August 6, 2013

The Investec Ashes

Controversies overshadow quality of cricket

Michael Vaughan, writing in the Telegraph, bemoans the technology that has caused unnecessary trouble in the last three Tests and has overshadowed some good quality cricket.

All the talk about DRS and technology has overshadowed the fact that players have played some very average cricket shots. Khawaja played a big drive out of the rough to Graeme Swann. All right, he missed it, but it was a terrible shot. Pietersen playing a big drive to Peter Siddle, with the pressure England were under, was a poor shot. The problem is that Ian Bell scores a great hundred at Trent Bridge, and yet we are all talking about Stuart Broad not walking. On the first day here, Michael Clarke got 125 not out, yet we all talked about the Khawaja dismissal. We have all had to speak about DRS for so long that some exceptional cricket has been overshadowed.

In the same paper, Paul Hayward explains why Alastair Cook, despite helping England retaining the Ashes, leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to captaincy.

For all his admirable qualities, Cook has yet to nail the captain's role against Australia, when the need to win is so pronounced - and the opposition so hostile - that the brain is bound to freeze at first. The captain's frivolous review of a clear lbw off Ryan Harris when he was still on nought in England's rocky second innings was the clearest sign yet that responsibility is weighing on him heavily. Cook must have known he was out. So must Joe Root at the non-striker's end. But the leader still subjected himself to the ignominy of throwing away a review for purposes unknown. Vanity? He is not that type. To waste time? Surely England were not so desperate that they needed to burn five minutes? The simplest explanation is that Cook was in the mental vortex known to everyone who has worn the general's tunic in Ashes cricket.

One of the highlights the rain-interrupted Old Trafford Test, was the return of Australia's David Warner, who was reveling in his new role as a "panto villain". Aaron Timms, writing for the Guardian, says that the big-hitter's volatile and unpredictable nature could be used to Australia's advantage.

Equally worryingly, the team remains divided around its two most intriguing personalities: Watto and Warner, the feuding tweet-brothers of this honky tonk Australia side. One is a sad clown who occasionally takes time off from his nude calendar modelling to get out lbw to the ball that nips back in; the other is Australian cricket's version of the career Kuta Beach backpacker, the kind of guy who's always in thongs and always hungover and is always saying something like, "Mate, it's a beer; just drink it." To describe Warner as a bogan misses the point. He's so Jurassic, so unreconstructed, in his boganitude that he effectively predates bogan. He's the neanderthal to the bogan's homo sapiens. To be exact, he's more like a bevan, the sole survivor of a forgotten species of ocker that bestrode Australia unchallenged before being eclipsed by the superior bogan race. And sure, he's still a goatee short of the full Ponting, but he's a trier; Australian cricket could do with more players like him.

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