Matthew Hayden’s Ashes Summer: Don't write off Hughes and Johnson – they'll be back with a bang
From the man at the heart of Australia’s most successful side ever
Saturday 25 July 2009
What a series we have on our hands now. Australia can come back, they will come back and they will do it by not making any changes to their team.
The side that lines up at Edgbaston on Thursday may depend on fitness but they should, and I think they must, go in with the XI that agonisingly drew in Cardiff and lost at Lord's equally agonisingly.
That is what the Australian cricket team is built on. It doesn't develop with a scattergun approach where nobody knows who's in or who's out. They stick by players because it's a very loyal brand. It has played poorly in one game of cricket, it will come out playing very well in the next game of cricket. The jury is definitely out on making mass changes on the basis that it had a couple of bad days in the field and with the bat.
The benefits of not changing a side far outweigh the benefits of making mass changes for no particular reason. By the back end of the game Australia clung on and had plenty to encourage them.
They have got the players, the ability and the belief. They have got to stick to their guns. They can address some of the skills areas, look at discipline, control, belief and they can deliver.
Australia must understand, if we take the 10 days and 27 sessions thus far, they are leading the series on that basis. By my reckoning it is 14-13 because they had much the better of things in Cardiff and you might make out a case for it being 15-12. That would be too harsh, though, on an England side that came out of the blocks so well at Lord's.
But this, let's not forget, is the Battle of the Ashes. Look at it on a session by session basis, which is what, in the end, you have to do because in the end if you win more sessions you win more matches.
Flintoff was the difference in the end at Lord's. Twenty-seven overs, fast, hostile, strong – Hercules couldn't have done it better. He is a bowler right at the top of his game now and he can get anybody out.
But if England would not want to lose Fred, they would certainly not want to be without Kevin Pietersen either. His whole presence, the fact that he takes the attack to the bowlers, the way he does things, all these will have an effect on England. It is not far removed from the Aussies losing Glenn McGrath in 2005.
The Aussies will sit in their dressing room and think who they are going out to battle with and Pietersen will not be a foe. Big stuff.
Two of the Australian players, more than any of the others, have come under the spotlight, the two from whom so much was expected. What a fanfare Phillip Hughes and Mitchell Johnson had before things started.
Hughes has not made a 50 yet. It's nice to be able to see a young Test cricketer with some vulnerabilities and learning within the game. I know that this is a big stage to learn on but he will. I believe that Hughes will come out in the next three matches and show why he is Australia's prime No 1 batsman.
There is a proud history of opening batting combinations, it has always been considered a wonderful position to hold and the partnership between Simon Katich and Hughes is key. While it underperformed in the last Test match, that doesn't mean it will this time. I really believe in Hughes and the reason is that, of the key ingredients you need, one of those is the strength of character to endure challenges that not many in the rest of the batting order get a chance to do or have to do. He has it.
Mitch should also stay in the side without any doubt. He is really the forefront of our attack and right now he is coming to terms with English conditions and maybe the Duke ball he has to use, which, believe me, is a different piece of leather from the Kookaburra. It is unusual to bowl with and it is not the first time that a bowler has struggled to settle down with it.
When you're slightly out of nick you start to become analytical and build up your weaknesses rather than your strengths. With Mitchell, that inconsistency he has is actually a strength but when the world is on your shoulders about just that, you begin to feel it might be a weakness. He is never far away from bowling a very good ball or a very bad ball and there is perhaps a comparison to be made there with Stephen Harmison. He can bowl some absolutely unplayable balls but then bowl a ball going to second slip as well.
A side is only as good as its bowlers and if someone like Johnson or Harmison can get one player out who might be more difficult for the more conventional bowlers, they're doing a job. Someone like Mitchell is still getting wickets. You look at that column, then look at who you build around him to penetrate the opposition.
The third npower Test starts on Thursday at Edgbaston
Ricky has taken my role as the villain
Ricky Ponting handled defeat with wonderful grace at Lord's. That is the measure of the bloke, the kind of leader that we have come to expect Ricky to be. He shows great character and knows his side underperformed in the first hours of the Test match. He saw some good things as well. Ultimately, he has great character.
There will always be speculation after the loss of a Test match because the side has been winning every match it has played in for decades. When it doesn't there are questions and it's right that there should be, but Ricky is up to the task of answering them and he is very engaging with his responses and genuinely believes his side will win.
As for the villain he appears to have become for English crowds (taking my role, maybe), he would have it no other way because he loves all the business that goes with the Ashes and the adversity is something you have to learn to live with. It won't be fazing Ricky Ponting one bit, let me assure you.
You have to trust players, not technology, on close calls
Fair play may prove a challenge for Ricky Ponting. That cropped up in the last game with the argument surrounding the Andrew Strauss catch to dismiss Phillip Hughes. Nobody should question the integrity and the credibility of Strauss (inset), there should be no slurs on his reputation. He is an honourable man. I have been in that position at slip many times.
It's not the incident that is important in itself, it's the way it was dealt with, the way such things are always dealt with daftly. The game hedges its bets both ways at the moment.
What should happen is that a batsman should ask: "Did you catch it?" And if the answer is "yes" the batsman walks off, so it all falls on the shoulders of the player claiming the catch.
For years Ponting has asked for this to be introduced in every series at the pre-series meeting between the captain and the referee and for years the opposition captain would not entertain the idea. Ricky got fed up of asking.
It's simply about the spirit of the game. After Hughes edged that ball he asked the question of Strauss and when he was told the catch was clean started to walk. Had Ponting's desired system been implemented that would have been that but, as it wasn't, he quite rightly sent him back for the umpires to make their decision.
Ricky believes that the technology is inconclusive and I'm with him. This is my challenge to the game: why doesn't it embrace the spirit where you trust a player? I would prefer that 100 per cent. If Paul Collingwood said he'd caught me then you walk off.
The only piece of technology that has been a triumph is hotspot, the infra-red picture. Hawk-Eye and the snickometer are not credible, in my opinion. They fudge the truth. Hawk-Eye is an indicator, no more.
I'm not challenging what should have happened in that game but how we should go forward. Technology or human beings when it comes to those kind of catches? The word of the human being every time.
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