Monday, 6 January 2014

Post Mortem

Thank God we have been put out of the misery of the worst Ashes tour in living memory.  Firstly credit to Australia who have played with the same kind of attitude and performance as England did in 2005.  They’ve been tough, aggressive and have attacked England who have not been up for the fight.  As a cricket fan I cannot begrudge Mitchell Johnson his redemption or Chris Rogers his fairy tale.  As an average Sunday afternoon wickie I have to give credit to Brad Haddin’s record breaking series.  Good honest sportsmen like Siddle and Harris deserve an Ashes win after disappointments of the past.  Like England, Australia’s top order has been shaky but unlike England, always done enough to allow the lower order to counter attack. England’s middle & lower orders came in under pressure and have just been blown away.  It may be easy to skipper a winning side but Clarke has excelled where Cook has dithered.  Australia’s fielding has been first class throughout the series, England have been sloppy. 

The Aussie bowlers have performed brilliantly as a unit and have been the major difference between the two sides. Johnson’s pace and re-found accuracy has made the headlines but Harris, Siddle, Lyon and Watson have done exactly what their captain Clarke has asked, giving him total control.  Form and fitness have all come together at the right time for these bowlers and right now only South Africa can match that attack.  Once again Australia remind me of England in 2005.  It’s just a shame the likes of Warner, Watson and Clarke come across as arrogant pricks. 

The series is over and it’s time for a change of personnel to take the England test team forward.  This tour has seen casualties. 
First Jonathon Trott went home with what we can only assume to be depression of some sort.  This is a horrible illness but there’s no reason why Trotty can’t resume his career and become a fixture of the side again.  Early season runs will surely put him in the frame.  Chris Tremlet was dropped after the first test and it seems unlikely he’ll feature in a test for England again.  He can be proud of his record, in twelve matches he took 53 wickets and like Simon Jones, Neil Foster and Dean Headley we’ll always wonder how good he might have been without injuries.
Graeme Swann retired after the third test, the timing seemed bizarre but Swanny ended with 255 wickets from 60 matches and will go down as one of England’s greatest spinners.  Matt Prior was dropped after Perth too.  He hasn’t become a bad player overnight and has a chance of getting his place back as there is no obvious successor.
Tim Bresnan played in two tests but was dropped after the MCG disaster and must have moved way down the pecking order of English seamers.  He’s a decent batsman but not good enough to be considered an all-rounder. It’s interesting that Bresnan has played 23 matches exactly the same number as Stephen Finn.  Bresnan has 72 wickets but Finn has 90, enough said. Jonny Bairstow got his first chance behind the stumps for England and did OK with the gloves but not enough with the bat.  I expect him to play a full season for Yorkshire this summer.
Boyd Rankin played in the final test but broke down after 8.2 overs in the first innings but came back to take a wicket in the second.  His fitness makes him look a liability in test cricket.
Michael Carberry failed to take the one last chance offered at Sydney and his test career must surely be at an end.  His big chance came in the most difficult of circumstances and he didn’t do badly, he just didn’t do enough. 
Of the eight players mentioned above I can only see Trott and Prior coming back into the side any time soon.  The others need to go back to county cricket and perform so well the selectors cannot ignore them.
Those who will get away with it for now.

Cook, Bell, Pietersen and Anderson all come under the same category, they are very good cricketers who have underperformed in this series.  All are proven match winners, form is temporary but class is permanent.

The Jury is still out on the following players;  Gary Ballance made his debut with the score at 17-4 and well in the circumstances.  His second innings stay was less impressive but I’m sure he’ll get another chance.  Scott Borthwick took a wicket in his first innings but went for 7 an over.  He improved in the second finishing with 3-66 and I’m sure the selectors will pick him again as he is a decent bat and a good fielder.  Unlike Monty Panesar who played two matches in the series and didn’t make an impact.  He is England’s best spinner at this moment in time but the selectors don’t like him which is a shame.  I hope Monty is not discarded, he proved his value on last year’s tour of India.  Stephen Finn came through unscathed by not playing a match, he has enormous potential and must be allowed to bowl himself into form.

There are just two players who will leave Australia with their heads held high.Stuart Broad with the bat had no answer to the Aussie pacemen to begin but came good towards the end.  He was our best bowler throughout the tour and was our leading wicket taker with 21 scalps.  Ben Stokes our only brightest star throughout the tour scoring his maiden test century in the third test and his first five wicket haul in the fifth.  He made runs and took wickets throughout the four matches he played, let’s hope he stays fit for the future!

So who will play in the first test against Sri Lanka in the spring?  A few weeks ago I nominated the following team;
 Cook, Root, Trott, Bell, KPego, Bairstow, Stokes, Broad, Onions, Anderson, Panesar. 

How does this XI look now the series has finished?
I think there are Six cast iron certainties who will play if fit;  Cook, Bell, KPego, Stokes, Broad and Anderson. 

That leaves two batting places to fill starting with an opener.  Carberry has not taken his chance and will almost certainly find his test career over.  Will England offer another chance to the luckless Nick Compton?  He has performed as well as any new batsman coming into the side since Flowers reign began.  I hope they do give Compton a chance but I’m sure Joe Root will move up to open again. If Trott comes back for Warks and scores early season runs I’m sure he’ll be picked but who is in reserve if he doesn’t?  England picked Ballance for this tour so he must be next cab on the rank, failing that James Taylor is highly rated.
The position of wicket keeper is wide open as Bairstow certainly hasn’t done enough to merit retaining the gloves. Matt Prior finds himself leading a group of English wickies that will battle for the gloves, whoever finds the best early season form may well find themselves in possession for the summer.

There are two Bowling places up for grabs but who will be in the frame? I’d go for a ‘Horses for courses’ selection policy, look at the wicket then pick the bowlers.  Early season in England Graham Onions may well be the best bet and it’s time he was given another chance.  However, later in the year on harder wickets Finn should be the man to slot in.  Mitchell Johnson has proven the worth of genuine pace so isn’t it time to stop messing with Finn, let him bowl himself into form and most of all, bowl fast! 

Scott Borthwick has probably done enough to be picked against Sri Lanka but should England need an alternative, the Monty has to be in the frame.  Borthwick can bat well enough to be classed as an all-rounder and is a good fielder too.

From nowhere Stokes has become the key man in the side, a genuine all-rounder batting at six gives the team balance and the opportunity spread the seamers’ workload or play two spinners on the right wickets.  The days of top teams relying on just four bowlers are over, in recent years both South Africa and now Australia have demonstrated the value of all-rounders in test cricket.

Revised XI to play Sri Lanka
Cook, Root, Trott, Bell, KPego, Stokes, Prior, Borthwick, Broad, Onions, Anderson.

Also in squad; Taylor, Finn, Panesar.

Have faith, in two years time we'll be watching scenes like this again...

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