Thursday, August 01, 2013

2013 Ashes - Third Test: What the fuck, Australia?

The first Ashes test surprised the shit out of everyone in how close it was; somehow Australia came within a 14-run bee’s dick of snatching victory, after being decimated to 9 for fuck-all in the first innings.  Enter Ashton Agar, the great whitish hope of Australian cricket, to smack around a rapid 98-run debut batting performance.  The second innings saw normal programming resume as the top order struggled, the middle order struggled more and the tail end hung around longer than they had any reason to.

The second Test had everything the first one did, except for any display of Australian skill.  It was a close contest that England ended up winning, scraping over the line by about 350 runs. 

Following this loss, the Australian media rightfully got up the Aussie team, declaring them the ‘worst team ever’, ‘a pack of overpaid dickheads’ and ‘fucksticks who couldn’t bat their way out of Batman’s Batcave on Batman’s Birthday even if Batman was guiding them.’  Their batting is shitfull.

So what has changed in ten days?  Other than the calendar, not fucking much.  Team morale is at a high, proven by Michael “I didn’t compare Shane Watson to cancer” Clarke being in London and Shane “Yes you did, and yes I am” Watson faffing about in Leeds, instead of, you know, playing cricket or training together and becoming some kind of version of “mates.”

Look, Australia can fuck around all they want with the batting order.  They can bring in seventy-eight different bowling coaches and a thousand different physicists to work out the right way to bat.  They can nail Watson’s front foot to the ground so his initial instinct isn’t to take a big ol’ fucking step forward, plant his leg in front of middle stump and wait for the ball to hit it.  They can practice nothing but slips catching for a week straight, and they can work out the biomechanically correct way to slide while fielding, and it will all mean FUCK ALL AND NOTHING because they aren’t playing like a team.

When you play in a team, you are playing for the other blokes around you.  You don’t want to let them down.  The current team’s mentality is somewhere between “if I don’t score heaps of runs quickly, I will lose my Adidas sponsorship”, “if I don’t score heaps of runs quickly, I will lose my spot in the team to Steve Smith” and “fuck it, I can earn $1 million to play for the Punjabi Super Ninjas in the Indian Premier League a whole lot easier than this.”  What they really need to think is, "If I get out now, the team is fucked."  

If anyone reckons that Steve Waugh got on well with Shane Warne during Australia’s dominating period during the 90s and 2000s, they’d be wrong.  Steve Waugh hates everyone.  He probably doesn’t even particularly like his mum or his wife.  But both Mrs Waughs are good team players (or something... I don't know where I'm going with this).  Anyway... The Australian cricket team need to perform to the best of their ability for the good of the team.  Need quick runs?  Fuckin tonk away then.  Need to bat out a session?  Dig in and don’t play at anything that even thinks about missing off stump. 

England won the first two matches because they play better Test cricket.  Their bowlers kept their lines and lengths tight for longer periods of time, and their batsmen dug in and didn’t play at anything that even had a passing resemblance to a good ball.  Glorious to watch?  Probably not from a T20 cricket view, but in terms of real cricket, it was spectacular.  The English batsmen wore down the bowlers for over two days.  The best the Aussie batsmen could do was make the Pommie bowlers send down a few overs more than a One Day Match would provide.  If the English bowlers are sending down some accurate, tight bowling, then fucking block up and wait it out.  Jimmy Anderson is human; he will tire after about six straight overs -that's only 36 balls to contend with - so until then, keep your bat straight and stop trying to slog your way out of trouble.  That shit only happens in the backyard.

Similarly, when bowling, you could see that the Poms had a plan, some kind of idea that they were working on.  They pitched it up to Watson because they know he’s shit against anything a full ball.  They pulled it back against Hughes because he’s shit against anything short pitched bowling.  Swann ripped a couple of deliveries past Rogers’ outside edge, then lobbed in a straight ball that Christopher just stood by and watched crash into his off stump.  On the other side of the coin, Ashton Agar did what every Aussie spinner since Warnie has done; piff it in there and hope for the best.  And he got what most Aussie spinners since Warnie have got – sweet fuck all.  James Pattinson is overrated and erratic (and now injured HOORAY), and Siddle’s massive heart no doubt weighs him down during his bowling delivery stride.  

If there IS a plan that the Aussie bowlers are trying for, it's just not working.  Whether or not that plan is just plain wrong is entirely possible, but more likely is that the bowlers don't have the skill or patience to pull it off.  If that's the case, then one of two things needs to happen:  new plans, or new bowlers.  

While a lot of people are asking, “Where are all the Aussie leg-spinners that were supposed to have been inspired by Shane Warne during the 90s?” I am asking, “Where are all the boring-as-fuck fast bowlers who noticed that Glenn McGrath basically bowled the same ball (and had the same haircut) throughout his entire career – short of a length, aiming to hit the top of off stump.  Any movement in the air or off the pitch is going to get you wickets and keep the batsman guessing.  Instead we have fuckwits bowling a million miles an hour down leg side and then swearing at the batsman because they think it will threaten his manliness as his stock ball.  

I don’t see Australia coming close to winning this third Test, and England will deservedly go on to retain the Ashes.  David Warner will probably play following his score of 193 against a Zimbabwean 2nd XI team, in which five other players also scored centuries.  I don’t think Warner’s great form against teenagers bowling on a runway is going to put him in good stead to play against a true bowling unit with swing, seam and spin to contend with, (also, because Warner’s a fuckwit) but I am, as always, happy to be proven wrong.    

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