Crush them, grind them, sink them, finish them
There is nothing sad, for this Englishman, about Australia’s cricketing disarray. Having seen numerous English shambles and a few false dawns, it was frankly a great pleasure to see Alistair Cook and his team crush the old foe in the second Test. Not everyone agrees of course.
But what is truly startling about the state of Australian cricket is that there really seems to be very little prospect of any immediate improvement – and that is a concern. The on-field performances are one thing, yet it is the shenanigans behind the scenes which show quite how bad things have become. From Twitter scandals to courtroom wrangles, the Aussies are currently incapable of keeping their dirty laundry to themselves.
It is only two years since the Argus review into Australia’s team performance and, given that things have only worsened in the interim, it may be safe to say that the response to that review (and, in fact, the Argus recommendations themselves) were nowhere near to being radical enough.
Lehmann points the chubby finger of blame - again
Darren Lehmann’s appointment shortly before the Ashes began looked slightly desperate but – at least in the short-term – had the potential to re-focus and gel the team. Two Tests on, there is little outward sign of togetherness in the ranks, however regularly Michael Clarke makes a point of chatting jauntily to Shane Watson (pictured above). And Lehmann himself isn’t doing much to imbue his players with confidence.
After the first Test, he reported bluntly that Ed Cowan had failed to play in the way he had been told to. Now, the chunky Lehmann finger of blame has been pointed at Chris Rogers, who apparently told Shane Watson to review his first innings stone-bonker of an LBW. Never mind that Watson is by far the more senior player and ought to have some idea where his stumps are.
Captain Clarke does his best to remain positive but the coach gives the impression that picking out individuals for a few gruff words will suddenly turn this team into the kind that he himself was a part of less than ten years ago. The change since that world-beating line-up took the field has been dramatic and, if there is to be any sort of reverse, Lehmann cannot live in the past.
Aussie bowlers came to the party…and now they’re leaving
The announcement that James Pattinson will miss the rest of the series because of injury is a shame because he has at times been exciting to watch. But his fitness record is poor and so his departure is about as surprising as a Shane Watson LBW. If Ryan Harris doesn’t join Pattinson on the sidelines at some stage it will be a miracle, such is the pressure exerted on his heavy frame by a somewhat clunky delivery stride.
As for the spinners, goodness only knows who will be in the starting line-up at Old Trafford. Ashton Agar is Australia’s leading run-scorer in the series but looks as likely to bag a major haul of wickets as Brad Haddin. Nathan Lyon has a decent enough record (a better average than Daniel Vettori for instance) and ought to come back in. But you get the sense that Australian selectors believe there is another Warne out there if only they look hard enough. In short, there isn’t.
The domestic T20 still lacks sense and substance
While most eyes are on the Ashes, the domestic T20 season continues merrily on its way. In the shortest format, the eighteen team structure of English county cricket becomes questionable in a way it hasn’t in relation to the Championship since the split into two divisions. The scheduling of games does not help. So far, T20 games have been played on twenty-one separate days since Hampshire and Surrey took guard on 26 June.
I would be surprised if a majority of spectators arrive at a T20 game knowing where in the league table the two teams on show actually stand. While there will be more tweaks to the competition next season, it remains as much about a fun evening out as a going concern in terms of genuine, widespread interest in the final position of the counties. Notts to win this year, by the way.