Australia v England, 4th Test, Melbourne, 4th day December 29, 2013

Where it all didn't go wrong for Australia

So much has clicked for Michael Clarke and his players, even on the occasions when things briefly looked like they might go right for England instead
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In another timeline, Alastair Cook just pushed a single to get Jonathan Trott on strike. Then Trott tickled a leg-side ball from Jon Holland around the corner, taking another one, as England won the series 3-1. Michael Clarke looks lost. Shane Watson is not there.

On this timeline, Watson burped a ball to deep square from Monty Panesar to move Australia ever closer to 5-0. Watson and Clarke embrace like brothers. Cook looks lost. Trott is not there.

It might seem completely inconceivable right now that Australia could have ever lost this series but, considering how much has gone right for them this series, it is not exactly science fiction.

Things have consistently not gone wrong for Australia.

For instance, they might not have picked Mitchell Johnson. Despite good white-ball form, and even with Kevin Pietersen and Trott flinching in the UK, Johnson might not have played had Mitchell Starc or James Pattinson been fit. Johnson was suspended on the Test tour of India earlier in the year, didn't fit Australia's plan of pressure through subtle movement. His batting is handy, but Australia's tail did okay without him. So, had there been other options, or if Australia decided to move on, Johnson wouldn't have played at the Gabba.

Without Johnson, Australia would not be 4-0.

Brad Haddin also could have been dropped. While he kept well in the UK, he also averaged 22. He is 36, it was his first real series back in the team, and he struggled to make an impact. The major reason he was brought back was to calm relations in the team but Darren Lehmann handled that quite well himself. Australia could have looked at it and decided that, with Wade averaging roughly the same and a better conversion rate for hundreds, it was time to bring him back in and let him take more of a leadership role.

Without Haddin, Australia would not be 4-0.

David Warner has made a lot of runs in second-innings knocks with little pressure. Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris have been good but have not really been tested in fifth and sixth spells. Nathan Lyon has been serviceable, but that's easier to do with Johnson decapitating people at the other end. Watson has only passed 22 once in the first innings. George Bailey has barely played a proper Test innings yet and Chris Rogers would have been in far more pressure coming into this Test had it not been for the scoreline.

And none of that even takes into account the possibility of an injury befalling Harris, or Watson, or even Clarke.

Instead Trott went home. Graeme Swann retired. Matt Prior was dropped. And Cook looks under pressure.

James Anderson looks tired and beaten. Stuart Broad hasn't bowled another great spell since the Gabba. Ian Bell has lost the magic he had in the home Ashes. Pietersen can't seem to please anyone. Michael Carberry hasn't gone on to make any real impact on the series despite looking okay most of the time. Joe Root's constant travels around the batting order and his propensity to waft have had him in trouble. Tim Bresnan is not the same bowler he was three years ago.

And whether real or imagined, it seemed like every single decision that Alastair Cook made in this Test went against him. Whereas Michael Clarke probably made a mistake at the toss, ended up with a 51-run deficit, and still won by eight wickets.

In another timeline Prior takes the first catch, Cook takes the second and England win comfortably. But that never ever looked possible today. Just like all series, if something could go right for England, they made a mistake to ensure it didn't.

And Australia have ridden the many gift horses into the sunset.

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Digimont on December 31, 2013, 5:54 GMT

    Guess what? We only live in this timeline. Get used to it.

    Or if you prefer, in another timeline, England decided 30 years ago to only pick players born in that country. The touring party brought to Australia was unrecognisable when compared to this timeline. Nobody cared: after all, England had not won anything for 30 years.

  • The_Wog on December 31, 2013, 3:50 GMT

    And they could have used Duke balls that make even pedestrian seamers move it around like Wasim and Waqar. Oh wait, they only do that in ENG.

  • on December 31, 2013, 1:45 GMT

    The only part I would strongly disagree with is England winning easily if they had held their catches early on day 4. That wicket had flattened out and quickened appreciably. (A process that was near complete the day before and thus makes Englands implosion even worse). 231 was nowhere near enough, needed to be well over 300, nearer 4, even if 275 / 290 might have looked enough at lunch on day 3. Further the Warner drop cost them virtually no runs.

  • RJHB on December 31, 2013, 0:55 GMT

    Simplistic. And very dangerous to say if so and so hadn't been picked this would not have happened. No one knows what Pattinson or Starc or Bird could've done, or the kid for that matter! What if Bailey hadn't played? Instead Maddinson made his debut and made immediate impact with multiple first innings scores. Haddin has been great and I for one have been happy to eat my criticism of him in his return. But Wade could've been every bit as good with the bat atleast. And please after the wretched run of luck Australia endured in the first two thirds of the year in India against B.S. Dhoni and then that misleading crock of a series in England, the Aussies were more than due for a big slice of luck. As all winning sides say, you make your own luck anyway!

  • dms1972 on December 30, 2013, 23:38 GMT

    If Haddin and Pattinson were able to hang on and score another 15 runs in the first test in England, and if rain hadn't saved England in the two drawn test matches in England, Australia win that series 3-2.

  • SlipsGlance on December 30, 2013, 6:31 GMT

    True, SvenTent ("Aussie fans should be cautious in thinking they have turned the corner based on performances against a single opponent")

    Australia has bowled and fielded well but our batting has been brittle. I don't think our top six are far off but England let us recover from several poor starts through poor captaincy, pedestrian bowling and sloppy fielding. South Africa won't do that.

    "... but it has been awesome to watch."

    Oh yeah!

  • SlipsGlance on December 30, 2013, 3:08 GMT

    Everyone is quick to pile onto the selectors when batsmen don't make runs and bowlers don't take wickets. As this article shows, the selection panel got several 50/50 picks right. Well done, Invers and co.

  • SvenTent on December 30, 2013, 1:30 GMT

    True, many test series could be analysed to infer the outcome was heavily influenced by. Series of variables aligning. True, a number of e article's assertions could be challenged. But I think this article makes a number of interesting points, and underlines some of the appeal of test cricket. Specifically the potential for key moments, decisions or selections to have an influential impact on a series. And why people making bold predictions before the start of a series should do so with caution. Not the first time that an Ashes team has been described unflatteringly then turned around and embarrassed their opponents. It also suggests Aussie fans should be cautious in thinking they have turned the corner based on performances against a single opponent, but it has been awesome to watch.

  • on December 29, 2013, 23:42 GMT

    I suppose we could say what if for the series in England, its a mirror image.

  • tinkertinker on December 29, 2013, 16:41 GMT

    In another timeline haddin gets the aussies over the line in the first test in england and they win the ashes in england, that series was a lot closer and every little thing went england's way.

    In another timeline the aussies get monty out at cardiff in 2009 and retain the ashes, you could do this for every test series played but whats the point?

    test cricket has always been a game that hinged on winning the 50/50 moments.

  • Digimont on December 31, 2013, 5:54 GMT

    Guess what? We only live in this timeline. Get used to it.

    Or if you prefer, in another timeline, England decided 30 years ago to only pick players born in that country. The touring party brought to Australia was unrecognisable when compared to this timeline. Nobody cared: after all, England had not won anything for 30 years.

  • The_Wog on December 31, 2013, 3:50 GMT

    And they could have used Duke balls that make even pedestrian seamers move it around like Wasim and Waqar. Oh wait, they only do that in ENG.

  • on December 31, 2013, 1:45 GMT

    The only part I would strongly disagree with is England winning easily if they had held their catches early on day 4. That wicket had flattened out and quickened appreciably. (A process that was near complete the day before and thus makes Englands implosion even worse). 231 was nowhere near enough, needed to be well over 300, nearer 4, even if 275 / 290 might have looked enough at lunch on day 3. Further the Warner drop cost them virtually no runs.

  • RJHB on December 31, 2013, 0:55 GMT

    Simplistic. And very dangerous to say if so and so hadn't been picked this would not have happened. No one knows what Pattinson or Starc or Bird could've done, or the kid for that matter! What if Bailey hadn't played? Instead Maddinson made his debut and made immediate impact with multiple first innings scores. Haddin has been great and I for one have been happy to eat my criticism of him in his return. But Wade could've been every bit as good with the bat atleast. And please after the wretched run of luck Australia endured in the first two thirds of the year in India against B.S. Dhoni and then that misleading crock of a series in England, the Aussies were more than due for a big slice of luck. As all winning sides say, you make your own luck anyway!

  • dms1972 on December 30, 2013, 23:38 GMT

    If Haddin and Pattinson were able to hang on and score another 15 runs in the first test in England, and if rain hadn't saved England in the two drawn test matches in England, Australia win that series 3-2.

  • SlipsGlance on December 30, 2013, 6:31 GMT

    True, SvenTent ("Aussie fans should be cautious in thinking they have turned the corner based on performances against a single opponent")

    Australia has bowled and fielded well but our batting has been brittle. I don't think our top six are far off but England let us recover from several poor starts through poor captaincy, pedestrian bowling and sloppy fielding. South Africa won't do that.

    "... but it has been awesome to watch."

    Oh yeah!

  • SlipsGlance on December 30, 2013, 3:08 GMT

    Everyone is quick to pile onto the selectors when batsmen don't make runs and bowlers don't take wickets. As this article shows, the selection panel got several 50/50 picks right. Well done, Invers and co.

  • SvenTent on December 30, 2013, 1:30 GMT

    True, many test series could be analysed to infer the outcome was heavily influenced by. Series of variables aligning. True, a number of e article's assertions could be challenged. But I think this article makes a number of interesting points, and underlines some of the appeal of test cricket. Specifically the potential for key moments, decisions or selections to have an influential impact on a series. And why people making bold predictions before the start of a series should do so with caution. Not the first time that an Ashes team has been described unflatteringly then turned around and embarrassed their opponents. It also suggests Aussie fans should be cautious in thinking they have turned the corner based on performances against a single opponent, but it has been awesome to watch.

  • on December 29, 2013, 23:42 GMT

    I suppose we could say what if for the series in England, its a mirror image.

  • tinkertinker on December 29, 2013, 16:41 GMT

    In another timeline haddin gets the aussies over the line in the first test in england and they win the ashes in england, that series was a lot closer and every little thing went england's way.

    In another timeline the aussies get monty out at cardiff in 2009 and retain the ashes, you could do this for every test series played but whats the point?

    test cricket has always been a game that hinged on winning the 50/50 moments.

  • mondotv on December 29, 2013, 14:50 GMT

    Well you could argue the what ifs and how bad England has been and say things haven't gone their way but that doesn't hold up to scrutiny. Australia have simply executed their plans much better than England. Lehman has kept it simple - attack Swann - he was an x factor that needed to be neutralised. Tick Attack KP with Siddle and use his ego against him. Tick Work on Cook's lack of feet movement and try and expose it by pitching up to him. Short to Trott, Broad, Swann, Bresnan, Anderson and Prior. Tick, tick, tick And get M Johnson bowling fast and 4 balls an over in the right spot and anything was possible. Is possible. Averaging nearly 8 wickets a test match. Phew! Lehman understood nothing trumps real pace for a weapon - and only one team had that in their arsenal. And it didn't take Mitch long to catch on. Bowl quick, be patient. Winning will take care of itself.

  • Harristherhino on December 29, 2013, 13:13 GMT

    There needs to be perspective here. Like most i am surprised at the current score line, however the signs were there in England. Aust bowled well in England, Bell was magnificent and the Aust batting was woeful. However rain saved Englandcat Manchester and The Oval, poms only to close there due to Clarkes aggressive declaration. England are on the downhill slide, Anderson is case in point, is military medium without swing,easy pickings and the loss of Swann is huge. Not helped by a captain who lacks imagination. Can someone explain to me Cooks fields today when he needed wickets but was protecting the boundaries! Aust batting is brittle make no mistake, SA will find us out however we have a bowling one up that will shake them up more than what India are doing at present .

  • Dax75 on December 29, 2013, 12:47 GMT

    And above all, isn't it bloody fantastic!

  • Blakey on December 29, 2013, 12:08 GMT

    Yes things have appeared to come together for Australia. But, what were Clarke's real motives for bowling at the MC; firet use of best conditions, give the bowlers an extra days rest, see how well the team can chase a total, prove to everyone that the toss hasn't been as important as many have claimed- all plausible reasons. But, the Australians have had much clearer and simpler game plans that they have relentlessly applied. But, the Astralians have worked very hard at their fielding. But, Australia have learnt how to manage their injuries better (Watto coming back into the match at MCG) and Rhino bowling in Perth and, possibly, Sydney. Hard work and desire have created the current situation more than fate.

  • __PK on December 29, 2013, 10:53 GMT

    Wrong. Johnson was always going to be picked, after his ODI performances recently (he was always going to be picked for ODI, anyway). Haddin was always going to be picked because no one else was close to his level. Warner was always going to be picked, which is why they sent him to SA, rather than having him carry the drinks in England and then cotton-wooled him rather than sending him to India. There was no luck in these three events. All according to plan.

  • Jegs on December 29, 2013, 10:01 GMT

    Mitchell Johnson always had the propensity to be this brutal. Remember 2009 against South Africa before his personal issues ruined his confidence during the 09 ashes. People forget 2009 was still close and could have gone either way. Aus would have won in Cardiff if Broad was given out lbw first ball. Wrong team selection at the Oval cost them. Even in that series Mitchell only bowled rubbish at Lords, he bowled well in Cardiff and excellently at Headingley. For England to win in Australia it was always going to be a challenge with the traditional Australian conditions, they only managed to win last time because Australia were in disarray, the pitches and weather were strangely unseasonal therefore Anderson, Bresnan were effective. England is overated.What have the done away from home? The series win in India was due to having better spinners than India's but this is a team that only recently escaped losing to New Zealand by the skin of their teeth and got bowled out for 51 in Jamaica

  • Brett_in_China on December 29, 2013, 9:42 GMT

    Quite some years ago, James Thurber wrote a story in the same vein of a series of newspaper articles called "If . . ." His was called "If Grant had been drinking at Apottomax", although that well may have been Appomotax, or . . . doesn't matter. Well worth a read, as an excellent "What if" article.

    And no, Thurber did not play for NSW, Essex, or any other cricket team. Though I'm sure he would have like to!

  • SSS86 on December 29, 2013, 9:40 GMT

    Umm...what's exactly senseless about this article? Brief, but bang on target. Love the way it has been written! Good job, Mr. Kimber!

  • aus_trad on December 29, 2013, 9:32 GMT

    What's the point? Well, apart from "what-ifs" always being interesting (in my opinion, anyway), I think there are some relevant thoughts here. At the start of this series, I tipped Eng to win a hard-fought series - maybe 3-2. They had on paper the better side, and the psychological momentum from the northern series. Despite some cracks having been exposed in their batting, they would probably be too good. For Aus to win, on the other hand (and here's where I think I agree with Jarrod), a lot had to go right: luck with tosses, weather, umpiring decisions, bowler fitness, etc. Pretty much all of those factors have gone Aus' way. What I didn't take into account was how much could go wrong for Eng: Trott's departure, Anderson's lack of form, ditto Swann, Cook, Prior, Bell, Pietersen...at least some of these players, on ability and (in some cases) recent form could have been expected to do "their 50%" better. Aus have capitalised brilliantly, but the cards have mostly fallen their way.

  • xtrafalgarx on December 29, 2013, 9:02 GMT

    I disagree with most of this. It's easy to say these things while sitting back in your chair while watching the test cricketers go at it, but it's never that simple. 2/10 for mine.

  • Webba84 on December 29, 2013, 9:02 GMT

    Whats with all the hate in the comments? A perfectly understandable article about how well things have come together for Australia, particularly regarding several players who you wouldnt (be honest, you just wouldnt have) picked to perform as well as they have series and every reacts like hes slagging the team off. Hes not. Simply pointing out that a lot has hinged on some unlikely events. Which it has. You are all offended because its not 100% gushing praise? Grow up, children. Good fortune deserves to be recognized for its efforts too.

  • Rufus_Fuddleduck on December 29, 2013, 8:50 GMT

    Dear Mr Kimber, if we are talking of gift horses, let us start with the MCG toss and Cook given the chance to bat first and pile runs without staring at a Haddin-and-friends scorecard. What they got was monumental in the context of this series. Then you had two English bowlers - who don't shirk hard work - getting some purchase and some asinine shots. At that stage - England gets a lead with one-and-a-half gift horses. Then the openers sit on the splice and boost the lead. All is well. After that? Did they really want that their suicidal tendencies (two collapses per Test may be par) should be negated and they should still get another couple of horses? If this was India, you'd talk of BCCI and if it was Pakistan you'd search for match-fixing. Here it is the usual incompetence. No more talk of gift horses, please. Get some perspective.

  • Matt.au on December 29, 2013, 8:02 GMT

    Jarrod, your comments comparing the benefits of selecting either Haddin or Wade are a bit mystifying.

    Haddin wasn't dropped. He had to leave a tour to return to his seriously ill daughter. Wade then took his chances. Being the younger man and in form, it seemed an obvious choice to continue with Wade.

    From the time Wade kept against South Africa in Australia to India in India he went from bad to dreadful.

    By the time Wade left India he would have known in his heart he was no chance of being selected against England.

    For the selectors to have chosen him in his then current form would have been laughable. By the time Wade left India the selectors knew he was no chance of playing against England. There would have been no debate over Wade and Haddin, it would have been wasted breath.

  • on December 29, 2013, 7:51 GMT

    and if the time line continued it would be 17 nil

  • SRK666 on December 29, 2013, 7:27 GMT

    "If lots of things went wrong for Australia and lots of things didn't go wrong for England, England would have performed much better"---well, yes, obviously.

    The only halfway interesting point is Johnson's selection, given injuries to Pattinson, Starc, Cummins. But even then, England have been so woeful, either of those three bowlers would have taken a good number of wickets (and Siddle + Harris would have taken greater spoils).

  • on December 29, 2013, 7:22 GMT

    England have been outclassed. It's that simple.

  • Mitty2 on December 29, 2013, 7:12 GMT

    Not your best effort, this Jarrod. What's your point? What's the point of a what if? It's like it's coming from an English fan who's making excuses. Just take this into account, Australia has scored around 700 more runs than England. Australia has taken 80 wickets to England's 57. I have never seen an English team since 2005/6 so defeated, so dreadful and without any fight whatsoever - they have been absolutely hammered. Australia or the other hand, have all the fight, all the power over the other team and are winning in every single department. Every one - batting, bowling, fielding, planning and execution. Without MJ who on the reverse of what you say has actually benefited from the tightness of Siddle, Harris and Lyon, Australia has still taken 50 wickets to England's 57. Without Haddin's contribution Australia still would have scored over 300 more runs than England. Without Haddin and Johnson we still would have won the Ashes. So what's your point?

  • postandrail on December 29, 2013, 6:47 GMT

    And in another timeline you might write something that makes sense.

  • Adoh on December 29, 2013, 6:45 GMT

    Slightly one sided article...just like the meteorite that wiped out the dinosaurs slightly hit the earth. Credit where credit is due. Australias bowling is the difference, even though in the series so far the share of centuries is completely in Australias favour and makes it appear that our batting is better. This is simply the nature of test cricket...bowl well, you get a good rest and your batsmen are not under pressure. Bat poorly against good bowling and you're out of the game. Englands bowling was fine, but it did reveal that Anderson is completely out of his comfort zone when the conditions do not assist him - horses for courses, maybe another type of medium pace bowler is needed here. Well played Australia, one more to go!

  • Vishnu27 on December 29, 2013, 6:40 GMT

    A lot of what-ifs & speculation in there, Jarrod. What is, is England have not been up to the job & there is definitely something rotten in Denmark with the England set-up. So much spouting pre-series from England pundits, the diabolical prima donaesque menu requirements, the Trott departure, the Swann revelations (& then the backtracking cover-up story). All this on the background of extremely inept onfield performances. Only one England cricketer can truly hold his head up (Broad, & to a lesser degree, Stokes). England reap what they have sown, & justly so.

  • disco_bob on December 29, 2013, 6:37 GMT

    Generally can't disagree except for the bit about Clarke making an error in choosing to send England in. It showed faith in his bowlers and it provided an (admittedly modest) test of character with a tricky last innings chase. Plus it shows Australia don't need to win the toss to win, (assuming England would have chosen to bat). Let's hope Clarke forgoes the final toss at the SCG and let's Cook choose if he want's to lose batting first or bowling.

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  • disco_bob on December 29, 2013, 6:37 GMT

    Generally can't disagree except for the bit about Clarke making an error in choosing to send England in. It showed faith in his bowlers and it provided an (admittedly modest) test of character with a tricky last innings chase. Plus it shows Australia don't need to win the toss to win, (assuming England would have chosen to bat). Let's hope Clarke forgoes the final toss at the SCG and let's Cook choose if he want's to lose batting first or bowling.

  • Vishnu27 on December 29, 2013, 6:40 GMT

    A lot of what-ifs & speculation in there, Jarrod. What is, is England have not been up to the job & there is definitely something rotten in Denmark with the England set-up. So much spouting pre-series from England pundits, the diabolical prima donaesque menu requirements, the Trott departure, the Swann revelations (& then the backtracking cover-up story). All this on the background of extremely inept onfield performances. Only one England cricketer can truly hold his head up (Broad, & to a lesser degree, Stokes). England reap what they have sown, & justly so.

  • Adoh on December 29, 2013, 6:45 GMT

    Slightly one sided article...just like the meteorite that wiped out the dinosaurs slightly hit the earth. Credit where credit is due. Australias bowling is the difference, even though in the series so far the share of centuries is completely in Australias favour and makes it appear that our batting is better. This is simply the nature of test cricket...bowl well, you get a good rest and your batsmen are not under pressure. Bat poorly against good bowling and you're out of the game. Englands bowling was fine, but it did reveal that Anderson is completely out of his comfort zone when the conditions do not assist him - horses for courses, maybe another type of medium pace bowler is needed here. Well played Australia, one more to go!

  • postandrail on December 29, 2013, 6:47 GMT

    And in another timeline you might write something that makes sense.

  • Mitty2 on December 29, 2013, 7:12 GMT

    Not your best effort, this Jarrod. What's your point? What's the point of a what if? It's like it's coming from an English fan who's making excuses. Just take this into account, Australia has scored around 700 more runs than England. Australia has taken 80 wickets to England's 57. I have never seen an English team since 2005/6 so defeated, so dreadful and without any fight whatsoever - they have been absolutely hammered. Australia or the other hand, have all the fight, all the power over the other team and are winning in every single department. Every one - batting, bowling, fielding, planning and execution. Without MJ who on the reverse of what you say has actually benefited from the tightness of Siddle, Harris and Lyon, Australia has still taken 50 wickets to England's 57. Without Haddin's contribution Australia still would have scored over 300 more runs than England. Without Haddin and Johnson we still would have won the Ashes. So what's your point?

  • on December 29, 2013, 7:22 GMT

    England have been outclassed. It's that simple.

  • SRK666 on December 29, 2013, 7:27 GMT

    "If lots of things went wrong for Australia and lots of things didn't go wrong for England, England would have performed much better"---well, yes, obviously.

    The only halfway interesting point is Johnson's selection, given injuries to Pattinson, Starc, Cummins. But even then, England have been so woeful, either of those three bowlers would have taken a good number of wickets (and Siddle + Harris would have taken greater spoils).

  • on December 29, 2013, 7:51 GMT

    and if the time line continued it would be 17 nil

  • Matt.au on December 29, 2013, 8:02 GMT

    Jarrod, your comments comparing the benefits of selecting either Haddin or Wade are a bit mystifying.

    Haddin wasn't dropped. He had to leave a tour to return to his seriously ill daughter. Wade then took his chances. Being the younger man and in form, it seemed an obvious choice to continue with Wade.

    From the time Wade kept against South Africa in Australia to India in India he went from bad to dreadful.

    By the time Wade left India he would have known in his heart he was no chance of being selected against England.

    For the selectors to have chosen him in his then current form would have been laughable. By the time Wade left India the selectors knew he was no chance of playing against England. There would have been no debate over Wade and Haddin, it would have been wasted breath.

  • Rufus_Fuddleduck on December 29, 2013, 8:50 GMT

    Dear Mr Kimber, if we are talking of gift horses, let us start with the MCG toss and Cook given the chance to bat first and pile runs without staring at a Haddin-and-friends scorecard. What they got was monumental in the context of this series. Then you had two English bowlers - who don't shirk hard work - getting some purchase and some asinine shots. At that stage - England gets a lead with one-and-a-half gift horses. Then the openers sit on the splice and boost the lead. All is well. After that? Did they really want that their suicidal tendencies (two collapses per Test may be par) should be negated and they should still get another couple of horses? If this was India, you'd talk of BCCI and if it was Pakistan you'd search for match-fixing. Here it is the usual incompetence. No more talk of gift horses, please. Get some perspective.