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Sight Screen

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Urn -- July 14th issue

1. Darren Lehmann -- whose astute commentary was for me one of the highlights of the ODI series just ended -- suggests (a point I've been arguing on here) that England does not have the arsenal to take out Australia twice in a Test.
"I know Matthew Hoggard has to come into the equation, but if England are going to stand a chance, Flintoff and Harmison not only have to have a good series with the ball, they have to have an unbelievable series.
"But staying with Harmison, if I were England, I would be slightly concerned. To me he looked tired at The Oval, almost as if he has bowled too much already."

2. Shane Warne tells David Llewellyn his marital difficulties are unlikely to impact on his Ashes performance. He also does the England selectors' work for them:
Finally he went the whole hog and did the England selectors' job for them. "I'd play Thorpe at five, Pietersen at six, Flintoff at seven, Geraint Jones at eight, Giles at nine, then the two quicks. That gives you Flintoff as your third seamer, plus Giles, that gives you four bowlers, and you've got Ian Bell with his medium pace and Vaughan's off-spin as well."

All of it's nice, says former England skipper Nasser Hussain elsewhere, but the problem is with Warne himself -- the guy is ten years past his best. Um... wasn't 'Nass' a member/captain of an Ashes squad that felt the 'waning' Warne's sting?
3. Elsewhere, epitaphs are being written for the Test career of Graham Thorpe. By Angus Fraser in the Independent, writing once before the announcement of the Ashes party, and once after; and by Andrew Miller on Cricinfo. Miller frames Thorpe's exit against the backdrop of a timeline that highlights the cricketer's accomplishments (an earlier Miller piece, comparing Thorpe and Pietersen, is also worth a read in this context).
In passing, look at it from Thorpe's PoV for a moment -- the guy sits at home, watching the ODI series on his television screen. And he knows that there is nothing he can do to stake his own claim -- his rival, Pietersen, will be the one stating the case both for, and against.
4. You cannot mourn the passing of Thorpe, without celebrating his successor -- as Peter Roebuck does, here.
Nor does Pietersen allow himself to be compromised by doubt. Significantly, he is comfortable in the company of champions past and present. Bonds have been formed with Shane Warne and Ian Botham, transgressors, showmen and competitors. Pietersen's flame burns as hot as theirs. None of them ever thinks scared. Repeatedly, they stormed the barricades. It was the outlook Pietersen respected, and wanted in his game. Accordingly he entered their world, and drew them into his.

Derek Pringle, assessing the Ashes party, also homes in on the Pietersen principle:
In his pomp, Thorpe, who vowed he would play on for Surrey despite his retirement from Test cricket at the end of the season, could dissect a bowling attack. Yet, if the force is with him, Pietersen has the potential to destroy one, which is what England's selectors are clearly hoping will happen to Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and Brett Lee over the coming weeks.

5. If Harsha (see the lead item in the India roundup) suggested the new rules deserved a chance, Richard Hobson is less forgiving. As is Chloe Sattlau.
6. An extensive Sattlau piece, also in the Age, looks at Michael Vaughan and Ricky Ponting -- two batsmen who have spotlighted past Ashes with their batting, and who now square up in the captaincy showdown while shaping their teams in their own image.
Australia has changed under Ponting, too. He has protected the traditions and the ethos of toughness fostered by Waugh, but he has made his own variations and made a concerted effort to change the team's public image.
"The one motto I bring up is that we're all going to be remembered as being great players probably, and a great team, but I think we need to be remembered as being great people as well. I don't think the perception out there over the past few years has necessarily been that way,'' Ponting said

7. Christopher Martin-Jenkins looks at two Australian cricketers who appear less than match-ready; the Cricinfo staff, meanwhile, mark the report cards for England and Australia. Cricinfo, where were you when I was in school, huh?
8. And finally -- the Windies-Sri Lanka series is providing some unlooked for surprises: Windies finding bowling teeth; a fighting batting display by a side shorn of its stars (and superstar); a late fightback by Sri Lanka. All the excitement of Test cricket -- and no way to watch. :-(
There's prolly the odd story I am missing, guys, but I need to run back to work. Talk to you tomorrow, take care meanwhile.

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