First Ashes Test lead up: What the Indian tour and first Shield matches tell us

Well, what to make of Australia’s bid to regain the Ashes after the completion of the first round of ‘red ball’ cricket and the culmination of the Indian One day tour?

First, the 8 match tour of India has ironically seen strong performance both bring some players into Test consideration and solidify others as the future of Australia’s 50 over team looking to the 2015 World Cup.

George Bailey is definitely the winner, which is curious as he has overseen record breaking run chases against Australia and massive scores, including only the third International double ton.

In reality, rule changes and small grounds mean that no side can be complacent in setting a big score batting first, although the morale of our bowlers must be low after the last few matches become somewhat farcical in their power hitting. It is sad that a tournament with such brilliant individual performances on both sides (albeit mostly with the bat) will be consigned to the trash bin of cricket memories so promptly.

However, Bailey’s batting alongside his leadership and impressive dealings with the press see him as a potential middle order batting prospect, despite an unfaltering First-class record, and a bolter to take a leadership role in the Test team.

Elsewhere, James Faulkner, somewhat more for his explosive batting than his quite reasonable bowling, looked very promising to stay in the Test aside, even shorter odds now Watson’s hammy has again decided to go on strike.

The economics of world cricket, (which is code for what the BCCI wants, the BCCI gets), mean this tour had to be made, and in fact Australia still ‘owes’ India a tour, so the impact it has or will have on our Test preparation fades as far as the Australian administrators are concerned compared to the revenue. (Never mind the quality, feel the width)

Johnson’s role at some stages of the Ashes summer has been flagged early, and Mackay and Maxwell, and possibly Finch and Doherty, look to be in the long vision for the 50 over side.

However, the repurcussions of this long tour, with washouts impacting the players getting a consistent run on the field, and bowlers watching their hard work disappear over their heads repeatedly, will probably not be evident for a few months.

As to the longer form of the game, Michael Clarke at least played some cricket, and his first innings vs. Tasmania would have caused many to be relieved, as well as a few days in the field.

Chris Rogers would have blown away some cobwebs being serviceable for Victoria, but the best performances with the bat in this round came mostly from forgotten players like Forrest and North, or players outside (or ineligible for) Test consideration at present, such as Cooper and Botha. Only Alex Doolan of the group of potentials shone brightly with a brilliant knock, and there’s a lot to be said for the influence Ricky Ponting has had on Tasmanian cricket, especially last season, with stories of his willingness to coach and mentor his teammates filling them with confidence and awe, seemingly being translated into good performances.

Ryan Harris didn’t bowl in the SA second innings yesterday, with a virus hitting him and teammates. Ben Hilfenhaus bowled well, but the spinners are where the questions are being asked.

Nathan Lyon caused  Tasmanian heart flutters with late wickets in their successful chase but in Victoria, after a first innings haul of 6 to Fawad Ahmed, it was Cameron White not Ahmed who made the breakthroughs against a WA side still rebuilding its list under Justin Langer. (Could he be a late prospect to coach the Saints now?)

Ahmed will suffer in the short term from the weight of expectations, but the reality is that despite his age and undoubtedly strong temperament, he is still reasonably inexperienced and will not be the next Warne or Qadir some tout him as. With a good uninterrupted run at Shield cricket, he should be strongly considered for eventual Test section, but after the dalliance with Agar in England, Lyon has done little wrong and should be retained and given time.

The critical questions remain on the Australian batting line up. Warner’s flourish in the Ryobi Cup will see him open regardless of how he performs in the Shield games and Bailey will get a chance this week to stamp what is becoming a surge of encouragement for him to play. If Faulkner comes in as the all-rounder, he is more a lower order batting option, which leaves us exposed at the top, which was a problem in England.

With regard to the tourists, not much should be made of their inability to make inroads in the first dig against the WA XI. It was in part the chance the get overs into bowlers like Anderson and to conduct an audition for the remaining spot in their first Test bowling squad. Admittedly, none really impressed, but with Broad and Cook, as well as KP, to get a go this week, Bell continuing his brilliant Test form and Trott getting back into the runs for a change, the poor performance of fringe batsmen and Prior’s continued poor form probably do not cause concerns for them, so far.

The return of the Indian tour side sees most Shield teams fielding strong line ups this week. With a combination of batsmen looking to impress for the remaining few spots and bowlers looking to get a (sport science controlled and managed with limited overs to avoid complete break-down) run as well, the Test team will be clearer this time next week.

About Sean Curtain

"He was born with a gift of laughter, and a sense that the world was mad". First line of 'Scaramouche' by Sabatini, always liked that.


  1. Hey Sean

    These pre-test almanac previews are really something. You, Andrew Starkey, Luke Reynolds, Smokie … you’ve all turned out superb, incisive articles. Great read.

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    Great work Sean. Looking forward to a big round of Sheffield Shield for several players to hopefully put their hand up for selection, though going by Inverarity’s comments the other day the team might already be picked.

    Great to see Cameron White dominate a four day match with bat, ball and his brilliant catch (look at it on the Bushrangers site).

  3. This is the “Best Bets” equivalent of the wrap up of the pre-Ashes form. Fantastic stuff; has helped me formulate the team in my mind.

    This week should be fascinating in the Shield. I’m looking forward to checking out the new digs at Adelaide Oval and forlorn hope that the SACA’s will produce the goods in the long form of the game this season.

    Thanks for the article.

  4. Well done Sean. You can almost imagine our team (12) for the Gabba is chosen. Warner, Rogers, Watson, Clarke, Smith, Bailey, Haddin, Johnson, Siddle, Faulkner, Lyon, Harris, pretty much the team from the Oval, adding Bailey to the mix. Only real question pertains to how fit is Watson, and do we play a spniner. If this side is unable to click at the Gabba, do we show faith in these imcumbents, or what changes do we ring ; who is an option for the Adelaide test?


  5. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Great stuff Sean personally not so sure we should be placing so much faith in form in bloody , India when every one should have been playing back here but that is another issue ! Disappointed that , Ferguson has not had a chance to push himself up the order of potential candidates not convinced by Baileys technique re real cricket but his leadership and character will benefit where our side is at present
    Faulkner to my mind is the classic , English player when they were struggling not quite good enough at either aspect of the game to be picked on there merits he is a good cricketer but I am old fashioned and reckon a all rounder must be good enough to be picked on , 1 aspect batting or bowling not a bit of both we look forward to the , Gabba
    Sean any thoughts re cricket dying ?
    Thanks Sean enjoyable read as always

  6. Glen

    Good to see four of our batting line up in some form in the longer format of the game. I’ll review this round of Shiled cricket and the England warm up early next week. I think the removal of certain bowlers from the third round of Shield games next week flags our bowling line up for the Gabba. Invers has pretty much annointed Bailey for the Test, which takes pressure off him to, I don’t know, maybe get any runs in the lead up!

    Malcolm, Ferguson’s knee injury will, like Paine’s finger, always create many ‘what if” questions for Aust cricket over the last 4-5 years.

    In regard to cricket dying, I wrote two pieces this year, one tounge in cheek about how complex cricket is and another that reflected on cricket participation being influenced by parents, as opposed to the move to basketball.

    Having said that, my son at 13 has just taken up club cricket in addition to school cricket, and I agree with many of the responders to your article that talk about growing numbers of club cricketers at this age, the social side of Friday evening cricket (great invention) and that the game is in reasonable condition. The kids all have their own gear, seem to all read cricket bios and know the players and are genuinely interested in the game


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