Australia v India, 1st Test: Australian Team named

Cricket Australia has announced the team for the 1st test commencing tomorrow will be:

Warner, Rogers, Watson, Clarke (c), Smith, M Marsh, Haddin, Johnson, Harris, Siddle, Lyon, Hazlewood (12th), Hughes (13th).

Shaun Marsh has been released to the Western Warriors.

Good to see the captain playing.  I would have chosen Hazlewood over Siddle and will be interested to see if Siddle can get his mojo back!

Australia in South Africa 2014: 1st Test ponderings

Let’s get this out of the way at the outset: this win by the Australian cricket team was their best performance in at least the last 24 months.  Yes, Australia defeated England but this was a win against the best team in the world.  A team that had not been bested in 19 test matches was just destroyed by the Australian team.

Mitchell Johnson bowled better than at any time during the Ashes series and that is saying much.  He bowled with pace and hostility but also, when the pitch changed, he threw in some excellent variations.  The ball of the game that showed Australia’s out and out domination of this game was in the last innings: Hashim Amla, one of the best batters of the last 5 years, was struck by a Johnson thunderbolt on the grill of the helmet.  This was a ball that Amla did not appear to see it and was rocked on his heals which is exactly what the Australians did to South Africans all game.

Another example of Australia’s dominance of this game and, indeed, an indication of just how well Australia played is that this test is the first in this current winning streak in wish Brad Haddin was NOT needed to play a significant role with the willow.

For the South Africans, Graeme Smith will be rueing his decision at the toss which will go down in history as a akin to Nasser Hussian’s toss imbroglio at Brisbane in 2002.  He will also be rueing lapses in the field that are so unlike the South African team that one suspects that they have to be an aberration at best. There is much to work on and much improvement in this camp: they must come up with a plan for dealing with Mitchell Johnson and they must find a way to get Dale Steyn fit for the first morning of the next test match.  They also must seek to reverse the trend of Australia coming back from adverse circumstances which has been the cornerstone of their wins in the last 6 test matches.

This is a golden 6 months for Australian cricket: every strategy that Michael Clarke seems to put in place, at least since the first day at the Gabba in November, has come off.  The batters that are being plucked from Sheffield Shield cricket without semblance of form are performing at the top flight. I can not remember the last time an Australian team played the same four bowlers for 6 test matches in a row.

There is a short turnaround between this test match and the next: the second test commences on 20 February.  As I wrote yesterday, Australia will select the same  team for the second test regardless of the fitness of Shane Watson.  South Africa have to look at their spin bowler selection and also have to look at what they do at the top of the order.  I expect both Petersons to be missing from the next test perhaps with Amla to open.

This result, more than any of the last six wins, has the feel about it that Australia has defeated a team of, at least, equals rather than a team in decline.  If the same result arises in the test match though then questions will be asked about whether this is a South African team in decline too.  It certainly will be interesting to see how the second test evolves right from the toss of the coin.

The Ashes: my Australian XII

After much debate, at home, in the office, on this blog and on twitter I am finally prepared to nail my colours to the mast and name my Australia XII for the first test. I am naming twelve players here because I have no clue about how the Trent Bridge wicket is going to look when M Clarke goes out for the toss of the coin.

In batting order:

Watson

Rogers

Cowan

Clarke

Khawaja

Smith

Haddin

Starc

Pattinson

Harris

Lyon

Faulkner (12th man)

I have written earlier about why I think Cowan should be selected (https://shumpty77.com/2013/07/04/the-ashes-we-know-who-the-openers-are-but-who-bats-number-3-for-australia/ ), why I think Nathan Lyon is a must for the team (https://shumpty77.com/2013/06/13/the-nathan-lyon-conundrum-the-second-inning-fallacy/ ) and why I think Peter Siddle must not be in the side (see my twitter feed). Smith has proved himself both in India and on tour to date and has earned his spot. Haddin replaces Wade: this should have occurred as soon he was available and Australia needs his experience in the team.

Faulkner is a player of the future and if there is a green top then I would like to have his ability with the willow in at number 8 and in that scenario Lyon will miss out.

 

I wait with bated breathe for the naming of the team. Only one sleep to go!

A day at the cricket: drama, DRS and a dossier

Anyone who reads these ramblings will know I love cricket and I love the first day of the first test at the Gabba. I have been attending this day for so long that now I could not even fathom missing it. So it was that yesterday I again made the pilgrimage to the hallowed turf and from the lofty heights of Section 71 Row MM settled in for another First Test Day 1.

Australia’s opponents this year are the best team in the world. It is as simple as that. Possessing the best opposition bowling attack to step onto the Gabba since the fearsome West Indians of 88/89 along with the best batsman in the game, Amla, and my personal pick for the player of his generation, Kallis, the South African present the ultimate test for the Australian team.

When asked in recent weeks about how I thought Australia would go in this test match, my near constant refrain has been that I was worried that South Africa would do to Australia what it did to England in the first test of their recent series and with the score reading 2-251 (Kallis 84*, Amla 90*) at stumps those fears are on the cusp of becoming reality.

What did yesterday teach us that we did not already know though? We already knew that Kallis and Amla are exceptionally classy players. We already knew that whomever won the toss would bat and that the first session would be crucial. We already knew that Australia was a bowler short and would need some luck to go its way to be competitive. We already knew that food and beverage prices at the Gabba are scandalous.

It has oft been said that “it is a funny old game cricket” however yesterday seemed to unfold the way even the most optimistic of Australian cricket fan always kind of thought it would with the South Africans on top with their boot firmly on the throat of this developing Australian lineup.

Much had been made before the game of the “leaking” of Australia’s game plan dossier and by all reports things were on track early on with Smith falling to the LBW dismissal that Australia feel he is susceptible too. That is where the success of the game plans ended: Pietersen punished anything swinging into his pad, Amla was unruffled and untroubled throughout his innings and the “chin music” served up to Kallis was dealt with with ease. Perhaps the South Africans read News Limited papers and knew what was going to be served up to them. Or perhaps such simplistic plans were never likely to succeed against such class players. Whatever the actual state of affairs, the effect of the much vaunted dossier could be expressed to be limited at best.

Yet again the DRS system was in play and yet again it is in the news today under a cloud of controversy. I have written about my views on the DRS system in this blog before and do not propose to tiller over that ground again. Suffice it to say that within the construct of the playing conditions the decisions made using DRS were correct. That should be the end to the whinging; unless the whinge relates to the mechanism for using DRS.

A dropped caught and bowled, a wicket off a no ball, a crowd ejection as a result of a “beer cup snake” gone bad and the all to regular early finish at the Gabba for bad light added drama to what was otherwise the day many of us expected if South Africa won the toss.

My early train trip home gave me a moment of reflection to think about where I ranked my day one experience compared to previous first days at the Gabba. Harmison’s first ball and Siddle’s hatrick remain my favourite days at the Gabba but this one was special for its own reason. I got to see possibly the best player of his generation bat like he rarely has previously in Australia and I got to see the best batsman in the world do what he has been doing to all the other teams in recent times. The fact that they are on the opposing team only takes a limited shine off those facts.

Of course, I also had pause to reflect on the performance of the Australian team. The immediate thought that came to mind is that Australia has, not for the first time during the reign of M Clarke, got their selection wrong. The 3 fast bowlers used had a sameness about them that only the selection of Mitchell Starc would have cured. Furthermore the selection of a batsman with 3 first class wickets at an average of 150 per wicket in the place of a true allrounder (Quiney for Watson) has also been exposed as a mistake.

Having just left the ground following the wash out of day 2, day 3 of this test match beckons as the bailiwick of the summer of Clarke’s Australians: can they use the conditions to their advantage to strike back at the dominant South Africans or will “usual service” resume and the “Amla & Kallis show” continue to roll on? Only time will tell, all I know is that by my count there are now 363 days until Day 1 at the Gabba next year and I for one am already making plans for that day.