England v New Zealand, 2nd Investec Test, Headingley, 5th day May 28, 2013

England must end insularity to become great

If England had indicated a greater arrogance born of their total control of the match, there would have been no need for today's weather-led nervousness
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It was a tortured process but we got there in the end. A surprisingly generous weather god and two empathetic umpires saw the second Test match to a conclusion. From it came embarrassment for New Zealand and the satisfaction of a job extremely well done by England.

It was a close-run thing and might easily have not worked out so well. The splendid umpires, Marais Erasmus and Steve Davis, of no-nonsense South African and Australian hue respectively, had kept the players at it through murky light on day four and annoying drizzle on the final day. Only clearly unfair conditions took them from the field of play.

There was much to admire in England's performance, not just here but at Lord's too. The hiccup a couple of months back in New Zealand has been sorted. England are firing much as they should and thus will worry the heck out of Michael Clarke and the boys, who had watched in Dunedin and Auckland and thought there were lines to breach.

Outside of Alastair Cook and Graeme Swann, who both played some sublime cricket, it was fresh faces that caught the eye. Joe Root for his original talent. Johnny Bairstow for his intent and Steve Finn for being a no-frills old-fashioned fast bower when England needed just that. The balance in the attack is one of its strengths. That, and the way in which the bowlers sustain their attack on the stumps.

Afterwards, when asked about Jonathan Trott's indifference on Sunday afternoon - he scored 11 from 69 balls - Cook made reference to the "one percenters". His implication was not to dwell on minutia at a time of celebration but to recognise and learn. Fair call, let's do that for a moment.

The captain will now appreciate that there is more than one way to skin the cat. He might have enforced the follow-on on Sunday afternoon but, reasonably enough, he chose not to. He should have declared earlier than he did on Monday afternoon, to give himself the best chance of finishing the game before the predicted rains came. He would not wish to be a slave to the forecasters - Michael Fish put everyone off forever - but if they say it will rain in Yorkshire in May, they are probably right.

First the follow-on. Three good reasons persuaded Cook to bat again. Firstly, protection of his bowlers from burnout. Four man attacks and seven Tests, six of which are back-to-back, mean careful player management. Secondly, modernism - the international captains of the moment love to squeeze every drop of hope from the opposition's portfolio of response. Richie Benaud will not refer to a "declaration" in instances where the game is shut down by the batting side, rather he talks of "closure". And thirdly, ensuring further deterioration of the pitch by batting on it yourself while natural wear and tear takes its course and while the New Zealand bowlers run all over the bits that Swann aims at. There is a fourth reason and not such a good one. We will come to it later.

There is no doubt that Steve Waugh's decision to enforce the follow-on in Kolkata in 2001 - a decision that famously backfired - changed the Australian approach. Waugh liked the term "mental disintegration" and applied it to his tactics as much as to vulnerable members of the opposition. Back then, the game was in thrall of the Australians and most captains followed their lead. Michael Vaughan was not one. He made Ricky Ponting's fine team follow on at Trent Bridge in 2005, a brave move that worked out well in the end - though not without Shane Warne's Herculean effort to embarrass him.

There should have been no need for Andy Flower's animated exhortations to the groundstaff, desperate appeals and pleading looks to the sky

The key is flexibility: repeat, there is more than one way to skin the cat. Cook opted for safety first and then a crushing of the enemy spirit. When interviewed on Monday evening Trott called it the natural course of the match, which is as he knows it but not necessarily how it must be. The great sides have options and they create, even reinvent. Cook had bowlers who were fresh enough and who do not play another Test until July. It was a good time for him to see another place. Mind you, this is not an argument you would win with England's captain and fair enough. His team won the match by a mile and everyone had a good workout. The excellent quality of most of the cricket confirmed they are clear favourites for the Ashes. We can hardly quibble.

But "closure?" We can quibble with that. The perfect time might have been at lunch, with the lead at 429, though there was a case to allow Root and Bairstow such abandon. The time at which the two tyros - high, happy and unbeaten - had hurried the lead to 450 was the next time to pull out. The opportunity to outwit nature and New Zealand on the same day was spurned by this caution.

If this sounds pedantic, it is only to make a point. If England are to become the best team in the world and to play a brand of cricket that leaves some sort of legacy, they have to move out of insularity and into some rarified space. Witness the unambitious fields that were placed once the hardness had worn off the ball. The reason for setting a mammoth target is that it is not attainable and therefore aggressive plays are at your fingertips for the remainder of the match. Yet England had sweepers out, protecting the boundaries and, for a time to Ross Taylor, placed only one slip.

If England had shown greater urgency, had imposed themselves without apprehension, had indicated a greater arrogance born of their total control of the match, there would have been no need for today's weather-led nervousness. No need for Andy Flower's animated exhortations to the groundstaff; no need for desperate appeals to the umpires and pleading looks to the sky; no need to crank up the bowlers on a cold, damp day.

Maybe, in a reversal of Australia's Kolkata experience, the captain will be once bitten and now shy. Maybe the follow-on floodgates will open again, though more likely he will tell Trott to press on next time, for in truth, Monday's declaration procrastination arose out of Trott's tardy fare on Sunday afternoon. There was an excuse for Nick Compton's go-slow - 7 from 45 balls - but not for Trott, who was chained by self-absorption.

Finally then to Compton: the fourth possible reason for not enforcing the follow-on. It is a worthy policy of both selectors and team management to back the ones they choose. It will go against their grain to leave Compton out in Nottingham against Australia, so surely, here in Leeds in a match with only one winner, the opportunity to see if he might let go a bit, might break free of the tension that has engulfed him, was a temptation. It may be that his painful inability to do so has made their decision easier. Of course, a good batsman has not become a bad one in a fortnight. Somerset will have the benefit of his rehabilitation and which of us dare say it will not be complete in time for him to have another crack at the dream that must now haunt him.

Meanwhile, it's Root to open, Kevin Pietersen to return and Bairstow to stay at No. 6. Simple really. Go Joe.

Mark Nicholas, the former Hampshire captain, presents the cricket on Channel 9 in Australia and Channel 5 in the UK

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY BRUTALANALYST on | May 31, 2013, 0:10 GMT

    I still think Carberry who averages the same as Compton in FC 43/44 (without the privilege of playing half his cricket at Taunton) deserves another shot as he scores at a much faster rate Root for time being should stay at 6 where he's been having great success and KP should replace Bairstow.

  • POSTED BY on | May 30, 2013, 20:59 GMT

    Ok, Root to opn, Bairstow to stay and KP to come back in. Makes sense... if KP is fit. if not, what then?

  • POSTED BY Harmony111 on | May 30, 2013, 19:25 GMT

    @Shan156: Reg my original comment here, I do see your point and agree that perhaps that was what Mark actually meant but at cursory reading what I took it to be may be the more natural meaning. However, building on my prev point, such flexibilities of seeing which of the alternate interpretation holds well are not in general available to most of the Indian Commentators. If they say something that can be interpreted in two or more ways then the one with a higher sensation or nuisance potential is selected, sometime mischievously.

    Talking about Bell, I've often said that Bell is/could be Eng's best batsman. He is a combo of Cook and KP to me. He looks elegant, plays his shots, plays long knocks, is ok vs spin as well as fast bowling. Given all this, he ought to be higher in the list but as of now not many would pick Bell in their top 4-5 Eng batsmen list. Trott & Prior too would canter ahead. Btw, I often joke with my friends when Bell plays a good shot that "Bell Played".

  • POSTED BY mukesh_LOVE.cricket on | May 30, 2013, 19:14 GMT

    whats with all this talk of greatness of England team ?? SA is the best team 'at the moment' , and i really think that England will overtake them sooner rather than later but even then both these teams are far from being the greatest cricket teams ever. Australia at their peak simply had no competition (except may be playing India in India) , England just drew a series with NZ , lost to SA at home and were humiliated by Pakistan.. and most importantly as someone here pointed out aussies never had to argue on forums with twisted statistics to prove they were the best , everyone (including the England fans) knew it

  • POSTED BY Shan156 on | May 30, 2013, 18:57 GMT

    @neo-galactico, Bell's form was an enigma when he started, it remains one. One day he could dazzle you with his brilliant strokeplay (I believe Bell is technically England's best batsman) and the very next day he will be playing like a rabbit lost in the headlights. I am not talking about the normal form changes for a player over the years. As you rightly point out, Bell has remained highly inconsistent throughout his career. He has scored just one ton since his double hundred against India in the 2011 summer. I think it is more of a mental thing with him. Hopefully, Flower and the mgmt team would address it soon.

  • POSTED BY Harmony111 on | May 30, 2013, 13:40 GMT

    @Shan156:

    I acknowledge your point and perhaps Mark did mean it that way only although on the face of it it seemed to mean something diff but the sole point I had made in my poor unpublished comment was that generally Indian Commentators are not given this sort of margin. If something said by them can have two meanings then that that interpretation will be chosen that makes poorer sense and shows them in poorer light. Been hard to get this comment published. Phew.

  • POSTED BY Biggus on | May 30, 2013, 8:20 GMT

    I guess it comes down to how high you set the bar vis-a-vis greatness, and I suppose I fall into the 'hard marker' category, since I don't think either the current SA or Eng teams quite deserve that accolade, which isn't to say that both SA and Eng are not very fine cricket teams. Time will tell, sometimes 'greatness' is obvious to all and sundry at the time, and sometimes it doesn't become apparent until that time has passed and one can see it within the context of what has become history.

  • POSTED BY neo-galactico on | May 30, 2013, 7:16 GMT

    @Shan I think it's fair to say that there won't be a team that'll be as dominant as the Aussies of the late 90s and early 00s for a while. None of the current side have the aura, the intimidating presence Waugh's Australia had. In addition, that team had 4 or 5 legends of the game at the peak of their powers and several very good players to support them. The current English side is good and has only two truly great players but even they have question marks about their greatness. KP although capable of dismantling any attack (like he did to Steyn last year) is rather inconsistent and Cook is an accumulator who annoys teams but is hardly feared by them. SA have Steyn and Kallis but Kallis is almost at the end of his career and the balance he gives the team is an essential part of team success. SA won't be that great though for our spin cupboard is threadbare. Having played so much cricket and being so inconsistent why isn't Bell involvement in the side not being questioned?

  • POSTED BY Shan156 on | May 30, 2013, 5:39 GMT

    @neo-galactico, first of all, thanks for being such a sport and accepting your team's weaknesses then instead of hiding behind some inane excuses like some other team fans. Truly, SA fans are humble in victory and gracious in defeat. Respect.

    Fully agree with you about Warne. He was a magician and was often the difference between the two sides. Gilchrist played a few matchwinning knocks too. If SA could unearth a spinner (or two) of Swann's calibre, leave alone Warne's, then they will be on their way to joining the pantheon of the truly great teams.

  • POSTED BY neo-galactico on | May 29, 2013, 22:12 GMT

    @Shan you may be right about this England side being better than that SA side, this England side definitely has a better batting line-up but I think that SA bowling pips England's current one. SA would get trashed by an Australia side because of mainly two players Warne and Gilchrist. Gilchrist would blast a quick hundred against us when the ball is old and not moving that's when our lack of spinners hurt us. Furthermore, that SA was mentally fragile the players failed to think for themselves when backed into a corner, this current one is better in that regard but not as much as I'd like. Cronje's team was good though and was consistently no.2 and beating everyone until the Aussies come and give us a thrashing.

  • POSTED BY BRUTALANALYST on | May 31, 2013, 0:10 GMT

    I still think Carberry who averages the same as Compton in FC 43/44 (without the privilege of playing half his cricket at Taunton) deserves another shot as he scores at a much faster rate Root for time being should stay at 6 where he's been having great success and KP should replace Bairstow.

  • POSTED BY on | May 30, 2013, 20:59 GMT

    Ok, Root to opn, Bairstow to stay and KP to come back in. Makes sense... if KP is fit. if not, what then?

  • POSTED BY Harmony111 on | May 30, 2013, 19:25 GMT

    @Shan156: Reg my original comment here, I do see your point and agree that perhaps that was what Mark actually meant but at cursory reading what I took it to be may be the more natural meaning. However, building on my prev point, such flexibilities of seeing which of the alternate interpretation holds well are not in general available to most of the Indian Commentators. If they say something that can be interpreted in two or more ways then the one with a higher sensation or nuisance potential is selected, sometime mischievously.

    Talking about Bell, I've often said that Bell is/could be Eng's best batsman. He is a combo of Cook and KP to me. He looks elegant, plays his shots, plays long knocks, is ok vs spin as well as fast bowling. Given all this, he ought to be higher in the list but as of now not many would pick Bell in their top 4-5 Eng batsmen list. Trott & Prior too would canter ahead. Btw, I often joke with my friends when Bell plays a good shot that "Bell Played".

  • POSTED BY mukesh_LOVE.cricket on | May 30, 2013, 19:14 GMT

    whats with all this talk of greatness of England team ?? SA is the best team 'at the moment' , and i really think that England will overtake them sooner rather than later but even then both these teams are far from being the greatest cricket teams ever. Australia at their peak simply had no competition (except may be playing India in India) , England just drew a series with NZ , lost to SA at home and were humiliated by Pakistan.. and most importantly as someone here pointed out aussies never had to argue on forums with twisted statistics to prove they were the best , everyone (including the England fans) knew it

  • POSTED BY Shan156 on | May 30, 2013, 18:57 GMT

    @neo-galactico, Bell's form was an enigma when he started, it remains one. One day he could dazzle you with his brilliant strokeplay (I believe Bell is technically England's best batsman) and the very next day he will be playing like a rabbit lost in the headlights. I am not talking about the normal form changes for a player over the years. As you rightly point out, Bell has remained highly inconsistent throughout his career. He has scored just one ton since his double hundred against India in the 2011 summer. I think it is more of a mental thing with him. Hopefully, Flower and the mgmt team would address it soon.

  • POSTED BY Harmony111 on | May 30, 2013, 13:40 GMT

    @Shan156:

    I acknowledge your point and perhaps Mark did mean it that way only although on the face of it it seemed to mean something diff but the sole point I had made in my poor unpublished comment was that generally Indian Commentators are not given this sort of margin. If something said by them can have two meanings then that that interpretation will be chosen that makes poorer sense and shows them in poorer light. Been hard to get this comment published. Phew.

  • POSTED BY Biggus on | May 30, 2013, 8:20 GMT

    I guess it comes down to how high you set the bar vis-a-vis greatness, and I suppose I fall into the 'hard marker' category, since I don't think either the current SA or Eng teams quite deserve that accolade, which isn't to say that both SA and Eng are not very fine cricket teams. Time will tell, sometimes 'greatness' is obvious to all and sundry at the time, and sometimes it doesn't become apparent until that time has passed and one can see it within the context of what has become history.

  • POSTED BY neo-galactico on | May 30, 2013, 7:16 GMT

    @Shan I think it's fair to say that there won't be a team that'll be as dominant as the Aussies of the late 90s and early 00s for a while. None of the current side have the aura, the intimidating presence Waugh's Australia had. In addition, that team had 4 or 5 legends of the game at the peak of their powers and several very good players to support them. The current English side is good and has only two truly great players but even they have question marks about their greatness. KP although capable of dismantling any attack (like he did to Steyn last year) is rather inconsistent and Cook is an accumulator who annoys teams but is hardly feared by them. SA have Steyn and Kallis but Kallis is almost at the end of his career and the balance he gives the team is an essential part of team success. SA won't be that great though for our spin cupboard is threadbare. Having played so much cricket and being so inconsistent why isn't Bell involvement in the side not being questioned?

  • POSTED BY Shan156 on | May 30, 2013, 5:39 GMT

    @neo-galactico, first of all, thanks for being such a sport and accepting your team's weaknesses then instead of hiding behind some inane excuses like some other team fans. Truly, SA fans are humble in victory and gracious in defeat. Respect.

    Fully agree with you about Warne. He was a magician and was often the difference between the two sides. Gilchrist played a few matchwinning knocks too. If SA could unearth a spinner (or two) of Swann's calibre, leave alone Warne's, then they will be on their way to joining the pantheon of the truly great teams.

  • POSTED BY neo-galactico on | May 29, 2013, 22:12 GMT

    @Shan you may be right about this England side being better than that SA side, this England side definitely has a better batting line-up but I think that SA bowling pips England's current one. SA would get trashed by an Australia side because of mainly two players Warne and Gilchrist. Gilchrist would blast a quick hundred against us when the ball is old and not moving that's when our lack of spinners hurt us. Furthermore, that SA was mentally fragile the players failed to think for themselves when backed into a corner, this current one is better in that regard but not as much as I'd like. Cronje's team was good though and was consistently no.2 and beating everyone until the Aussies come and give us a thrashing.

  • POSTED BY Shan156 on | May 29, 2013, 21:29 GMT

    @neo-galactico, England now are better than SA were during Australia's reign. I remember SA's contests with Australia were billed as the fight for #1 and every single time, Aus. came out on top. Not only did they beat SA, but they humiliated them. This happened even when SA had the likes of Donald, Pollock, Cronje, Kirsten, Smith, Ntini, Kallis, and Steyn. The only team that gave Aus. a run for their money was India. Eng. suffered a series defeat against Pak. away last year, SA too suffered a series defeat at home against Eng then (not to mention away defeats against SL and India). However, it is indeed remarkable that they have not lost a series to anyone anywhere since 2006. Even the great Aussie team did not have such a long unbeaten run. But, I believe the Windies did (1980-1995?).

  • POSTED BY 5wombats on | May 29, 2013, 21:17 GMT

    @John Alexander Jaycock (May 29, 2013, 16:46 GMT) not seen you before - welcome to cricinfo. Sharp comments friend! Our SC friends don't like the use of the word "great" - it seems to irritate them for some reason. Like your battle-cruiser approach, with the Aussies already firing salvos and the Indians coming next year you will be a welcome addition to the fleet! :-0 Keep posting!

  • POSTED BY ThyrSaadam on | May 29, 2013, 20:35 GMT

    So England go around beating all the cricketing nations and loose only 2 series in the last 4 years, one of which happened to be to the # 2 side at the start of the contest. Purely from a statistics point of view, all they had to do was win against that side to retain their position as #1 which they failed.

    All this is far from the truth, rankinsg somewhat lie in the context of where exactly the countries lie in terms of lining up against each other. One would still think that England are ahead of SA when it comes to bowling, yes bowling, remove Philander and Steyn and then? Eng have Swann who is as good as Philander/Steyn so in reality one would think Eng should be #1, perhaps another series between Eng/SA would confirm the same

  • POSTED BY neo-galactico on | May 29, 2013, 20:18 GMT

    Every team has to win everywhere to earn the great tag. SA will have the chance to do that against Pak later this year, but with the Sri Lanka tests postponed for a while it won't be anytime soon that SA will get a chance to fix that stat. Ironically SL are the last team to beat SA away in 2006. SA hasn't beat India either but we haven't lost to them either. SA hasn't been consistent enough to be a great team but the last 2yrs they have been undoubtedly the best team in the world. A team can have great players without it being great but for a team to be great they'll have to have great players. The Poms have 2 maybe Cook and Pietersen and several good players in Anderson and Swann but to be great they'll have to beat SA because the Ashes isn't the benchmark anymore.

  • POSTED BY neo-galactico on | May 29, 2013, 20:06 GMT

    SA isn't great and I'm certain all (most) Saffas would agree. And we don't care whether they're great or not just as long they keep winning, but they do have several great players in Steyn and Kallis and some approaching greatness in AB and Amla and one a notch or two below greatness in Biff. Philander has to prove himself in alien (subcontinent) conditions to prove he can be great. Furthermore, our ODI has been below par with the constant experiments with the side. But since SA don't have a large (over the top) media contingent ppl outside SA don't know of the young talent coming through like the Eng do with Root but the spin cupboard is bare admittedly.

  • POSTED BY Sunshine_Pom on | May 29, 2013, 19:39 GMT

    Vishnu27 - So in your mind, consistency can only be achieved by never losing a series? I think anyone would agree that 2 series defeats out of the last 16 can be considered an excellent record. You take the Pakistan defeat out of context - it was played in the UAE, on an absolute dog of a track that certainly did England's swing bowlers no favours. I'm not making excuses for that defeat, but I think it would be extremely unlikely that Pakistan would beat England on our home turf if they were allowed to play here. There is no shame in losing at home to SA, and the New Zealand series admittedly didn't go to plan, but was redeemed with an extremely comfortable victory here. In 2009-11 England won 8 out of 9 series' - maybe you have erased that form from your memory.

  • POSTED BY Shan156 on | May 29, 2013, 19:27 GMT

    @Dr.Vindaloo, excellent point. To be considered a great side, SA should beat all teams home and away. I remember the Aussies were not considered on par with the great Windies side till they beat India in India (2004-2005) (And, Aus. were not just good at tests, they won 3 consecutive WCs, something SA are yet to win). At that point, they had defeated all sides home and away. SA are yet to beat Aus. in a test series at home since their readmission, they haven't won in SL in nearly 2 decades, they haven't defeated India in India since 1999-2000 (for the last 2, you need excellent spin bowlers, SA's spin cupboard is bare although some may claim that Robin Peterson and Imran Tahir are the equivalents of Bedi and Warne), and drew with Eng. and India at home. Pace bowling? Steyn is great, but Philander? not yet, not till he proves himself in the SC. True that they are the best test side currently but not a great side, not yet.

  • POSTED BY 64blip on | May 29, 2013, 18:59 GMT

    England? Cautious? Fear of failure? I wonder where that comes from? It couldn't be from a media and a vocal section of fans so critical they slag the team off even when they win, because they didn't win the way they thought they should, could it? In a way it's been helpful, because the press could have been banging on about what an amazingly talented batsman Joe Root is and is he destined to become the greatest English batsman ever? Regarding 'greatness': if this England team retain the Ashes over the next two series, then would they be the greatest English team ever? I think it would be fair to start from the 2009 Ashes winning team: Cook, KP, Bell, Prior, Anderson, Broad, Swann, Panesar, Onions, Trott all featured and Flintoff bowed out. Which would give you 2009 -14: four consecutive Ashes, a World 20/20 and a series win in India.

  • POSTED BY whatawicket on | May 29, 2013, 18:54 GMT

    Dr Vindaloo that is a fair comment.to be a good/great side you need to have good bowlers. the aussies were a great side because they had 2 great bowlers and backed up by other good bowlers. their batters mostly were very good. the windies had very good pace bowlers all bar 1 tall, some mean and nasty and all very quick. their batters some very good, some above average and 1 the great Vivian the best batter i have ever seen. the best of the 2 the windies as they did not need a spinner as they were never really needed. in modern times the name great can be an easy used word, but the windies as yet have never been surpassed. the saffas are not a great side but a good one, because of the above they have good pace bowlers

  • POSTED BY Sunshine_Pom on | May 29, 2013, 18:39 GMT

    Vushnu27 - If you are going purely on stats, would you argue that Murali was a better bowler than Warne? Murali took nearly 100 test wickets more than Warne, yet anyone with even a modicum of cricket knowledge would tell you that Warne was the greatest spin bowler of all time. My point being, stats don't always tell the full story. They may support your argument as regards Steyn, but there is more to cricket than averages.

  • POSTED BY on | May 29, 2013, 18:30 GMT

    It's a strange time. In the winter England were accused of arrogance born of complacency toward New Zealand, complacency that almost saw us defeated. Now they're being charged with a lack of arrogance when in control.

    This England team are not great. Far from it. On top form, they are fantastic. The win in India was as good as anything I've seen from England in my lifetime, 2005 included. Sadly the erratic nature of our side mirrors that of most international sides, SA excluded. A great side needs great players. There's a few in the batting ranks worldwide but the bowling is very very poor and it's no coincidence that SA rule the roost as their attack is ahead of everyone's bar the spin bowling slot. Finn and Broad are very much works in progress, Swann is a standout and, much as I rate Anderson, he's not a great bowler. Good performances against Australia home and away will be the real judge of how good he really is.

  • POSTED BY Vishnu27 on | May 29, 2013, 18:19 GMT

    John Alexander Jaycock: oh, so what did that 3 test whitewash series by Pakistan last year consitute? Consistency? Then a drawn away series in SL. Then a home series loss to SA. Not mentioning your recent drawn series in NZ: was that consistent? I think you need to look at the facts: performancewise England are up & down. India being the high point. Clearly you've erased the Pakistan series from the memory banks

  • POSTED BY Dr.Vindaloo on | May 29, 2013, 17:59 GMT

    South Africa are not a great side. Steve Waugh's Australians would beat them every time because they had variety in their attack (ie Warne). SA are clearly the best test side going around at the moment but please don't overdo the 'great' epithet.

  • POSTED BY on | May 29, 2013, 17:46 GMT

    Vushnu27 - In the last 4 years, England have only lost 2 test series', 1 of them against South Africa - that is hardly the record of a "highly inconsistent" side. Maybe it's you who needs to reassess your definition.

  • POSTED BY whatawicket on | May 29, 2013, 17:37 GMT

    i wish mark would stop been so bullish about England future position. for 12 month were the # 1 team but were outclassed by SA last year, before we get anyway close we would have the beat them by quite a margin in saffa land which given the type of wickets they prepare will suit us so that is not out of the question as the last 3 series there we have lost 1 won 1 and drawn 1. then also added to that beat the Aussies well, home and away which is quite possible. the trouble with mark is, he fires the bullets with his comments then we carry the flack with our replies to the posters with opposite opinions

  • POSTED BY Vishnu27 on | May 29, 2013, 17:30 GMT

    @John Alexander Jaycock: lay off it. England are not a great side; by your definition or any other. They are a good, but highly inconsistent side. They are the 2nd best side at the moment in world cricket: a fair way behind SA (a great side).

  • POSTED BY Vishnu27 on | May 29, 2013, 17:24 GMT

    Munkeymomo nice to hear some balanced comments from an English supporter. Respect mate. It will be a fierce contest no matter what. However, at home England will be extremely difficult to beat. Like most Australians, I was hoping Swann might've had a few post-op issues. That idea has been firmly put to bed. Roll on July 10

  • POSTED BY Selassie-I on | May 29, 2013, 17:17 GMT

    @Posted by Cricket_is_Unpopular on (May 29, 2013, 10:13 GMT)

    I think you need to check out how the ranking system works with the ICC, the number of matches is irrelevant in the final points. Effectivley the more games a team plays, the more 'accurate' their score would be.

  • POSTED BY on | May 29, 2013, 17:05 GMT

    jmcilhinney - To be a "great" team, you don't necessarily have to attain the level of dominance enjoyed by the West Indians of the 70's and 80's or the Australian side of the 90'ss and 2000's. Greatness is defined as "Of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above the normal or average." I would argue that this description applies to the current SA side, and probably the current English side as well - the difference between England and SA though is that England have a number of young players in their early to mid 20's who are coming straight into the team and performing at a very high level. SA have another 3 or 4 years at the top, but not enough young talent to immediately replace their stars after that. If you are English, The Ashes are the only show in town - although the Australians are a shadow of their former selves, they are still ranked 4th in the world; winning 4 or even 5 of the last 6 Ashes series would have to be considered the achievement of a truly outstanding team

  • POSTED BY Vishnu27 on | May 29, 2013, 17:00 GMT

    John Alexander Jaycock: James Anderson is well behind Dale Steyn. By a long way. Shall we bring up all the numbers? Steyn: 65 tests, 332 wickets, 22.65 ave, 41.1 SR. Anderson: 82 tests, 307 wickets, 30.14 ave, 58.5 SR. No comparison. More wickets (in quicker time), more cheaply, striking more often. Not to mention, he bowls 145km+ (Anderson on a good day is lucky to hit 135km). Anderson is a quality swinger of the ball. However, Steyn is without doubt the world's best fast bowler & well ahead of James Anderson (no matter how you look at it).

  • POSTED BY Munkeymomo on | May 29, 2013, 16:56 GMT

    @Lyndon McPaul: I agree with you to a point (although Swann is definitely better than Herath, and I rate Anderson as 2nd best quick in the world right now), that once again, certain sections of the English support are going a bit overboard with the 'great' label. They are by no means a great side, they are a good side, probably the second best side in the world right now, but not great. I don't think they have the capability to be great either, the batting is inconsistent, the bowlers can run out of ideas on flat tracks and the fielding can disappear seemingly at random. That being said, it is an enjoyable time to be an England fan, they win more than they lose and, at times, play some attractive cricket. I'm expecting a tough fight from the Aussies, they always turn up for this series, regardless of form. Both sides batting has weaknesses, it'll be interesting to see who exploits them most.

  • POSTED BY on | May 29, 2013, 16:40 GMT

    LourensGrobbelaar - Although Steyn is currently the best in the world, I certainly wouldn't agree that he is a long way ahead of Anderson - when Jimmy is swinging the ball both ways, he is as good as anyone, anywhere.

  • POSTED BY Selassie-I on | May 29, 2013, 14:52 GMT

    @Posted by venkatesh018 on (May 29, 2013, 5:15 GMT) It depends what you class as the better captain?

    Did McCullum lead from the front when batting, or just score 30 runs in the series? Compared with Cook's 200. There is a lot more to captaincy than just sticking a load of slips and gullies in all the time.

    I like the way that McCullum constantly attacked, but when Engalnd were extending the lead and he didn't have that luxury, that his players have afforded him in almost every one of the last 4 games, he didn't look anywhere near as 'astute' did he?

  • POSTED BY LourensGrobbelaar on | May 29, 2013, 14:18 GMT

    @john Alexander Jaycock: The last time I checked the ratings Dale Steyn was not even arguably the best fast bowler, but definitely the best fast bowler in the world. Even without rankings most cricket fans over the whole world know that.

  • POSTED BY Batmanian on | May 29, 2013, 14:05 GMT

    Australia are really going to have to play out of their skin just to find some windows of opportunities, and then take them. Definitely England's Ashes to lose. With Root settling in, whatever Australia has done in the way of developing bats is looking increasingly tragic. I'm in two minds about whether Khawaja should get No. 6, or Smith. Everyone knows there is a test player somewhere in Khawaja... if he gets his chance, he had better take it this time. Watson should absolutely open. Cowan is the most obviously non-Test standard player; his only virtue is helping Australia lose more slowly - the selectors may keep him over Rogers, silly as that sounds. Warner and Hughes haven't looked so crash hot lately, either, but they get reprieves.

  • POSTED BY jmcilhinney on | May 29, 2013, 14:00 GMT

    @John Alexander Jaycock on (May 29, 2013, 12:13 GMT), it depends very much what you mean by "great". SA are very definitely the best team going at the moment and I wouldn't even term them "great" at this point the way WI and Australia teams of the last few decades. They're an excellent team at the moment but they haven't produced the sustained success yet that I would consider a prerequisite for greatness. England are a good team right now but they have been terribly inconsistent for a while. This was a good win but NZ are ranked #8 so it hardly takes a great team to beat them. Also, while the Ashes is obviously the most important cricket trophy to the vast majority of England and Australia fans, it's not the only show in town and, if Australia are as bad as you say, beating them hardly proves greatness either.

  • POSTED BY on | May 29, 2013, 13:13 GMT

    @LyndonMcPaul - England have 4 batsmen in the Top 15 in the world (tied with South Africa), and 4 bowlers in the Top 15 (more than any other side) - So how exactly am I "twisting the stats"or "denying the rankings"? Do you really think that winning a 3rd straight Ashes series wouldn't put this England side into the "great" category? You just come across as a sore Aussie (which I'm assuming you are judging by your slow-witted comments) who can't face the fact that the Old Enemy are a dominant force in the game at present, and the Aussies are little more than a laughing stock. Given their performances over the last 2/3 years Cook and Anderson should have a grandiose view of themselves; this will only be enhanced by the certain humiliation of Australia this summer. Try and show a little class, and appreciate a truly brilliant cricket side when you see one.

  • POSTED BY on | May 29, 2013, 12:12 GMT

    The statistical approach to captaincy and tactics that Andy Flower uses is as dull in cricket as in other situations it is applied. Bean counting covers a wide range of match situations not the ones that apply at that moment and more flexibility and intelligence is needed in a game like cricket which has so many variables. Statistics is a tedious science and causes tedious cricket which will make fans decide to stay at home to watch it on the box.

  • POSTED BY on | May 29, 2013, 11:53 GMT

    If Steven Finn is a 'fast bower', does that explain why he keeps knocking the stumps over? With his head, perhaps?

  • POSTED BY Captainman on | May 29, 2013, 11:13 GMT

    England are definitely not a number 2 side, they are only in that position because they play for more matches than anybody else check it out yourself. Ranking tables are unjustified and don't tell the whole story.

  • POSTED BY Johnners50m on | May 29, 2013, 11:04 GMT

    I think you'll find that "the fourth possible reason" is the main one for England's tactics. As a whole they haven't batted well over the last five matches, so I think they fancied some pre-Ashes "practice". The Kiwis have a pretty decent seam attack, as do the Aussies, so I reckon the England camp were looking for a workout for their top order (not just Compton).

  • POSTED BY on | May 29, 2013, 10:55 GMT

    @Johnalexanderjaycoc..."When you have the best opening batsmen in the world, arguably the best fast bowler, and the best spinner, you are already well on your way to greatness". Those comments betray a misty Eyed rose tinted view of English cricket which is at odds with reality.Greatness in cricketing terms is defined by the great West Indian and Australian teams captained by Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh. None of those teams supporters had to twist the stats and deny the rankings to suggest their main fast bowler was 'arguably the best' even though he was a mere 6th in the rankings. None of those teams would of gone winless against a NZ team 3 times in a row or have their bowlers mercilessly hammered by Amla and Co.On top of that Saeed Ajmal and Herath are 'arguably better than Swan. I do hope though that Cook, Anderson and Co share that grandiose view of themselves but realistically that is only wishful thinking on my part. NOT EVEN CLOSE ENGLAND!!

  • POSTED BY on | May 29, 2013, 9:53 GMT

    When you have the best opening batsmen in the world, arguably the best fast bowler, and the best spinner, you are already well on your way to greatness. It is quite annoying (and typically English) that even in the midst of our greatest team for a generation, we still find ways to demean them. Of course Cook and Flower had no knowledge of the weather to come, and maybe they did bat for longer than was necessary - but the fact that it didn't matter shows how merciless and dominate this English team is once it gets on top. England already are a world class team, and they must surely be considered great if (as is expected) they secure their 3rd Ashes victory in a row in the summer.

  • POSTED BY on | May 29, 2013, 9:44 GMT

    New Zealand shouldn't feel too bad, at least they beat Australia at home..

  • POSTED BY RednWhiteArmy on | May 29, 2013, 7:49 GMT

    I cant wait for the 5-0 ashes drubbing to begin. Then we will hear all the usual aussie whingeing. I think everyone knows the aussies by now, it'll be the ball or the umpires or the weather or the pitches or the coin toss or global warming or whatever they find to whinge about this time.

  • POSTED BY jmcilhinney on | May 29, 2013, 6:36 GMT

    @thatmanmonkz on (May 29, 2013, 3:35 GMT), England didn't allow for the possibility that the last day would be rained out when there was a good chance of that happening so, given that fact, the result was in large part luck and therefore not completely validated. With both England and NZ doing absolutely nothing differently, the game could have ended in a draw due to weather with England having spent the time at the crease to score almost 250 run more than they needed. The fact that you get the result you desire is not in itself proof that you achieved it the best or most correct way.

  • POSTED BY Shan156 on | May 29, 2013, 6:35 GMT

    @Harmony111, I believe MN was talking about fans in general when he mentions 'we'. Although the 5th day affair was a tortured process because of the rain delays, a result was achieved at the end. I understood it the same way as you did when I read that first but then realized that there could be another interpretation. It would have applied had NZ won too. The second sentence supports this interpretation.

  • POSTED BY on | May 29, 2013, 6:30 GMT

    Excellent analysis by Mr Nicholas. Anyone in the comments who thinks England's policy was 'vindicated' by the result needs to prove that Cook/Flower had precise knowledge of how much rain there was going to be. England did not deserve to win and got lucky with the weather. And guys, RandyOZ is just a wind-up merchant. Don't reply to him, it only encourages him.

  • POSTED BY venkatesh018 on | May 29, 2013, 6:15 GMT

    The truth is McCullum is the better captain with a much inferior side(atleast in batting).

  • POSTED BY on | May 29, 2013, 5:39 GMT

    @leehallam....Everything you say is true Lee although I would like to add that were Australia's attack to stay fit and they would combine to become Australia's best of recent times (post Warne,McGrath). Because of Injuries, our best bowlers have been unable to play together and it is a mouthwatering prospect for all Aussie fans to have our best attack fit and ready from the outset. Their are signs with Australia's spearhead (Pattinson) that he is starting to develop some durability after an injury free gruelling tour of India. You combine Pattinson and Harris/Bird together and you have some explosive potential whilst Siddle has proven performances on flat tracks. I'd almost completely agree with you in regards to our batting though I suspect that their will be more quality to be revealed from the like of Warner, Hughes, Khawaja and even if you disagree a team should be very wary of bowling poorly to attacking batsmen the like's Warner and Hughes.

  • POSTED BY on | May 29, 2013, 5:02 GMT

    England will never be great until they have a spearhead the likes of Steyn or McGrath who would be capable of taking a bag of wickets in any conditions. Say what you like about this attack and how they performed against a poor batting side but to honestly face facts, the best you can say about them is that each of them are capable of some decent spells when the conditions suit them (albeit against an inferior batting line up in May). Yes they have the batting credentials and the champion spinner but you wouldnt back them to consistently sustain pressure against the worlds best batsmen. The Australians have the makings of a great attack that can be hostile and relentless in all conditions and a spinner who though not brilliant is able to capitalize on the good work of the pacers. Australia's batting though is a work in progress and that fundamental weakness is greater than the bowling inadequacies of England which makes England favourites for the Ashes but only the England leg IMO.

  • POSTED BY jmcilhinney on | May 29, 2013, 4:47 GMT

    The word "vindicated" has been used quite a bit with regards to this match. The fact that Flower sees England's tactics as having been vindicated is exactly why a few people said that they hoped that the rain did force a draw: so that England might change their approach next time such a situation arises. If I choose to run through traffic across a busy freeway and I make it to the other side unscathed, is my choice vindicated? England won by 247 runs so doesn't that vindicate those who said that England should have declared earlier? If the England brains trust considered the weather and decided that what they did was their best chance of winning then that's one thing but it sounds like they ignored the weather forecast and that's just foolhardy. If Flower was so confident that England had the time bat again, bat slowly and bat long and still bowl NZ out then why was he out harrying the groundsman? He says that it was regardless of the state of the game. Yeah right.

  • POSTED BY thatmanmonkz on | May 29, 2013, 4:35 GMT

    As ever, wonderfully erudite analysis from Mr.Nicholas. However, I disagree to an extent. England's tactics were completely validated by the performance, and, more importantly, and ultimately, the result. Other than that, a great and informed read, which, no doubt, validated the pre-designated column inches.....

  • POSTED BY jmcilhinney on | May 29, 2013, 4:20 GMT

    @RandyUK on (May 28, 2013, 19:55 GMT), spot on again. England are as far below Australia as, by your proclamation, England were saved from defeat by the washout of day 1. Always sad when those with such clearly limited knowledge of the game insist on continually broadcasting as much to the world. I feel embarrassed for you, you poor thing.

  • POSTED BY Dubious on | May 29, 2013, 3:24 GMT

    (Continued from last comment) only 3 runs more than Anderson and 5 runs more than Swann in his young career, indicates that he's a little more than an ordinary bowler (but you're right, Shane Warne he is not).

    And as you said, there are talented young seamers, but you failed to recognise Pete Siddle. Who has a better bowling average than Anderson and Broad, was the 5th highest wicket taker last year, from only 8 matches, got 41 wickets at an average of 23.10 (Broad took 40 from 11, Anderson took 44 from 13 [at an average of 29.16! Easily the highest in the top 10!], Philander got 43 from 9 matches).

    So there you go, a quality bowler without exception (statistically superior to even Anderson).

    So no, I don't think England should be dissapointed to lose to them at all.

  • POSTED BY Dubious on | May 29, 2013, 3:12 GMT

    Woah, LeeHallam, as far as genuine quality goes for batting, the Australian team contains an opener that has both scored the third quickest century of all time and has carried his bat on a very tricky wicket, another opener that 19,514 first class runs at an average of 50.16, a number 3 that has 21 first class centuries and 3 test centuries at age 24, an allrounder that averages 35 with the bat and 30 with the ball (same bowling average as Broad and Anderson [though, I'm not that naive to believe better than them, especially Anderson and ten runs better with the bat than Broad]), a middle order batsman that is arguably the best in the world (Hashim Amla and maybe Cook would be the biggest challengers) and Matthew Wade has put together a couple of excellent counterattacking centuries in innings where no other batsman have scored centuries to win the match.

    As far as a spinner goes, sure, Lyon isn't as good as Swann but with 3 five-fors, 3 4-fors, 76 wickets at 33.18 (only 3 runs more

  • POSTED BY Shan156 on | May 29, 2013, 2:34 GMT

    @RandyOZ, yes, we saw how ruthless the Aussies were in the series against India. The batsmen were ruthless in returning quickly to the dressing room and the bowlers were ruthless in bowling half volleys and long hops. Oh, and the management were ruthless in enforcing the players did their daily homeworks. We saw how ruthless the players were with their fitness - Bird flying (no pun intended) back to Australia despite not bowling a single ball in anger. I hope your 2nd string and 3rd string pace attacks are ready to fly anytime to Eng. Looking how fragile these bowlers are, they may all play a part in the series.

  • POSTED BY Bring_back_Wright on | May 29, 2013, 0:51 GMT

    Good article Mark, but I think even you are being overly conservative in regards as to when they should have declared.

    Had England come out with intent to score on day 3 they could have had a 400+ target by the end of the day. A really aggressive approach (e.g., if Michael Clarke was in that situation) and it would even have been a possibility to have a few overs at NZ that night.

    Realistically that is not an option for this England team, but I think there was a safe middle ground where England should have had a sufficient lead well before lunch, which likely would have lead to a result on day 4, saving any need for weather related luck.

    Still, some very good individual performances.

  • POSTED BY on | May 28, 2013, 23:49 GMT

    RandyOz, I think you`re a bit deluded.

    Just look to India in the winter. England won 2-1 and just a few weeks later Australia lost 4- 0 easily. If these English bowlers stay fit Australia will struggle to get past 300 in any innings, (unless Clarke goes big of course).

  • POSTED BY 5wombats on | May 28, 2013, 23:43 GMT

    I agree with a lot of what Nicholas says here. His analysis is broadly correct. The things he could have said were to do with fear of failure, lack of ambition and such like. Of the many things I didn't like about Englands approach to the last half of this match - one of the biggest was the lack of respect. Clearly the England management had decided on; "with The Ashes around the corner we'll just have our batsmen go out and have a net against these Kiwi's". I think that's awful. Play flat out or don't bother. IF the rain had come down and washed out the game the tactical failure would most definitely have been Flowers and the egg on his face would have taken months wash off. That's why he was prowling the groundstaff. England in NZ and largely at Lords played as if they were afraid of failure. That isn't good enough either. The England management is not infallible and it does need to break out of this unnecessary insularity. The sooner the better.

  • POSTED BY on | May 28, 2013, 23:06 GMT

    Will Compton and Ian Bell cut the mustard for The Ashes? English Bowling looks awesome, batting is vulnerable. I doubt that Australia has a better pace attack than the the Kiwis. Who is back up for Compton?

  • POSTED BY DSTURB3D on | May 28, 2013, 23:06 GMT

    Thirdly, as for as being below the Aussies - remind of the scorecard in the last ashes series contended in Australia's own backyard and also the scorecard in the Aus v Ind series that just occurred. Now, as far as batting and bowling line-ups go, Australia have only one brilliant batsmen, that being M. Clarke. They have a couple of "decent" batsmen at best. They do have some good quality bowling that is that more than likely will be strong point of Australia's quest to regain the Ashes. England however have a brilliant batsman in A. Cook and K. Pieterson. A good batsman in J. Trott and some promising up and comers. I will admit that, even with this being said, with the exception of Cook and Pieterson, their batting can be their let down. Their bowling however is where these 2 teams stand apart. By that I mean while Aus does have some good bowlers, they lack a top quality world class quick like Anderson and also lack a world class spin bowler like Swann.

  • POSTED BY DSTURB3D on | May 28, 2013, 22:59 GMT

    RandyOZ - First, The way I have come to understand it is that for a team to be whitewashed, they need to lose every game they play in a series, therefore, South Africa did not whitewash them as one of the tests was drawn. Hopefully im right about that but that's the way it was explained to me. Second, yes they got whitewashed by Pakistan and they addressed their inability to play spin on spinning pitches which was evident when they played India in India winning 2-1. No some people may say that that India side was nowhere near their best but I respond with "If that is true then what happened with the Aussies?" They got whitewashed 4-0 by a team that everyone else said was nowhere near their best. Go figure.

  • POSTED BY cloudmess on | May 28, 2013, 22:58 GMT

    England probably should have declared a little earlier on Sunday, but the admirable Nicholas probably presumes a little in wanting England to do more. New Zealand were one wicket away from winning the series in March, and were not a team to be taken lightly. England had to get the basics right first, before worrying about demonstrating total psychological dominance. The Aussies of 10 years ago could do it because they had such a freakishly good side, but they still had to score runs and take wickets first and foremost. And given that it is now 2013 and not 2003, can someone please explain to RandyOz the difference between a) reality (ie last 2 Ashes: England 5 Australia 2; last winter, England 2 India 1, Australia 0 India 4), and b) statements such as England "are below the Aussies".

  • POSTED BY PatrickJM on | May 28, 2013, 22:41 GMT

    The fact Cook had one slip to Ross Taylor with nigh on 400 to get was cringeworthy in the context of the game. England have a fine team, and more than a few match-winners. However, their innate conservatism as Mark Nicholas suggests means that they will only ever be good and not great, an esteem which the players at their disposal (and indeed the structure in English cricket) can I think achieve. If unloosed from the "make sure we don't lose" mentality. Sure, the talent at their disposal means that they will more often than not win out in the end - but to quote Danny Blanchflower in another context "The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It's nothing of the kind. The game is about glory. It is about doing things in style, with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom."

  • POSTED BY Rhygwyn on | May 28, 2013, 22:24 GMT

    As a neutral it is obvious England are the favourites against Australia but as always if the result was guaranteed there would be no point in playing the game. Oz has a number of decent bowlers but are overly reliant on one or two batsmen. If it hadn't been for Clarke who had the best run of form he is ever likely to have they could've lost 0-3 to SA at home. It should be an interesting Ashes.

  • POSTED BY Front-Foot-Lunge on | May 28, 2013, 22:07 GMT

    Given that England's players are far superior to Australia's, it's no surprise that Captain Cook wanted his usual meticulous preparation ahead of this year to get both bowlers and batsmen properly ready for the year ahead. For those that watch cricket on a regular basis, England's endless Ashes thrashing and ODI whitewashes of Australia are such a regular occurrences that we've all just got used to it. Remember their preparation before the last Ashes in Australia? Ask those down under how that turned out for England.. :) Great captaincy from Cook, awesome display by England. Where are the critics now?

  • POSTED BY Harmony111 on | May 28, 2013, 22:06 GMT

    ---"It was a tortured process but we got there in the end."---

    Often Indian commentators are accused of being biased. Sunny & Shastri are singled out most often as they are the most visible faces & similar (or worse) things are said for Harsha Bhogle & co. Recently, L Siva was talked about contemptuously by several persons here. Someone suggested that L Siva was a poor commentator cos he had a squeaky voice :-p. Others said that he tended to speak highly of CSK and still others said even worse things.

    Has any of these ever ever ever combined their self and their national team and spoken in 1st person? I can not recall if it ever happened. Ravi Shastri does talk about India's chances and tends to play them up but he talks of India vs Team X and not as I/Us vs Them. Same for Sunny & Harsha.

    In gen, Indian Commentators tend to be very neutral unlike Taylor, Warne, Healy & some tend to be extra-righteous (Ugra).

    Sadly, today Nicholas joined the latter (if he wasn't already with them).

  • POSTED BY on | May 28, 2013, 22:04 GMT

    RandyOZ on (May 28, 2013, 19:55 GMT) - England are also below the Aussies? Not in any current ICC rankings - not in Tests, not in ODI's, not even in Twenty20.

  • POSTED BY LeeHallam on | May 28, 2013, 22:03 GMT

    Oh come on RandyOZ, England are below the Aussies? Australia have some talented young seamers, though they struggle to stay fit two games together. They have an ordinary spinner, their keeper is in the side so he can be vice captain. They do have the best batsman in either side, the problem is that they do not have anyone else of genuine quality. They will fight hard, they always do, but we saw that with New Zealand too, on it's own it's not enough. England would be very disappointed to lose to them.

  • POSTED BY 2.14istherunrate on | May 28, 2013, 21:55 GMT

    There really was no need of a 463 run cushion. The writer has it spot on. There really was no need to set such a huge target. It is a bit schoolboyish to be honest. Wins are more important by far than margins. As for the follow on,the exception is not the rule.To continue to be influenced by that Kolkatha game is to miss the point,just as occasionally a side will make 418 to win a game. Well played if so,because usually they will not because it is such a distance to get there. Beefy gave out some stats about following and the total of sides winning after following would so lean in the other direction that one migh say it was a one in a hundred chance, while I have to wonder how often do players bat like Astle at Ch'church in'02. That innings was a miracle. I am 100% in favour of all out attack, minimum use of those ghastly sweepers,maximum use of close fields or appropriate ones,rather. Anyway we did win and spin did it which was beautiful.

  • POSTED BY landl47 on | May 28, 2013, 21:46 GMT

    I'm afraid I think Nick Compton was closer to his future test form in this game than he was in NZ. Compton is basically a journeyman who had a great season in 2012. Australia has been struggling with this issue- picking Shaun Marsh, Cowan and Quiney on the back of good domestic seasons rather than their career as a whole. They aren't the stand-out players that test players have to be to succeed regularly. Aus has found this out and England is finding the same thing with Compton- good start, but now reverting back to his true capability. Sad, but there it is.

  • POSTED BY Herbet on | May 28, 2013, 20:56 GMT

    I agree in general. England have, despite what they have said, treated this game as a warm up series I think. I think the decision to bat again was purely to rest the bowlers, to have a look at Compton again and to get Cook flowing. Flower had probably planned it so since sometime in Autumn. They have got away with it by and large, with plenty to spare, and have even given the journo's something to write. Everyone wins, except New Zealand of course!

  • POSTED BY RandyOZ on | May 28, 2013, 20:55 GMT

    The problem is england don't have the players to be as ruthless as the Aussies. Also I don't understand how Nicolas is talking about them being great after they got whitewashed by both South Africa and Pakistan, and are also below the Aussies.

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  • POSTED BY RandyOZ on | May 28, 2013, 20:55 GMT

    The problem is england don't have the players to be as ruthless as the Aussies. Also I don't understand how Nicolas is talking about them being great after they got whitewashed by both South Africa and Pakistan, and are also below the Aussies.

  • POSTED BY Herbet on | May 28, 2013, 20:56 GMT

    I agree in general. England have, despite what they have said, treated this game as a warm up series I think. I think the decision to bat again was purely to rest the bowlers, to have a look at Compton again and to get Cook flowing. Flower had probably planned it so since sometime in Autumn. They have got away with it by and large, with plenty to spare, and have even given the journo's something to write. Everyone wins, except New Zealand of course!

  • POSTED BY landl47 on | May 28, 2013, 21:46 GMT

    I'm afraid I think Nick Compton was closer to his future test form in this game than he was in NZ. Compton is basically a journeyman who had a great season in 2012. Australia has been struggling with this issue- picking Shaun Marsh, Cowan and Quiney on the back of good domestic seasons rather than their career as a whole. They aren't the stand-out players that test players have to be to succeed regularly. Aus has found this out and England is finding the same thing with Compton- good start, but now reverting back to his true capability. Sad, but there it is.

  • POSTED BY 2.14istherunrate on | May 28, 2013, 21:55 GMT

    There really was no need of a 463 run cushion. The writer has it spot on. There really was no need to set such a huge target. It is a bit schoolboyish to be honest. Wins are more important by far than margins. As for the follow on,the exception is not the rule.To continue to be influenced by that Kolkatha game is to miss the point,just as occasionally a side will make 418 to win a game. Well played if so,because usually they will not because it is such a distance to get there. Beefy gave out some stats about following and the total of sides winning after following would so lean in the other direction that one migh say it was a one in a hundred chance, while I have to wonder how often do players bat like Astle at Ch'church in'02. That innings was a miracle. I am 100% in favour of all out attack, minimum use of those ghastly sweepers,maximum use of close fields or appropriate ones,rather. Anyway we did win and spin did it which was beautiful.

  • POSTED BY LeeHallam on | May 28, 2013, 22:03 GMT

    Oh come on RandyOZ, England are below the Aussies? Australia have some talented young seamers, though they struggle to stay fit two games together. They have an ordinary spinner, their keeper is in the side so he can be vice captain. They do have the best batsman in either side, the problem is that they do not have anyone else of genuine quality. They will fight hard, they always do, but we saw that with New Zealand too, on it's own it's not enough. England would be very disappointed to lose to them.

  • POSTED BY on | May 28, 2013, 22:04 GMT

    RandyOZ on (May 28, 2013, 19:55 GMT) - England are also below the Aussies? Not in any current ICC rankings - not in Tests, not in ODI's, not even in Twenty20.

  • POSTED BY Harmony111 on | May 28, 2013, 22:06 GMT

    ---"It was a tortured process but we got there in the end."---

    Often Indian commentators are accused of being biased. Sunny & Shastri are singled out most often as they are the most visible faces & similar (or worse) things are said for Harsha Bhogle & co. Recently, L Siva was talked about contemptuously by several persons here. Someone suggested that L Siva was a poor commentator cos he had a squeaky voice :-p. Others said that he tended to speak highly of CSK and still others said even worse things.

    Has any of these ever ever ever combined their self and their national team and spoken in 1st person? I can not recall if it ever happened. Ravi Shastri does talk about India's chances and tends to play them up but he talks of India vs Team X and not as I/Us vs Them. Same for Sunny & Harsha.

    In gen, Indian Commentators tend to be very neutral unlike Taylor, Warne, Healy & some tend to be extra-righteous (Ugra).

    Sadly, today Nicholas joined the latter (if he wasn't already with them).

  • POSTED BY Front-Foot-Lunge on | May 28, 2013, 22:07 GMT

    Given that England's players are far superior to Australia's, it's no surprise that Captain Cook wanted his usual meticulous preparation ahead of this year to get both bowlers and batsmen properly ready for the year ahead. For those that watch cricket on a regular basis, England's endless Ashes thrashing and ODI whitewashes of Australia are such a regular occurrences that we've all just got used to it. Remember their preparation before the last Ashes in Australia? Ask those down under how that turned out for England.. :) Great captaincy from Cook, awesome display by England. Where are the critics now?

  • POSTED BY Rhygwyn on | May 28, 2013, 22:24 GMT

    As a neutral it is obvious England are the favourites against Australia but as always if the result was guaranteed there would be no point in playing the game. Oz has a number of decent bowlers but are overly reliant on one or two batsmen. If it hadn't been for Clarke who had the best run of form he is ever likely to have they could've lost 0-3 to SA at home. It should be an interesting Ashes.

  • POSTED BY PatrickJM on | May 28, 2013, 22:41 GMT

    The fact Cook had one slip to Ross Taylor with nigh on 400 to get was cringeworthy in the context of the game. England have a fine team, and more than a few match-winners. However, their innate conservatism as Mark Nicholas suggests means that they will only ever be good and not great, an esteem which the players at their disposal (and indeed the structure in English cricket) can I think achieve. If unloosed from the "make sure we don't lose" mentality. Sure, the talent at their disposal means that they will more often than not win out in the end - but to quote Danny Blanchflower in another context "The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It's nothing of the kind. The game is about glory. It is about doing things in style, with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom."