May 20, 2009

Michael Jeh

Thunder from Down Under

Michael Jeh
Andrew McDonald chipped in with three wickets in the final session, South Africa v Australia, 2nd Test, Durban, 2nd day, March 7, 2009
 © AFP
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For the first time in as long as I can remember, the announcement of the Ashes touring squad has been completely overshadowed in Brisbane by torrential rain, the likes of which the folk in Old Blighty are probably more accustomed to than us tropical folk. The sight of people marooned up creeks without paddles, confined to an indefinite period of loneliness is probably something that Andrew Symonds can relate to. His exclusion owes nothing to Mother Nature but it is still a sobering thought that his Test career may be over. One can only hope that ‘sober’ is a word that is now part of his lifestyle because his talent, though waning with age, is still worth the entrance money.

My initial gut feeling was that this was a squad without any major surprises. Australia have usually sent away at least one ‘bolter’ on most Ashes tours, a young tyro who has been identified as having potential and is picked on instinct rather than numbers. Wayne Holdsworth, Greg Campbell and Dirk Welham rank amongst the under-achievers. Terry Alderman and Michael Slater spring to mind as success stories. I’m not sure if Andrew McDonald really qualifies in that “young tyro” category but his selection might have been one of the more contentious ones in an otherwise predictable squad.

Phillip Hughes would indeed have been on the tour even if he hadn’t already played Test cricket but his instant stardom has ensured there was never any surprise about his passport being stamped. Perhaps Graham Manou might be considered lucky – he is not the youngest wicketkeeper going around Shield cricket but one cannot quibble with it either. Chris Hartley from Queensland staked a late claim with end-of-season runs and Tim Paine was highly regarded but they’ve gone with Manou and fair enough too.

The bowling attack is fascinating. Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle picked themselves, Brett Lee was always going to be given every chance to recover and Stuart Clark has always been perceived as an England specialist if he recovered in time. Ben Hilfenhaus is the player I’m excited about. If the conditions are anything like we’ve seen in the recent Tests against the Windies, he will be a handful, swinging the ball at +140 kph. The question is: will he make the first XI?

Watson’s ability to bowl will be a crucial aspect to the balance of the attack. If he can bat in the top 6 and bowl at full pace, that’s akin to having a Kallis-type player in your team (I’m not suggesting he is close to matching Kallis’ fantastic career stats but there are similarities). That will mean Haddin can bat at 7 and four specialist bowlers can sit behind him, making up a pretty useful seam attack if you can also get some overs out of Marcus North (if he plays). Watson’s bowling will crucially allow Australia to always play a spinner (Hauritz or North) and still have the luxury of 4 seamers. Throw McDonald into the mix and the batting becomes very long indeed with Johnson’s lusty hitting too. McDonald’s Derek Pringle style bowling may be quite a bonus in England you know.

The batting order virtually picks itself doesn’t it? The big assumption of course is that they will all fire at various stages throughout the series. No one in that top order is seriously under threat for the first few Tests you wouldn’t imagine. Australia has the usual plethora of left-handers which may nullify some of Anderson’s outswing but he showed that the inswinger can also be a dangerous weapon against the lefties. Gayle and Chanderpaul are not insignificant scalps.

Overall, a balanced squad without any major omissions or surprise inclusions. Doug Bollinger may feel a tad disappointed but who would you leave out? He’s already had enough of sitting on the sidelines so perhaps he is better off playing some cricket or having a break and waiting for his next opportunity. And one cannot help but wonder what more Brad Hodge has to do? Emigrate perhaps?

Watson is probably the only player for whom this is a make or break tour. Another significant injury and he may well cook his own goose. The Australian public recognise his talent but they are almost expecting him to break down. Michael Clarke’s back injury is probably the other major long-term concern but he may get away with not having to do much bowling.

Well, if Australia are expecting to do much pre-tour work at the Centre of Excellence in Brisbane, they may be better leaving for England immediately. Who would have thought it’d be drier over there? They’ll be practicing on slightly damp pitches over here for a few weeks yet!

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

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Posted by qakamba on (June 13, 2009, 18:26 GMT)

As long as CA keeps on messing up their squad it gives the underdogs like England a chance... Go England, go KP....

Posted by HobartSpinner on (May 23, 2009, 19:33 GMT)

Default starting XI

Hughes Katich Ponting Clarke Hussey Symonds Haddin Johnson Lee Siddle McGain

Reserves

North Ronchi Watson Hilfenhaus Clark

England struggle against leg-spin, McGain should have been taken. Symonds saves you many runs in the field and bowls both spin and medium pace. Lee coming in gives you an attack with lots of pace. Although Ronchi is out of favour, he is younger than Manou and can gain experience on the tour. Stuart Clark is great in English conditions. My squad features 6 seamers (counting Watson, excluding Symonds), they can battle it out for the 3 or 4 places ..... although Johnson and Siddle would be 99% certain of their places.

Posted by Lachy on (May 23, 2009, 11:49 GMT)

Brad Hodge has a better test average than Simon Katich, Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, Marcus North, Shane Watson and Andrew McDonald. How he didn't get picked in the squad is beyond me. Ben Hilfenhaus should get picked he is the only real swinger of the ball in the squad and with jimmy anderson reeling off swinging missiles we need something to counter it in the bowling sense.

Posted by pegalite on (May 22, 2009, 16:00 GMT)

the pace attack has depth and menace the only problem is spin. tough call on brad hodge he has shown he can bowl some tidy offspinners in the ipl why not have him in the squad as back up at least with added bonus of being able to lob a few part timers down in they go for an all pace attack and one of the top 5 goes down?

Posted by Pratik on (May 22, 2009, 6:10 GMT)

Brad Hodge and Jason Kerjza should have been on the squad instead of Andre McDonald and Nathan Hauritz

Posted by Jonathan on (May 22, 2009, 3:11 GMT)

Torrential rain is much, much more common in Brisbane than England, recent events in Leeds notwithstanding.

The obsession with "all-rounders" is still a bit disturbing...

Posted by Rastawookie on (May 21, 2009, 6:28 GMT)

Symonds doesn't deserve to tour - on form alone. Forget about his antics off-field, he has hardly made a run, and cant justifiably be considered ahead of any touring player, Ferguson or Hodge. The bowling is interesting with 2 underdone fast bowlers, but should they remain fit, I cant see England getting close to beating Australia across a series. England shouldn't be under-estimated, especially in their own backyard, but they will need strong performances throughout the squad to trouble Australia. Haddin has been sent a warning by the selectors. And fair enough - his keeping has been abysmal by international standards (he and prior are the worst two in test cricket), and Manou is a brilliant gloveman. Haddin must score runs and improve his keeping. I look forward to watching the rise of Phil Hughes continue... I see him taking Broad to town.

Bring it on - 49 days to go

Posted by waterbuffalo on (May 21, 2009, 4:29 GMT)

I think Johnson and Clark are superb bowlers and the way the young men played in SA reminds me of the Aussies in the Windies in 95, when a young Glen McGrath took over from McDermott, and was supported by Reiffel, Julian and the Waughs, hardly legends as bowlers. This team that did well in SA will do well in England, because the aussies always do well when they are under estimated. If Johnson gets injured however, you could have a repeat of McGrath in 2005, with no strike bowler to bowl a side out, and this time, the aussies do not have Warne; who, with 40 in 5 tests almost single handedly won the ashes before he dropped Pieterson.

Posted by KJH on (May 21, 2009, 1:13 GMT)

The SA series was awesome, and the Indian rivalry may get the attention briefly but the Ashes is where Australian cricket was born and I can't wait to hear the Barmy Army in the background as I stay up late watching SBS. Someone please remind Ponting to check the ground for stray balls and not to bowl if we lose our strike bowler. Maybe check the pockets of the English fielders for mints? Maybe we should try to get the umpire's sacked if there are as many bad decisions as last time? Doesn't Hussey avg. about 1 million in county cricket? If ever there was an opportunity for him to get back into form this is it. While I'm asking questions; why is Hauritz in the side? McGain may have got the yips in SA but do England really have the same caliber of batsmen to take him apart like AB did? OK they've got KP, but is Alistair Cook going to freak out and hit a six? Ever? And I would take Krezja over Hauritz any day, as the whole point is to take 20 wickets! Hooray for the Ashes! Boo to 20/20!

Posted by Say NO! to Hauritz on (May 21, 2009, 0:40 GMT)

Hauritz = luckiest man alive. Picking him because he might not go for too many runs is stupidity at worst and conceding weakness at best. Krezja deserves an opportunity to develop & bring down his economy rate. An attacking spinner who can turn it like he does shouldn't be wasted. Hodge is unlucky. He should be the extra batsmen in case Hussey extends his un-purple patch. McDonald did an excellent job in SA, containing batsmen and creating pressure that allowed wickets to fall. But with Clark fit that role falls back into more than capable hands and he can do the containing. Lee has been overtaken by Siddle, and Hilfenhaus bowling swing @140+ will slot in nicely. I'd like Symonds in the squad (I don't care if athletes aren't gold standard role models), he creates wickets just by fielding. Hughes, Katich, Ponting, Clarke, Hussey(Hodge), Symonds, Haddin, Johnson, Siddle, Clark, Hilfenhaus/Krejza. Aus should win a tight series. If Anderson/KP are off the margin will be greater.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Jeh
Born in Colombo, educated at Oxford and now living in Brisbane, Michael Jeh (Fox) is a cricket lover with a global perspective on the game. An Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, he is a Playing Member of the MCC and still plays grade cricket. Michael now works closely with elite athletes, and is passionate about youth intervention programmes. He still chases his boyhood dream of running a wildlife safari operation called Barefoot in Africa.

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