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Frenemies Reunited

The Cook, the Cheat, His Life and Their Umpire

In which Belly tries to usurp the Australian way

Alan Tyers writes Even by their own high standards, our Australian friends have excelled themselves in their pet areas of hypocrisy and whining today after the Bell and Cook incidents. You expect a lot of rabid one-eyed rubbish from their Channel Nine commentators, but the fans at the Sydney Cricket Ground ought to know better. The booing of Alastair Cook was crazy – it’s hardly his fault that Phil Hughes tried to claim a non-catch. Performance of the day definitely went to Shane Warne for saying, “There is no way Hughes has claimed that” as the player leapt triumphantly into the air with his arms aloft. It bounced. They booed. Seems unfair, but whatever.
Ian Bell was, admittedly, a bit more of a grey area. But Bell is guileless, in the way that a glass of tap water is guileless, and if he says, “Erm, er, I sorta kinda, erm, well, obviously, I wasn’t sure if I hit it,” then we should trust his words, even if he doesn’t quite know what he is saying.
Jarrod Kimber writes According to Cook, Hughes said he wasn’t sure. That said, I’d trust Alan “Beefy” Tyers, who was probably cramped up in a dungeon of some archaic building, instead of the players involved. The bigger issue here is Ian Bell trying to steal the last bit of Australia. We get that the English team, by whatever fluke of nature, is better than Australia, but to steal our non-walking stance, that’s a low blow. There was a time when not walking was as Australian as Neighbours. Now it seems to be as English as Home and Away. This short of attack on Australianness sickens me. Ian Bell should be suspended, like Ricky Ponting was.
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A new motto for Australia

Where are their players going to come from in future?

Alan Tyers writes Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Australia have got a fresh captain, but he’s following the Ponting method by showing the team just how it isn’t done with the bat. What has happened to this team? Michael Clarke looks like he shouldn’t be allowed near a cricket ground for his own safety, Shane Watson and Phil Hughes wrestled manfully with their own stoopidity for a while but eventually got themselves out.
The only bright spot for Australia was the performance of the debutant Usman Khawaja. He looks the part – some style, some composure – and there was no shame in being out-thought by Graeme Swann. At least he didn’t throw it away like his three more senior team-mates. I note that he was not born in Australia. Surely this is the way ahead for poor old Oz? The system within is busted, so they must recruit from without. All that wide open space, decent weather (although not today), as many sausages as you can eat, plenty of work available in daytime soap operas: it must be a tempting destination for migrant labourers. With a new PM, and a new captain, surely it is time for a new national motto: Foreigners of the world, give us your poor, your huddled masses – and let them come and bat in our middle order. No reasonable offer refused.
Jarrod Kimber Michael Clarke made a bold Australian decision to bat in overcast conditions, while the English were always going to take the soft option and bowl first. Clarke’s innings may not have been every inch a captain’s knock, but his fortitude in batting first on this pitch will surely be written in Ashes folklore. Instead of being protected, like in other teams, young Usman was taught about an honest day's work, batting in the hot seat on a tough pitch. He may have only made 37, but that 37 will be whispered about in years to come as people talk about how Australia’s resurrection started when bloody gutsy Usman was made a man by Michael Clarke’s bold captaincy.
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England have made a fatal mistake

They’ve gone and awoken Australia and put them on the road to betterment, haven’t they?

Jarrod has won the toss and will describe a fearsome future of Australian resurgence…
Jarrod Kimber writes The last time Australia lost a home Ashes series it propelled them to become the best, most professional, loudest and scariest team in Test cricket. England created that monster. This time I expect more of the same. England have probably done the worst thing possible here. They’ve unleashed the Australian spirit. The Australian spirit has fangs and can transform seemingly ordinary cricketers into beasts of cricket. The Steve Smith who could have gone around world cricket making opposition fans chuckle will become one of the greats of international cricket. One look at his face and you will know you are looking at defeat. Phil Hughes’ name will be whispered by broken bowlers. James Pattinson will wreak havoc on the team that used and abused his brother. Oh, it shall be grand. I thank England for their professionalism, better team and outstanding performances, as without them Australia might have been stuck in this middle ground of mediocrity. Hail, England, the great Australian Saviour.
Alan Tyers writes For me, the most satisfying thing about England retaining the Ashes is not the victory itself, the resounding nature of it, or even the enjoyment to be taken in the humiliation of the Australian cricket team. All of these, the last especially, have been delightful in their own right, but a more profound satisfaction comes from knowing that we don’t have to listen to any more comparisons between Shield cricket, where, apparently, a whole nation bats like their life depends on it / sledges like men / cuts off their own feet if they bowl a no-ball, and the inevitable unfavourable comparisons with the English game, where everybody is called Rupert and is just in it for a bit of a laugh.
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The perfect Paul Collingwood pitch?

All signs point to a turgid pudding at the MCG

Jarrod Kimber writes I’ve never understood why people complain pitches are doctored by home teams. Of course they are. If a groundsman is making a pitch and he tries to make it fair to the opposition, he is a traitor. The only fair punishment for him is to be flattened by the roller while a bloated commentator no one likes sticks a key in him. If the ICC really wanted neutral pitches it would send out neutral groundsmen, or drop-in groundsmen as they call them in Australia. The good news for English cricket fans is, the MCG can’t be doctored. It is by definition a slow, dull, tennis ball-bounce pitch that not even a cricket CEO would like. You could drop in a block of ice and the MCG would turn it into a turgid square, where bowlers struggle and batsmen can’t get timing. The perfect Paul Collingwood pitch.
Alan Tyers writes As any fule kno, the best and loudest recent complaints about a home side doctoring a pitch were made in 2009, when Australia whined that England had prepared a dusty turner (good player, DF “Dusty” Turner, took a lot of wickets for Northants) at The Oval. Showing that their sense of humour goes much further than simply the lavatory or a man hitting another man over the head with a marsupial, Australia then decided not to pick a spinner, even as they simultaneously protested about how the pitch was going to spin, spin, spin. The result, of course, was a 150-over workload for occasional batsman North, M and the loss of the Ashes.
Weirdly Australia seem not to have learned from this, and instead of preparing a deck that will give them the best chance of winning (spicy) they will present England with a Christmas pudding that should give the tourists the quiet, stabilising draw they need before Graeme Swann spins them to victory in Sydney. You really are too kind, mine host.
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Australians? Sledgers? Utter rubbish

They’re polite, well-bred lads in whose mouth butter wouldn’t melt

Alan Tyers writes Despite what is being widely opined, I think the biggest mistake England made at the WACA was not bowling too short at Michael Hussey (if they believe that getting him out to the half-tracker on 116 was a vindication, they should all be severely punished). It wasn’t the failure to play Mitchell’s suddenly rediscovered inswinger. It wasn’t even the inability to stop the rot once wickets started to fall.
England’s major error was definitely trying to sledge Australia. Like they say, “Never argue with an idiot, he will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.” When it comes to being rude, abrasive and over-competitive, your Aussie cricketer is simply in a different league to his English opponent. Clearly a decent lad like Jimmy Anderson is never going to win a nastiness contest with the likes of Peter Siddle and Brad Haddin. These guys list their favourite cinematic moments as “When Bambi’s mum got shot”. Their idea of polite company is waiting for the lady to break wind first. England were wrong to compete, and I hope that, come Melbourne, we get back to doing what we do pretty well: being good at cricket, and leave all this macho willy-waving to our Antipodean cousins.
Jarrod Kimber writes Oh no, it wasn't the sledging. It was beauty killed the beast. The sledging just comes on the rare occasions when the stars align and Mitchell Johnson finds his inswinger. The most elusive beast in world cricket. Until this Test I’d met people who didn’t even believe it existed. Some of the English players kept batting like it didn’t exist. This Australian team is not made of sledgers. Mitchell has a gormless face that just can’t sledge. Michael Clarke’s dainty body is not built for vulgarity. And Mike Hussey cries if he hurts someone’s feelings.
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Jimmy’s brain freeze

Did the unusual sight of Australians doing what they’re supposed to get to Mr Anderson?

Jarrod Kimber has won the toss and will write first, on the subject of James “Nightwatchman, What?” Anderson
Jarrod Kimber writes I’ve never really understood the use of a nightwatchman. Why any country would use them is beyond me. I’m pretty sure they are officially unAustralian, even when used by Australians. However, if you do use them, if I’m understanding this correctly, isn’t their job to face the bowling rather than sit at the other end and watch wickets go down? This is the sort of limp, lifeless, wimpy cricket that Australians have been expecting from the English. It wasn’t just Anderson not taking a run to protect one of the batsmen he was sent out to protect, it was the true English spirit coming out. The Australians, being the excellent chaps they are, pointed out Jimmy’s mistake.
The real shame of this is that now England will have to cancel all the preparations they have made for winning the Ashes this week. There is a global financial crisis, so the cost of flying a few open-top buses out to Australia was not cheap.
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We need to talk about Steven

Whatever could Steven Smith’s inclusion in the Australian side mean?

Alan Tyers writes Australians are never short of an idea. Okay, they are all looking like bad ideas right now, but God loves a trier. Maybe it’s something to do with growing up in a horribly hot place filled with dangerous bitey things, but you have to be resourceful. And there is nobody more resourceful than Andrew “Hang On, I’ve Got Another One” Hilditch.
That’s why, where others – including his own captain, to be fair – are questioning the selection of Little Stevie Smith as a Test match No. 6, I say, “Give the selectors a chance.” Australians are of course noted for their strong sense of fair play and the national motto: “Magnanimous in Victory, Gracious in Defeat” is well earned. The only logical explanation is that they are feeling guilty about all those years of churning out endless gritty middle-order SoBs, No. 6s who come in at 40 for 4 and score a blistering ton, grinding English hopes into the dust as they do so, and selecting Steven is how they plan to make up for it.
Steven Smith is the Australian version of reparations for war crimes, and we should accept this generous, if belated, gesture with good grace.
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