Peter Roebuck
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Former captain of Somerset; author of It Never Rains, Sometimes I Forgot to Laugh and other books

Australia not charred by the Ashes

Things don't seem as dismal as they did in January. And that's because some tough and necessary decisions have been taken

Peter Roebuck

November 9, 2011

Comments: 57 | Text size: A | A

Ricky Ponting reacts after being dismissed, Sri Lanka v Australia, 3rd Test, SSC, Colombo, 1st day, September 16, 2011
Ricky Ponting's recent lapses might have been due to combat fatigue © AFP

Australia start a pathetically short Test series in South Africa with more hope than foreboding. A year ago the Poms arrived in Perth and were astonished to be informed by locals that they were likely to retain the Ashes. A generation had not thought such sentiments could ever emerge from an Australian mouth. Bemused Englishmen assumed the plane had landed at the wrong airport, a response confirming that misunderstandings can easily arise between a nation reliant on understatement and another prone to plain talking. In fact the assessment was as accurate as were previous warnings of whitewashes.

Accordingly, the wary optimism detected in the visiting camp for the series in South Africa ought not to be dismissed. It is founded upon a belief that the worst has already passed and the cricket community is back on track. As has been pointed out, the darkest night often comes right before the dawn.

Outsiders were startled by the fury of the Australian reaction to the Ashes defeat. Some thought it too harsh, not least because Australia remained World ODI champions and had dominated for so long. But it was not the fact of losing the series that caused the outrage but the lame manner of the defeat. Had the hosts played valiantly, and a sensible side been chosen, the loss might have been absorbed. After all, the pitch at the MCG was a disgrace and the toss in that match was critical.

Instead, the hosts resembled a rabble. Nor could any sign of improvement be detected to salve the wound. Accordingly the wrath of the masses descended upon the beaten. Far from closing ranks and resenting criticism, the authorities responded to the crisis by setting up a wide range of inquiries, even into themselves. As a result heads have rolled, players have been ditched, new coaches and selectors have been appointed, and a new captain has been put in charge.

From a distance these changes might seem a drastic reaction to a bad spell. But the rage told of a refusal to accept second-best. If anything, too, Australia had dithered for too long. Locals also refused to accept the arguments put forward by those convinced that it is all part of an inevitable cycle. Manchester United stay strong because the club stays strong. The German economy works because the nation works. Australian cricket is back in business because it takes tough decisions in the critical hour. To a considerable extent every party is master of its own fate. The system was crook and in need of correction.

Not that Australia are by any means ready to topple England from their perch. Still, it was encouraging to find the current England team already described in some quarters as the finest the country has produced (insofar as it has produced it), and one of the five best ever seen. In these statements can be found the first seeds of decline. Balanced critics regard England as a very good side who might or might not attain greatness.

Australia are still not even a good Test side but they are starting to regain their competitive edge. Much can be gleaned from their work in the field. After floundering in the Ashes, the attack appears more aggressive and focused. Encouraged by Craig McDermott, and learning from their English counterparts, the pacemen keep a fuller length and maintain the intensity missing last season. They seek edges and are given a slip cordon eager to snap them up. Cricket has not changed half as much as supposed. It's still mostly about late movement and outside edges.

Not that Ryan Harris, Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle are suddenly world-beaters. Harris' main asset is that he takes wickets with the new ball, long a strength and recently a weakness. Built along the lines favoured by bulls, he aims at the sticks and moves the ball at the last moment. In short, he is a handful. His failing is that his body is not as durable as his spirit. Johnson remains fragile. Doubtless it is partly psychological, but these analyses can be overdone. His main problem is that slingy actions do not permit precise repetition. The banana-bender clips the umpire's ear. Johnson needs everything to fall into place, including feet and fingers; it's a lot to ask. He is, too, more athlete than cricketer, and so lacks an intuitive understanding of the way his action works.

Manchester United stay strong because the club stays strong. The German economy works because the nation works. Australian cricket is back in business because it takes tough decisions in the critical hour. To a considerable extent every party is master of its own fate

Siddle is the same committed speedster seen last summer, but like his comrades is under much more pressure than previously, mostly from a younger brigade seeking opportunity. Patrick Cummins leads the charge, but he has only taken nine first-class wickets and has thrived mostly in white-ball cricket. However, he has the gift of pace, and he is not alone.

Australia, though, need to beware lest they fall into the trap of rushing gifted players into the team. Desperate times may call for desperate measures but they are not necessarily improved by them. Ambitious selectors and captains understandably seek players of high potential to replace time-servers, but cricket is also a game of skill, stamina and experience, and it takes time to learn its lessons.

As far as the batting is concerned, Ricky Ponting's predicament is the immediate concern. If he is in terminal decline, as critics fear and figures indicate, then the slide has several unusual aspects. He remains as fit as a greyhound, looks sharp in the nets, catches brilliantly, and shows little sign of technical weakness. His mistakes have been mostly mental - misjudging length and suffering inexplicable rushes of blood. Every batsman regularly hears little voices suggesting that he try something risky but the alert brain ignores them.

In a recent essay on the struggles faced by great batsmen, including Greg Chappell and Sachin Tendulkar, Dr Rudi Webster talked about the sort of "combat fatigue" encountered by soldiers and sportsmen put under constant pressure. Ponting has been in the frontline for a long time and it's possible his batteries cannot be properly recharged. By the look of things his technique and body remain intact, and only weariness of the mind can bring him down.

Australia's other veterans, Mike Hussey and Simon Katich, have endured different fates. Not so long ago Hussey's position was in peril. But he is a top-class player and clearly had more runs in him. Typically he kept working on his game, not least by learning to use his feet to spinners. He is an exceptionally adaptable cricketer and worth his weight in gold, notwithstanding the metal's current price.

Katich was not even offered a contract this year, whereupon a hullaballoo broke out. One hysterical radio ranter described the selectors as dictators, which did seem a little like the pot calling the kettle black. A redoubtable batsman, Katich commands respect, much as Allan Border did, with grit and reliability. Of course his ejection was unfair, but selectors are not called upon to be fair but rather to be right. Nor are they supposed to think only about the present. Katich has belatedly resumed bowling for New South Wales and has been taking wickets.

Plain and simple, Australia could not continue to play three ageing batsmen in a losing side. Whether the right player was dropped at the right time is a legitimate topic of debate. Katich may not have deserved the chop. Nor, though, did he make himself indispensable.

It remains to be seen how Phil Hughes fares against Dale Steyn and company, assuming Steyn is not unduly rusty. No matter how scratchy he may look and how many faults may be found in his game, Hughes has an imposing record at every level and that needs to be taken into account.

In every aspect except wicketkeeping, the Australian team looks stronger than it did a year ago. And though the board and administrative changes have not yet been undertaken, because the relevant report has not been produced, the cricket community is also stronger off the field. That does not mean South Africa will be subdued. Merely that the Australians will play with the purpose missing last season, and that the period in the doldrums will be shorter than seemed likely in January.

Peter Roebuck is a former captain of Somerset and the author, most recently, of In It to Win It

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Posted by prozak on (November 14, 2011, 9:46 GMT)

RIP Peter.......................

Posted by Optic on (November 12, 2011, 7:54 GMT)

@Meety Your wrong, Australia retained the Ashes in 1989 and held them up to 2005, so go on how is that 20 years because by my reckoning it's 16 years. It seems like a couple of people before you, seem quick to take away the years England held them between 86/7 till they lost them in 89 but don't do the same with Australia between 2003 and 05.

Posted by Trickstar on (November 12, 2011, 7:16 GMT)

@G.Sri Nah, not as funny as that rabble that rolled up in England in the summer and then preceded to lose every game in every format, comedy gold, a bit like this article.

Posted by Aussasinator on (November 11, 2011, 17:21 GMT)

A ridiculous piece this is. Phil Hughes getting a recommendation? It shows the state of Oz cricket. No need to try and gather something from the ruins of Australian batting - there's nothing left to gather. At least not until the likes of Ricky Ponting leave the scene with the remnants of shame left in them.

Posted by WilliamFranklin on (November 11, 2011, 15:53 GMT)

Peter, no wonder you are down under making a living. oh dear.

Posted by Srini_Indian on (November 11, 2011, 14:43 GMT)

What a joke by Peter, after beating a dismal SL in SL they are on right track? It is as funny as England united XI no.1 in tests.

Posted by Cool_Jeeves on (November 11, 2011, 11:34 GMT)

Now this article looks very funny indeed

Posted by bestbuddy on (November 11, 2011, 11:02 GMT)

Peter, the phrase "curse of the commentator" could not be more appropriate for this article given what has happened in the past 3 days of test cricket

Posted by   on (November 10, 2011, 23:28 GMT)

Wait... Doesn't charring precede turning into Ashes? Anyways, the Aussies maybe reduced to Ashes after the 1st test against the Proteas...

Posted by maddy20 on (November 10, 2011, 15:39 GMT)

After today's performance I am sure Mr.Roebuck will reconsider his statements. In other news Katich and Hidditch were seen throwing a party celebrating Australia's exceptional performance. Hauritz is expected to join them shortly.

Posted by natmastak_so-called on (November 10, 2011, 13:06 GMT)

feel pity for clarke,who is asked to carry you know who"s weight and responsibility for an eternity.....

Posted by RandyOZ on (November 10, 2011, 7:40 GMT)

@Vic Nicholas, cape town ECC office, absolute classic. Philander is prolly getting a call as we speak!

Posted by diteras on (November 10, 2011, 7:27 GMT)

Yes Steve Turner there is more than a hint of ''uncle Toms cabin'' in the above love letter to Australia. However, there are at least some points which may be clarified this very day. This cove Johnson has more than a hint of the Harmison about him. His action not being 'repeatable' aside ( Although Malinga seems to manage it) .How long do they pick him on the grounds of what he had and that he may have it again? Well when SA bat today we shall at least have a view on that. I don't think that any of the test playing countries will ever dominate again - at least for a while because there simply aint the bowlers with the 'great' pedigree which W & McG could justifiable lay a claim. Future no 1 status will therefore require preparation and attention to detail as Flowers journeyman ashes winners showed. Australia cant be blamed for resting on their laurels after half a lifetimes dominance but I see nothing special in their new dawn - unlike Mr Roebuck. They just got a bit real - thats all

Posted by Meety on (November 10, 2011, 5:38 GMT)

@hhillbumper - still 8-7 Oz though!

Posted by Meety on (November 10, 2011, 5:35 GMT)

@ zenboomerang - whilst I think Paine was groomed well for Haddin's spot, I agree that there appears to be more upside in Wade. Not an expert in keeping - but I think Wade & Paine are similar in quality, but Wade is a lot better batsmen. I see no reason why Wade can't ave 40-45 in tests, where as I think Paine will be a gritty 35 at best, (if he was a better keeper that would make it closer). Not sure how good Neville's keeping is - but he seems to be as good as Wade with the bat (maybe a touch better). @ Trickstar England won in 2005 (not 2003) & they won in 86 so that's how he came up with 20. Not the 14 or so you indicated. @Fifthman - I don't know about the pitch being bad, but it was a good toss to win. If you recall it was primarily overcast when Oz were batting - but the second Cook & Strauss entered the field to bat the sun broke thru, with almost a sense of devine intervention. How much impact did that have who knows/who cares?

Posted by RandyOZ on (November 10, 2011, 4:59 GMT)

@The poms, 7 international players in HISTORY, you have more than that in your current squad @AidanFX , true, but it's still true, they'll be off their semi perch in no time.

Posted by CricFan78 on (November 10, 2011, 4:58 GMT)

Tough decisions? Bring Hughes in? Drop Katich? Keep Punter?Drop Hauritz?

Posted by hornet18 on (November 10, 2011, 4:04 GMT)

I have to take BarmyIan up on his comments as I think he is missing the point completely. People move around countries, that's a fact, but once again not the point. The problem us Aussies have is that we are constantly having to play against people who are not the product of the English system. Trott and Pietersen (who I name as they are a couple of the modern examples) are a product of the South African system which therefore diminsihes the feeling of "us and them" (in this case products of the Australian system vs products of the English system). Sport is a tribal thing and England lead the way unfortunately in it's demise. Do you think Pietersen, Trott, etc grew up dreaming of playing for England? Khawaja and Symonds have lived in Australia since they were about three and grew up wanting to play for Australia (just ask them). Exactly the kind of people I want representing my country.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2011, 3:37 GMT)

Hey BarmyIan - Samantha Stosur is born in Oz, not Eastern Europe. Khawaja came when he was like three years old and Andrew Simonds was about one month old when he was brought to Australia. At least two of your top order played for SA U19's and another learnt his cricket at Caulfield Grammar in Melbourne. Therein lies the difference. Don't worry old chap, as soon as one of your batsmen loses form or retires, the ECC recruiting office in Cape Town will source another quick smart to fill the gaps that your domestic competition fails to produce.

Posted by Rooboy on (November 10, 2011, 1:17 GMT)

@BarmyIan - it's not just Aussies on that particular bandwagon, and you know it. Or you should. I loved the comment in this article 'the current England team already described in some quarters as the finest the country has produced (INSOFAR AS IT HAS PRODUCED IT)' ... subtle, but it gave me a giggle. And the comparisons you make are ridiculous. Yep, you have a point about Aus womens tennis, but ... so what? Aus tennis imports aren't something for Aus to be proud of, but I thought we were discussing cricket? And as for Khawaja and Simmonds (Symonds, I assume), did these guys grow up mostly in Aus and play all their cricket here, or did Aus poach them after they had learnt the game somewhere else and had represented their 'home' countries? You're totally clutching at straws if you're trying to compare the Khawaja and Symonds situations with that of Trott, Morgan, Pietersen, Joyce and so on, and on. I do enjoy the defensiveness that this issue brings out in english cricket fans so cheers!

Posted by Confectionery_Stall on (November 9, 2011, 21:43 GMT)

Talk of "Ashes gaps" is just plain silly in my opinion. Australia held the Ashes for 16 years between '89 and '05, which is impressive by any measure. England aren't anywhere near that level-- the piece claiming they were number 5 on the all-time list was designed to attract attention to itself, not to present a sensible argument.

Peter Roebuck's piece is fair enough, but speaking from my experience of following England through the Nineties, he falls into a couple of traps. The first is that it's easy to look good against the weaker sides. Your batsmen will always know there's a bad ball on the way, which makes it easier to concentrate which is less of an examination of their technique. Your bowlers likewise won't be left having to defend small totals or spend long days in the field.

The second is, in an uneven contest, especially over five Tests, the weaker side will look pretty ragged by the end. England had a lot of false dawns, only to wilt in the heat of an Australian day.

Posted by bumbles11 on (November 9, 2011, 17:18 GMT)

SA are far stronger than Aussies, aussies will be lucky to win a Test match in pitifully small series in SA. They look tad better but not a lot stronger. Key will be can Johnson replicate what he did 3 years ago? From what I have seen (Perth Ashes Test apart) he can't or is not able to, Harris is strongest bowler but will he stay the course or break down again. Siddle is a battler but not really international class. Batting is different, Clarke and Hussey will be key again

Posted by Rajamohan777 on (November 9, 2011, 15:16 GMT)

Peter you need to be dreaming to imagine this aussie side can take a shot at the top perch. Mcgrath and Warne have left a hole which wont be filled in your lifetime. One shouldnt easily jump to conclusions on the fall and rise of sporting nations. You seem to have very swiftly placed India down the barrel while uplifting a sagging aussie outfit with a pole that has structural deficiencies. The fundamental aspects of batting and bowling has deteriorated to such an extent that you cant wager any consistent bets on this aussie side. Agree they come with a fighting spirit which will make any sensible opposition not take them lightly but you have got to be dreaming out of your senses to be placing them to fight for the top spot in cricket. Also agree with your IPL criticism that the Indian administration is sowing seeds of disasterbut still the fundamental strength of players in the Indian team beats the aussies hollow at the moment.

Posted by AidanFX on (November 9, 2011, 14:47 GMT)

@ Front-foot-Lunge - mate read the article before making silly comments "Not that Australia are by any means ready to topple England from their perch." - Tell me where Peter said Aus can match it with Eng at the moment?

Posted by   on (November 9, 2011, 14:38 GMT)

It's always amusing reading Roebuck's articles when he's sucking up to his new found compatriates. I wonder if they know why he left England. Those around the Devon leagues know very well.

Posted by ElPhenomeno on (November 9, 2011, 14:29 GMT)

Manchester United stays strong because they have Sir Alex Ferguson. Anyone who really follows club football will tell you how ordinary Man utd are in terms of having talented players on the squad. If the team was being managed by anyone but Sir Alex there will be a large thud every year when they inevitably hit the bottom. Ferguson is a genius, who has managed to drive and will his team to victories again and again.

Germans stay strong because, well, they are Germans.

I doubt Australia will stay strong just because they are making 'tough' decisions. At the end its about having talented cricketers (or a genius manager) though the role of a coach/manager is way overrated in cricket. While in football managers call all the shots, in cricket it is the captain. You can however have a really good captain who can make his ordinary team punch above their weight. Just look at Stephen Fleming when he was with newzealand. However, 'pup' is no Stephen fleming. Not by a long shot...

Posted by hhillbumper on (November 9, 2011, 13:56 GMT)

Jonesy2 Where are you? by the way have you worked out this columnist is English so surely what he says is wrong as you see to have a slight issue with the English

Posted by   on (November 9, 2011, 13:52 GMT)

I agree that he is very quick for an 18 yr old and certainly quicker than I can dream of bowling, so no "jealousy" here, Mr.Milan. I am all for new fast bowlers to emerge, but I am just sick of every article mentioning Pat Cummins having the words "raw pace" attached to them. So I am not talking about comments here Mr. Zen. I would definitely want him to get quicker as it is exciting to watch( I am an aussie fan also). All I am saying is don't oversell him too much, like it happened with Steve Smith.

Posted by BarmyIan on (November 9, 2011, 12:51 GMT)

I thin Roebuck needs his eyes testing. How was the MCG pitch a disgrace? 1 Team got well over 500!! How does that make it a bad pitch?

Posted by BarmyIan on (November 9, 2011, 12:47 GMT)

I see the Aussies are on the England World XI band wagon again!! Any comment on Khawaja being Pakistani or Andrew Simmonds being English? Or any "Aussie" woman Tennis player (all born in eastern Europe)

Posted by Simoc on (November 9, 2011, 10:51 GMT)

A nice summary Peter. I see Peter Siddle as a good backup test bowler so if he is in, the fast bowling department is a bit short on. I would think South Africa will prove to strong this time around and probably Hughes and Haddins positions are perilous. But strong performances under Clarkes captaincy will auger well for this teams future.

Posted by Dozzieus on (November 9, 2011, 10:40 GMT)

@ jonesy2 i am wondering where you get that Aus should win the next 2 ashes series? what are you basing that on? i think you have a long way to go before you can even dream of making such a bold statement. i think you should be worrying what Steyn and Morkel are going to do to your fragile batting line up

Posted by Fifthman on (November 9, 2011, 10:35 GMT)

So 'the pitch at the MCG was a disgrace'? That will be the pitch that Aus reached 98 all out on the first day, but in reply (also on the first day) England reached 157 for 0? What kind of self-serving claptrap is this? Aus batted woefully and were ineffective when bowling; England field and bowled superbly, then took advantage of some poor Aus bowling. Nothing to do with the pitch at all.

Posted by DutchAussie on (November 9, 2011, 10:25 GMT)

Australia are going to rue picking Johnson/Siddle/Harris as fast bowlers this test...In my opinion. No variety or real skill amongst them, just muscle bound athletes bowling as fast as they can in the general direction of the batsman. Cummins is a natural with skill and regardless of his age and inexperience should be in the team at the expense of one of the 'dead straight trio'.

Posted by hhillbumper on (November 9, 2011, 10:13 GMT)

Jonesey 2.I love your blind optimism.Seems a shame that the last 2 ashes series went so well for you.I believe that England have won 3 of the last 4 Ashes Series. As you say a lot of the Australians issue is psychological.

Posted by magsati on (November 9, 2011, 9:30 GMT)

@Trickstar. You are underestimating the essential health of Australian sport with your analysis. Furthermore, according to your schema it would actually be 89 to 05. You sound like the old England not the current one.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (November 9, 2011, 9:29 GMT)

Say want you want Peter, Australia are still no match for England.

Posted by RandyOZ on (November 9, 2011, 9:16 GMT)

Trickster, at least we are actually fielding aussies,not like you with your United XI. By the way mate it was 86 to 05. Do YOUR research!

Posted by snorbens on (November 9, 2011, 9:16 GMT)

Wonderfully optimistic assessment. The harvest is a long way off but this author believes from seeing one or two small buds that its going to be a good year.

Posted by Behind_the_bowlers_arm on (November 9, 2011, 8:45 GMT)

Englands Ashes gap was from a win in 1986/87 in Australia to the win in the 2005 series at home but thats by the by. As an Australian fan i'd agree with Peter as i have been encouraged by the signs coming after what was a disastrous Ashes. He is right to point to the manner of the defeat which bordered on the spineless and incompetent. Changes have to be made but it isnt just a matter of throwing in youngsters and letting them sink or swim. Katich is gone ...get over it. I believe we will see Warner develop as a Test player along with Khawaja and that the team will change gradually over the next year or so. The likes of Cummins, Pattinson and , a while later, Mitchell Marsh, will come through and i see only one of Hussey & Ponting remaining in a years time. Almost certainly Hussey. Good to see Matthew Wade's batting in the recent Shield game. He and Paine will be putting pressure on as well and if that raises Haddin's game then great.

Posted by zenboomerang on (November 9, 2011, 8:28 GMT)

@Anand Vijaykumar... who is "every talking about Cummins pace?"... Cannot see one comment below yours... Cummins bowls quickly - yes, he is no slouch... But... It is his direction & length & swing & maturity using that pace at such a young age that has Aussies talking... He also is developing great variety in his bowling... His pace is also expected to increase over the next 3-4 years as his body develops fully... So many Aussies are excited at his prospects... Seems natural to me...

Posted by TheLoneStranger on (November 9, 2011, 8:12 GMT)

Peter, the wrong player was dropped and the wrong one retained. Katich's figures for the last 2-3 years indicate that he WAS indispensable, whilst Ponting's figures for the last two years indicate that he is eminently dispensable and in fact should have been. Hughes has continued where he left off: having a string of failures and mediocre scores only to save his bacon yet again by scoring a ton at the eleventh hour. Indeed it is not about fairness ahead of being right, but in Katich's case the selectors were neither fair NOR right. The sooner Katich is re-instated, the better.

Posted by Trickstar on (November 9, 2011, 8:10 GMT)

@RandyOZ LOL you want to go and learn your Ashes history if you think it was 20 odd years between Ashes wins for England, '89 to '03 I think you'll find it was but hey whatever makes you feel better bud. The funny thing about all this is it's the same Aussie team , the same weak batting line up and same weak bowling attack, that have a good day once every 4 or 5 tests. I don't think many people will be surprised to see the same old, Johnson,Siddle & Harris lining up again, along with what it's face , the next in line Aussie spinner.

Posted by HatsforBats on (November 9, 2011, 8:05 GMT)

@ Anand Vijaykumar; I think it is his ability to sustain that 145-150kph as an 18yr old that has people excited. He will probably get faster over the next couple of years, but not many bowlers in history have been able to hit 160kph.

Posted by Nuxxy on (November 9, 2011, 7:57 GMT)

As a cricket fan living in South Africa, I love how teams peak when they arrive here. In England, Johnson was worse than useless. Here he is a contender. When India were here, no one doubted that they had the fighting spirit to remain #1. In England, they were damp squibs. Combine that with probably the most sporting pitches in the world (they don't unfairly benefit batsmen or bowlers of any team, rather they benefit good batsmen and bowlers), and you have great test cricket!

Posted by KP_84 on (November 9, 2011, 7:48 GMT)

Dropping Katitch certainly was thw wrong decision. Australia has two excellent candidates to replace Ponting at no.3 in Khawaja and Mitch Marsh. Phil Hughes' career as Test opener fizzled out soon after opposing sides worked out his technical flaws. He has been unable to rediscover his form in his debut Test series in South Africa in 2009.

Ponting played a wonderful innings in the World Cup Quarter Final loss to India earlier in the year. It should have served as his swansong. In that period where Ponting and Mike Hussey were struggling (and consequently the entire Australian team) it was Simon Katitch (ably assisted by Shane Watson) that stepped up and made sure that Australia retained some level of respectability. Ponting's poor form against Sri Lanka has already demonstrated that the wrong decision was made.

Posted by   on (November 9, 2011, 7:18 GMT)

" anand vijaykumar " cummins is no medium fast bowler trust me , he has been clocked at 151 kmh as a 17 yr old on live tv. tell me is that medium pace ? he might be round 140 in the recent odi series but i can promise you its hitting the bat harder than mitchell johnson, when he gets older ad stronger he will be consitenly quick round the 145 to 150 mark. theres not to many teenagers who have bowled 151 is there ?bit jealous i sense mate

Posted by Antony_Faisandier on (November 9, 2011, 6:40 GMT)

I wish rugby had a writer like you.

Posted by   on (November 9, 2011, 6:19 GMT)

Why is everyone talking about Pat Cummins' pace? As far as I can see, he is no quicker than Johnson and far from the pace attained by a Brett Lee or a Shoaib Akhtar. His action suggests an out and out delivery mechanism, but in terms of speed, why all the furore over a fast medium pacer?

Posted by   on (November 9, 2011, 6:10 GMT)

Spin bowling weakness to persist for quite some time I fear - some fabulous leg spinners in junior rep cricket in Sydney - shame they are only nine years old - looks good for 2024 and beyond

Posted by zenboomerang on (November 9, 2011, 5:39 GMT)

@redneck... Paine is still recovering from surgery on broken finger... Will need time to recover & get back into form... Seems to break fingers catching last few seasons... Still a good wicketkeeper & better than Haddin... Would put Wade in front atm due to continuing injuries & Wade is in good form with gloves & bat... Nice to see the 2 Tassie boys fighting for selection...

Posted by unregisteredalien on (November 9, 2011, 5:23 GMT)

Strikes me as a pretty sensible piece, but Peter, I seem to recall some very harsh words from you a few months ago on the appointment of McDermott as bowling coach. Can we take it your view has now changed?

Posted by zenboomerang on (November 9, 2011, 5:18 GMT)

Yes Ponting & Hussey will be under scrutiny from now until retirement... Just that Huss heard the music & danced while Punter stumbles... Haddin must perform or consider moving on as well... Wade has already proved to be as good a wicketkeeper as Haddin & Paine... But Wade has a far superior run average as first class than Paine... Argus demands current form to be guide for selection... Wade is the standout for the 2013 Ashes campaign...

Posted by jonesy2 on (November 9, 2011, 4:45 GMT)

australia should win the next two ashes series at least. and charge on from there with clarke leading players such as mitch marsh, pat cummins, james pattinson and david warner. hit the nail on the head about ponting. like 90% of cricket is, rickys recent issues are psychological.

Posted by redneck on (November 9, 2011, 4:18 GMT)

agree with the last paragraph the most haddins the weak link and assuming he fails again this series i fully expect tim paine in a baggygreen come the gabba test! love the way you put things into prose peter, nice article to read the day of a series starting!

Posted by Scgboy on (November 9, 2011, 4:13 GMT)

This is a pretty fair article.Indeed the pros and cons are weighed and analysed.Even his thought on our best bat were pretty acurate as well.

Posted by RandyOZ on (November 9, 2011, 3:34 GMT)

Of course we aren't charred by it. We are the greatest Ashes nation of all time. The last couple of years has just been a blip on the radar. It's not going to be 20 odd years od devastation like it was for the England united XI.

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Peter RoebuckClose
Peter Roebuck He may not have played Test cricket for England, but Peter Roebuck represented Somerset with distinction, making over 1000 runs nine times in 12 seasons, and captaining the county during a tempestuous period in the 1980s. Roebuck acquired recognition all over the cricket world for his distinctive, perceptive, independent writing. Widely travelled, he divided his time between Australia and South Africa. He died in November 2011

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Bowling to blame for India's poor overseas record

Kartikeya Date: The inability to build pressure by denying runs, even on helpful pitches, is India's biggest problem

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What ails Rohit and Watson?

Both batsmen seemingly have buckets of talent at their disposal and the backing of their captains, but soft dismissals relentlessly follow both around the Test arena

The perfect Test

After the tragedy of Phillip Hughes' death, this match showed that cricket and life will continue to go on. This time Test cricket dug in and got through to tea.

Hazlewood completes quartet of promise

Josh Hazlewood has been on Australian cricket's radar since he was a teenager. The player that made a Test debut at the Gabba was a much-improved version of the tearaway from 2010

Australia in good hands under proactive Smith

The new stand-in captain has the makings of a long-term leader, given his ability to stay ahead of the game

Karn struggles to stay afloat

The failed gamble of handing Karn Sharma a Test debut despite him having a moderate first-class record means India have to rethink who their spinner will be

News | Features Last 7 days