Friday December 24, 2010

It’s mid-afternoon and I’m lying under the tree in the backyard.  It’s sunny, peaceful and quiet and the pre-Christmas madness has begun to dissipate.  Early evening, I’ll meet family – parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces and nephew – at St. Anthony’s, Fairfield.  Afterwards, we’ll head back to Anne’s house, my elder sister, for a meal and to watch Carols.  Except for the hosts, I like Carols.  For mine, the best and most memorable performance was Billy Thorpe’s rendition of Somewhere over the Rainbow a few years back.  Him, his voice, acoustic guitar and a stool.  Superb.  Alas, we won’t be hearing from Billy this year.  I also like Dennis Walter.  Serious.

In spite of the bullshit – commercialism, expense, traffic, running around, catching up with people you probably don’t need to, and Karl Stefanovic – I love Christmas.  This is solely due to the family I belong to.  We have always celebrated Christmas as it should be.  Christmas Day is always spent with mum’s side and tomorrow, we will gather at a cousin’s house in Oakleigh.  As usual, the day will pass slowly and relaxed, with much time spent stuffing our faces, rolling a few leggies down to Nephew Lukey and a late afternoon doze.  Issues such as politics, the weather, world affairs and nude facebook footballers may get a look in, however, the main topic of conversation – amongst the males at least – will be the cricket.

I’m not sure what to make of the Perth Test.  Time will tell if England’s capitulations in both innings to good swing and pace bowling were significant turning points in the series, or simply a dip in form, coupled with their now traditional inability to handle the WACA pitch.  Australia may have seized the momentum and may go on to reclaim the Ashes in the remaining Tests.  Or England, probably the better of the two teams, will re-straighten its ship and find its Adelaide form.

Australia don’t like changing a winning team and will be tempted to take the same eleven into Boxing Day.  There is sound sense in this, however, a predicted slower pitch won’t suit four quicks.  Siddle may go for Beer.  A Victorian for a former Victorian won’t please the locals.  In Sidds’ favour is his record at the ‘G.  He bowled well against South Africa two summers ago, taking top order wickets when the pitch was flattening out.  The crowd gave him a ‘Meeeerv’ like chant.  He will be very unfortunate if dropped, but so will Hilfenhaus, who achieved decent swing in Perth for little reward besides the crucial second innings wicket of Pietersen.  If the journey of his career thus far is anything to go by, Johnson will have a flat match after the heroics of the third Test.  He won’t find as much late swing in Melbourne and may be frustrated by the batsmen’s track.  Hopefully, he has brought calm mind and good form across the Nullabor.

Obviously, Australia can’t win the Ashes without more from its top order.  We can’t continue to rely on Watson and Hussey.  We need more from Ponting and Clarke and I still think Hughes isn’t ready to play at this level.  I fear playing the injured Ponting may backfire and ultimately be seen as selfish.  For what it’s worth, Cameron White should be in ahead of the ‘identified’ Smith.

I wrote at the start of the Ashes that Pietersen and Swann are the most important players in this series and I still think they are.  They were matchwinners in Adelaide and have underperformed in the other two matches.  KP was angry with his efforts in Perth and will be hungry to spend plenty of time in front of the big Melbourne crowd.  Swann will bowl plenty of overs and may be the difference as the match grows older.  It will be interesting to see how Cook goes after an ordinary last effort and Collingwood is having a bad series and needs to lift.  If Anderson misses out due to injury, his experience will be missed and more expected of Finn and Tremlett.  England lost their focus in Perth due to over-confidence and Australia’s sledging.  They are looking a bit rattled and Strauss’ captaincy will be a main talking point.

An Ashes Boxing Day Test is as good as sport gets and I’ll be there every day.  Come on Aussie.

Happy Christmas.


  1. Peter Flynn says

    Might see you there mate.


  2. It is hard to get a feel for this test. In my view the Australian bowling is flakey. In Perth it clicked but I suspect if England get a good start things will go England’s way. The selectors really can’t afford to change the bowling line up again. They can only drop either Siddle or Hilfenhaus. The bowler not dropped will feel like the next in line for russian roulette.(I can’t see either opting for the Robert De Nero option of two slugs in the chamber). The fact that there is no serious discussion of showing either Hughes or Smith the drinks tray speaks volumes. In one sense the worst thing that happened for Australia was Siddle’s hat trick in the first test. Hilfenhaus bowls well without penetration, Siddle has hit hattrick and the comfort of knowing no one can work out how it happened. It could go either way….but what about the hard fought draw senario? Wouldn’t the SCG trust just love that?

  3. Andrew Starkie says

    Flynny, catch you there.

    Mulcaster, Hilfy is beginning to remind me of Danny Morrison. Good bowler, but not a wicket taker. he swung the ball too early and wide in Perth. One thing is certain, Strauss won’t bowl first if he wins the toss.

  4. Ah, Boxing Day. Looking forward to it with great anticipation, Andrew.
    For mine, the result hinges on the ability of the Australian top-order to get some RUNS !!
    The problem with Hilfy is that, yes, he does swing it…but it is predictable swing and so easy to play.
    Siddle’s issue is that, as the third-stringer, he is always being dictated to by the captain. To wit, the ridiculous around-the-wicket bodyline stuff he was forced to serve up in Perth (and, yes, I know that he did
    get Prior out bowled).
    My point is this: who is more likely to run through an opposition batting line-up…Hilfy or Siddle? I would
    take the Victorian every time!

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