hoped for. I'm sure Symonds is more than thankful for the field placings after lunch day 2 in Melbourne as well.

    Great job Fred!

  • glen on January 3, 2007, 3:08 GMT

    If you are going to take 5 sessions to score 420+ runs and be competitive well your on the back foot from the start.Monty should have been in the side from Brizzy im convinced he is one of the better spinners around only given the chance.Being belted for 22 in an over well there was a chap from oz that got belted .But alas we had border who kept throwing him the ball didnt he warnie.

  • Flash Ash on January 3, 2007, 0:57 GMT

    Dan

    You must be drunk, to blame us losing to SL on Jon Lewis is a bit Tart!! There were 10 other players and 4 other bowling options (at least!!) and none of those produced the goods either, many of which had a damn sight more "Test" experience and if my memory serves me he did take at least two wickets in the first innings!!

    Lewis would have been the ideal Hoggard clone on the Sydney pitch and in the conditions they are having right now!! Anderson will probably be given the "Fifth" bowler slot of only bowling about 12 overs if he's lucky!!

    But, I agree that dalrymple should have played, but at the expense of Mahmood!!

    Cheers Easy!!

  • Rich on January 3, 2007, 0:38 GMT

    And Dan - to suggest Mark Butcher would have made a difference is certainly not pushing it a bit. It's utterly ignorant to suggest he needs a guitar to make runs, he's scored as many since his recovery from injury as at any time. Not a chance would he have altered the outcome, but it's very possible he'd have scored more runs than most of the top-order this series, because he's a more talented batsman than most in the country. Certainly more than Collingwood will ever be.

  • Jez B on January 3, 2007, 0:35 GMT

    Oh yes, what a big difference Chris Read has made. His batting has really livened England up. What a great choice. Thanks to all those Jones bashers out there who helped bring this talented batsman into the England team. Oh, what's that? He's out for 2 runs at the SCG? Gaaaaaaaaaaaah.

  • Rich on January 3, 2007, 0:34 GMT

    Tim - I'd disagree with your observations on Stuart Rupert Clark. There is a very simple reason they've been silenced by him. He's bowled well. Scoring-rate is not decided by the batsman's attitude, it's decided by the accuracy the bowlers bowl with. Clark has been exemplary this series, England haven't tried to go after him - sensibly, because had they done so the likely outcome would've been him getting even more wickets than he has. On this occasion, he bowled slightly less well than in the rest of the series. As a result, Flintoff came-off, something Clark (and co) have not allowed him to do before in the series.

    Mark - it's silly to say "the England selectors made the same mistake with Flintoff as Botham". Alec Bedser and company's decision in 1980 cannot be equated with David Graveney and company's in 2006. You can't expect an attitude to be ingrained between two different committees over the course of 26 years.

  • swaugh on January 2, 2007, 22:43 GMT

    England's desperation in finding anything positive in this series is surely exemplified by your latest effort, Tim: the captain gets to 42 and you get all excited.

  • Dan on January 2, 2007, 21:55 GMT

    Who's this Jon Lewis you mention Tim? Not the same Jon Lewis who went around the park against Sril Lanka in a game we contrived to lose from a winning position and looked so badly out of his depth? And if Bell was to drop to six, who would have batted three? Not Mark Butcher, who these days would have to bat with his guitar to get any runs (though at least it would stop him playing it)? And how come picking Dalrymple to stiffen the tail is now a good idea when you were so anti-stiffening the tail in the first few matches when Giles was picked for that very reason? You harrumphed on several occasions, with some justification, that it was up to the top six to get runs. What's changed? Dalrymple wear the old school tie does he?

    A few selections have been blatantly wrong, but to think Lewis, Butcher and Dalrymple would have made a difference is pushing it a bit.

  • sim on January 2, 2007, 20:53 GMT

    I'm pleased to heard the main man is in good form. Freddy looked in good touch at Peth in the second inninings and then got out to a fairly innocuous ball from Warne that seemed to do little. At least he wasnt waving his bat around outside off stump! As for his captaincy - well who do you blame, can't blame Freddy - if you were offered the job as England captain you'd take it would'nt you? Why can't the England selectors be content with having the best all rounder in the world. Strauss was the obvious choice with Freddy as vice.

  • Mark on January 2, 2007, 20:39 GMT

    Since, Tim, you have not been disposed to publish my longer contributions, I will restrict myself to commending your very clear and accurate summation of the day's events. The remarks of Sagar are similarly apposite. Note how Flintoff's batting has flourished when least the burden of setting fields and striving to bowl out a brilliant batting order has weighed upon him. (Why, when a similar experiment with Botham as captain had such an obviously detrimental effect on his cricket, England's selectors should make the same mistake again, is - to be tactful - perplexing.)

  • Stephen on January 2, 2007, 20:13 GMT

    "Kevin Pietersen again mixed genius with rushes of blood." Can't agree with you there, Tim. From where I sat he appeared to be mixing a sad need to demonstrate his machismo with an actuarially deficient understanding of the capital to be accrued from back-foot play. I began to see what all this stuff about not being a team player might mean. All his buccaneering charging down to McGrath and Clark was both self-denying - I can't remember him scoring a single run off the back foot - and just so much rehearsal for walking the plank, which he duly did. McGrath surely fell asleep last night giggling over Pietersen's wicket, and if Pietersen were a Japanese cricketer (there's a thought, Kevin, if the England management ever cross you again by actually telling you what to do) he'd surely publicly disembowel himself immediately on landing at Heathrow.

  • Sagar on January 2, 2007, 16:51 GMT

    I agree with you about Flintoff's carefree batting. In fact, England got it all wrong when they picked him as captain. I feel Strauss would have made an excellent captai following his success against Pakistan. This would have relieved Flintoff of the burden of captaincy and he could have played freely right from Brisbane. The other mistake( as you have and many others pointed out) was team selection with Giles, Anderson and Geraint Jones instead of Panesar, Sajid Mahmmod and Chris Read at Brisbane. I hope England win in Sydney not only to avoid whitewash but also to spoil the retirement party of Warne,McGrath and Langer.

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  • Sagar on January 2, 2007, 16:51 GMT

    I agree with you about Flintoff's carefree batting. In fact, England got it all wrong when they picked him as captain. I feel Strauss would have made an excellent captai following his success against Pakistan. This would have relieved Flintoff of the burden of captaincy and he could have played freely right from Brisbane. The other mistake( as you have and many others pointed out) was team selection with Giles, Anderson and Geraint Jones instead of Panesar, Sajid Mahmmod and Chris Read at Brisbane. I hope England win in Sydney not only to avoid whitewash but also to spoil the retirement party of Warne,McGrath and Langer.

  • Stephen on January 2, 2007, 20:13 GMT

    "Kevin Pietersen again mixed genius with rushes of blood." Can't agree with you there, Tim. From where I sat he appeared to be mixing a sad need to demonstrate his machismo with an actuarially deficient understanding of the capital to be accrued from back-foot play. I began to see what all this stuff about not being a team player might mean. All his buccaneering charging down to McGrath and Clark was both self-denying - I can't remember him scoring a single run off the back foot - and just so much rehearsal for walking the plank, which he duly did. McGrath surely fell asleep last night giggling over Pietersen's wicket, and if Pietersen were a Japanese cricketer (there's a thought, Kevin, if the England management ever cross you again by actually telling you what to do) he'd surely publicly disembowel himself immediately on landing at Heathrow.

  • Mark on January 2, 2007, 20:39 GMT

    Since, Tim, you have not been disposed to publish my longer contributions, I will restrict myself to commending your very clear and accurate summation of the day's events. The remarks of Sagar are similarly apposite. Note how Flintoff's batting has flourished when least the burden of setting fields and striving to bowl out a brilliant batting order has weighed upon him. (Why, when a similar experiment with Botham as captain had such an obviously detrimental effect on his cricket, England's selectors should make the same mistake again, is - to be tactful - perplexing.)

  • sim on January 2, 2007, 20:53 GMT

    I'm pleased to heard the main man is in good form. Freddy looked in good touch at Peth in the second inninings and then got out to a fairly innocuous ball from Warne that seemed to do little. At least he wasnt waving his bat around outside off stump! As for his captaincy - well who do you blame, can't blame Freddy - if you were offered the job as England captain you'd take it would'nt you? Why can't the England selectors be content with having the best all rounder in the world. Strauss was the obvious choice with Freddy as vice.

  • Dan on January 2, 2007, 21:55 GMT

    Who's this Jon Lewis you mention Tim? Not the same Jon Lewis who went around the park against Sril Lanka in a game we contrived to lose from a winning position and looked so badly out of his depth? And if Bell was to drop to six, who would have batted three? Not Mark Butcher, who these days would have to bat with his guitar to get any runs (though at least it would stop him playing it)? And how come picking Dalrymple to stiffen the tail is now a good idea when you were so anti-stiffening the tail in the first few matches when Giles was picked for that very reason? You harrumphed on several occasions, with some justification, that it was up to the top six to get runs. What's changed? Dalrymple wear the old school tie does he?

    A few selections have been blatantly wrong, but to think Lewis, Butcher and Dalrymple would have made a difference is pushing it a bit.

  • swaugh on January 2, 2007, 22:43 GMT

    England's desperation in finding anything positive in this series is surely exemplified by your latest effort, Tim: the captain gets to 42 and you get all excited.

  • Rich on January 3, 2007, 0:34 GMT

    Tim - I'd disagree with your observations on Stuart Rupert Clark. There is a very simple reason they've been silenced by him. He's bowled well. Scoring-rate is not decided by the batsman's attitude, it's decided by the accuracy the bowlers bowl with. Clark has been exemplary this series, England haven't tried to go after him - sensibly, because had they done so the likely outcome would've been him getting even more wickets than he has. On this occasion, he bowled slightly less well than in the rest of the series. As a result, Flintoff came-off, something Clark (and co) have not allowed him to do before in the series.

    Mark - it's silly to say "the England selectors made the same mistake with Flintoff as Botham". Alec Bedser and company's decision in 1980 cannot be equated with David Graveney and company's in 2006. You can't expect an attitude to be ingrained between two different committees over the course of 26 years.

  • Jez B on January 3, 2007, 0:35 GMT

    Oh yes, what a big difference Chris Read has made. His batting has really livened England up. What a great choice. Thanks to all those Jones bashers out there who helped bring this talented batsman into the England team. Oh, what's that? He's out for 2 runs at the SCG? Gaaaaaaaaaaaah.

  • Rich on January 3, 2007, 0:38 GMT

    And Dan - to suggest Mark Butcher would have made a difference is certainly not pushing it a bit. It's utterly ignorant to suggest he needs a guitar to make runs, he's scored as many since his recovery from injury as at any time. Not a chance would he have altered the outcome, but it's very possible he'd have scored more runs than most of the top-order this series, because he's a more talented batsman than most in the country. Certainly more than Collingwood will ever be.

  • Flash Ash on January 3, 2007, 0:57 GMT

    Dan

    You must be drunk, to blame us losing to SL on Jon Lewis is a bit Tart!! There were 10 other players and 4 other bowling options (at least!!) and none of those produced the goods either, many of which had a damn sight more "Test" experience and if my memory serves me he did take at least two wickets in the first innings!!

    Lewis would have been the ideal Hoggard clone on the Sydney pitch and in the conditions they are having right now!! Anderson will probably be given the "Fifth" bowler slot of only bowling about 12 overs if he's lucky!!

    But, I agree that dalrymple should have played, but at the expense of Mahmood!!

    Cheers Easy!!