Andrew Starkie’s Ashes Diary 2013 (entry no.2)

Trent Bridge was a great Test match. Engrossing. Uncompromising. At times, thrilling and brilliant. Impossible to summarise within a few paragraphs, so I won’t even try. As Captain Cook asked in his post-match presser, has there ever been a Test with more momentum shifts?

I’ll offer a few observations instead.

Australia came prepared and well planned. There was a positive, close feeling emanating from the squad which Boof must take credit for.

Australia were competitive and resilient throughout. They have specialised in soft collapses in recent years and threatened to do so in both innings at Trent Bridge, however, lower order fight kept the match alive.

Agar’s first innings was schoolboy dreams stuff. Well, mine anyway. And so uplifting. Suddenly everyone is talking cricket again. I don’t want to be a wet sock, but let’s hope his 98* doesn’t turn out to be the highlight of his career. He showed a bit with the ball, but off-spin is an art, one that can’t be mastered as a teenager. He has many ups and downs ahead and hopefully selectors will allow he and the public to ride them together without getting itching trigger fingers. I’d hate to see Agar sent to the Australian spinners’ graveyard.

Our seamers performed well on an untrustworthy, bowler friendly track. As expected, Sidds was the best. He’s the heart and soul of the team and should be second picked after the captain. And not rotated. Siddle has proven in recent seasons he is more than a grunt bowler. The yorker that uprooted Root in the first innings was world class. And he has the capacity to reset after a messy start.

People are calling for Starc’s head for Lord’s, and maybe it is time to give Bird a go, but he will be stiff to be dropped. Pattinson was a bit better and his batting with Haddin showed skill and poise.

No surprise, Rogers showed he has what it takes. His technique is sound and composed, he has guile, keeps his head still and waits for the ball. And he complemented Watson in the second dig. All power to Rogers, the cricket Gods should reward him with a ton at Lord’s.

Hughes and Smith batted well in the first innings, however the latter’s dismissal showed lack of maturity and was a real turning point. Maybe Hughes has found his spot as a support to the lower order.

Fielding is always the first indicator of whether a team is switched on or not and Australia performed well in this area, particularly in the first innings.

Australia can’t afford another poor Test from the top 6. Both of Watson’s dismissals were typical and Smith, Hughes and Cowen all have suspect techniques. Khawaja, who has made more drinks than Tom Cruise in ‘Cocktail’ recently, must be given another go at Cowen’s expense (He should’ve been retained and Ponting dropped two summers ago after the loss to NZ in Hobart). Khawaja has played little cricket of late, but his technique is sound and honestly, what’s the use of having him on tour if he isn’t going to play.

England was the superior team and deserved to win, however, they played in patches and had lapses in concentration. There were times you could almost feel a collective exhalation from England, most obviously when Australia were 9 for in both innings. England relaxed and on both occasions couldn’t stem the run flow. Did this show complacency and lack of respect towards Australia?

The batting of Bell, Cook and Pietersen in the second innings was of high quality and of course, Anderson was brilliant, especially the half hour of reverse on Day 2, and Swann caused damage late on the 4th. And there was Cook’s catching on the final morning.

In contrast, Trott and Prior played arrogant get out shots and Root struggled in his first Ashes Test. On the last morning when England were in real trouble against Haddin and Pattinson, Cook couldn’t trust Broad or Finn who looked spooked by the same ghost who got Watson a few tours ago. Lunch saved England and Anderson came out refreshed.

On the issue of walking, I agree with Ian Healy: only when your car runs out of fuel. But Broad’s raising of his bat at the end of play after a dodgy 40 not out lacked brains or class.

England know they escaped at Trent Bridge. They will be more focused at Lord’s and don’t expect their bowlers to laugh at the Australians this time.

There is improvement ahead for both teams. Clarke won’t want to fail again and Cook looks set for a big score at the home of Test cricket.

Australia need to bring the same intensity and character. Anything less will mean a thumping. I fear Australia have missed their best chance of victory on this tour. I hope I’m wrong.

PS: brace for the fallout of Clarke’s ‘cancer on the team’ call against Watson.

Comments

  1. Peter Flynn says:

    G’day Great Man,

    I enjoyed reading your observations.

    Left arm orthodox is a hard trade, particularly in Australia.

    Agar has youth on his side. He should chat to Vettori.

    After Smith’s wickets, I can see Ahmed being selected.

    It goes to show the difference a decent leggie can make.

    Great description of Khawaja.

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