Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The First Test: Analysis

by Tim MacBain

What a Test. It really did have it all, wickets tumbling, runs scored, a great deal of controversy, stunning play, questionable decisions, and a ridiculously tight finish. So, what have we learnt, and where can both teams go from here?

James Anderson, Man of the Match
Well, first things first, the Australians are not to be underestimated. Frankly, if you had thought that they were down and out before the series began, you either have been living with your head in the sand for the past few years or are a complete idiot. They can score runs, not heavily yet, but glimpses, especially in the middle order of Clarke, Smith, Hughes and Haddin, of great things to come have come through. The bowling attack, although a smidgeon unreliable (as England’s first innings showed), can be rather potent, and has depth – my man to watch for is James Faulkner. If he breaks into the side, he may well be rather effective; having seen the damage his left arm pace can do in the IPL this year, he could be a real find for the Aussies. The top order, however, is fragile. Cowan failed in this Test, and Rogers is inexperienced at this level, despite a well-executed 50 in the second innings. Watson, however, showed just how important he could be for Australia’s Ashes. He may not have scored particularly freely (13 & 46 can attest to that), but his economy rates of 1.75 in the first innings and 0.73 in the second are mind-blowing. If his batting starts firing again he could swing the momentum right back in Australia’s favour.

England, although pleased to have won the Test, should be disappointed. Yet again, the top order has failed to score highly, with just one fifty and a 48 in 6 innings between Cook, Root and Trott. Our bowling was very good, as we have come to expect, but we kept putting ourselves into fantastic positions and then failing to consolidate them, the Australian first innings a perfect example of this. We could have had a first innings lead of 80 or 90 odd. We ended up 65 runs behind. It was in this position, however, that the real Man of the Match stepped up. Ian Bell’s innings was exemplary, everything you could want from a number five. Ably supported by Stuart Broad (yes, I’ll get there), he put England in the driving seat; I don’t think I heard one pundit not utter the words ‘Anything over 200 is going to be tough to reach.’ And then out steps another Aussie hero, Brad Haddin. He may have got out, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t do exceptionally well. We won by the skin of our teeth when, at 117-9 in Australia’s first innings, we should have wrapped the game up there and then.

Now we come to the others factors in the match. Yes, those ones. Chronological order places the Trott decision first. Now, I like umpires, and believe that they do a sterling job. However, Erasmus’ decision was astonishing. To give Trott out when there was still reasonable doubt and not all of the technology was available? Unthinkable. Don’t agree with his point of view at all. Maybe the fact that I’m English might have something to do with it. But still, it could easily have swung the match entirely in Australia’s favour, somewhat unfairly. Therefore, the Broad decision, as horrifically inaccurate as it was, put England on a little more of a level pegging; if you had asked the Aussie’s which, out of Broad or Trott, they would have preferred to have been given out, Trott would have been the answer every time. And, to add my opinion to the massive debate raging about whether Broad should have walked, I go with everybody aside from Jonathan Agnew in saying that he was right not to have walked. Agnew’s claim that it became ‘an issue for the spirit of the game’ (BBC) is unfathomable; cricket is firstly a competitive game in which both sides want to win, but without cheating or breaking any rules; Broad did neither  of those things, and thus kept within the spirit of the game. This isn’t the 1890s anymore. What the Broad Incident showed us is that Australia don’t use their reviews very well. They use them up on key batsmen, not key moments in the game, which is something that they will want to address quickly.

Finally, a mention has to be reserved for the pitch. Evidently it was quite hard to bat on, for both teams, but that in many ways made the match even more interesting, with turn for Swann and Agar, and movement for the likes of Anderson (who was exceptional even though he wasn’t my Man of the Match) and Broad.

So, where does this leave us? A wounded Australia, a pleased but worried England. Dangerous for us England fans, if I’m honest with you. If I were Darren Lehmann, I would be looking to the future, not just the second test, but those beyond it; maybe it would be time to consider recalling Simon Katich? Proven at international level, he’s doing well at for his county this year. This could result in the partnership of Clarke and Katich, one to send a chill down any English spine. If Starc fails to perform at Lord’s, give Faulkner a go at Old Trafford, and keep Peter Siddle as healthy as is humanly possible; without him Australia will begin to struggle. For Andy Flower, DROP JONNY BAIRSTOW NOW. I think he’s a wonderful player, but is consistently underperforming. Move Root down the order, open with Cook and Compton. Then we’ll have them… Bring on Lord’s!

Read Sampad Sengupta's analysis of the Ashes' First Test here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments with names are more likely to be published.