May 9, 2009

Mike Holmans

Not good enough for Australia

Mike Holmans
Fidel Edwards is mobbed after removing Kevin Pietersen first ball, England v West Indies, 1st Test, Lord's, May 6, 2009
 © AFP
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The BBC commentators made Graham Swann’s dismissals of Devon Smith and Shivnarine Chanderpaul in consecutive balls their champagne moment, but I would have awarded it to Fidel Edwards for that beautiful ball which did for Kevin Pietersen.

Admittedly, bowlers start with a big advantage when delivering Pietersen’s first ball. They know in advance that he will come forward and attempt to dink the ball to mid-on before setting off for a suicidal single, but even armed with that knowledge it takes a high degree of skill to bowl the right ball. Fidel landed it absolutely to perfection.

Edwards was the best bowler on show: it was just a shame that none of his team-mates bothered to turn up until Brendan Nash and Denesh Ramdin’s stand of 143 delayed the end of the match by a couple of hours. Because of Edwards, England were struggling at tea on the first day, but because of everyone else in the West Indies team, England picked themselves up and eventually romped to victory.

England’s out-cricket was impressive. James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Graham Onions and Swann made up a varied and hostile attack, the fielding was sharp and nearly all the catches were taken – the only really bad miss being when Swann failed to get hand near a fairly routine third slip catch before Nash had scored. Even Matt Prior’s wicketkeeping failed to cause the usual drawings-in of breath and tut-tut-tutting from the always-pick-the-best-keeper brigade. It is not hard to imagine this fielding team holding good batting sides in check, especially once Andrew Flintoff gets fit enough to replace the hapless Tim Bresnan.

As a county allrounder, Bresnan is in the top echelons, but his bowling lacks the bite necessary for Tests. I suspect him of bribing the guys who calibrate the speed guns, because it was when he was alleged to have bowled at 90mph that I knew for certain that they were badly wrong. He is the Ronnie Irani de nos jours; he may well have a lot to contribute to the limited-over sides, but the Test team needs someone who wouldn’t flabbergast if he got a five-fer.

Such as Swann, for instance, who already has two to his name, and whose 63 not out was classier than is expected from someone batting at nine – but, counting Bresnan and Flintoff, England have five players competing for the number seven spot to which they are ideally suited so someone has to drop down.

On the other hand, the top order’s batting was pretty dismal.

Had umpire Davis properly sent Ravi Bopara on his way when he was palpably lbw on 40, England would indeed have been in the mire. But on such things careers can turn. Being able to make a big hundred when the rest fail is exactly what England have wanted to see in their No. 3, so in one innings he ticked all the boxes that Ian Bell and Owais Shah left blank on their application forms and booked his spot for the rest of the summer. If he succeeds over the next three months, he will have the job for years.

The rest have little to be satisfied about. Apart from KP, for whose dismissal Edwards and Ramdin were responsible, the top order gave their wickets away, although Prior contributed 40 well-made runs before offering extra cover some easy catching practice.

England deserved their win, and it is a significant step forward for them to be one-nil up rather than one-nil down after the First Test of a series, but they will have to improve their batting considerably if they are to challenge Australia later in the summer.

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Posted by sandeep on (May 28, 2009, 4:31 GMT)

Can England win the Ashes? Yes, of course. Its no big surprise that the Aussies are playing their worst cricket in decades. England, on their part, have a very good bowling attack this time round. The batting too seems strong, what with Strauss, Bopara, Prior looking good. Add Flintoff and KP to the mix and you have a very very good team. Plus they will have the home grounds advantage. I fancy a England win this time. Aussies don't stand a chance.

Posted by colin on (May 20, 2009, 12:18 GMT)

if the ECB have the intelligence to use home advantage to the maximum, England have a chance. We have two decent spinners [which Australia do not] so the basis os our success should be win the toss, bat first, and prepaer pitched that trun square after a day and a half!

Posted by Warren on (May 17, 2009, 9:38 GMT)

Also wanted to say that i think Eng should not be underestimated at home. They will build up a lot of momentum against the Windies and everyone is queing up for there chance to beat Austalia. In addition the Aussie batting lineup is looking decidedly frail and if Katich and Hughes dont get them off to good starts, i think the English attack could hurt them. Nice comments everyone - thanks for your intelligent, adult views. Make the blog worth reading.

Posted by Warren on (May 17, 2009, 9:33 GMT)

Was wondering at the make up of the Aussie attack in the Ashes. Looking at CA's new contracted players i would guess the 2 certainties are obviously Johnson and Hauritz. Clark will be the first change seamer which leaves, Lee, Siddle and Hilfenhaus to fight it out as the other opening bowler. I would have gone for Siddle a few weeks ago, but i have been really impressed by the standard of Lee's bowling in the shorter version of the game. Even though he always was better in the shorter stuff, he did look very sharp indeed, and i think he has managed to open the matter up for debate amongst Australia's selectors. The other spot will be the competition for the no 6 'all rounder' spot between Watson, Symonds and North. Personally i would go 4 seamers and include both Siddle and Lee at Hauritz's expense and use North and M Clarke as the spin option. Aussie selectors wont do that, so i think Symonds will get the spot. Im not sure that is the great attack, but i do think it will bother Eng.

Posted by KJP on (May 12, 2009, 0:05 GMT)

England won . Ok, but was that a convincing win ? I think not . Had Bopara been rightly given out on 40 , one could argue that England's first innings total would be far less than 250. Meaning that they would probably be chasing about 200 in their second innings . With Edwards bowling as well as he did , I for one could see England not reaching that total . Its all good and well England won but lets be realistic this victory was way over-rated . Australia must be licking their chops looking at this England team .

Posted by Johnno on (May 11, 2009, 22:34 GMT)

Australia will walk the series and dont be surprised if Lee doesnt get a spot. Johnson and Siddle are fast,hostile and very fit whilst Hilfenhaus will be the glue of the attack. What makes this pace Aussie attack different is their relentless hostility and variety-they really bombarded S.A whi are good players of pace.

Johnson is sheer class and a major threat-its going to be very tough for England

Posted by cricket fever on (May 11, 2009, 15:12 GMT)

The West Indies, weren't playing their best cricket...Thats how England won any way...With a bit of skill display by Swann,Bopara, and Onions...If Shiv, Sarwan and Gayle had played their best cricket the results of this match would have been the other way around...England definitely aren't up to the Aussie standards if they carry on playing like this!

Posted by rob heinen on (May 11, 2009, 10:34 GMT)

....and I forgot to mention, the selectors have managed to get rid of duncan fletcher's protege Monty Panesar, which is a decent step in the right direction.

Posted by rob heinen on (May 11, 2009, 10:33 GMT)

Hmmm, I saw some light in the england attack. Stuart Broad bowled at 90 miles an hour, which is good pace when bowling at australia. He's still young remember......

Posted by Aditya on (May 11, 2009, 10:23 GMT)

@donthaveaclue - The catch there is that England actually have to capitalise on any Aussie lapses. I'd love it if England actually won the Ashes, but the prospects are pretty bleak.

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