Ashes Diary 2013, entry no. 3

If there were too many talking points to get our heads around after Trent Bridge, the opposite can be said of Lord’s. As is their way, the cricket gods served up cold, harsh reality.

Frighteningly, England were 3-28 and 3-30, yet won by 347 runs. Readers with the time and inclination may research whether a similar result has ever happened before.

Look out when England’s top order clicks. Captain Cook and Trott, Mr Happy, will bat until the cows come home, boring us to death and killing the series, along the way.

Early success in each innings at Lord’s showed Australia’s bowling attack contains venom, but is unable to press home the advantage. Harris, Siddle and Smith were good but didn’t look capable of rolling England cheaply twice.

Selectors have two questions to consider concerning bowlers going into Old Trafford. Will they go with Agar or Lyon, or both? Predictably, Agar thudded to Earth at Lord’s, receiving a dent to his confidence. Being dropped may do long-term damage. England are expected to pick Panesar alongside Swann, so Australia may also go with both spinners.

Which quick will replace the injured Pattinson? Bird was in strong form in Sussex and may get the nod in front of Starc.

Warner eventually got runs in South Africa for Australia A– after the bloke he tried to thump in that Birmingham pub had ground out a superb, match winning Test hundred – so may come in for Rogers. I hope not. Even though he shouldered arms at Lord’s, which is akin to dropping your pants at the Vatican or a deb ball, Rogers deserves another crack. I’m still convinced he has the game and wits to make it. The cricket Gods owe him.

There may be no changes to the batting line-up. Watto won’t get dropped because he bowls and Smith and Hughes, both ordinary with the bat at Lord’s, may get another go because of their first Test efforts. Khawaja showed some fight in the second innings when he and Clarke dug in for a while.

What’s happened to Australian batting is mystifying. Go back a few short years to the final Test in Sydney, 2006-07, when we last held the urn, and our batting line-up read: Langer, Hayden, Ponting, Hussey, Clarke, Symonds, Gilchrist. How many current batsmen, captain aside, would get a game in that team?

Why have so many such poor techniques? The English are right angles and steady heads, while Watto, Smith, Hughes and Cowan are obtuse and off balance. Smith and Cowan are playing baseball, hitting fly balls, while at times, Hughes, legs and arms splayed, carries the stunned look of a lost explorer, emerging from the jungle into the clearing, only to be confronted by a tribe of grass skirt wearing locals. Other times, he’s fly fishing.

Root and Bresnan showed our batsmen how to play on the fourth morning at Lord’s. Their concentration, patience and intelligent shot selection must be adopted by Australia.

20/20 can’t be blamed for all problems – the Poms play it too. Is it hubris? Poor planning and guidance after the Border – Waugh period? Are our cricketers lazy and self-centred? All of the above?

A couple of points are apparent. The baggy green isn’t as respected or craved as it once was. Who was the last Australian player to serve a genuine apprenticeship in domestic cricket? Too many are rushed in to fill holes, then cast aside if they fail. Look at our list of discarded spinners since Warne. Also, Clarke, a champion batsman and bold captain, has relationship problems with his teammates. A major requirement of leadership is taking people with you on the journey. The retirements, voluntary or not, of Katich, Hussey, Symonds, and the falling out with Watto, suggest he doesn’t possess this quality.

Gee, we miss The Huss.

The above named Sydney Test was the last for Langer, Warne and McGrath, and the end of a golden era. We’ve been stumbling lost down a dark passage since. Boof has a big job ahead, but we always knew that.

Lord’s was a disaster. But only a week before we were full of positivity. The Aussies must hang tough, smile and keep the course. Only through hard work and guts will Australian cricket get back on track.

PS: I said after Trent Bridge I agreed with Ian Healy – you only walk when your car runs out of petrol. I stand by that, but Ian Bell, in the middle of his own Bradman dream, dirtied his reputation by not accepting Smith’s word on a low ‘catch’ in the gully in England’s second innings. Bell played the system, knowing full well a pile of fuzzy camera angles and replays would eventually cast some doubt and offer a reprieve. Bell was on 3 and England would have been 5 for about 150. He went on and got 74. Poor form, Bell.

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