Ashes Sydney Test Blog

The Ashes stay with England. But important questions remained unanswered.

Can Australia save face by levelling the series?

Is it worth levelling the series, anyway? Should Australia be more concerned with rebuilding for the future rather than winning in Sydney?

And with Usman Khawaja set to make his debut, the really big question is just when was the last time the Australian side contained a player whose surname began with the letter “K” and also contained the letter “J”? (Hint: not that long ago.)


  1. Michael Clarke has not put a fut wrong since becoming Australian captain. He’s won the toss.

    (Had to get that comment in early before it all goes pear-shaped…)

  2. I reckon he should have put them in. The pressure is (very) likely to fall back on Australia now. Puts pressure on Beer as well. But I hope they make some runs.

  3. Brave, but correct, decision to bat. With Beer (and Smith?) in the team,
    he had to bat. Get through the first hour of the ball moving around and
    I think someone could easily cash in here.

  4. Solid start here, I believe our last player whose surname started with K and contained a J was one Jason Krejza who last played in 2008 at the WACA against the South Africans.

  5. Right call to bat first because I wouldn’t want to be batting last here.

  6. And the invisible tankard goes to you, Tim Ivins!

    Disappointing end for Hughes to go out that way having left so many balls alone in the first session.

  7. Andrew Starkie says

    Players off to rain. Aust 2 for. New boy looks good: poised, classy, composed.

    An indication of how things have changed in so many ways: Bresnan giving Clarke an earful when he arrived at the crease. That’s the Australian captain at his home ground copping it from a back-up bowler. Clarke didn’t respond. Wouldn’t have happened in the past.

  8. 7; I agree, Andrew…it’s a new era! But he who laughs last laughs loudest.

    At 2/100 the Aussies have a real chance to build a big 450-plus first innings
    (yes, yes, I know I am getting a little ahead of myself!). But IF Australia
    were to win this Test, a drawn series would be a terrible result for the Poms
    given their dominance for the most part.

  9. 8/202 but Johnson getting into double-figures introduces the X-factor (or perhaps the J-factor) into Australia’s batting and maybe bowling too. If ever there was a man who relies on confidence, it’s Mitch.

    I think it might be worth have a dabble on Australia at current odds.

  10. Here’s one for discussion as Hilfenhaus splits the gap between 3rd slip and gully: Is there any real point in having a gully instead of just a straight fourth (or third slip)?

    Seems to me it might be better to close the gap and leave the wider gully area vacant. At least then if a batsman scores through that area, the bowler can say he earned the runs, more so than having squeeked one through the finer, vacant area when the gap is left.

  11. John Butler says

    Gigs #10, an excellent point you raise. What is the likelihood of Hilfy mustering a cut-shot?

    And why-o-why spread the field for Mitch?

  12. A very responsible attitude from Johnson and Hilfenhaus and a fine example to our youth: No Beer before lunch…

  13. If Hilfenhaus is going to swing the ball into the lefties, a short leg should be mandatory.

  14. Our 4 highest scorers included 2 bowlers and the new guy (in fact those three contributed just under 50% of the score) … but you gotta have faith

  15. Oh great, Strauss has just equalled our highest scorer (Johnson: 53 from 65 balls) in 53 balls.

  16. Andrew Starkie says

    Potentially ugly at Lunch. I fear for Beer.

  17. Andrew Starkie says

    Sorry, potentially ugly at Tea.

  18. Never fear beer, never. Unless its Emu Bitte orfrom Qld

  19. westcoastdave says

    Is it just me, or has this actually resembled proper test cricket today?

    Beer has done pretty well. Left arm orthodox is never going to look that dangerous, but he’s looked pretty solid, and prepared to toss it up.

  20. John Butler says

    I agree Dave. A good day’s cricket. Beer is OK so far. We’ll see if he goes the journey.

  21. Is it just me or is this current Ashes series looking like a George Costanza bizarro world event. Poms are out here with 1 player over 30 and are playing directed aggressive cricket while we flounder round like Dads Army. In the day the exact opposite was the norm. We derided them for selecting over the hill county pros and chided them that anyone of our Shield teams would win the County Champs with ease. Now our current Test team are not even playing Shield. National teams are picked while State games are in progress. It all looks like the Australian Cricket Club to me, not the best we have doing it for their country. Today was better BUT …..

  22. It is interesting that no-one has commented on the decision to move B Haddin up a notch to number 6. He is a handy wicket-keeper/batsman, but he is not among the top 6 batsmen in this country! Think back to when A Gilchrist, the greatest keeper/batsman of all time, was playing. It was often suggested that he should move up to no. 6 to allow greater flexibility with the bowlers, but it never happened!!! (And we are talking about Gilchrist here).
    It seems that Smith, at 7, now resmebles some type of centaur: half-batsman half-bowler. But I fear that the parts do not add up to a whole.

  23. Imagine for one sweet blissful moment that you have replaced Andrew Hilditch as Chairman of selectors. As you meet you are given the opportunity to assess two players for selection:

    Player A
    Age 26
    All Rounder (Spin)
    Batting Average 46.30
    Bowling Average 23.50
    Economy Rate 3.07
    Strike Rate 45.8

    Player B
    Age 21
    All Rounder (Spin)
    Batting Average 41.25
    Bowling Average 46.53
    Economy Rate 3.93
    Strike Rate 70.9

    Who do you pick? and Who is who?

  24. westcoastdave says

    @#21 and #22 – there is no doubt in my mind that the cycle has now come full circle. The current crop of English players must have grown up with the same sort of experiences that the Australian players of the early 90s would have had, coming from the dark days to develop a team and a system capable of being successful. They haven’t got where they are this series overnight, or by luck.

    Australian cricket on the other hand gives the impression of having lost it’s way somewhere, and all of what Chalkdog says feels true to me. The example of Haddin batting ahead of Smith is just a case in point. Even leaving aside the discussion of where Haddin is in the order of Australian batsmen, what is Smith being picked as? If he is a specialist batsman, he has to bat above the keeper. If he is a bowler, why did we pick another spinner and not give him a bowl? It just seems to reinforce the feeling that the selectors have lost control somewhere along the way.

    If Australia win this test and the series finishes 2-2, then there is a defense that the system nearly produced a successful result. That might not be a good thing in the long run. I reckon cricket in Australia needs a bit of a shake up in order for it to have the impetus to re-form in a system that can then be strong for another extended period. It ain’t totally broken, but as England have evidently been able to do, it looks like it needs some serious rework rather than just continuing on the current pathway.

  25. westcoastdave says

    @#23 – Tim, is that the same player at two different times?

  26. @#25 – No Westcoastdave, current first class career statistics of two seperate players.

  27. westcoastdave says

    Player A I can’t figure out, but they look very interesting on paper.

    Plyer B is Steve Smith.

    Player C is John Hastings who averages similarly to player A, but as a medium pacer.

  28. 23: Tim, it’s a tale of two Stevss.
    Player A is Steve O’Keefe, player B is Steve Smith whom I believe (as hinted at in post #22) should not be playing Test cricket.

  29. OK let’s get it out of the way now – Beer looked a bit flat when his wicket was denied, but should bowl with more bubble and froth today.

  30. Spot on Smokie88. Personally, I would have Steve O’Keefe would have slotted in perfectly at 8 as our spinner. Still unsure about Beer, particularly given he is the same age as O’Keefe. Plus he’s a New South Welshman.

    Westcoastdave, very interesting comparison with John Hastings. The selectors don’t regard him as a test cricketer, why do they consider Smith?

  31. re: Jason Krejza — i wonder how many test cricketers have played less than 5 tests but taken 8 wickets in an innings?

    i know that taking 20 wickets is the key to winning test matches BUT who thinks that the blame is more on the batsman’s shoulders? 90% of the wickets taken in the series taken by both sides have been due to poor decision making.

  32. e.g. paul collingwoods dismissal for 13 today!

  33. westcoastdave says

    And of course, the only thing odder than the Haddin-Smith batting order is why England persist with Collingwood ahead of Bell.

  34. true points for sure dave, smith has a similar approach to batting as johnson, improving his bowling should be the focus…i see him as a test batsman with an average of about 25-30 odd….

  35. Yikes! We can’t bowl the Poms out … in our own backyard. What hope have we? More importantly, when’s the footy start?

  36. Andrew Starkie says

    Watson run out.

    Say no more.

  37. Munch, munch, munch – the sound of Australian cricketers eating humble pie. Won’t hurt them in the long run. Hope Khawaja gets a few.

  38. rather see Khawaja get runs than Clarke….when will ferguson ever be in this team?

  39. westcoastdave says

    There is a bit of a young Ricky Ponting in Khwaja’s defense, the way he uses his back leg to cover the line. Not so much in his attack – actually, I haven’t really seen his attack yet, but I don’t get the impression it is as crisp and authoritative as Ponting used to be.

    Interestingly, Ferguson’s first class average is only 35, albeit that he averages 46 on one dayers.

  40. Some things I don’t want to hear in the near future:

    – that Australia’s cricketers are “working hard” to “turn things around”. Its not about working hard it’s about working smart.
    – that the coaches are “working hard” to “turn things around” – see above.
    – anymore stupid chants from the Balmy bloody army.
    – any suggestion that the following are part of Australia’s cricketing future – M. Johnson, P Hughes, S Smith, X Doherty, B Hilfenhaus, R Ponting, A Hildith, T Cooley.
    – anymore crap about Australia’s golden past. Its PAST!
    – any suggestion that T20 is actually cricket.
    – any suggestion that Swann is a funny character and we should all laugh at him. He’s just another Pommy cricketer. He’s not funny at all.
    – any suggestion that England’s cricket team should continue to be called England – it should be called Great Britain & Associates.
    – anymore Australian cricketers saying they are “disappointed”. Will someone please show them a Thesaurus.
    – anymore old hacks saying they still “have something to offer” Australian cricket.

  41. Well it’s all over. A telling question for you all. How many catches did Haddin take for the series?

  42. and no cheating by looking at Cricinfo…

  43. Hey Dips

    I undersand there are things you don’t want to hear. What about the lyrics to Turn, Turn, Turn? Here are a few:

    To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
    There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
    And a time to every purpose

    A time to build up,a time to break down
    A time to dance, a time to mourn …

    Maybe this is the deserved fate for a team that over the 15 years of its ascendancy has been so conspicuously arrogant.


  44. To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
    A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
    A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
    A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
    A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
    A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
    A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
    A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

    What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth? 1I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

    He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

    I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God. I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him. That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.

    And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there. I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work. I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?

  45. There shall in that time be rumors of things going astray, erm, and there shall be a great confusion as to where things really are, and nobody will really know where lieth those little things with the sort of raffia-work base, that has an attachment. At that time, a friend shall lose his friend’s hammer, and the young shall not know where lieth the things possessed by their fathers that their fathers put there only just the night before, about eight O’clock.

  46. I was, er, quoting The Byrds but, yeah, what Mulcaster says.

    If I may add: and there will be time for a beer o’clock upon whicheth time all other time will lieth down and pretendeth time doth not exiteth until thy good wife doth remind time and the timekeeper that it doth or there will be helleth to pay.


  47. westcoastdave says

    It’s easy to be frustrated and critical, and the whole Autralian cricket apparatus has clearly not been able to put together a competitive team for this series, but it’s not like it is the end of the world. We’ve all lived through a period of cricketing ascendency that maybe both apparatus and spectators have come to take for granted. There needs to be some changes made sure, but they should be constructive and respectful, not needlessly vindictive. These people are not murderers, they are just guys who haven’t played cricket as well as they hoped to. Personally, I’ve played in teams like that, and it hasn’t been through lack of commitment or passion, we just weren’t as good as the teams we played. We all had a beer and a laugh afterwards, and came back next year.

    My 7 year old son asked me the other day why Australia never wins anything in sport, because in his lifetime we haven’t. He saw this cricket series, watched the soccer world cup, asked me why there aren’t any Australians playing in the tennis, etc. He never saw the two rugby world cup wins, the three one day world cup wins, the (boringly) dominant test series, rafter and Hewitt winning gland slam events, Ogilvy winning a golf major, Casey Stoner a motoGP title, Mark Webber nearly winning the F1 title.

    It’s from the frustration of failure that comes the necessary potential energy to power change. That was what powered Border to start the turnaround in Australian cricket in the late 80s, and what powered England to come out here and do what they did this year. Remember they are still only ranked 4, albeit on an ascendent curve. They saw beating us as an important stepping stone to where they want to get to, but only an early step. Exactly the same way that we saw plenty of other series in the last 15 years.

    One other thing, when you put aside your personal desires and just watch the cricket, England were actually pretty good to watch for a lot of this series. If nothing else, that at least made it tolerable to sit and watch the carnage!

  48. Andrew Starkie says

    It’s all too painful. And now Nathan Grima is having back surgery. Bad day in sport. I’m going to the beach.

    Bring on the footy. Go Roos!

  49. re 45

    Making it worse? How can it be worse? Jehovah! Jehovah! Jehovah!

  50. Martin Reeves says

    #47 Westcoastdave – great post, particularly your final paragraph.

  51. westcoastdave says

    #50. I was listening to the radio, reading the papers, getting queried by friends as to why I was still watching the cricket. I thought it was kind of obvious – I love cricket, and that doesnt change now that we are suddenly not the best in the world at it.

  52. Just saw Andrew Hilditch on the news claiming there was nothing wrong with the selections for the series. All of a sudden I feel the need to storm the Bastile, take over the Winter Palace, don a Guy Fawkes mask and make like V. The poor bastard has taken leave of his senses. What’s right about picking bowlers who couldn’t swing the ball, Batsmen who could not score a century between them and spinners who noone had ever heard of? Andrew …. DENIAL is not a river in Africa…you need help.

  53. westcoastdave says

    Yep – the selections weren’t the only problem, but when you get to the end of a series and the groups of players that most cricket people would a) keep; b) discard, and c) play in a different role are about equal, you have to think that the selection process hasn’t been seamless! It’s not a witch hunt, but if Andrew Hilditch wants to pretend that there was nothing wrong with the selection process, then that is just delusional. I presume he doesn’t really believe it – but if he does, then it’s pretty obvious what the first step in the brave new era of Australian cricket needs to be.

    On that though – why can’t people in sport ever actually tell the truth? It’s not national security. No-one is going to die if you tell the truth about cricket. The players are forced to go on live national media and eat humble pie, well they are not the only people who should do that. I’d have a whole lot more respect for the administration side of sport if you thought you could actually believe anything that someone said. It’s not a brand or a product, it is much more than that. We aren’t stakeholders and customers, we are people who really care. Teams aren’t franchises – they are things that people emotionally invest in. (Yes, I am talking about the AFL now, in case you missed it.) Sure, make a buck, we all want and need to do that – but don’t for one moment think that that is the main point.

    When you talk about sport with someone who really cares, and it’s fair to say if you are reading this then you probably do, the conversation always expands away from the moment. We know the history. When we think about the future, we mean both the next game and the return series in four years. Nothing happens in isolation. That’s what makes sport sport, and not a movie. It is real, it isn’t just a carefully planned manipulation of your emotions. It is genuine. It could go either way. It is combat without the casualties. It is a survivable version of going to the brink. I remember four putting the last green of a pennants match to cost us a place in the final. I remember hitting the winning runs for a new cricket club in its first ever game. At the time those emotions seem suprassingly powerful, but the next day you realise that sport is just sport, and life goes on.

    Sport is most interesting when you get to see beyond the superficial, made for TV parts. I’ve been lucky enough to get to see the inside of a few parts of sport, and it is soooo much more interesting than the parts that we get fed. It seems odd to me that people who administer sport don’t seem to trust us fans enough to let us see the real parts of the game.

  54. “On that though – why can’t people in sport ever actually tell the truth?”

    If Hilditch had said “Yep, we blew it we should have stuck with Hauritz and never picked Steven Smith as a bowler” I could have handled that. I am not certain Hauritz would have made a difference but we can now be reasonably certain that X. Doherty, S.Smith and M. Beer sure as hell didn’t. Had he said, “Probably should have kept Payne” that would have been debatable. His approach sounds awfully like “We picked the best team and they dissapointed us”. As Dave goodwin wrote in an earlier post the time for changes was back after Australia lost the Ashes in England. What I would really like to hear Hilditch say is that we now have to do what should have been done two years ago.

  55. westcoastdave says

    I could handle “we picked the best team and they disappointed us” if I thought it was possible that he could also say “we messed up picking the side, and that didn’t help”. When you know that they can’t / won’t say the latter, the former has no real meaning. It’s like the footy rule about not criticising umpires – because criticism is impossible, compliments have no meaning.

  56. Mulcaster / WCD and all,
    Hilditch’s comments that the selectors “had done a very good job” were an embarrassment
    and a disgrace. Yes, it was the players out on the park who did not/could not perform, but
    for the chairman of selectors to say that his crew were not in any way at fault is a joke.
    Is Andrew happy with the balance of this line-up? E.g. Haddin at 6?
    Is he happy that Doherty was selected as a spinner, then discarded because he was coming on
    to bowl with the Poms on 1 fa plenty and expected to take wickets?
    Is he satisfied that he picked a bloke who had played only 5 first-class matches to be our
    no. 1 spinner?
    Clarke’s comments that “the blokes in the dressing-room” are the players to lead the way out
    of the wilderness betray a failure of leadership at the highest level. Ponting showed a similar lack of leadership a couple of years ago when he continued to back Hayden, who had obviously gone past it. It is embarrassing. It is wrong. Unfortunately for Clarke (or whomever is the next captain), when you are captain you are no longer “one of the boys”. You are a leader. And hopefully this will lead to him ridding himself of the infuriating “No mate” “Yes mate” calls he makes when batting. Michael, there are only three calls when batting “Yes”, “No” and “Wait”. Shane Watson please take note.

  57. Andrew Starkie says

    Read Jamie Pandaram’s article p1 in today’s Age sport. It’s essentially about Hilditch’s press conference. He received the expected questions: who’s to blame? what went wrong? will you/ricky/anybody be around after the World Cup? His answer to every question was the same: ‘We were outplayed by a better team….blah…blah..blah…’

    As Jamie said, it was ‘comical’. Very funny, but also very sad.

    I don’t like using the ‘crisis’ word. The QLD floods are a crisis, this is only cricket. But we’ve lost three of the last four AShes campaigns. Something is horribly wrong. Think back to how bad English cricket was just a few years ago. If they can get their house in order, surely we can.

    On another topic, a very disappointing end to the SA/India series. Expect better from India, no.1 team in the world. If an Australian team produced 160 on the final day when chasing 300+, there’d be hell to pay, quite rightly.

  58. John Butler says

    AS #57, Hilditch’s selections are often comical, so at least there’s a consistent pattern.

    You’re right about the SA/India match. A fascinating series in many ways, but when it got to the crucial last two days both teams appeared to wimp it.

  59. it is very difficult to recocile the selectors approach to the quicks and the batsmen as opposed to their approach regarding the spinners. They had to be forced by injury to change the batting lineup, despite woeful form. Althouh Mitchell Johnson and Doug Bollinger were both sent to the naughty mat there was no serious suggestion of going away from the settled group of quick bowlers. To pick Doherty was ‘brave’ in the “Yes Minister”sense, Smith was an act of despiration but Michael Beer is incomprenhensible. Then Ponting and Clarke’s tactics in the use of these players makes me wonder why they were picked. The questions are so difficult that they do you readily lend themselves to logical answers.

  60. or from Chapter 9, Mulcaster: “Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all.”

    Manning Clark’s favourite book, although the attraction to him was “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does a man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?”

    And you call me indolent!

  61. I think it was Plato who said “Human history is all an affair of chance” although he was prepared to make the obvious concession to skill.

    I ran into “Black Jack” yesterday and he asked to be remembered to you. However, we had to agree,with all the grey in his beard that he should now be known as “Jack Frost”. He fulminated against the AFL rules which allowed your cats to lose Gary Ablett.

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