Andrew Starkie’s Ashes Diary (8)

ASHES DIARY

Entry 8

Saturday December 18, 2010

Human nature is a funny thing; and we are equally funny creatures.

Confidence is that elusive, yet essential ingredient for success in life and sport.  We can spend our lives coveting, chasing, gaining, and losing it again.  Confidence can turn Alastair Cook, averaging 30 for the year before coming to Australia, into a player looking to break Bradman’s records. Ian Bell was protected from the strike by his captain at the Oval in 2009, yet is transformed and going at close to 100 for this series.  Mitchell Johnson, dropped after Brisbane, a twitching, foetal mess, was brought back for Perth, made a belief building 60 in the first innings on Friday, carried on and ripped through the Poms yesterday.

Alas, we are but human, and some of us, mere males.  Confidence can turn to hubris and arrogance.  Men can lose their focus and get ahead of themselves. After winning by an innings plus in Adelaide, England set up camp on Chapel Street, Melbourne, where plenty more runs were scored and scalps taken.  Fortified by his double century, like a suited, young buck is by the white stuff in the Members’ toilets during the Spring Carnival, Pietersen borrowed Warney’s toy and broke speed laws on the Geelong Highway.  In Perth, he strolled defiantly through Australian fielding practice.  How’s the saying go: ‘Pride comes before the fall’.  He and Trott floated and smirked to the crease on a wave of self-belief, oblivious and ignorant to the resurgent Johnson, swinging the ball into righthanders.  They played across the line and were sent on their way.  Tremlett carried his Melbourne form into the Australian first innings and claimed important first session wickets.  However, when his turn came to bat, he fled from Johnson’s venomous inswinger as if dodging a nightclub bouncer.

And what about Punter?  The best since Bradman.  Peerless in recent years in Australian cricket.  Second only to Tendulkar anywhere else.  Perfect technique and street fighter temperament.  Yet confidence has deserted him as his and his team’s performances have waned.  Self-doubt and negativity have ambushed his skills and leadership.  He hardly spoke to the new players in the lead up to this Test.  Is old man time about to tap him on the shoulder or is he merely a few trademark revolving door pull shots or piece of good fortune away from banishing this bad patch to memory?

The Australians must not lose focus in this Test.  One good day – actually, it was nearer to three amazing hours supplied by Johnson – does not produce an Ashes victory.  Watson must maintain concentration and self-esteem and score a big century.  Hussey, who has successfully salvaged his career recently, may go with him.  Only two Summers ago in Perth, Australia set South Africa over 400 to win.  Smith and DeVilliers scored hundreds and they made the runs easily.  Johnson took eleven wickets for the match.  The problem was no one else supported him.  He will need help in this match.

At time of posting:

Australia 3/175

Watson 94

Hussey 42

Lead 256

Comments

  1. John Butler says:

    Maybe they broke out the Lourdes water out in the nets for Johnson?

    Whatever it was, keep it up.

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