Its Christmas time, and what better way of spending time, than watching some high quality cricket, around the clock, and from around the world. First, of course there is the Ashes, with the possibility of England retaining the Ashes well before the New Year; then there, is the India-SA clash, with both teams itching to prove that they are the better team. We also have a Pak-NZ clash down under, where two teams who have had tumultuous years will be desperate to start the new year well. Here, then, is my Christmas wish-list:
- For Australia to display the same performance they did at Perth.
- For England to show that their performance in the same match was just a matter of one bad game.
- For Watson to finally score a century (hey, I’m in the Christmas spirit!)
- For Ponting to display some of his old batting brilliance.
- For Beer to play, so that we can all be subjected to some creative, and some horrible, puns.
- For Swann to showcase a masterclass of spin.
- For the English bowling to prove that they don’t need Broad again (wishful thinking, really)
- Finally, for Australia to lose in a nail-biting finish.
- For the Boxing day test, to be a contest worthy of a clash between the top two teams in the world.
- For more bowler-friendly conditions for the two teams.
- For India to show some spunk in the batting, in tough conditions.
- For the Indian bowlers to jog their memory, and try to remember how to take wickets.
- For Harbhajan to forget his batting and concentrate more on his bowling.
- For Zaheer to stay fit for the next 3 months at the least.
- For the likes of Amla, Kallis, Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman to display some vintage Test batting.
- For Paul Harris to be smashed out of the attack.
- Finally, for India to win the Test, so that the 3rd Test will be worth watching.
Merry Christmas, everybody, and have a joyful new year!!
Well, well, that was unexpected. I have to admit….I didn’t see that coming. I was pretty sure that Australia would fail to win any of the tests in the remainder of the series, after Adelaide. Like many, I have been proved wrong, and like a few, I am pleased.
I say that I am pleased, because as much as I love to see Australia getting thrashed, it is no fun, when there is barely a contest between two sides. The reason why I hated the Australian team of the late 90s and early 2000s in the first place, is that they barely allowed the opposition to compete with them on the same level. When one side dominates the other, so often, it can be off-putting, most times.
That’s why I am glad to see the return of Mitchy’s Australia; because that’s who I associate a contemporary dominant Australian team with. When Johnson is in the right frame of mind, with the bat or ball, everything falls in place. We got the first glimpses of the return to form, on day 1 of the Test, when he was batting. Unlike most batsmen before him, his head was still, he stroked the ball confidently, and when he decided that the ball had to go, there were no half measures with the swing of his blade.
Then came, his turn with the ball. After enduring months of scorn and ridicule from the press and public alike, justifiably, for his inconsistencies, he roared back to deliver one of the best spells of swing and pace. The English batsmen, who haven’t been troubled since the first day at Brisbane, suddenly found themselves unsure of whether to go back or forward; and before they could make up their mind, they were either trapped in front of the wicket, or had to parry the ball somwhere into the slip cordon.
And just like that, Australia were back in the game. Johnson’s performance was so typically Aussie, that when the team realized that he was back to his best, they started to resemble the team of old. Testosterone levels gradually increased throughout the day, and the verbals started to fly, with even an invitation for an after-game joust, extended to (or by) Prior. The balls started to find the fielders, boundaries were contained, and even Mr Grumpy (Ponting) began to smile more and more.
Just to prove, that this was not an one-innings or one-bowler miracle, Ryan Harris joined the party in the second innings. Bowling with sustained pace and bounce, he skittled out the middle order, who very strangely, gave up the fight easily. After all the talk of preventing complacency, they still seemed to be surprised by the fightback shown by the Aussies, and resembled a pale imitation of the team which played in Adelaide.
This is not to say, that Australia’s problems are solved. Their batting, with the exception of Watson, Hussey and Haddin, still seem to be iffy, and Ponting’s participation for the rest of the series seems to be doubtful. It also remains to be seen, if the bowlers can sustain the improved performance for the next two games. And finally, there is the small matter of deciding, if they want to keep going with the 4 man pace attack, or introduce a spinner to mix things up a bit.
England will still remain favorites to retain the Ashes, for the simple reason, that bad games like the Perth Test, have been very rare for them over the last 18 months. They will be hurting, and the likes of Swann and Collingwood, will have lots to prove, after their disappointing performaces. Its unlikely that England, with the likes of Flower at the helm, will make the same mistakes again. They will come to Melbourne with a fresh game plan and stronger mental attitude.
All in all, it will make for a riveting last leg of the series; because, finally, we have two teams competing on the same level. For that, we have to thank Mitchy…for reminding his team-mates – that there is the Ashes at stake, and more importantly, what the Australian fighting spirit is all about.
- Shane Watson doesn’t like to score centuries. He is satisfied with 50s.
- Simon Katich might have just played his last Test innings, and the innings itself was typical of the man: stubborn and workman-like.
- The last time, Ponting struggled so much to score runs in a series, was way back in 2001 against India. That didn’t end well.
- The last time Clarke got out in the last over of the 4th day in an Ashes match, was back in Edgbaston 2005. In both matches, Australia lost. Just shows how crucial, Clarke’s role is going to be in the coming years; especially in the absence of battle hardened veterans like Ponting and Hussey.
- Michael Hussey continues to be the man in form for Australia. It is hard to imagine, how they would have fared if they had dropped him before the Gabba test.
- If North is retained for the next test, Australia deserve to lose the Ashes. If the likes of Johnson, Hauritz and Hilfenhaus can be dropped after unconvincing performances, I wonder, based on what criteria, is North still surviving?
- Haddin put up a decent performance in front of the stumps, but his work behind it, still needs improvement.
- Harris would not like to remember this match for his batting, or for the lack of it; but he was the best bowler in England’s only innings. That is not saying much about the Aussie bowling.
- Doherty was picked purely in the hope, that Pietersen would gift his wicket to him, considering the fact that he is a left arm spinner; but now that he helped KP regain his form, and put up a terrible performance in the field, it is hard to imagine, that he will play the next test; given the whimsical state of the selections so far, that cannot be ruled out either.
- Siddle has come back to earth with a thud, after THAT hat-trick. He is still searching for a wicket, since he got the scalp of Broad on Day 1 of the Gabba test.
- Much was expected of Bollinger, after many felt that he had been unfairly dropped at the Gabba. Once selected for the 2nd test, though, he proceeded to demonstrate, how much worse Johnson could have bowled.
- Strauss played all of three balls in the match, and then sat back to enjoy a masterclass from the rest of the batting line-up.
- Once the least threatening batsman in the line-up, Cook has firmly established himself as the prize scalp. If Australia don’t get a measure of him soon, he might end up breaking Bradman’s record for most runs in an Ashes series.
- Trott is turning out to be the rock of England’s batting. He brings a sense of calm and stability to the batting order, and looks in great touch. Also, his run-out of Katich in the first over, well and truly set the cat among the pigeons.
- The ego has returned to the building. KP is back with a bang, after a typically belligerent innings. As much as his return to form will please the English fans, the intact penchant to keep going, even after reaching a ton, will be more pleasing.
- Collingwood has not been required too much so far, but his presence in the field, cannot be understated.
- When Bell is scoring so consistently at each opportunity that presents itself, you know all is well with the England team.
- Prior went un-noticed throughout the match; just the way a keeper likes it.
- Broad’s series has come to an end; his contribution being two wickets in two matches and being the third victim of Siddle’s hat-trick at the Gabba; I’m sure that it will hurt him not to be part of an historic Ashes triumph, after his performances over the last year.
- Swann has come to the party, and showed why he is considered to be the best spinner in international cricket right now. After a rough test at the Gabba, the team joker learned quickly, and going by his performance in the recent test, will prove to be a thorn in the flesh of the Aussie batsmen for the rest of the summer.
- KP might have walked away with the MoM, but no player made an impact on the match in the manner Jimmy Anderson did. Bowling with pace, swing and an aggression, which is at odds with the persona in Swann’s video diaries, Anderson was responsible for putting Australia under pressure immediately after they won the toss and chose to bat. Once and for all, he has put to rest, all the talk over his indifferent performances in the last tour. He has also risen to the 3rd position in the rankings, just behind Steyn and Swann.
- Finn continued to enhance his knack of taking wickets of crucial batsmen at crucial junctures. In the absence of Broad for the rest of the series, his performaces will become more important in the coming weeks.
- It is hard to see Australia coming back in this series, considering the shambles, in which the batting, bowling and fielding is in; but then again, this is Australia we’re talking about. It isn’t over till its over.
- England have prepared meticulously for this series, for a long time now, and the rewards are paying off. Despite Broad’s absence for the rest of the series, they have the players to fill the vacancy, and march forward to one of their most important Ashes victories in recent memory.