Andrew Starkie’s Ashes Diary (4)


Entry 4

Wednesday December 1, 2010

Now the dust has settled on an un-Brisbane like pitch that didn’t offer its usual Australian victory, what did we make of the first Test?  Although we never looked like losing, many believe there were more negatives than anything else for Australia. Is it all doom and a long Pommy Summer ahead, or can we find positives to take to Adelaide this week?

Let’s look at the first Test one day at a time.

Australia won the opening day.  England’s batsmen – Cook, Pietersen, Bell – threatened to build big scores before Siddle landed and produced his own bit of Ashes history.  The Northerner’s 6 wicket bag wrestled back a day that was meandering in the visitors’ favour while distracting attention from pretty flat performances from Hilfenhaus – besides his third ball dismissal of Strauss – and Johnson.  Doherty went OK in his first bowling effort by cleaning up the tail, although he did drop a a catch.  No one could quite work out what the pitch was doing and perhaps a few English batsmen thought it was playing easier than it actually was.  England were all out and Watson and Katich saw us through to stumps.  Day one seems so long ago.

Australia started the second day quite well.  The openers looked likely to build a large base before Watson got out.  Wickets fell in the afternoon session with Anderson the pick of the bowlers.  Ponting, North and Clarke failed, our batting order looked flimsy, and at 5-143, the cheer of the previous day was long gone.  Hussey and Haddin guided Australia to stumps, with the former on 81 and on the way to salvaging his Test career.  Besides Swann, who the Aussies had obviously decided to target, England bowled tightly and fielded with spark.  They had kept Australia to under 200 runs for the day and were back in the Test.

Hussey and Haddin batted together for much of the next day.  Their 307 run partnership lasted over six hours and placed Australia in a position where it couldn’t lose the match.  However, like Siddle on the first day, their heroics made up for ordinary efforts from others.  Katich and Watson were the only other batsmen to make over 20.  Clarke looked unfit and North ordinary.  Finn took 6 wickets in his first Ashes Test, and England generally held it together in the field.  Strauss and Cook strode to the wicket facing a 221 run deficit and a tricky late afternoon period.  The England captain shouldered arms and was struck in front first ball.  He was a heartbeat away from a pair, however, the raucous appeal was denied.  It’s fair to suggest in any other era, Strauss would’ve been sent on his way, with many umpires traditionally adhering to the ‘if you don’t play a shot you’re out’ approach. However, with batsmen now permitted to channel the memory of W.G. Grace and challenge decisions, there was a more than slight possibility of reluctance to lift the finger with this decision due to fear of death by TV.  Replays showed the ball was just missing.

England started day 4 hoping to save the Test.  By day’s end, they may have been thinking of victory.  Cracks had appeared in the pitch, however, they had little impact.  Both openers scored centuries against unimaginative bowling that lacked venom.  The fielding wasn’t much better with catches dropped. Strauss’ was the only wicket to fall – stumped advancing to North’s offspin.  1/307 at stumps.

Cook and Trott carried on briskly on the fifth morning and there was talk of an early declaration.  Strauss was more inclined to punish our bowlers with Adelaide just days away.  England batted on and finally declared at 1/517 – a statistic that may appear on Barmy Army t-shirts before long.  Cook made a double century and Trott, one hundred.  Australia’s poor bowling and fielding continued with Johnson receiving most of the criticism.  It was as limp a performance I’ve seen from an Australian team.  Watson and Ponting got junk time runs before an early finish was called.

Siddle, Hussey and Haddin performed for Australia.  Besides their efforts, there was little to cheer about.  Johnson’s form, and to a lesser extent Hilfenhaus’, is a concern.  The inclusions of Bollinger and Harris in the Adelaide squad suggest some tough decisions may be made by the selectors. North has become a permanent headache.  England’s bowlers were marginally better and most of its top order made runs.  If you can win without win, England did.

Win the toss in Adelaide and batting nirvana awaits.  Otherwise Australia’s already weary and troubled pace attack will be facing more long days in the field.  The second Test may be decided by the flick of a coin.


  1. John Butler says:

    Nice work Andrew

    I fear Clarke is still troubled by his back (despite coaching denials). Or else he’s lost confidence badly.

    Haddin cemented his place with the bat, but I fear he could cost us at some stage with his glovework.

    The bowling is a worry. Johnson can’t be trusted. Hilfenhaus looked flat. But neither Bollinger or Harris are really world beaters.

    If North isn’t on his last chance, he should be.

    Plenty of holes to plug.

  2. Andrew Starkie says:

    I don’t know who the selectors are trying to fool with Clarke – Stevie Wonder could see he’s injured.

    I like Haddin’s batting, but I agree about his keeping. I recall his errors in England in ’09 well.

    Johnson is obviously out. SOmeone had to pay for 1/517. Hilfy will probably keep his spot if fit; I hear he has a hammy. I like Harris’ spirit. he won’t be intimidated or drop his head. Why isn’t George in the squad? he played the second test in India, is from SA and took 5 in Hobart earlier in the week. Our selectors are tending to ‘identify players of the future’ as opposed to going for form.

    North may be saved by fact the bowlers performed so poorly in Brisbane. Plus, no one’s banging the door down with centuries the Shield. As I said, he is a headache.

    Win the toss and bat for two days!

  3. If Australia bats first it could go like this:

    Katich 17 or 91
    Watson 5 or 63
    Ponting 11 or 137
    Clark 1 or 21
    Hussey 5 or 47
    North 16 or 116
    Haddin 11 or 41
    Doherty 3 or 31
    Siddle 6 or 12
    Bollinger 1 or 2
    Hilfy 1 or 6

    So we could make between 77 and 567.

    Gigs what are the chances?

  4. Andrew Starkie says:

    please win the toss Punter

  5. I thought Punter made a very illuminating comment today at the press conference when asked
    why the batsmen seem to get more chances than the bowlers. “I don’t know,” he said. “You
    will have to ask Andrew Hilditch.”

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