November 30, 2010

A chess match, not a bullfight

Both sides essentially approached the Brisbane Test defensively, and sound as the reasoning was, it didn't help set pulses racing
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Ultimately the Gabba Test petered out into a boring draw. It was a curious match. Every day seemed like an eternity, not because the play lacked sparkle but rather due to the nature of the feats performed. It was a large match that seemed to last an epoch. Although it produced several apparently terminal mood swings, it was hardly the sort of cliffhanger observed in past series, the type of unforgettable contest that whets the appetite.

In so far as sport is a human journey the match fulfilled expectations. Statisticians had a field day. Andrew Strauss almost had a stinker, came within a whisker of recording a pair, yet eventually emerged as the happier captain. After a false start his second innings was replete with robust strokes indicating high skill as well as sporting courage. Cleary he had not come to preside over tame defeat.

Strauss's defiance reinforced impressions that England, or at any rate a team bearing that name, is well led and resilient. Nor did his counterpart let his side down. Ricky Ponting arrived in Brisbane with more headaches than a rugby team on tour but he managed to hold his side together and spent the last hour making statements of his own, stepping down the pitch to hit a six and hooking and pulling the ball between a deep-set field placed to pounce on error. Australia, too, intend to stand tall.

It was a batsman's match. Of the four wielders coming into the series with points to prove (a concept almost as popular in sports writing as "proving the critics wrong"), two scored commanding hundreds and another was denied the opportunity to do so because he was rapidly running out of partners.

Alastair Cook deserves pride of place because he batted twice and played the longest innings. When he arrived Cook was regarded by locals as a splendid fellow but a possible weak link in the batting order. A previous visit had been unproductive, and a habit of hanging his bat out to dry had been observed. As a rule batsmen prepared to reach away from their bodies and play with an angled bat do not prosper on bouncier antipodean pinches. Accordingly the hosts felt they could breach the opening partnership and expose the middle order to the new ball

Instead Cook resembled a rock. His first-innings contribution was crucial. Strauss's decision to bat was correct but the execution was flawed. Cook alone occupied the crease for a long period, keeping the Australians at bay for four or so hours. It was a disciplined innings, founded upon patience and determination. In truth he still looked limited but no longer lightweight.

Cook's second innings was reward for his first effort. It's no small thing to take guard after spending days in the field and after watching your team's hopes of victory evaporate. England had fallen 221 behind and could easily have disintegrated. Cook refused to let any negativity enter his brain, rejected the calls of defeat and exhaustion and instead applied himself to the task of saving the match. Australia could not shift him. Until he finally tired towards the end he did not look like getting out. He played the game on his own terms and earned the plaudits assigned to him

Ian Bell was the other England batsman to enhance his reputation. In previous Ashes series he had seemed frail, as if intimidated by the force of character pitted against him. Now he appeared composed and consummate. In terms of strokeplay his innings was the best of the match. A glide past mid-on's right hand was the shot of the match. Bell watched Peter Siddle's hat-trick unfold from the bowler's end and knew that time was running out. Accordingly he fell short of the hundred he craved, but surely he knew that he had converted a cricketing community.

Not that England scored all the runs. Mike Hussey and Brad Haddin also surpassed themselves. Hussey was almost out for a duck on the second day and again on the third morning. Otherwise he was superb, cutting and driving through extra cover for the entire world as if his form had been impeccable and his place was not in jeopardy.

Hussey has packed a lot of cricketing experience into a few years. It is normal for a batsman to start his international career brightly, endure a bad patch, regroup and come again. Most of the Australians of recent vintage have endured these ups and downs. Many broke into the team whilst still wet behind the ears, were dumped and returned wiser. Hussey is a late starter and so could ill afford the same rollercoaster ride, but had it anyhow because that is cricket. At once he was a novice and a seasoned campaigner; fresh and eager and yet also grey-haired. It's a difficult combination to survive.

Hussey might have been ditched at any time in the last 12 months but was saved by his record. Perhaps he has finally come to terms with the sudden Bradmanesque rush of his first year, the consequent decline in his second season as he tried to maintain a standard beyond mere mortals, and the inner panic that set in once the runs dried up. His game relies on balance at the crease and finding the right tempo in his mind

Haddin played the innings of his life. If his vibrant first hundred in Adelaide made him realise that he really did belong in this company and need not constantly compare himself to Adam Gilchrist, a legend of the game, then this calmly constructed effort at the Gabba confirmed that he can think and play like a specialist batsman - and a top-class one at that.

In every respect Haddin's innings was a revelation. Few had expected to see him bat with such restraint for so long a period. Few had supposed he had such a secure technique. Part of the reason adventurers go for their shots is that they suspect their tenure at the crease might be brief. Hitherto Haddin had relied on instinct as opposed to bricks and mortar. Now he resembled a batsman from the old school, settling in, building his innings, widening his range of shots as the position improved

These were the leading figures of the game. Significantly they were all batsmen. Amongst the flingers, Peter Siddle took a thunderous hat-trick and pounded away with characteristic commitment. James Anderson produced a scintillating spell poorly served by fortune, and Steven Finn took most wickets and sensibly observed later that they came too late to matter.

Ancients insist that the standard of bowling in Test cricket has fallen to its lowest level in living memory. During the match a TV station listed the top wicket-takers in 2010 and compared them with their equivalents in 2000, 1990 and 1980. The disparity was telling

Otherwise the bowlers toiled in vain. Two wickets fell on the last two days of a Gabba Test. The pitch was the slowest seen in 25 years. Doubtless the drought-ending rains were a factor. Twelve months ago half Australia was thirsty as the Big Dry continued. Now the rivers are flowing and towns are flooding. Such is the nature of a raw continent. Evidently the pitch did not harden as much as is predecessors.

Perhaps, too, the low scores recorded in Shied matches this season were another factor. Curators fear early finishes more than stalemates, an outlook shared with television companies and officials. Whatever the reason, Brisbane provided its most insipid pitch in decades and a dull match ensued

And it was dull. Despite all the twists and turns the match was doomed to a draw long before the captains shook hands. Cricket cannot afford many triumphs of this sort. Stalemates and sterility hurt the game more even than controversy.

But it was not only the pitch. Two other truths were revealed. Ancients insist that the standard of bowling in Test cricket has fallen to its lowest level in living memory. During the match a TV station listed the top wicket-takers in 2010 and compared them with their equivalents in 2000, 1990 and 1980. The disparity was telling. One commentator was asked to name the world-class bowlers currently running around, reached three and then ground to a halt - and one of them is likely to be banned for years.

The disciplined approach taken by the batsmen was another reason wickets were few and far between. Both sides came into the match with a plan and both plans were essentially defensive. England had studied past series played on these shores and realised that local bowlers, and Mitchell Johnson in particular, depended on batsmen playing at deliveries that could be left alone. Accordingly the think tank instructed batsmen to allow anything off line to pass by. And it worked. Edges were few and far between and Johnson was rendered ineffective.

Australia knew that England relied on four bowlers and set out to wear them down. From Shane Watson onwards the batsmen tried to occupy the crease as long as possible. It was not only a question of the Gabba Test. Five Tests will be played in six weeks. The series ends on January 7.

Both tactics are soundly based. Both exploit weaknesses observed in the opposing ranks. Neither will set pulses racing. If the Gabba is anything to go by this series is going to be more like a chess match than a bullfight. Maybe firmer pitches or weary bodies will force the combatants to reconsider their strategies. If not it is going to be a slow-moving campaign calculated to appeal to aficionados and supporters but not likely to convince sceptics that Test cricket is in the pink of health.

Peter Roebuck is a former captain of Somerset and the author, most recently, of In It to Win It. This piece has been reproduced with permission from the Sydney Morning Herald.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on December 2, 2010, 21:17 GMT

    When Marcus North is clearly the best spinner in Aus and there is a group of the likes of Johnson, Bollinger, Hilfenhaus, Siddle, Harris, George etc who are all solid fast bowlers why does Aus continue to include a spinner in the team. Doherty, Hauritz, Smith etc are all a long way off test match quality. Theres no point in variation if your variation isnt up to the job. Also Watson need to be batting in a postion where he can bowl aswell, if ponting isn't bowling his premiere allrounder because of his batting position then he is ruining the balance of the team.

  • on December 2, 2010, 19:13 GMT

    I'm not sure what Peter Roebuck's complaint is. Test cricket IS a chess match. You can't expect a game that can last five days, see huge scores and can STILL end in a draw to be a "bullfight".

  • raghu1122000 on December 2, 2010, 13:01 GMT

    @Jawaad whatever... The very comparison of cook and sehwag that you've done is ridiculous... ask any cricket follower, cricket anylyst, coach and even the english players themselves.... whom would they choose between cook and sehwag or even a player like sehwag...you will know..

  • SachinIsTheGreatest on December 2, 2010, 11:45 GMT

    517/1...hmmm...Shouldn't Ponting be reporting this wicket to the ICC with the same enthusiasm with which he was looking forward to reporting the Mumbai 2004 wicket? 4 days after the game and not a word about it. So much for his "glorious" "single-handed" attempts at keeping test cricket alive!

  • piecricket on December 2, 2010, 7:30 GMT

    Interesting to see how Australia fare against England/World XI.

  • Markus971 on December 2, 2010, 4:10 GMT

    Always bagging the Bowlers!! You're counter-parts were doing it also in decades gone past!! Nothing new there. -- I do agree with your last paragraph. WHY can't there be a couple of really quick Test Match pitches in Australia these days? Use a higher Clay content for the drop-ins, now being used at the Adelaide Oval!! How hard can that be?

  • Marcio on December 2, 2010, 1:09 GMT

    Strauss' decision to wait till England was nearly 300 ahead with 3 hours to play before declaring defies belief! I'm amazed the Eng press haven't criticised him for this lame act of captaincy. Clearly he does not believe that Eng can bowl Australia out, even on Day 5. That's more than a little worrying. What did he think? Oz were going to score 300 in 1 1/2. Sessions? If he had declared half an hour earlier Oz would have been chasing 250 with 3 1/2 hours, and they would have gone for it, & maybe lost a few wickets, creating pressure. In the end Eng fell 9 wickets short of victory. The last 3 Oz spec. batsmen wickets fell for 500 runs - hardly reason for celebration. I also see Roebuck has hit a few nerves with his "team bearing England's name" comment. But you can't expect people not to notice how many players Eng has from other countries. By the way, I believe Roebuck is from Zimbabwe, and likes to criticise all teams, especially Australia, so you can't bash him for being an Aussie.

  • Pulsar81 on December 1, 2010, 23:26 GMT

    I disagree .. this was a thoroughly interesting test match .. a test match is supposed to be a chess match . If you want a bull fight then watch 20-20.

  • on December 1, 2010, 20:38 GMT

    Even I support the comment made by Mr Chris_Howard, this was under no way a boring cricket. I think, it was a see-saw all the way till the end, with both teams having their days, but ya result sound boring. I think one of the team will attempt to win the test, rather than both of them trying not to lose.

  • sskris1 on December 1, 2010, 18:18 GMT

    @Jawwad: I completely fail to understand your logic by bringing Sehwag in the conversation alongwith Cook. Sehwag doesn't have to stay there to save matches because India have the likes of Dravid and Laxman to do that. Sehwag's natural approach is agression, doesn't matter what the situation is. Sehwag's innings puts India in position to win instead of going for a draw. Cook played a great innings at the Gabba but still needs a lot of improvement, especially outside the off stump. So stop making this meaningless comparisons.

  • on December 2, 2010, 21:17 GMT

    When Marcus North is clearly the best spinner in Aus and there is a group of the likes of Johnson, Bollinger, Hilfenhaus, Siddle, Harris, George etc who are all solid fast bowlers why does Aus continue to include a spinner in the team. Doherty, Hauritz, Smith etc are all a long way off test match quality. Theres no point in variation if your variation isnt up to the job. Also Watson need to be batting in a postion where he can bowl aswell, if ponting isn't bowling his premiere allrounder because of his batting position then he is ruining the balance of the team.

  • on December 2, 2010, 19:13 GMT

    I'm not sure what Peter Roebuck's complaint is. Test cricket IS a chess match. You can't expect a game that can last five days, see huge scores and can STILL end in a draw to be a "bullfight".

  • raghu1122000 on December 2, 2010, 13:01 GMT

    @Jawaad whatever... The very comparison of cook and sehwag that you've done is ridiculous... ask any cricket follower, cricket anylyst, coach and even the english players themselves.... whom would they choose between cook and sehwag or even a player like sehwag...you will know..

  • SachinIsTheGreatest on December 2, 2010, 11:45 GMT

    517/1...hmmm...Shouldn't Ponting be reporting this wicket to the ICC with the same enthusiasm with which he was looking forward to reporting the Mumbai 2004 wicket? 4 days after the game and not a word about it. So much for his "glorious" "single-handed" attempts at keeping test cricket alive!

  • piecricket on December 2, 2010, 7:30 GMT

    Interesting to see how Australia fare against England/World XI.

  • Markus971 on December 2, 2010, 4:10 GMT

    Always bagging the Bowlers!! You're counter-parts were doing it also in decades gone past!! Nothing new there. -- I do agree with your last paragraph. WHY can't there be a couple of really quick Test Match pitches in Australia these days? Use a higher Clay content for the drop-ins, now being used at the Adelaide Oval!! How hard can that be?

  • Marcio on December 2, 2010, 1:09 GMT

    Strauss' decision to wait till England was nearly 300 ahead with 3 hours to play before declaring defies belief! I'm amazed the Eng press haven't criticised him for this lame act of captaincy. Clearly he does not believe that Eng can bowl Australia out, even on Day 5. That's more than a little worrying. What did he think? Oz were going to score 300 in 1 1/2. Sessions? If he had declared half an hour earlier Oz would have been chasing 250 with 3 1/2 hours, and they would have gone for it, & maybe lost a few wickets, creating pressure. In the end Eng fell 9 wickets short of victory. The last 3 Oz spec. batsmen wickets fell for 500 runs - hardly reason for celebration. I also see Roebuck has hit a few nerves with his "team bearing England's name" comment. But you can't expect people not to notice how many players Eng has from other countries. By the way, I believe Roebuck is from Zimbabwe, and likes to criticise all teams, especially Australia, so you can't bash him for being an Aussie.

  • Pulsar81 on December 1, 2010, 23:26 GMT

    I disagree .. this was a thoroughly interesting test match .. a test match is supposed to be a chess match . If you want a bull fight then watch 20-20.

  • on December 1, 2010, 20:38 GMT

    Even I support the comment made by Mr Chris_Howard, this was under no way a boring cricket. I think, it was a see-saw all the way till the end, with both teams having their days, but ya result sound boring. I think one of the team will attempt to win the test, rather than both of them trying not to lose.

  • sskris1 on December 1, 2010, 18:18 GMT

    @Jawwad: I completely fail to understand your logic by bringing Sehwag in the conversation alongwith Cook. Sehwag doesn't have to stay there to save matches because India have the likes of Dravid and Laxman to do that. Sehwag's natural approach is agression, doesn't matter what the situation is. Sehwag's innings puts India in position to win instead of going for a draw. Cook played a great innings at the Gabba but still needs a lot of improvement, especially outside the off stump. So stop making this meaningless comparisons.

  • on December 1, 2010, 18:14 GMT

    @Jawwad You seem to talk about a lot of statistics , well only those that suit you well. Cook is good. No doubt, But don't start comparing with Sehwag. You are just starting a mundane comparison. I will give you three innings from Sehwag.. Match them..

    1. http://www.espncricinfo.com/ausvind/engine/match/291354.html - Vs Australia in Australia

    2. http://www.espncricinfo.com/slvind/engine/match/343730.html - Vs Srilanka at Galle on a crumbling wicket.

    3. http://www.espncricinfo.com/indveng/engine/match/361050.html - Vs England in India. Nothing speaks more about Sehwag impact than this. SO yes, while there are oter good players in the world, Sehwag is Sehwag. Do not pull him to petty comparisons.

  • northumbriannomad on December 1, 2010, 17:51 GMT

    Getting very tired of the racist stuff about South African-born cricketers playing for England. No one questioned Andrew Symonds' right to choose where he played his international cricketl, nor should they have done. Purity of nationhood was a peculiar and rather short-lived idea which did nobody any good.

  • vichan on December 1, 2010, 15:22 GMT

    On the cricketing side, this is a well balanced article. But Roebuck's petty description of "England, or at any rate a team bearing that name" leaves a sour taste in the mouth. This from a man who would no doubt celebrate with glee if Pakistani-born Usman Khawaja plays for Australia, makes no comment regarding England-born Andrew Symonds and has seemingly forgotten that he too emigrated to Australia from England after he had retired from professional cricket.

  • on December 1, 2010, 14:57 GMT

    "England, or at any rate a team bearing that name"

    talk about broken record.

    how many times does that require repeating? let's face it it is only Kevin Pietersen in this England 11 that could be spoken about in this vein. there may be others in the team who were born outside the UK but their education and upbringing, cricket and non-cricket is all english.

    a little xenophobic? i think so..

  • on December 1, 2010, 14:14 GMT

    "... that England, or at any rate a team bearing that name," - Is this another jibe at the perceived multinational make-up of our squad. For pities sake, leave it alone. If you're qualified to play for a country then you are qualified to play, as simple as that. To harp on about it is to display small-minded nationalism at its worst.

  • Chris_Howard on December 1, 2010, 13:05 GMT

    Peter, this article is still niggling me because I disagree with it. We didn't even know the result of this Test until at least lunch time on the 5th day, possibly even later. In fact, only in the last hour or so, were we sure it would be a draw. Certainly it wasn't a perfect pitch for a result (although at the end of Australia's first innings, we didn't think that). This was not a boring Test match, or dull draw, by any stretch. The English have been beaten by Australia too many times, from "unloseable positions" to take anything for granted until it's a certainty.

  • Beertjie on December 1, 2010, 12:20 GMT

    Yeah, it's going to be attritional because Australia has 'slipped' to the level of England. @Meety, O'Keefe wasn't playing v WA this week because one spinner was enough at the WACA and Hauritz was preferred. But O'Keefe, Smith and Hughes for the MCG and the SCG tests may just tilt it in favour of Australia. Here's hoping Harris and Bollinger remain injury free, till the end on 7 Jan. For Perth: Watson, Katich, Ponting, Hussey, Clarke, Khawaja, Haddin, O'Keefe, Harris, Siddle/Hilfe, Bollinger. As you say, Peter, five Tests will be played in six weeks, so for Melbourne/Sydney in a must win scenario: Watson, Hughes, Ponting, Hussey,Clarke/Khawaja, Smith, Haddin, O'Keefe, Harris, Bollinger, George.

  • azzaman333 on December 1, 2010, 12:13 GMT

    @Knightriders_suck; I think you'll find that the weather conditions in Brisbane severely hampered the groundsmens' ability to produce a good quality pitch.

  • on December 1, 2010, 11:18 GMT

    I guess the author has jumped to conclusions about Test cricket. The beauty of Test cricket is that it offers varied results unlike ODIs and T20s which appear to be cliched. The good thing would be to take Test cricket as it comes. The exciting finishes are 'exciting' because they appear to be infrequent and are like a breath of fresh air. This Test match has come and gone and we will have to wait and see how the series unfolds.

  • on December 1, 2010, 10:33 GMT

    @Sai ... you clearly haven't been watching Cook and Sehwag as closely as I have. And the stats don't lie either.

    In 25 overseas matches, Cook has an ave of 61.09 with 6 centuries and 4 fifties in the 3rd and 4th innings.

    On the other hand, in 33 overseas matches, Sehwag has a pretty paltry average of 31.10 with only 1 century and 3 fifties.

    The comparison is more than fair. As far as your other response that Sehwag's first innings score makes the second innings irrelevant ... in some cases it does ... but we all know that test matches are about temperament and Sehwag is yet to prove himself in the second innings.

  • CharlieAlanJakeHarperFamily on December 1, 2010, 9:42 GMT

    After day 1 anyone could have said the pitch has juice,spice,conditions overcast and was overall spiteful but after hussey-haddin partnership pitch flattened out horribly everyone seemed to score ton and it got better and better as days passed by imagine last session of test match a batsman scoring more than run a ball(ponting-obviously is supremely talented) but the mood is likely to be carried in adelaide oval which has short sundries traditionally flat both one thing is both are impotent bowling attacks

  • Navillus on December 1, 2010, 9:15 GMT

    It is the beauty of test cricket that not everything is slam bang. The tactics and strategies that one gets to see on the field, subtle changes in approach and gameplan - sometimes, as in life, it is a matter of laying back and letting things happen rather than charging away trying to get things to happen. Sadly, in the current day, the subtlety is lacking in the 20-20 craze. http://senantixtwentytwoyards.blogspot.com/2010/11/short-lived-life-and-20-20.html - the article points out how much more test cricket offers than IPL and Champions League.

  • Bollo on December 1, 2010, 8:57 GMT

    @Muhammad Moosa, very balanced assessment of the situation.@Knightriders_Suck,I think you`ll find there`s been plenty of criticism of the pitch, both in the MSM and the blogosphere,unseasonal weather conditions notwithstanding. It still doesn`t change the fact that these sorts of dead pitches, leading to dull draws, are far more common in the subcontinent than elsewhere, particularly Australia. Just for comparison, since 2000, 54 tests played in India for 20 draws (37%), 62 tests played in Aus for 10 draws (16%) - many of those due to rain. Keep some perspective please.

  • Knightriders_suck on December 1, 2010, 7:27 GMT

    Noone blasting Aussies for preparing a pitch which does not do anything on fifth day... Come on guys now let's start shouting that CA is preparing dead pitches so that Aussi batsmen can improve their averages. Wait a minute English did that but whatever. I have not heard a single grumbling about the pitch. If this was India, curator would be pilloried by the media by now. Should GABBA's curator be fired or Brisbane never given a match again?

  • on December 1, 2010, 7:09 GMT

    @Jawwad Its foolish to compare Sehwag to Cook. He does have a great 3rd innings knock in Adelaide. And you should be noticing that when Sehwag fires in 1st innings (which is often these days ) the 2nd innings become irrelevant. So don't post unthinking comments.

  • on December 1, 2010, 6:18 GMT

    i just don't get why nearly all reporters continue to take jibes at Cook. "In truth he still looked limited." Seriously dude ... which game were you watching? What I saw was a determined innings - a masterclass that deserves to be in the top innings of all time. "Limited"? Sehwag may be able to score centuries and doubles centuries at will ... but I've never seen him cross 100 in the second innings of a match where India were on the ropes. now that's limited.

    Cook's been one of england's really true finds and one of their most consistent performers. Sad to see him being so under-rated. He hasn't even peaked yet. He has an appetite for big scores and a solid conversion rate. Plus, he can play quick, as well as disciplined innings. I just don't get the criticism. He's only 25 - probably has another 10-12 years of cricket left in him. He'll be one of cricket's 10k club (already halfway there). Stop the criticism. England are lucky to have him.

  • philipm3 on December 1, 2010, 5:07 GMT

    A well balanced article, and Peter has started to leave the poetic meanderings aside recently which is welcome. I don't agree that the match was boring though; surely it's unexpected events that make for interest. And I think a scorecard reading England 1/517 is quite unexpected. You would have got some very good odds on England folding in their second dig and Australia having a tricky 150 or so to chase. A draw may seem a dull outcome, but the route to that outcome was anything but. Dax is spot on - David Hussey has by far the best record of batsmen in the frame. Smith or White are good replacements for North; both handy spinners and are more able to attack with the bat. I do agree Bollinger should get a run, but I'm not sure he's the magic bullet that everyone seems to suggest. His record is good, not great and the Adelaide pitch probably won't be in his favour. More should be made of Pontings defensiveness in the field - doesn't matter who's bowling if the tactics are unimaginative.

  • JerryJose on December 1, 2010, 4:47 GMT

    @Meety: 2-nil in India???Height of optimism I must say. One all was the likeliest score

  • on December 1, 2010, 4:39 GMT

    Tactically Australia will look at bowling straighter and should ommit Johnson although Ricky might be reluctant to, given past glories and the balance he gives batting at 8 (although his batting hasnt been as effective for a while). Both teams lacked an out and out quickie that could test the mid 140's plus range and check the pitch character at genuine pace. England will be loathe to change their team and will feel the "momentum" is behind them.Often they win the test following a "come from behind draw". An attritional battle lies ahead-the team that holds their nerve their best smiles-right now the pressure is on Australia and question marks overt heir attack-lets not forget that the Aussies were the only team that created a potential winning situation in Brisbane though.

  • unbiased_referee on December 1, 2010, 3:38 GMT

    The way the things unfolded from the 4th day on, I am sure England could have gone on until the next world war-at which time Aussies would have to pull out for the reasons of serving in compulsory army.

  • ebbie-qld on December 1, 2010, 3:21 GMT

    Nagarajan and Talubar re pitch conditions, The Mitchell team have never had a worse time trying to prepare a Gabba test pitch. Nearly the wettest spring on record. The rain didn't not fall in heavy down pours assocaited with normal Brissy weather but a constant drizzle at times. First time ever that not a single day over 30 degrees in spring. It would have been a night mare to prep a normal pitch. Both teams bowling was not impressive.

  • Meety on December 1, 2010, 2:55 GMT

    @ Talubar - disagree re: Pitch. I was there on Day 3 & have been going to the Gabba for over 10 years & it was the dullest pitch I've seen. The temperature in Brisbane is way under seasonal norms, which means the Pitch only hardened late in the match - too late to crack up & offer variable bounce. Also Oz have plenty of bowlers to worry England - they just aren't being selected. @ pie314 - agree re: Punter. There is no alternative. White is not an option unless he scores 3 or 4 tons this summer (got 1 so far) - although it may improve the slips fielding. @WeirPicki - Smith I think does deserve a place in the Oz side given he scored a 70+ in his last test, & could easily replace North. He would also improve the fielding an add variety to the bowling (still has a way to go to becoming a bowling force in Tests).

  • Meety on December 1, 2010, 2:47 GMT

    @D.Nagarajan - no it wasn't a typical Gabba pitch. It lacked its usual pace & bounce. Hazlewood is injured & McDermott Jnr can't crack into the QLD state team. @Dale Clark - agreed! Can't believe that Roebuck would say the test was boring, I think he has been watching too much T20. I think that once England got to Lunch unscathed the match became more dull. @Dale79 - agreed except for the comments about Pup. He could be a very good (if not great) Test & ODI captain. He is definately a very good T20 captain - just his batting for the shortest format is not suitable. ODIs don't require 100+ S/Rates - Warner case in point. Pup does me just fine in Tests & ODIs, (happier if he gets a century in 2nd Test). @Chris_Howard - agreed. Fielding has been a bug bear of mind since the 2005 Ashes. Oz fielding was poor in India - possibly cost us a 2nil win. I think M Waugh needs to be recruited for fielding drills. Copeland is looking good, & why wasn't O'Keefe playing v WA this week??????

  • Robbfatha on December 1, 2010, 2:14 GMT

    Had England had an appeal left for Husseys LBW on 80 odd the first innings may have been pretty level, with a result much more likely in the end. As it was at 200 odd down on the first innings all England could do was save the match. Which they did. Sometimes test cricket is like that. To quote an old Arsenal coach "If people want non-stop action they should go to the circus"

  • pie314 on December 1, 2010, 0:37 GMT

    i laugh at suggestions at north being a potential captain. at least you could rely on ponting to produce a captain's knock of 100+ when the team really needs it. what would north produce in a dire situation as captain, a single? Relatively speaking, there are no truly skilled captains at the moment in the world scene, except for nz's dan vettori, whose mediocre team is constantly punching above their weight. So why bash ponting so much, when his opposite number is not any better? Also, the importance of youth is really overhyped. Aus has such a strong domestic scene, allowing players like katich and hussey to develop for years in first class and then thrive on the international scene as they have dealt with pressure situations before. Rushing players like hughes, who folds like a house of cards at the first sign of pressure, into internationals only serves to hamper his development.

  • Talubar on December 1, 2010, 0:14 GMT

    D.Nagarajan sums it up well, the pitch was about the usual for the Gabba and Warne and McGrath would have ensured Australia won by at least 10 wickets if not an innings. A few things came out for me, the solidity of the English batting versus the fragility of the Australians, Swann's predictable lack of impact, (offies never do well in Australia even the best) and both side's lack of bowling depth. Australia simply doesn't have a bowler that worries the English.

  • WeirPicki on November 30, 2010, 23:26 GMT

    I disagree with people wanting to dump batsmen from the Australian side. The lack of runs being scored at Shield level is a strong indication of how low the batting levels are. Nobody, including the much vaunted Khawaja, Ferguson, D. Hussey, Smith etc are deserving of a spot in the side.

  • Chris_Howard on November 30, 2010, 22:20 GMT

    I'd also like to add that, yet again, Australia is struggling against a team with a blend of youth and experience in their batting. Australia's top 6 reads like roll call at a geriatric home (and has been playing like it too): Katich 35, Watson 29 , Ponting 35, Clarke 29, Hussey 35, North 31. Compare that to England's blend of youth and experience: Strauss 33, Cook 25, Trott 29, Pietersen 30, Bell 28, Collingwood 34.

  • Chris_Howard on November 30, 2010, 21:59 GMT

    Well said, Dale Clark. We wouldn't be talking about the pitch if Australia held their catches, and if both teams had a bit more luck with getting the referrals right. Also, can we PLEASE stop talking up Ferguson?! He averages 35 and it's slipping. I think Australia should "rebuild" Johnson as a genuine all-rounder. Send him back to the twos to focus on his bating. The other thing overlooked in this match is Australia, like England, were also a bowler short because Ponting couldn't/wouldn't use Watson enough. So, my preferred 11 is: Hughes, Katich, Ponting, Clarke, Hussey, Watson, Haddin, O'Keefe, Hilfenhaus, Siddle, Bollinger. (If Hughes is given the same chances as others have, he will do the job.) I'm also really excited about the prospects of Trent Copeland (ave 17) who is showing promise as being more than just a "good" bowler like Hilf, Siddle, Dougie, Harris, George etc.

  • Dale79 on November 30, 2010, 20:12 GMT

    @ D.Nagarajan- interestingly, P. George has not been considered after bowling SA to victory v Tas in the shield match. I am not really impressed with Doherty, but cannot seeing him being dropped during the series, unless 4 quicks are played in Perth and Steven Smith will play alongside him in Sydney. Doherty picked to bowl against Pietersen who has a perceived weakness against left arm orthodox spin. I agree lack of runs from Clarke and North is a big problem, the English batting looks more solid. I think North is only being retained as he is touted as being a replacement to Ponting- I don't believe Clarke would be a good captain and he certainly should not be playing T20 and ODI cricket-his batting is not explosive enough and there are better choices in these formats.

  • MaruthuDelft on November 30, 2010, 19:47 GMT

    Are there 3 world class bowlers playing now? I think only Steyn could stake a claim. Swann not yet. Anderson has the skills but not the mind. Aamir too early to be judged.

  • on November 30, 2010, 18:34 GMT

    I enjoyed this test, I do not regard it as a boring draw as you suggest. Few would have predicted England's 2nd Innings fightback, and the momentum and confidence they now have. Australia's fielding was terrible. I felt a result was still possible on Day 5, although unlikely. Too much focus is on the Gabba pitch. Let us remember Australia dropped catches and bowled poorly, particularly Johnson and his waywardness. The pitch has nothing to do with wayward bowling and dropped catches.

  • D.Nagarajan on November 30, 2010, 17:00 GMT

    The pitch was actually similar to the past Gabba pitches the only difference is Australian bowling is weaker and the England Batting is stronger. With a 220 run lead McGrath , Dizzy and Warne would have cleaned up England. Its bowling where Australia have a real problem. They can think of giving Hazlewood and Mcdermott Jr. a look in , they definitely better and hungrier options to Mitchell Johnson and Doherty. The other problem is also the lack of runs from Michael Clarke and Marcus North. Instead of North ,Ferguson or Khawaja can get a look in.Clarke needs to explain why his dismissals appear soft off late.The future for Australia like in 1985-86 is in youth which is under 23.

  • Dax75 on November 30, 2010, 16:23 GMT

    Peter, I like this article, also liked what you said on ABC about looking at David Hussey to come into the test team, he could be just what we need. If only more thought like that.

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  • Dax75 on November 30, 2010, 16:23 GMT

    Peter, I like this article, also liked what you said on ABC about looking at David Hussey to come into the test team, he could be just what we need. If only more thought like that.

  • D.Nagarajan on November 30, 2010, 17:00 GMT

    The pitch was actually similar to the past Gabba pitches the only difference is Australian bowling is weaker and the England Batting is stronger. With a 220 run lead McGrath , Dizzy and Warne would have cleaned up England. Its bowling where Australia have a real problem. They can think of giving Hazlewood and Mcdermott Jr. a look in , they definitely better and hungrier options to Mitchell Johnson and Doherty. The other problem is also the lack of runs from Michael Clarke and Marcus North. Instead of North ,Ferguson or Khawaja can get a look in.Clarke needs to explain why his dismissals appear soft off late.The future for Australia like in 1985-86 is in youth which is under 23.

  • on November 30, 2010, 18:34 GMT

    I enjoyed this test, I do not regard it as a boring draw as you suggest. Few would have predicted England's 2nd Innings fightback, and the momentum and confidence they now have. Australia's fielding was terrible. I felt a result was still possible on Day 5, although unlikely. Too much focus is on the Gabba pitch. Let us remember Australia dropped catches and bowled poorly, particularly Johnson and his waywardness. The pitch has nothing to do with wayward bowling and dropped catches.

  • MaruthuDelft on November 30, 2010, 19:47 GMT

    Are there 3 world class bowlers playing now? I think only Steyn could stake a claim. Swann not yet. Anderson has the skills but not the mind. Aamir too early to be judged.

  • Dale79 on November 30, 2010, 20:12 GMT

    @ D.Nagarajan- interestingly, P. George has not been considered after bowling SA to victory v Tas in the shield match. I am not really impressed with Doherty, but cannot seeing him being dropped during the series, unless 4 quicks are played in Perth and Steven Smith will play alongside him in Sydney. Doherty picked to bowl against Pietersen who has a perceived weakness against left arm orthodox spin. I agree lack of runs from Clarke and North is a big problem, the English batting looks more solid. I think North is only being retained as he is touted as being a replacement to Ponting- I don't believe Clarke would be a good captain and he certainly should not be playing T20 and ODI cricket-his batting is not explosive enough and there are better choices in these formats.

  • Chris_Howard on November 30, 2010, 21:59 GMT

    Well said, Dale Clark. We wouldn't be talking about the pitch if Australia held their catches, and if both teams had a bit more luck with getting the referrals right. Also, can we PLEASE stop talking up Ferguson?! He averages 35 and it's slipping. I think Australia should "rebuild" Johnson as a genuine all-rounder. Send him back to the twos to focus on his bating. The other thing overlooked in this match is Australia, like England, were also a bowler short because Ponting couldn't/wouldn't use Watson enough. So, my preferred 11 is: Hughes, Katich, Ponting, Clarke, Hussey, Watson, Haddin, O'Keefe, Hilfenhaus, Siddle, Bollinger. (If Hughes is given the same chances as others have, he will do the job.) I'm also really excited about the prospects of Trent Copeland (ave 17) who is showing promise as being more than just a "good" bowler like Hilf, Siddle, Dougie, Harris, George etc.

  • Chris_Howard on November 30, 2010, 22:20 GMT

    I'd also like to add that, yet again, Australia is struggling against a team with a blend of youth and experience in their batting. Australia's top 6 reads like roll call at a geriatric home (and has been playing like it too): Katich 35, Watson 29 , Ponting 35, Clarke 29, Hussey 35, North 31. Compare that to England's blend of youth and experience: Strauss 33, Cook 25, Trott 29, Pietersen 30, Bell 28, Collingwood 34.

  • WeirPicki on November 30, 2010, 23:26 GMT

    I disagree with people wanting to dump batsmen from the Australian side. The lack of runs being scored at Shield level is a strong indication of how low the batting levels are. Nobody, including the much vaunted Khawaja, Ferguson, D. Hussey, Smith etc are deserving of a spot in the side.

  • Talubar on December 1, 2010, 0:14 GMT

    D.Nagarajan sums it up well, the pitch was about the usual for the Gabba and Warne and McGrath would have ensured Australia won by at least 10 wickets if not an innings. A few things came out for me, the solidity of the English batting versus the fragility of the Australians, Swann's predictable lack of impact, (offies never do well in Australia even the best) and both side's lack of bowling depth. Australia simply doesn't have a bowler that worries the English.

  • pie314 on December 1, 2010, 0:37 GMT

    i laugh at suggestions at north being a potential captain. at least you could rely on ponting to produce a captain's knock of 100+ when the team really needs it. what would north produce in a dire situation as captain, a single? Relatively speaking, there are no truly skilled captains at the moment in the world scene, except for nz's dan vettori, whose mediocre team is constantly punching above their weight. So why bash ponting so much, when his opposite number is not any better? Also, the importance of youth is really overhyped. Aus has such a strong domestic scene, allowing players like katich and hussey to develop for years in first class and then thrive on the international scene as they have dealt with pressure situations before. Rushing players like hughes, who folds like a house of cards at the first sign of pressure, into internationals only serves to hamper his development.