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Australia v England, 4th Test, Melbourne, 4th day

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

Jarrod Kimber at the MCG

December 29, 2013

Comments: 31 | Text size: A | A

Alastair Cook contemplates another defeat for England, Australia v England, 4th Test, Melbourne, 4th day, December 29, 2013
Whether real or imagined, it seemed like every decision Alastair Cook made at the MCG went against him © AFP
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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

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Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by   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.

Posted by 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!

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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!

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by   on (December 29, 2013, 23:42 GMT)

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

Posted by 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.

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