Friday, December 24, 2010

Random thoughts on the Ashes: Perth

This was an Aesop's Fable of a Test, a simple moral tale of the dangers of pride and self-regard. Though the England camp (and there are so many "support" people present that it's more of small town) would not associate itself with the premature triumphalism of the British media - even the Guardian ran an on-line poll on whether this was the worst Aussie side ever - Matt Prior's statement quoted in an earlier post that England were looking to go through the tour unbeaten showed that hubris had been asked in and given a cup of tea. Not for nothing is "we'll take each game as it comes" sport's oldest cliche.

An hour or so into the second day it appeared that complacency was justified, with England 78 without loss in reply Australia's unimpressive 268. Then Mitchell Johnson began to swing it like the Glenn Miller Orchestra, finishing with six for 38. Johnson is the Peter Sellers of contemporary cricket. A long period of nothing but rubbish, then, suddenly at the Waca, it's Being There.

In contrast to the Gabba, and to a lesser extent the Adelaide Oval, the pitch nurtured good cricket, chiefly because of its pace and trueness of bounce. It was through the air, rather than off the pitch, that the bowlers caused problems.

The less thoughtful members of the media, supported by the ignorati of the internet, will say that all is well in Australia, while England are in crisis. Neither is true. This Ashes series is unfolding like a Shakesperian drama, in five acts. Whether Ricky Ponting or Andrew Strauss is the tragic figure who will fall on his sword in the final scene is not yet clear. Both sides have weaknesses, and it is these fallabilities that are making it such a good contest.

For England, Collingwood is out of touch, Swann somewhat neutralised, and Finn tired (but still taking wickets, a happy knack). It is rumoured that he may be rested in Melbourne. England to win a Test with a four-man attack, one of whom is Bresnan? It has an improbable feel to it.

For Australia, there must be several openers available more secure than Phil Hughes, and Clarke looked as if he'd lost it in the second innings at Perth, slogging away from the start. Ponting looks vulnerable too, but Ian Chappell says that the feet are moving well, so runs will follow. The Australians may green up the pitch at Melbourne, and go without a spinner, though Beer is still in the squad, at the expense of the unfortunate Hauritz.

Much nonsense is being written about "momentum" and the "psychological advantage". At Melbourne in will simply come down to which team bats and bowls better. The issue of sledging has taken up many column inches too. Peter Siddle gave a radio interview in which he defended the aggressive use of words on the cricket field, the irony of his failure to form words into a coherent sentence at any point of the interview lost on him.

Happy Festival of the Day Before the Boxing Day Test to one and all.

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