Matthew Hayden's Ashes Summer: England beware: the momentum in this series has started to swing again
From the man at the heart of Australia's most successful side ever
Friday 07 August 2009
Australia will win the Test match in Leeds and go on to win the Ashes. There will be plenty of Englishmen who disagree with that and I can hear the guffawing as I write, but it will come to pass.
This series and the game at Headingley is as tight as a Yorkshireman's wallet is reputed to be, and mine too if you listen to Ricky Ponting, but provided we have five days it is the tourists I believe who will come out on top. This is not blind patriotism, this is based on the scoreboard pressure that I am sure they will apply.
We need look no further back than Birmingham and how that match ended. Frivolous though it might be, it is still fascinating to look at the position of the game when it drew to a close. Australia were 262 runs ahead with five wickets in hand and England would have had to bat fourth. What sort of target could they have chased? Not that many.
Now I understand that so much time had been taken out of the game that the only team who could win was England and that all Australia could do was bat for a draw. But how well they did that.
This series is so close in terms of sessions, as I have written here before, but the indications are that Australia, because of their efforts towards the end at Edgbaston, still have the edge. Do not forget that in the shortened game the margins for error were heightened for both sides.
The truth is that the Aussies got out pretty easily with a draw. And the Anderson-Panesar effect may now come into play. Look what happened to England after they managed to deny Australia in Cardiff and now it is Australia who will gather momentum and confidence.
They know how well they can bat. Michael Hussey, under pressure both himself and in a team contest, batted beautifully and showed what a champion he is. There has been a consolidation of the top order and Michael Clarke, well, he's Michael Clarke.
It will be interesting to see the state of the pitch and nobody should be fooled by Headingley's reputation for producing green tops. Spin will play its part on a good pitch.
And what of the team that Australia should field to achieve their dream? Unchanged in every case but one. If Brad Haddin has recovered from the broken finger he suffered after the toss in Birmingham then he should come back.
But that apart, Australia can and should rely on the team that has taken them this far. Brett Lee bowled in the nets in Birmingham and has bowled a lot since, but I am not sure that it is worth the risk even with a great bowler like Brett at this stage.
England have their own team worries with all the attention on the fitness of Andrew Flintoff. He will be given every chance to prove his fitness and that is right. It is perfectly simple for me: no Flintoff, no Ashes.
Humble, passionate and a true leader
What a leader Ricky Ponting is – and now that is true in every sense. He is leader of his nation's cricket team and now he is leader of their all-time Test runs scorers.
It is a position he fully deserves. Ricky is a bloke who wears his heart on his sleeve, who has an incredibly humble personality. You never see him giving it the big one on the field and he is a cricketer who loves the fight and goes about it with determination.
To compare him with other batsmen is not something I'm in the business of doing. He is simply Ricky Ponting and he has made the very best of that. He has faced all kinds of bowlers in all kinds of conditions and he has been challenged and he has met those challenges. He is as good as Ricky Ponting is, that's all and he has all those runs to show for it.
I hope that he goes on, I think he will. It is bound to happen that people will ask questions about him going – that's life – but I hope he will stay awhile yet. I tell you what, if you had to pick blokes to go into battle with, Ricky Ponting would be in my top three.
Watson can leave Hughes in the cold
Shane Watson may have forged out a whole new career himself as an Australia opening batsman. He came in at Edgbaston, a surprise selection for sure, and immediately looked the part. He was solid, he looked assured, he played big shots down the ground. It is a position that has been waiting for him, always in the pipeline.
When he could not bowl because of injury he had to play as a batsman only or not play at all. It meant that the all-rounder could concentrate completely on his batting and you could see the fruits of doing that in the third Test.
It is his position now. He has been given a second chance as a Test cricketer and he has taken it. Maybe it has happened because of injury (to him) and loss of form (to Phillip Hughes), but he has it in him to stay put.
G'day, Alice – the unique call of TMS
How wonderful it has been to be at the other side of the fence – in the commentary box. It has been instructive, informative and extremely pleasant. First there are the insightful comments from great ex-players such as Richie Benaud and Geoffrey Boycott, who bring a matchless sense of history and knowledge, and make you see again why Test cricket is so worth preserving.
Then there is awareness that your words and your assessments are being listened to thousands of miles away. The BBC Test Match Special team got an email during the Birmingham Test from Alice Springs in the middle of Australia, where they must have been listening under the stars. It has all had a powerful effect on me.
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