How I Won The Ashes 24 November 2010

Hello and good evening to How I Won The Ashes.  An hour before it all starts, I thought I’d make sure you are all awake and safely esconced on your sofas or bar stools.  Midnight in the UK can’t come quickly enough, but the toss is going to be crucial.  I suspect the captain that wins the toss will bat – Ponting will never insert after Edgbaston 2005, which cost him the test match in Leeds last summer.  Yet another example of where Ponting’s capataincy is too mechanical, not thoughtful, and I think Strauss will have the edge on that front.

 One thing which I discovered at the weekend, on the subject of motivation, was the reception the Australians received when they returned home in 1989.  Remember that when England won in 2005, they were criticised for the bus parade to Trafalgar Square and the generally over-the-top reaction of the nation. According to some, this only served to make the Australians even more determined not just to win the next series, but win it in style, which, of course, they duly did.  The English could be forgiven for their celebrations in 2005: after all, we had not won the Ashes for almost 20 years.  But when Australia won the 1989 series 4-0, they received a ticker-tape reception, fireworks and all, when they brought the Ashes back.  Yet they’d only been without the Ashes for 4 years and they’d won the World Cup 2 years earlier.  As my friend Nick remarked when I pointed this out, “Well, it didn’t do much to motivate us, did it?” Those of Strauss’ team who experienced the horrors of 2 years ago will want to erase those memories; but Strauss has made a very sensible comment, when he says that his team’s real motivation is to be the best in the world.  I think they have every chance of attaining that status and winning this Ashes series will be a big step towards it.

 Although I think Australia will come at us hard, I still expect us to prevail, pretty convincingly.  I am puzzled by the selection of Xavier Doherty.  It shows the extent to which Australia have missed Warne and have never found a replacement.  But they have never given a spinner an extended run the way they did with Warne.  Mind you, it was easy for them to do so when they were generally winning matches and series.  It’s far harder to give any player an extended run when you aren’t consistently winning.  I do think they have taken a risk with Doherty.  I’m sure they haven’t been as obtuse as to pick him simply because he is more likely to exploit Pietersen’s hang up against left-arm spinners.  More likeley, they have taken note that between nos. 3 and 7, all England’s batsmen are right handed, so having a spinner who turns the ball away from the bat is going to be more threatening than an off-spinner.  But it says something for the paucity of their resources that their best option to follow this through is to pick a player with so little experience.

 Right, we have won the toss and we will BAT.  Good call by Strauss, I think.  First session will be crucial, because it looks like it could be a belter of a pitch, once the early life disappears.  We have to have 300 on the board by close of play, with a minimum of 4 wickets down.  Then we can be competitive and bring Swann into play in the 4th innings. At least wqe dn’t have to worry about an English bowler with the first ball of the series…

 One final thing.  Was it just me, or were Sky incredibly wooden in transferring from the studio to link up with Channel 9 in the middle for the toss? They only just got there in time as Ponting was flipping the coin. 

Game on.  I’ll be making an occasional comment on Twitter: you can follow on http://twitter.com/HowIwontheAshes

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