How I Won The Ashes 26 November 2010

Welcome back to How I Won The Ashes.  Those of you new to this may wonder what this is all about.  The concept of How I Won The Ashes was conceived during the legendary 2005 Ashes series, when I did crazy things that helped the England team home.  All cricketers, and fans, are superstitious: lucky sofas, not moving during a long partnership, not walking on a certain side of the street, avoiding the cracks in the pavement; basically, anything that will help their team win.  In my case, it was sticking pins in an effigy of Glenn McGrath after he’d skewered us at Lords in 2005, so obsessed was I with winning the Ashes, so convinced was I that we would not do so while he was bowling.  It was I that left that rogue cricket ball on the Edgbaston turf, which he tripped over and turned his ankle.

 This led to a book on the thoughts of an obsessed cricket fan, and subsequently to a blog on all matters to do with cricket.  With the Ashes now in progress, I am going to try and give regular updates on the state of the match and views on the action so far. You can also follow me on twitter .  I’ve also been contributing to podcasts for the Barmy Army Ashes website.  You can hear the latest broadcast on .

 Day 3 at Brisbane.  It’s going to become a cliché, but the next session is going to be absolutely crucial.  If you think of test matches as series of sessions, and you look to win sessions, then Australia have been clear winners of 3 out of the 6 played so far, England have won the afternoon sessions on both days, with honours roughly even, despite the horrific start.  That’s probably a little generous to England, but the fact remains they are still in the game, despite a below par batting performance.  Having reduced Australia to 140 for 5, England had their noses in front, but Australia always have a habit of finding resourceful and gritty batsmen who can dig in, and Hussey and Haddin have regained the initiative.

 Now England have to win at least 2 of today’s sessions to stay alive.  They’ll want to get an early wicket, ideally Hussey’s, so they can restrict Australia to no more than 300.  Then they are going to have to bat a lot better second time around.  It won’t be easy, but it is possible and even the Australians, so used to trashing the Poms, recognise that this England team is made of stronger stuff.  But if Hussey gets in and marshalls the tail, he is quite capable of taking Australia nearer to 400, and if that happens, it will take a miracle to stop Australia chalking up yet another victory at Brisbane.

 We’ve got everything going for us.  The new ball is due immediately and if conditions are at all helpful, England will kick themselves if they don’t take early wickets.  It could work out perfectly, so that by the time they start their second innings, the pitch will have become more batting friendly, although there will always be something in it for the bowlers, which is why it is such an intriguing contest.

 There was quite a lot of talk yesterday about why the umpires took the players off just as the new ball became due.  Andrew Strauss was visibly irritated by this, as he obviously fancied his chances of breaking the Hussey / Haddin stand with the new ball in murky conditions.  The Sky team spent a ludicrous amount of time complaining about the rules and how umpires always seem to be getting it wrong when it comes to bad light.  It is true, umpires’ enforcement of these regulations is often deeply irritating and has sometimes cost teams the opportunity of victory: think of Durban in 2004, when England were forced off with only 2 wickets to take to win a famous victory (they had been almost 200 runs behind on the 1st innings).

But in this case, the rain came down virtually immediately, which rendered all this arguing irrelevant: they’d have had to have come off only a few minutes later anyway.  I’d have preferred Sky to show us the wickets which fell during the night.  The other point which no-one picked up on was that if England’s over rate had been a bit quicker, they would have had a bit more time with the new ball to break the partnership before the weather closed in; and then they could have come back this morning rested and refreshed, with the ball still new. For this reason, I think it suited England to come off last night. 

 I hope the English bowlers take note that, apart from Clarke, all the wickets to fall yesterday were from well pitched up deliveries and that they follow this through today.  Anderson and Finn were impressive and I liked the way they roughed up Clarke; and Finn’s caught and bowled to get rid of Katich was exceptional. I was disappointed by Swann, who bowled a worrying number of short balls, but he is surely good enough to come back, and if England do manage to set any kind of target, he will need to be at his best for England to bowl Australia out.

 But we are getting ahead of ourselves.  England have simply got to bowl Australia out for under 300, certainly no more than 350.  There is  too much in the pitch for England realistically to score the 350 or 400 in their second innings that they would need to clear a big deficit and then set a defendable target.  They will dhave to do so without the aid of the 3rd umpire, because they have squandered both their reviews.  Again, they are still using the reviews when they are desperate for a wicket, rather then when they are convinced the batsman is out.  This was certainly the case when Anderson thought he had Watson lbw but it was just too high.  The waste was then amplified when he induced an edge to slip the very next ball. 

 The second review was more unlucky and this brings me to another big gripe.  Why do televison broadcasters not allow the third umpire to use Snickometer, which appears to be as reliable a technology as Hot Spot or Hawkeye? (Apparently Australians, in their contrary way, call Hawkeye something else, but I can’t remember what it is!) The answer, as usual, is money, which is highly unsatisfactory, but such are the commercial realities. Anyway, if the umpire had been able to use Snickometer, he would have known that Clarke did indeed touch the ball that Finn bowled at him.  It was given not out on the pitch, the fielders were convinced they’d heard something (so must Clarke have done, but batsmen don’t walk).  Again, wasteful (but forgiveable), because Clarke did not last long and he was in no kind of form.

 Nearly time to start.  One message to my friend Damian.  I mentioned earlier that every cricket fan is convinced his own actions somehow influence what happens on the pitch.  Damo confessed to me that, having been woken up by his son in the middle of the night on the first day, he switched on to see what was happening.  The very first thing he saw was Cook edging Siddle to slip, then Prior being bowled first ball and then the hat-trick being completed on Broad.  Damo, for all our sakes, please, please don’t turn on the telly tonight if England are batting!


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