November 25, 2013

The Ashes 2013-14

Australia cross their psychological Rubicon

Australia's victory at the Gabba was significant for several reasons. In the the Sydney Morning Herald, Malcolm Knox argues that both teams are now on unfamiliar ground, for this England side did not know it could be beaten by Michael Clarke's men.

This leaves a delicious set-up for the four remaining Test matches. Australia have crossed their psychological Rubicon. No matter what they said, they didn't know they could beat this England team until now.

Greg Baum also explores the unexpected result in the Age.

It is too soon to say that the Ashes are about to change hands again, but it is the moment to note that often the course of Ashes history alters when least expected.

In the Daily Telegraph, Malcolm Conn notes that history is on Australia's side.

This country did not have television when Australia last won at the Gabba but failed to go on and win an Ashes series. That was in 1954-55, when many of the players' parents would not have been born.

The fiery finale, including Michael Clarke's sledge at James Anderson, caused some controversy but in the Guardian, Russell Jackson argues that Australians should not worry about the captain's choice of words.

The old Australian Ugliness has returned and for now it's a welcome sight down under. A nation that has spent so long berating its team for the frequency and calamity of their losses can hardly turn around and complain about the way they win.

The Man of the Match, Mitchell Johnson, was compared to a 1974-75 Jeff Thomson by Cate McGregor, writing for the ABC, while Gideon Haigh in the Australian considers the Johnson enigma.

Johnson can hardly be planned for, because he either destroys everything in his path, or himself. If you happen to appear in his proximity in the latter event, just console yourself that it has happened to others.

In the Guardian, Mike Selvey looks at two of England's out-of-form batsmen.

The two major concerns are Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior. In the case of the former it might be simplest to compartmentalise his batting into that on pitches with pace and bounce, with bowlers to exploit it, and the rest. At The Wanderers in Johannesburg, Perth and now here, all of which fall into the first category, Trott has demonstrated a paucity of technique at odds with his overall Test record which is high-class. His second-innings dismissal in particular was that of a man whose mind was scrambled and, if there is a temptation to say that Pietersen's ill-judged hook shot immediately after a drinks break was equally so, then it would be wrong: Pietersen was in total control of himself; Trott anything but.

In the Telegraph, Simon Hughes looks at how England's batsmen should handle Johnson.

Watching Alastair Cook and Ian Bell play Johnson was illuminating. Both remain still and composed at the crease. Neither committed themselves to the front foot. Bell took guard with a two-eyed, open stance, his left shoulder pointing to mid-on, roughly from where the bowler was delivering. He represented a much slimmer target. When the ball was banged in short he flexed at the knees and ducked or swayed backwards, limbo-style, and allowed the ball to pass harmlessly above his chest.

And Vic Marks in the Guardian also considers Alastair Cook's fine example of how to play against Johnson.

Cook played Johnson better than anyone, partly because he was confident he could get out of the way of his bouncers. There is not much time to do that, but if relaxed and watching the ball there may be a fraction more time than might be assumed. Often he swayed, occasionally he ducked, sometimes he pulled the short ball. This is quite an art. David Gower once explained to me how he combatted the bouncers: he would look to hit the short ball, but then if it was not in the right place he would get out of the way. Of course I was gobsmacked that anyone should ever have the time to consider all those options.

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