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Sight Screen

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Urn -- August 4

Mike Adamson has the match report of the first day of the second Ashes Test, for the Guardian; Andrew Miller on Cricinfo provides the England point of view and Peter English the Aussie POV.
S Rajesh and Arun Gopalakrishnan have an interesting graphic that shows you where, and how, the Australian bowlers bowled -- a touch too short, being the verdict.
Much ooh-ing and aah-ing in all quarters over the English run rate (5.13, no less), in all quarters; the stat that catches my eye though is 79.2 overs -- the duration of the England innings (a wicket at just under every 8 overs, to put that differently).
If you consider that a Test match -- give or take the urgent need to watch the Simpsons at six pm -- is played over 450 overs, what England has actually done here is given Australia the gift of time.
82 overs gone (including the two for the changeover between innings). Another eight lost to rain and bad light. That leaves 370 overs in the game, and 407 on the board for Australia to chase down -- figures that should make Buchanan, Ponting and their mates happy chappies tonight.
Australia can now plan on batting 170, 200 overs, with a view to topping the 650 mark -- if this pitch cracks (there's been much talk of how heavy rains and stormy weather in Edgbaston last week left the groundsman too little time to prepare a good Test pitch; the fact that of the 407 runs scored in the day, a mere 28 have come through the half of the V on the off side also indicates that the ball is not coming on nicely enough to go forward and drive), Australia has Shane Warne, already turning the ball a foot or more at times, to throw at Vaughan and his men in the second innings, and plenty of time to bowl the home team out.
Reminds me in a weird way of the once-ubiquitous 'lemon set'. You guys remember that? Basically, a plastic jug, and matching plastic glasses in the most garish colors you could imagine? Stupid things, really, but for some reason, every second guest at a wedding would give one of those -- which the recepient would faithfully keep in the original wrapping, till it came time for him to attend a wedding, when you changed the gift wrapping, stuck a new 'Wish you happy' card in, and passed it on.
I know of one particular lemon set that, in fact, came into my family, went out again, and returned -- six years later!
Today's game was a bit like that -- Ponting, in a moment of extraordinary generosity (cupidity?) gave England the gift of first strike (more to the point, the gift of getting back into the series in a big way); England, inebriated perhaps by the exuberance of its much-talked of aggression, re-wrapped the gift and gave it right back. Cool.
Shane Warne in his latest column suggests the Edgbaston pitch is tailor-made for Glenn McGrath; too bad McGrath couldn't turn up for the fitting, hey?
Mathew Hoggard, in his latest column, eschews predictions on the longevity of McGrath and Warne, and aims for the chatty touch. Good job that -- this way, you don't end up saying things you then have to 'clarify' later.
Ponting doesn't agree with mate Justin Langer's statement, where he called for some basic sympathy and concern from the England players when Ricky was hit on the eye in the first Test; it being the first day of the first Ashes Test, he expected play to be intense, Ricky says.
An American in London is underwhelmed by the sight of Shane Warne bowling; figures the leggie is child's play for American kids.
Times Online has this graphic indicating the lines and lengths England's bowlers need to use on this deck; is it just my imagination, or is the Times cogging from the Glenn McGrath playbook?
Richard Hobson says Ashley Giles is perfectly justified in going off like a steam kettle; but should now forget all about it and get back to his day job.
Mathew Pryor has an interesting sibling -- Merlyn the bowling machine, an invention of his father Henry. Here, a piece about Michael Vaughan's stint with 'Merlyn Pryor', ahead of the second Test.
Geoffrey Boycott is a bit of a monomaniac when it comes to "the basics" -- get it right or else, he tells Team England for what must be the 100th time; judging by how England batted today, no one listened any harder than they did the other 99 times.
So now the mystery is cleared up -- Ponting wants Vaughan and the Englishmen to stop chucking the ball at the batsmen, under the pretext of throwing at the stumps or to the keeper. I seem to remember watching Aussie fielders and even bowlers doing that a fair few times -- what, are we in 'Do as we say not as we do' territory on this?
And oh yes, the Times in its editorial muses on McGrath's injury and how a small red ball -- like Cleopatra's nose of old -- can change the course of history.

17 Comments:

  • Eng have a HUGE uphill task to bowl Aus out in the 1st innings - not enough runs, at least for this pitch, to be aggressive in the face of Aus attacking the bowlers and at the same time going defensive will surely drive one more nail into the Eng coffin. Rather unenviable position - can't attack too much, can't be too defensive either.

    Prem: would like to share 2 points -

    1. Ponting electing to bowl: Considering how scarred Eng batsmen after Lord's, maybe Aus gameplan was to rub salt on their wounds. Did Ponting misread the pitch? I don't think so... Buchanan and he must've investigated the pitch and come up with their gameplan. McGrath's injury was unfortunate, but Ponting decided to stick to their gameplan anyways. It seemed flawed based on how the pitch behaved...

    2. Lack of Eng gameplan: Aus may have errored in their judgement/gameplan, but Eng doesn't seem to have any gameplan whatsoever. Eng's Ashes campaign seems to boil down to 'in your face aggressiveness no matter what'. The problem is, being aggressive without the ability to dominate for all 5 days is like the dog whose bark is worse than the bite! Kinda the Calicut bowler you mentioned a few days back - a mile long run-up and a whimper of a delivery. I think they will end up paying a heavy price.... should be an interesting day's play tomorrow.

    By Blogger saum, at 17:35  

  • saum: Saw this theory, that Ponting inserted because he wanted to rub England's nose in its own batting flaws, somewhere else too.
    Maybe so, but doesn't it defy logic a bit? Here's how I would argue the case:
    Australia wants to deepen England's psychological wounds. It arrives in Edgbaston. It looks at the pitch, and figures it is not a terror track -- certainly not day one at Lord's. It knows bowling here is more about attrition than anything else. It finds out that its most potent weapon, in such conditions, cannot play.
    Right, it says to itself, must rub England's nose in the dirt, but how? By asking them to bat first? What if it seizes its chance, and bats with some grit on a pitch where a Brett Lee short ball actually sat up waist high for Pietersen to clout through mid on?
    How else, then? Duh -- how about WE bat first, and bat on and on, and really scar England for good by having them stay out there for a day and three quarters, maybe more, watching while we pile up 600, 650 runs? Now wouldn't that pretty much kill any spirit left?
    I'd think so, friend, wouldn't you?

    By Blogger Prem Panicker, at 17:44  

  • Prem,

    I did not see the day 1 so I may be off in this particular case.

    But the aggressive run rate is actually a huge plus. Think about it from a different perspective - if you have a good bowling attack, you would say it gives your bowlers good time to bowl them out :-)

    Of course, with the way teams are batting nowadays (a wicket every 8 overs!!!), you know the second team's first innings is going to get over soon too. Its just that if they don't score quick enough, they are going to get all out for a lower score. Might as well make some runs while they are out in the middle.

    I know it is not classic test match cricket, but classic test match cricket did not produce as many results as today's cricket produces.

    As a pure spectator, I love the high run rate and high wicket strike rate (in terms of balls/wicket). It changes the innings and the context of the match quickly and nothing can be said about any total. A few years back when Australia famously scored 400 in a day, it was considered historical, but this England team has score plenty against a pretty tough Aussie bowling attack and set themselves up for possibly getting at the Aussies.

    Now, there are two big things that I am obviously not taking into consideration for this match:

    1. The mighty Aussie batting, which knows nothing about pressure
    2. It could be a belter, and England scoring 400 is just a preview of what the Aussies can or will do

    By Blogger RPM, at 17:55  

  • RPM; That last, is what I have been thinking about. For now, it is a track on which the ball sits up and asks to be whacked... making the most of it can only be half your gameplan, the other half has to be to deny the opposition its use, to the extent possible.

    Is why, despite the oooh-aaahs, I would if I were Fletcher have been way more comfortable with England being 300, 320 at close, for the loss of four wickets.

    Imagine the platform that gives me (and it was easy enough, with more judicious batting) -- tomorrow, while it is still easy and with the Aussie bowlers having had a full grind in the field (which also means RP's men wondering, through the night, if their captain had lost his marbles after all), I get to bat, again judiciously, through the morning, then look to really up the tempo through the afternoon, with a view to declaring on 600 or so by say an hour after tea (or more to the point, with about 10, 12 overs left in the day). Justin Langer in his column today actually makes the point that he would have hated to bat out that last phase -- very true, and it gets worse if you have a tricky half hour to go, after having spent close to two days watching the opposition pile up runs.
    This way, I suspect (unless Aus has a real off day with the bat) they have played right into Aussie hands here.

    By Blogger Prem Panicker, at 18:04  

  • rpm,
    The Aussie batsmen know nothing about pressure? Ask them how it feels to be facing Harbajan, Kumble or Murali Karthik at Mumbai? Give them a wicket that takes turn and a half decent spinner, they start shaking in their boots. And then blame the pitch for the Middle East crisis too.
    Having said that, I think the Aussies are favourites here to put pressure on the English. Ashley Giles is hardly the kind of spinner they'll lose their sleep on and Harmison might not get a lot of the slow pitch given to him.

    By Blogger Toney, at 18:05  

  • Prem: I agree with your argument a 100%. But I am wondering if they misread the pitch - because of rain from last week or some other rumours. Granted they should be THE experts, but still. It could happen, couldn't it? And, they based their gameplan on that.

    By Blogger saum, at 18:31  

  • Prem,
    Your logic sounds reasonable, but there is one big assumption - Aussies are going to score 600-650 runs. What makes you so positive about it? Just think about the mindset the Aussies have right now (besides being a tad sleepy) they must be saying that this is a good wicket to bat on and wecan go back to our merry ways on the morrow. If you realize, they played a lot of shots on the first day at Lords and gift-wrapped the wickets. I know they are Aussies and not used to do that, but that is a possible scenario. To score 600 runs, they need 3 guys to score hundreds atleast. It is easy to pick names, but who knows whether they would be able to pull off.

    Secondly, as the bowling analysis by S. Rajesh reveals, all Aussie bowlers bowled a tad too short. They were punished. Hopefully, the English bowlers will not make that mistake. What about a shower early in the morning and decent cloud cover? Will see, but just wanted to mention that it will not be easy to score 600-650 runs.

    By Blogger Mayur, at 18:54  

  • Prem,
    Your logic sounds reasonable, but there is one big assumption - Aussies are going to score 600-650 runs. What makes you so positive about it? Just think about the mindset the Aussies have right now (besides being a tad sleepy) they must be saying that this is a good wicket to bat on and wecan go back to our merry ways on the morrow. If you realize, they played a lot of shots on the first day at Lords and gift-wrapped the wickets. I know they are Aussies and not used to do that, but that is a possible scenario. To score 600 runs, they need 3 guys to score hundreds atleast. It is easy to pick names, but who knows whether they would be able to pull off.

    Secondly, as the bowling analysis by S. Rajesh reveals, all Aussie bowlers bowled a tad too short. They were punished. Hopefully, the English bowlers will not make that mistake. What about a shower early in the morning and decent cloud cover? Will see, but just wanted to mention that it will not be easy to score 600-650 runs.

    By Blogger Mayur, at 18:56  

  • Everyone is saying the something. The pitch is insipid and England botched up by scoring only 400. Did anyone spare a thought as to how good the Aussie bowling was today? I watched the game for only an hour but in that span atleast, the 3 pacers did nothing extraordinary and Warne was not showing any sign of a good loop. You can't just blame the pitch and happily give away runs at over 5 an over!

    If it had been the Indian bowlers who had gotten hit instead of Australia, I'm sure the press would have been baying for their blood by now!

    By Blogger Harsha V. Madhyastha, at 18:57  

  • Yeah, Harsha. Looks like Prem said the Aussies bowled too short. In which case it is pretty bad batting from the Poms. Whats new abt that? It seems the whole of English media is rejoicing at the run-rate. Did they just forget that there are 4 more days and that the Aussies have to bat too?

    Prem, when was the last time the Aussie made more than 600. I cant remember any... They have a couple of 500+ against India.

    By Blogger Toney, at 19:09  

  • Toney,

    I am talking more about the self-confidence of the Aussie team that pulls them out (most of the times) even if they have a top order or a middle order collapse.

    How often have we seen Gilly take the attack to the opposition after a middle order collapse. Katich being the other example.

    And of course, Gillespie has been scoring abundantly of late and would fancy his batting too.

    I am not saying they don't fear facing world class spinners on spinning wickets, but even there, they would probably come out better as compared to most other teams.

    I am referring to their ability to consistently pull themselves out of trouble...

    By Blogger RPM, at 19:33  

  • Prem,

    For this match, from your description, it seems like England goofed up by losing so many wickets so quickly.

    But on the other hand, they had to try something different since with the usual, they were getting beat handily.

    By Blogger RPM, at 19:35  

  • Prem, though I agree with you that England could have done far better than this, I dont necessarily think they can score 650.. How many times have you seen this Aus team score 650 runs? I think they would score not more than 520 runs (let me be super-precise).. for which they would take 1 1/2 days.. so, we can expect Eng to bat on Saturday evening (3rd day).

    By Blogger Raju, at 20:40  

  • I'm puzzled about the fact that almost no mention has been made in any of the reviews/reports/match summaries/commentary of Warne's pretty obvious (and dramatic) show of dissent when Bowden turned one of his appeals down. Why isn't he being called over to the Match Referee's chambers? Is it going to be put down to "in the heat of an Ashes moment"?

    By Blogger Avinash, at 22:03  

  • avinash,

    I am also of the opinion that Wanre should be reprimanded and so should Damien Martyn. However, I imagine the scintillating strokeplay during the first day overshadowed everything else. I'd argue that it was genuine oversight on the part of the journalists. And, it may still appear in papers tomorrow.
    I agree with Prem that this excessive appealing rule is ludicrous. However if it is in effect, it needs to be applied fairly. If it was Dinesh Karthink or Parthiv Patel, everyone would be all over them.

    By Blogger Jiet, at 22:17  

  • GP: :-) Hope for England's sake and that of the rest of this series that you are proved right. I have a gut feeling, though, that if England doesnt break through in the morning session, it's going to prove a long, hard grind. Anyways... we'll see, soon enough.

    By Blogger Prem Panicker, at 23:30  

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