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Chappell: Selection errors cost Australia

Ian Chappell looks at the five things that went right for England and the five things that cost Australia dearly (09:57)

August 24, 2009

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The Ashes 2009

Chappell: Selection errors cost Australia

August 24, 2009

"Jonathan Trott showed an excellent temperament and it was his temperament that helped England get such a big lead at The Oval" © Getty Images

In the end it was England's stronger bowling attack that won the series for them. When the series started I thought that would be the difference [between the two sides]; it took a while for the England attack to assert itself but eventually they did it. It was an interesting series; it was a series that fluctuated, which always helps to make it interesting and it was a series of two flawed teams. But in the end England got home.

The five points where I thought England were better were, firstly, they had the stronger and better balanced attack. It took a while for it to show; after Cardiff, I thought I made a mistake in judging their attack. But eventually they regained their balance and their momentum. There were times when they didn't bowl as well as they should have but they bowled well enough, often enough.

Their batting line-up, even with Kevin Pietersen, looked dicey and it looked as though it could implode any time. The good thing about the series for England was that they miraculously avoided more than one batting collapse. That one at Headingley was fatal.

They also did well to overcome the loss of Pietersen. They looked fragile even before the loss of Pietersen but they seemed to cover reasonably after his loss, despite that monumental collapse at Headingley. Obviously because of his aggressive style they were never going to completely cover his loss but they did it well enough to win the series.

The last-wicket partnership at Cardiff was one of the big things that favoured England. If they had lost that Test, who knows where the series might have gone. You suspect that Australia might have gone on to win the series if England had lost that final wicket at Cardiff. The partnership between Monty Panesar and James Anderson turned out to be crucial in the end.

The final strong point for England was the courageous selection of Jonathan Trott for the final Test. Sometimes you would think selectors have gone mad when they decide to blood a player in such a crucial Test. It turned out to be a masterstroke because Trott showed an excellent temperament and it was his temperament that helped England get such a big lead in the final Test at The Oval in the second innings.

From the Australian point of view, I thought they made selection mistakes in their original squad. They can tell me all they like about Shane Watson being a back-up opener and sure he had success in the series. But I still thought it wasn't a great selection, not just in that I felt they didn't really have a back-up opening batsman; also, you have to query the selection of Watson as that back-up opener, given that his medical history suggests that there is no guarantee that you will get him on the field.

The other area where I felt the original squad was poorly selected was in that I felt they really should have had a legspinner. I thought that Bryce McGain should have been picked. That means their selection going back to South Africa, where they picked him for the last Test and didn't allow him to come back after having a poor opening game was bad selection. I thought poor selections in the original squad was Australia's first mistake.

They made a monumental blunder - and this was another selection blunder - in picking an unbalanced attack at The Oval. That was ridiculous. You could justify, and the result justified picking an all-seam attack in Headingley. Headingley has a history of helping seamers and swing bowling. While I didn't like the selection of an all-seam attack at Headingley, it did have a bit of history behind it. To do it at The Oval particularly because the pitch was so dry before the match started was asking for trouble. It almost smacked of arrogance, sort of saying: we can beat England with whatever team we have got. I don't think it was arrogance; the word 'control' comes up a lot when you hear about the selection of an Australian bowling attack and I think perhaps that was what it was based on. Certainly they would have given a better account of themselves; I don't know if they would have won the Test with Nathan Hauritz playing, but I thought it handcuffed Ricky Ponting before even a ball was bowled.

Another thing that counted against Australia was two first-innings collapses: the one at Lord's and the big one at The Oval. They had done well to fight back and level the series by winning at Headingley and then to virtually hand England the game with that big first-innings collapse at The Oval would have been a big disappointment. Those two collapses were costly. If you look purely at statistics and man-for man, Australia would probably come away from the series saying: man-for-man we were a better team. But it doesn't matter when you have two monumental collapses and that costs you two Tests and the final figure is a 2-1 loss; then that's all that matters.

"I guess Australia failing to finish off England at Cardiff when they had them on the mat turned out to be a really big turning point in this series. There I guess you could perhaps query Ricky Ponting's choice of bowlers at the end. I think he went for quantity of overs rather than quality of overs and that was a mistake"

Another thing counted against Australia and contributed to their loss was bowling very poorly at Lord's in the first innings. They gave Andrew Strauss and Alistair Cook a tremendous start that put England right on top and really negated the huge advantage that Australia had with their previous history at Lord's. Cook really only played well in that one innings and he was assisted with some very poor bowling. So that was a big blunder.

And then I guess Australia failing to finish off England at Cardiff when they had them on the mat turned out to be a really big turning point in this series. There I guess you could perhaps query Ponting's choice of bowlers at the end. I think he went for quantity of overs rather than quality of overs and that was a mistake.

Obviously with Australia losing the series and Ponting losing the Ashes in England for the second time, there will be some queries about his captaincy, there will be some sniping about his captaincy. Overall I thought he did a pretty fair job as a captain. And when you consider the turnover of very good players that he has had under his captaincy - no other Australian captain has had to cope with that. And I think he has done remarkably well to keep Australia afloat in a situation where they are still a team in transition. That is the important thing to remember. When Australian fans are jumping up and down about this loss they have to remember that this is a team in transition and a team in transition is absolutely no guarantee to beat England. Now is not the right time to sack Ponting as captain. For starters if you sack him as captain you will probably lose your best batsman because I don't think he would want to continue if he was sacked as captain. But the most important thing is I don't believe that he deserves to be sacked as captain, he's still the best man for the job

I think he will be terribly disappointed; he'll be disappointed to lose to an England side that I am pretty sure he will feel had a fragile batting line-up and I think that will be the thing that hurts him the most but it shouldn't cost him his job.

In the end England won the series on the basis that they had the better balanced and stronger bowling attack.

Posted by Quillos on (August 26, 2009, 2:53 GMT)

The only people in the world that think the Australian selectors did a good job are the Australian selectors and James Sutherland. That stinks of arrogance and maybe James Sutherland should go too. The question Hilditch and co needs to answer is, Where is our next wicket taking spinner coming from? Surely that don't think Hauritz is that bowler. Nathan is a good tight one day player but he is never going to terrorize an opposition. Both Krejza and Mcgain were dumped after bowling poorly on wickets that did not suit, but they were more likely to have had an impact of the result of Ashes series. Sack the selectors and put an ex Austrailian Captain in charge of the new panel. A least then we would have some one who could speak form experience about the pressures and requirements involved in winning. I am still annoyed at the selectors treatment of Matt Hayden while Hussey had played worse.

Posted by afs_talyarkhan on (August 25, 2009, 9:22 GMT)

spot on as always ian. if only the aussies had followed your advice and picked an extra opening batsman and a legpinner from the beginning things could have been so different!! when will people in authority start listening to you and start picking balanced teams??!! it's not rocket science - if you have a balanced side you can cope with all conditions - then if you misread the wicket it does not matter so much because you have the resources to cope!! To pick an unbalanced TEAM, let alone an unbalanced SQUAD, is unforgiveable!! And you are absolutely right to abjure the baying of the masses for Ponting to go - as you illuminatingly illustrate, Ponting has done OK as skipper of a side in transition and is still the best batsman so let him carry on as skipper to impart some continuity and experience to a changing side. as you rightly say - watson is not and will never be a bona fide opener even if he manages to avoid another injury. Thanks a lot as always for your spot on analysis!

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