How I Won The Ashes 25 November 2010

Well, I got that wrong, didn’t I?  I knew the Australians would come at us hard, but even they couldn’t have hoped that our captain would slap a rank long hop straight at gully in the first over.  If that sets the tone for the series, then our batsmen are in for a lean time and we will struggle.  Credit to my Australian friend Phil, who told me to dream on and predicted 265-7.  Credit, too, to Peter Siddle.  Despite his appearance as an up and at ’em bowler with plenty of aggression but not much guile, he worked out that it is a pitch it up at ’em wicket and changed his approach in his 2nd spell, to great effect. A birthday hat-trick in a test match (and in his first Ashes test on home soil, to boot), must be unprecedented.

 So, what now?  After 4 sessions at the Oval, I had given up hope and thought the Ashes were gone.  4 hours later, everything had changed.  While this is only the first match of the series, the next 3 sessions will have a huge bearing on the series. Nasser Hussain made the very astute comment that, if the pitch gets faster, there will be plenty of opportunity to singe noses and chins, which looks very good, but doesn’t take wickets. If our bowlers can learn from Siddle’s approach, they may propser.  It looks like being a pitch where wickets fall in clusters, so if they can get one, they will be confident of getting several more.  Above all, they must be patient.   Even if we keep the Australian first innings to manageable proportions, our batsmen are also going to have to be patient and bat time.  The side that does this better will win the match.

 Any positives from yesterday?  Ian Bell looks the real deal, as he has threatened to for a while.  There is now a case for promoting him, becasue if he’d played like that at No. 4 or 5, he would surely hae notched that elusive first Ashes ton.  And we didn’t throw away a review on the shout that Broad had on Watson when the bowler and the skipper looked sorely tempted, yet it was clearly a big nick onto the pad.  As I’ve said before, the review system is effectively our 5th bowler, so we have to use it properly, not just when we are desperate for a wicket, as we may well be today. Hopefully Graeme Swann will forget that his first two Ashes balls in Australia both went for four.  He, more than most, must be patient and not throw away reviews.

 OK, action time.  Enjoy the night and pray for wickets.  Exercise whatever superstitions you think will work to help our bowlers.

 You can also follow on www.twitter/howiwontheashes.

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