How I Won The Ashes 3 December 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 www.twitter.com/howiwontheashes

I’ve also been contributing to podcasts for the Barmy Army Ashes website.  You can hear them on http://www.barmyarmyashes.com

I haven’t put finger to keyboard since Brisbane, so here are some final thoughts before we deal with the wonderful day at Adelaide.  I think my friend Andy summed up Brisbane perfectly: “Apart from the hat-trick and the 300 run partnership, we flippin’ murdered ‘em and they know it.”  Pretty much spot on.  Had we scored a few more runs in the first innings and broken the Hussey / Haddin stand early on the third day (which we did, except Aleem Dar thought Mike Hussey’s front pad was his bat and we couldn’t overturn it), we could have put ourselves in a position to set a target and win the game.  Mind you, the pitch was so flat that any kind of target was potentially reachable; so perhaps playing a rearguard was the best way of avoiding defeat at Brisbane.  Certainly at the close of days 1 and 3, we would have taken the draw, even if we ended up in complete control of the match by mid way through the last day. And fair dos to Hussey and Haddin, who played quite brilliantly.

The fact that we secured such control to get to the surreal score of 527 for 1 disguises how great an innings it was that Alastair Cook actually played, brilliant supported by Strauss and Trott.  To come in late on the 3rd day, having been in the field for so long and run ragged by that partnership, facing a deficit of over 200, and then to take England to a lead of almost 300, was nothing short of miraculous.  Cook’s 235 not out will rank alongside great English match saving innings, such as Dennis Amiss’ 262 not out at Kingston in 1974, Woolmer’s 149 at The Oval in 1975, Atherton’s 185 not out in Johannesburg 1995 and Pietersen’s 158 at The Oval in 2005.

The only other thing to add on Brisbane was our continued failure to use the review system properly.  We were too eager to pull the trigger when we were desperate for wickets and it enabled Mike Hussey to escape.  You could say that we were unlucky, because Michael Clarke WAS out on the review that could not prove conclusively that he had edged the ball (snickometer did so moments later). Ultimately, it did not matter, and these things have a way of evening themselves out.

I did think it was a bit rich that Ponting complained about his catch off Cook that was referred and then not given out.  He asks that batsmen be honest and trust a fielder when they say they have caught a ball; but would he ever walk if he knew he had edged a ball, or encourage his team mates to do so? It is a very obvious case of double standards.  Anyway, the fact that Cook was well past 200 at the time shows how much pressure Ponting must be feeling that he allowed himself to get upset at an irrelevance.

Turning to Adelaide, Ponting was again showing that he is not in a good place emotionally at the end of the first day.  His spat with Strauss was petulant and unnecessary.  As for Strauss, he must have loved it.  Being bowled out on the first day for a score at least 150 runs below par after winning the toss on a batsman’s paradise is the sort of thing English teams used to do.  How refreshing to see the roles reversed.  England’s bowlers were simply awesome and so was the fielding, right from the off.

I had worried that England would be a bowler light at Adelaide.  Here is what Iwrote the day after Brisbane:

I think Graeme Swann needs to calm down and relax.  From my own limited slow bowling experience, bowling short is a symptom of being tensed up.  He is trying too hard, almost as if he has become too conscious of his status as a potential match winner.  If he trusts his method and his ability and remembers how he became the world’s best spinner, he will bowl much better.

However, he is not helped by only having three other front line bowlers to support him.  On helpful pitches, when wickets are falling regularly, this is not so much of a problem.  But on flat wickets, the captain can quickly run out of options unless Swann is absolutely on the money, which is why Australia will always look to hit him out of the attack. 

This is why I think England must seriously consider a fifth bowler at Adelaide.  Six batsmen (including Prior) ought to get us enough runs. My advice would be to go for Tremlett or Shahzad.  For me, Bresnan is only a marginally better bet as a fifth bowler than Collingwood on a flat wicket.  You only bring him on to give the others a rest and any wickets he picks up are a bonus. That would not be true of Tremlett or Shahza, and the latter could well offer a reverse swing option. They are more threatening bowlers than Bresnan and Tremlett, at least, is only marginally a worse batsman. He is no bunny at No. 9 – which is why Panesar has to be ruled out of the equation.  Nos. 7, 8 and 9 have to deliver runs, but it’s that much harder when 9, 10 and 11 are very limited. 

What this is leading to is that Collingwood has to be dropped.  Heresy, I know, but he is the most expendable of the batsmen right now. 

I don’t think they’ll go for this, though.  They’ll trust Colly to take them from 60 odd overs to the new ball, but I don’t hold out any hope of any wickets from him and that means the new ball bowlers will be bowling at batsmen who are well set. Shahzad, in particular, could be at his most dangerous at exactly that time.

Clearly, that is already out of date.  Our four man attack bowled well enough not to need a 5th bowler and Collingwood only ended up bowling 3 overs.  Now that we have taken 10 wickets in a day, having the extra batsman really works in our favour.  We have to make it count, but I am confident we will do so.

Well that’s it, apart from a word of praise for my two friends Nick and Damian.  Damian took my instructions and eschewed the TV buttons, for fear of costing England a wicket (you will remember he turned on his television just as Peter Siddle was taking his hat-trick).  He can take credit for said miraculous scoreline at Brisbane.  As for Nick, he ensconced himself last night on THE lucky sofa, watched Anderson bowl 3 balls, and promptly announced that there would be a wicket in the first over.  We’re happy that he was inaccurate. As a lawyer, he shouldn’t be!

 

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