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Sight Screen

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Urn -- August 1

1. The most interesting story leading into the second Test seems to be Ashley Giles' implosion, judging by his own signed column.
But if you believe some of the stuff that has been written, we've gone from heroes to zeroes in one match, the strides we have made as a team over the past few years virtually forgotten. After only one game in the most anticipated Test series for many years, suddenly Giles is rubbish, Geraint Jones is rubbish and Ian Bell is too young. I have gone from being the best spinner in the country to the fourth or fifth best in the space of one game. I am angry and I think I have a right to be.
Sure thing, pal -- break a few cups and saucers around the home, why not? But this maudlin turn in print -- if Giles had stopped to think about it -- has handed the Aussies the key; they know now, if in fact they had any doubt, that Giles is feeling the pressure of having to cope with a team that can attack him in a way the West Indies, and South Africa, did not.
2. The Ian Bell interview is revealing of what happened out there when he was batting, the sort of pressures he was put under by Team Australia. And there's this bit, that should make Warne smile -- and which Bell could, with a little thought, have avoided mentioning:
"I've watched it again and again on television and it still looks a leg-spinner to me," Bell says of a now famous straight ball which bamboozled him into surrendering his wicket without offering a shot. As Bell studiously padded up to Warne, having expected another extravagant leg-break, the disguised delivery skidded through flat and true. Undone by the slider, and duped by the master, Bell was mortified.
"I was so disappointed. Since then I've obviously thought about it a lot and I'm not sure I totally misread it. You'd have to ask Warne to find out for certain. He'd bowled a couple of big leggies at me before that and I'd seen them coming out the front of his hand. Maybe this one was a little quicker. It seemed to pitch in a similar area to some of the earlier ones which had turned and I'd left. I thought this was exactly the same. So whether it was a natural variation off the pitch, which prevented it spinning, or something else I'm not too sure."

Just wondering -- if you as a frontline batsman have major doubts about a key bowler of the opposition you have to face again, wouldn't you much rather keep it to yourself?
3. Still with the Guardian, and Mike Selvey analyses the team for the second Test. The real key for England is back to back Tests which offer no space for mid-stream course correcton -- and by the end of which, the battle for the Ashes could well be over.
Any deficiencies in technique and confidence must have been rectified in this past week or, with back-to-back Tests on the horizon, England could find themselves in two weeks' time shaking their heads in bemused fashion and wondering just where the series had gone.
Angus Fraser, in the Independent, has his own analysis and, inter alia, quotes a bit from Steve Waugh's latest column, that reinforces the point made earlier about Bell's confession of cluelessness:
"I was shocked by the complete lack of game plan from both Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Strauss," said Waugh, in his column in a Sunday newspaper. "They couldn't detect Shane's variations and in the process of looking dumbfounded sent a wave of danger signals to their team-mates watching on the balcony. They need to get the video tapes out and conjure up a plan that at least throws some pressure back on Warne or else they are as good as cooked.
And to round it off, here is CMJ's assessment, from the Times, and that of Derek Pringle from the Telegraph.
4. In the Australian, an Andrew Ramsey piece looks at the task ahead of Hayden and Langer, given the inclement weather in Birmingham and the nature of the pitch the second Test could be played on.
With further cool, cloudy weather forecast for the Midlands this week, Rouse is considering bringing in helicopters to hover above the surface or use hot-air blowers to dry out the strip before the opening day's play.
By doing so, he would risk creating a dry crust on the playing surface that could make life unbearable for batsmen if it remained damp underneath and the ball broke "through the top" as the Test progressed.
Regardless of the weather in coming days, the pitch is expected to play lower and slower than normal, and will most likely favour the seamers as opposed to the spinners who have been a dominant force on first-class matches played at the ground this summer.

5. Stuart McGill, the other Aussie leg spinner, heard from in The Independent.
"There has been a lot of talk about the significance of the series and the fact that number two in the world are playing the top guns. I think if I was them I would have been spending a lot more time concentrating on what I was doing rather than telling what I was going to do. There are a lot of newspapers in England all looking for headlines, and too many people have been willing to provide those headlines."

6. Mark Nicholas says the time is not to question the team, but to keep the faith -- a clarion call that would have been a touch more effective if the bulk of the piece is not given over to questioning England's lack of real preparation between the first and second Test.
7. And finally, just to rub it in a bit, Glenn McGrath says if you think the England batsmen have problems, you ain't seen nothing yet -- and talk of needling, he suggests here that the technique the England openers used against Warne was something he, personally -- not the hottest number 11 in the world -- would want to avoid, if he were batting, and left-handed at that, against Warne.


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