Sorry Shane Warne: 5 reasons why not picking Pat Cummins was the right move

In case you missed it last night:

  1. Peter Siddle was selected to play in the final Ashes test at the Oval ahead of Pat Cummins; and
  2. Shane Warne went on full rant in commentary about the selectors’ decision.

I am sorry to all Shane Warne fans out there but, frankly, he is just straight out wrong and here are five reasons why:

  1. Pat Cummins has not played a full first class (Sheffield Shield) season in his career and, indeed, has only played in eight first class games.
  2. The last two first class games Cummins has played have been games on this tour that have been against, really, glorified first class teams over two and three days respectively.
  3. In both of those two first class games Cummins only bowled in one innings and was not required to back up on a day’s rest (or less) to start bowling again.  It is very likely that he would have needed to do so in this test match and yet he has not done so at first class level in at least two years.  This is a recipe for another injury for Cummins whose road to the Ashes squad has been littered with injuries.
  4. Pat Cummins is 22 years old.  His time will come soon enough whilst this is likely the last time Peter Siddle will have an opportunity to play wearing the baggy green cap.  Siddle has been a strong servant of the game and his country over a number years and he deserves the opportunity to finish up with Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers in this game.
  5. Australia has struggled in recent test matches to contain the run scoring of the English.  Starc and Johnson are not bowlers who restrict run rates and pushing Pat Cummins into a containment roll makes no sense.  Siddle, as more of a stock bowler, has played this role consistently so the balance of the team is improved by Siddle’s inclusion.

The selectors, who have been correctly much maligned for their missteps this tour, have gotten this selection, for the reasons above, absolutely correct.  Sorry Shane Warne: you have gotten it spectacularly wrong!

The Ashes: Australia can still win BUT not by attacking

We are three days into the first Ashes test for 2015 and already the pundits, both in the paper and on social media, are writing Australia off.  Frankly, I still think Australia can still win but it will take a change in mindset to do it. 

To date in this test match two things have been obvious:

  1. Australia’s game plan has not changed away from the all out attack strategy that works in Australian conditions. 
  2. That game plan is not working. 

Now Australia is faced with a dual task: score 412 runs to win the test match OR bat for two days.  Lets speak freely here: attacking at all costs will mean this game is over by tea day four and England will win.  The English strike bowlers are bowling length and swinging the ball: Australian batting mistakes that flow from being too attacking will fall right into their hands. 

So, how does Australia win? 

To me it is obvious: Australia has to take a page out of the Chris Rogers play book and keep it simple! Watch Rogers bat: he reduces risk by shortening his back lift, pushing balls into gaps and leaving almost everything outside off stump.  In the first innings, this approach led to a scoring rate for Rogers of 70 runs per 100 balls.  If Australia scores at that rate it wins.  

Even if you remove the score rate from the equation, reducing the risk of wickets by taking a less expansive approach leads to England being in the field for longer which reduces the effectiveness of the likes of Broad and Anderson as the day goes on.  It also, obviously, reduces the likelihood of wickets from mistakes.

412 runs over two days, or 180 overs, is a fairly simple equation.  It means Australia has to score at 2.3 runs per over.  There is no need to knock the runs over in one day or as fast as possible.  That would mean a strategy shift for Australia.  I am not sure on current evidence shifting the strategy in this way is in the Lehmann / Clarke play book but only time will tell! 

Cricket: Ashes 2015 Match Schedule announced

The ECB and Cricket Australia have announced the schedule for the 2015 Ashes tour to England and Wales. The matches that matter are as follows:

June 25-28: Four-day match v Kent in Canterbury.
July 1-4: Four-day match v Essex in Chelmsford.
July 8-12: 1st Test v England at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff.
July 16-20: 2nd Test v England at Lord’s, London.
July 23-25: Three-day match v Derbyshire in Derby.
July 29-August 2: 3rd Test v England at Edgbaston, Birmingham.
August 6-10: 4th Test v England at Trent Bridge, Nottingham.
August 14-16: Three-day match v Northants in Northampton.
August 20-24: 5th Test v England at The Oval, London.

Australia will be seeking to retain the Ashes urn convincing won in Australia 5-0 only some 4 months ago.

The battle begins now!!!!

The Ashes Washup: I got it wrong and I love it!

On 19 November last year, in advance of the start of the Ashes series, I posted “5 Fearless Predictions” on this blog apropos key performances that I believed would play a large factor in who won the Ashes.

Those predictions were:

  1. There would be only one winning in the Broad v Australian crowd battle and the winner’s team would likely win the Ashes.
  2. Michael Clarke would average less than 35.00 with the willow.
  3. The Australian XI for the Sydney test match would be different to that of the Brisbane test match.
  4. Kevin Pietersen will score a hundred and will offend everyone.
  5. No matter what happens the “Three Stooges” will survive.

I also had been fairly overt in my dismay, at the time, about the selection of Mitchell Johnson. Obviously I got that one woefully wrong along with my predictions about Michael Clarke’s performance, possible changes to the Australian XI and Pietersen scoring a hundred.

I had also posited that the result would be, according to my heart, Australia to win 2-1 and, according to my head, England to win 2-1.  Again: I was wrong.

One of the most mimicked lines of Richie Benaud is “It’s a funny old game cricket” and this completed Ashes tour has certainly taught us that.

Ordinarily I would have a case of the “dirts” because I got my predications wrong but how could I be negative about a 5-0 whipping of the English? Simply put: I can not be!  That said, I am now working hard to manage my own expectations of the Australian team for the coming series in South Africa.  That series will not be anywhere near as easy as this one just completed was and any hint of complacency will be exploited by the best team in the world, for the moment.

A final point: I never in my wildest dreams thought England would be so bad on this tour.  Mitchell Johnson, in his acceptance speech for the Man of the Series award, commented that England never stopped fighting during the series: Ben Stokes aside I respectfully disagree.  England’s capitulations in both innings in the final test of the series were indicative of a side that had given up: nothing more and nothing less.  I genuinely hope that Andy Flower and Alistair Cook can get the Poms back on track because whilst I love nothing more than beating them, seeing competitive cricket against them in previous series has been a joy.

The Ashes: 5-0 Australia

The title of this post says it all doesn’t it: Australia have won this Ashes series 5-0 and the breadth of the margin gives the best indication of the chasm between the form of the combatants.  Right from Day 1 of this series at the Gabba, England seemed to be unable to put away Australia when they were in front and so that trend continued in each test match of the summer.

Much has been made of our close the teams have been: and I agree that they are closer than the 5-0 result suggest, it is just that Australia has won every decisive moment of this series.  Every time Australia was in trouble with the bat there was a partnership that wrested the advantage from the English.  Conversely, every time England was in trouble they lost wickets in clusters and could not recover.

That fact alone shows you the difference in the line ups in this series: one was ruthless whilst the other was bereft.  Just as Australia was excellently coached and captained, it would appear that England lost their way both in the dressing room and on the field.

There were some fantastic individual performances in this series but to go through them would be to denigrate what was one of the best team performances I have seen from an Australian sporting team let alone a cricket team.  They were all united by Coach Lehmann and Captain Clarke with one purpose: the destruction of the English and, as a team, they succeeded in that purpose.

For England, there is only one shining light to come out of this tour and that is in the personage of Christchurch born Ben Stokes.  We will be seeing much more of him in years to come one suspects.

I have watched a lot of cricket and I have seen a lot of cricket live and I will say what I said after the first test of this series at the Gabba: I have never experienced crowd involvement in a game of cricket like that which I experienced at the Gabba and that involvement of the crowds has continued through each test right up until the end of the series today.  Australia has brought the passion of its fans, me included, back to the ground and the game, so much so that the anguish in the early hours of winter mornings in July and August is long forgotten.

Now, we have a tour to South African to look forward to which will present a new and different challenge for the Australian team.  With bated breath, I can not wait to see how that series unfolds between two of the heavyweight teams of the game.