Australian selectors still preferring the cryptic over the quick


After watching Australia’s two one-dayers against England, there is one disturbing thought to emerge : some ghosts of the Andrew Hilditch era may have returned to our selectors’ thinking. There at Lord’s was that perennial selection of 18 months ago, Steven Smith, while Mitchell Johnson waltzed straight back into the side at The Oval when Pat Cummins succumbed to injury.

The logic in both cases was understandable but flawed. Smith is a talented bits and pieces cricketer, but his outings for his country at this stage should be limited to the T20 variety. Contrary to common belief, his bowling is irrelevant these days and rarely used ; he fields brilliantly and hits with innovation in the game’s shortest format, hence his presence in the IPL. Otherwise, he should get back to NSW and hone his trade.

Johnson’s retention on an Australian contract was definitely the right decision. Our pace bowling stocks are generally young, and Johnson still has much to offer in the right circumstances. Those circumstances, however, are not usually on English soil, where his lack of bounce but substantial pace cause more problems for his team than the other. Surely we learnt that in 2009. If the objective of him being on this tour was to get some cricket into him, then that’s fine.

There is an elephant in the loungeroom that Australia must acknowledge immediatel : Ben Hilfenhaus. He is the only bowler in this squad with a respectable record on English soil. Brett Lee, despite the fact that he is needed in this team and deserves great credit for his remarkable pace and control at 35, has two disastrous Ashes campaigns in England on his CV.

Hilfenhaus bowls well in England, bowled brilliantly last summer and is now the genuine article in both short forms of the game. Besides, he would swing the ball away from Ian Bell and into Alastair Cooke, a skill which is absolutely vital if Australia is to get among the England middle order with anything other than a soft ball and tiring bowlers.

Both games have shown that Australia is a little rusty and England is particularly well organised. The Lord’s match was won by Eion Morgan’s brilliant 89 off 63 balls, an innings that turned a perfectly gettable target into a challenging one, and in the second match our opening batsmen and bowlers were outplayed by their opposite numbers.

Shane Watson did his bit despite his disappointing dismissal, but the other three had nightmares. David Warner played his worst international innings –  pulling against Steven Finn’s bounce and angle is fraught with danger  –  while both our opening bowlers were out of the attack after just two overs.

There has been much debate over Watson’s best position in the order, his lack of conversion of first innings fifties into centuries, and how much he should be bowling. But he’s the least of our problems, our best player and one of the best in the world. George Bailey’s inertia didn’t help him on Sunday, but his only real concern at the moment is his size and the way it is affecting his mobility in the field. He’ll work out the rest.

We are desperately missing Michael Hussey, which is perfectly understandable given his superb record in all forms of the game. Brother David needs to grasp his opportunities over the coming three matches, otherwise his recently granted contract will look to be an abberration, while Peter Forrest and Bailey need to build on the reasonably promising starts they have had at international level.

Our much-trumpeted pace arsenal has found that English wickets often don’t reward out-and-out grunt. Clint McKay has been our best performer and has always represented his country well, but Xavier Doherty has been below his best and appears nervous, rusty or both. We need him back to his miserly best of the last 12 months.

All is not lost. England is starting to have its depth tested by injuries and absences, and Michael Clarke continues to be impressive as a leader. We need to get more cricket into the likes of James Pattinson, Bailey and Forrest to learn more about them, and Warner still looms as the most destructive player on either side.

He is the wild card who could not only influence these one-day matches, but one who could put some real doubts into English minds for next year’s Ashes series. At the moment and in recent times England certainly has our measure.



  1. Peter Flynn says

    Thanks Brendan.

    Do you have any mail on the NSW exodus?

    I thought the best way to play for Australia was to play for NSW.

    What do you think of the Hughes move to Adelaide?

    My feeling is that his technical issues won’t be fixed by playing at the Adelaide Oval.

  2. Jeff Dowsing says

    I think Brendan lets the selectors off lightly over Smith & Johnson. The was no fathomable reason to play two blokes with so little decent cricket behind them for so long a period.

    Also think it’s time to move on from Brett Lee, don’t see any future in playing him for a series like this.

    So much for the depth I thought we had developed.

    And Bailey, inertia is bang on. Very limited at the top level.

  3. Well said, Brendan.

    It seems to me that the ODI team is very much a work in progress.

    Yes, he is a brilliant filelder, but I could think of a few better
    batsmen who would be more deserving of a game than S Smith.
    Again, he gives the whiff of being one of the “chosen ones”.

  4. Hughes will make a bagful of Shield runs at Adelaide Oval. Home of left handers with a great eye and poor technique.
    While there has always been some interstate movement (Bradman and Favell SA) etc; the wholesale moves of recent years and the cross state mix of 4 day/50/20 over allegiances is undermining the whole fabric of public support for state cricket. They are not State teams any more, just flags of convenience mostly flying the jolly roger. I idolised the SA teams of the 60’s long before I was rapt in Test Cricket.
    I think the frequency and volume of these player moves is going to finally remove any vestige of public interest in the game below the international level.
    Very sad, very shortsighted, and shows how the ACB is a rabbit caught in the spotlight of the game’s commercialisation.
    Who gives a rats about these one day frivolities out of season, disconnected from serious contests.
    Foxtel fodder.
    Shame, Shame, Shame.

  5. Yes Hughes will make lots of runs in Adelaide, but will a flat batsmans paradise sort his problems re the short quick ball? I think not. Brett Lee, has never delivered on UK pitches going back to the start of his career. Hilfenhaus makes more sense on UK pitches. S Smith/NSW; say no more. All forms of representative cricket involving Australian teams are in a slow state of rebuilding. It’s important we be patient in this process, but sites like the Almanac allow us space to ventilate our feelings. Over time we will return to our glory days, i hope so. Maybe i will close in the words of the great helnsman, ” The road is torturous, but the future is bright.”


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