Happy new year everyone. Sorry about the delay between articles. I’ve just had my first extended break in nine years of editing (and co-editing) The Full Toss. Where have I been? Skiing in The Alps. Was it any good? No not really. I have all the balance of Channel 9’s commentary team. Throw in the inherent anxiety of a diehard England cricket supporter (the fear that disaster lurks around every corner) and I was less Eddie The Eagle and more Bambi on ice.
Basically I spent the whole time shitting myself and falling over. My French ski instructor Stephan, who must have felt a bit like Graham Gooch trying to verse Alan Mullally in the finer points of batting, eventually became exasperated and called me “a refuser”. He wasn’t wrong. I quit before the next lesson.
Anyway I digress. You’re here to read about cricket not my feeble attempts to look competent on the slopes and win some pocket money. And the big news over the last week or so has been India’s triumph in Australia. Well done to Virat Kohli and his team. It was a well deserved victory and it doesn’t bode well for Aussie cricket at all.
Although the Aussies were certainly hamstrung by the absence of the two cheats – I love the way we can say this without consequences because they admitted it – our antipodean friends must have been really disheartened by their bowlers’ persistent failure to knock India over cheaply and keep them in the game.
Personally I was surprised. Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins and Lyon are a formidable foursome (with or without sandpaper) and I expected them to cause some carnage. In the end, however, Kohli, Pant, and the superb Pujara in particular, were just too good.
Unsurprisingly Indian supporters are now claiming that their team is the undisputed No.1 test team in the world. And you can’t blame them. It’s the first time I can remember India winning down under. The fact they made the Aussie follow on at home for the first time since 1988 is one hell of an achievement – although the absence of Smith and Warner obviously means there’s a significant caveat alongside this statistic.
Although I tend to agree that India are indeed the best team in world cricket right now, I don’t think it’s clear cut. Let’s not forget they were beaten by an emphatic 4-1 scoreline in England just a few months ago. And everyone knows that England are hardly world-beaters at present. Things weren’t looking so rosy for India then – even if the series was probably closer than the official margin of victory suggests.
Luckily from England’s perspective India’s win definitely dents Australia’s morale ahead of this summer’s Ashes. If England beat India comfortably, and India beat Australia in Australia, one would think that Australia’s chances of succeeding in a part of the world where India lost are pretty slim. At least in theory.
Unfortunately, however, things are rarely that simple in the topsy turvy kick you-in-the-crotch and spit-on-your-neck world of English cricket. Smith and Warner will be back by the time the Ashes begins – their rehabilitation during the World Cup could well be old news by August – so their balsa wood batting order will be bolstered considerably by the time the teams emerge at Edgbaston. And then there’s the Aussie pace attack to worry about.
Although some will point out that their seamers haven’t been anywhere near as effective since the contents of Bancroft’s pants were exposed last year – feel free to raise your eyebrow at this point – the fact remains that Australia’s main four bowlers are rather handy.
Yes Starc can be a bit hit and miss but he remains destructive on his day. What’s more, Cummins, Hazlewood, and Lyon are indisputably world class performers. They’re all in the world’s top 14 (Cummins is now No.2) with very good averages and a history of success against England.
If these guys stay fit they could really do some damage – especially against England’s pretty woeful top order batting. This presents England with a bit of a problem …
England’s strength over the last few years has been our lower order’s ability to dig the team out of a hole. This has become Ed Smith’s signature philosophy (even though it began way before he was even on the scene). England pack the team with all-rounders (or ‘the best eleven cricketers) in the hope they’ll cobble together competitive totals as a unit.
There’s just one flaw with this cunning plan: it’s a lot harder for tail-enders to score runs against genuine pace and quality spin. They tend to crap themselves like cricket bloggers on a ski slope.
Big Ed’s plan therefore may not work too well against the Aussies. Sam Curran might be able to smack a tiring Suranga Lakmal around the park with a cheeky boyish grin, but it’s a different proposition when a fired up Pat Cummins is trying to kill you. Just ask Moeen Ali.
Consequently, although I still think England are favourites for the Ashes – especially as the Aussies haven’t won in Blighty since 2001 – I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Aussies emerge victorious. They’ll be a different beast with their captain and vice-captain in situ, and taking twenty wickets shouldn’t be a problem for them.
And then there’s the World Cup factor to think about. There won’t be a lot of preparation time after the white ball festival has ended, and who knows what kind of hangover England will be nursing. Will it be complacency after English cricket’s day in the sun? Or will it be despondency and disgruntlement after yet another flop at the worst possible time?
Let’s hope the likes of Root, Stokes and Buttler are fully focused, fit, and firing.
Well I watched a bit of this series and India have a slightly better bowling attack than the Aussies but much much better batting. A deserved win. Australia’s top order is about as fragile as ours, their bottom order is much better. With two of the world’s top batters out through being prats, it’s not surprising. I do think this cheat thing now needs to stop though. If there is or has been more of it cameras would have picked it up for sure. Move on.
Who will win the Ashes? Well if it’s a hot summer rock hard pitches in August will define favour the Aussie quicks, we don’t have any yet. But with a wet one and a mid September finish, probably a drawn series is likely. With a 11 am start for the last test they’ll be lucky to bowl 70 overs in a day!
I was being facetious by calling them cheats again. Just a bit of banter. Although they were, technically, cheating ;-)
Why should people stop calling them and thinking of them as cheats?? They cheated right so regardless to whether it was once, twice or twelve times.. you cheated and so can’t be trusted to be honest or play fair.
Cry or say sorry or claim to want a second chance but you’ve proved to be a liar and cheat.
Zero sympathy and tbh, we are being way to soft letting them play but hey ho., snowflake culture now
Yes, deserved win for India. I was very impressed by Bumrah making the transition from white-ball.
If the Aussie quicks are firing, we might as well open with Bairstow and Root – there’ll only be an over or two difference in their arrival at the crease (hang on, is that actually such a silly idea?)
Smith will be back but not sure about Warner, given Bancroft dobbed him in big time.
England don’t look too scary but – for once – neither do the Australians.
It will be a close series i reckon and though it pains me to say it the Aussies will edge it because their bowling is better.
In English conditions (if we get them!) I would take Anderson and Broad over the Australian quicks. (Not in Australia, though.)
One thing you can bet is that they’ll raise their game this summer. Losing to the Poms makes their life back home on return much more diffficult. Losing at home to a good Indian side who dont have to cope with copious swing and seam out there, which is where they always come unstuck, will not raise more than eyebrows with the Aussie public, who know that without Warner and Smith their batting is vulnerable at best. However, their strike bowlers are better than ours and certainly confident against our present line up.
Looking forward to the summer immensely, especially if we can find a decent pace bowler to test them.
Whatever happens, can’t see it being one sided. If the weather stays kind very match could have a result.
Quite honesty the Aus vs ind test series was interesting because of the lack of quality in either team. Literally Australia’s best batsmen was Cummings !! The rest decided to play ‘postiive’ White ball mentality cricket and kept gifting their wickets away.. India had pujara showed the mentality needed for test top three batting. Leave everything you don’t have or want to play and grind the oppo. Aus didn’t do that once. Kohli did ok and pant had a couple of knocks .. the rest though.. dire.. rahane, rohit, rahaul and co were god awful
Overall, decent enjoyable series though which is th main thing but both sides aren’t very good. Both have decent bowling attacks which is nice to see.
Aus vs eng.. totally depends on smith and Warner.. if they are back and in any form then England should worry. Why?? Well we have zero top three bats, 5/6 who are hit and miss and then a 8+ of hit and miss.. we have a whole team of happy hookers and not one player now consistently willing to dig in and bat long. Luckily Aus will Be Just the same so it may come down to the pitches and who their suit..
I think the wickets will decide who wins and that will be the difference . Both sides are not very good but England seem to think we have some great side.. forgetting how many of these ‘great’ bats avg 30’s
I think India missed Kumar in the England series. His control of swing would have made him formidable in English conditions. Also I think Bumrah was injured for the first two tests? With them fit the result might have been different. And India are improving.
I agree India were worthy winners in Australia (they would surely have won the last test but for the weather). Pujara and Kohli are good enough for India not to miss Dravid and Tendulkar.
I expect the groundsmen will be asked to prepare wickets that help English bowling, so I think we will probably win the Ashes.
That’s a good point actually. Kumar has a very good record in England. In fact, his record is pretty impressive overall. If he had played, however, it wouldn’t meant one of the other Indian seamers missing out. From memory they all did pretty well. Nice to have some depth.
Yeah, and Kapil Dev was out too and he was a great bowler and Tandulkar was out as well…
England won in England against the best team India could send at that time. The team that beat Australia was very much the same but the Kookaburra and the Aussie conditions suited India better than the swinging Duke ball. Put India on a flat batting pitch anywhere in the world and they will excel. Put Australia on hard pitches and their bowlers are demons. Give Jimmy Anderson the ball with some moist warm air and he is unplayable.
Horse for courses mate.
I didn’t see much of the cricket James, but enjoyed your post as always. I loved your skiing snippet. It made a change from Brexit, bringing plenty of smiles.
India winning for the first time in Australia is a massive powershift in world cricket – or perhaps just the ratification of a powershift that took place some time ago?
Australia being shite is quite fun but be careful what you wish for in the long term. I’m a rugby fan as well and Australia’s decline there hurts the game as a whole.
It makes it all the more amusing that the ECB are hell-bent on trying to copy the Australian domestic structure! (There’s an important meeting on The Hundred a week today by the way).
I’d say England are ahead of Aus on th decline because where do we play long format cricket in the amateur game ?? If you don’t play that format you won’t learn the skills necessary and hence why England don’t have a top 3 batsmen and just. A bunch of all rounders who if people are honest, with avg’s in the 30’s aren’t actually good enough.
Hell, we don’t have an all rounder who actually gets into the side on both counts so we really have bits and pieces players
Englsnd sadly are not really better off, world cricket is in decline regardless to what the PR and ECB spin says.
It’s interesting that some people have started criticising the Big Bash too. Lots of talk of overkill. And yet that’s the tournament the ECB are trying to emulate in many ways.
‘Started’… I think some of us have always said 2020 whilst fun in small bursts isn’t a format many will enjoy playing for watching time and time again.
People are also saying it’s because ‘all the overseas stars’ aren’t paying.l who ?!?! An old Gayle ?? Russel ? Brathwaite whose done little since hitting stokes… umm.. who else z?.
Th BBL is quite simply got too many games now and people are getting a bit bored of it. It’s still more ‘fun’ than the other 2020 comps as it’s not taking itself as serious.. IPL is over rated and thinks it’s some great quality too
Do they all play each other home and away? If so, there are too many sides. Sydney (and Melbourne?) both have two – rationalising that would reduce the torunament to manageable proportions.
It was and still is the favoured 2020 tournament in nearly all the people I know, even those like myself who aren’t lovers of 2020 watch a bit of BBL.
I’m not an Aussie so can’t speak for them but it does feel like there are jut too many games, meaning what investment there was in it is diluted anyway.
It’s more money for CA, franchises and players so they don’t care.
There’s more money in the IPL, but I prefer to watch the BBL, for the simple reason that the television pictures are better quality – the IPL games all seem to be played in smog! (Perhaps this is a difference between India and Australia – I have been to neither.)
A couple of questions:
Who apart from Pujara would you say is a classic test number 3 in world cricket? I think Amla is past his best now and I can’t see anyone else.
Who has come on the scene in the last year or two who you would call a classic test opener? No one that I can think of but I don’t follow all international cricket.
The point being that I actually believe we are in an era now when test cricket is not going to be like it was and so many cricketers these days want to be all rounders as they are the ones who make the money in T20s. So classic openers and no 3s are just not there. These ‘bits and pieces’ players that many people are so unimpressed with actually haven’t done us too badly in the last year. I think we’ve got to get used to it.
I also find it amusing that the ECB is throwing itself and its money into the Hundred at a time when maybe T20 cricket is starting to lose its gloss, except probably in India where the IPL will continue to be a huge draw.
You might be happy that they are doing to badly ranking wise but the quality of awful. It’s hit and miss and relies Manly on dire bowling and/or flat dead tracks.
Test cricket isn’t testing if it’s basiclaly just a elongated one day but you get two goes
And I have doubts about Warner being in the Ashes team. They know he is going to get a lot of abuse from the crowds over here, which maybe he’s not up to judging by his leaving the field recently when sledged. Not just Bancroft hung him out to dry, so did Smith, who also apparently put a lot of blame on Sutherland as well. I didn’t see that reported, just heard it on commentary during one of the Big Bash games so i may have got it wrong.
Do you really think the players give two tosses about the rude and abusing Hollis stand and other gobby beered up fans ?? Not one little bit.
They are pros and couldn’t care less what is said, plus.. warmer especially bats and fields near the bat so will never be near . They talk up the crowd as it’s good PR but please don’t think it makes the slightest bit of difference what some drink gobshites say
Warner has anger issues. If you remember back he tried to attack a South African player after he said that Warner’s wife looked lovely the evening before.
Warner might need some extra time in the domestic arena before returning to international standard.
So it’s ok to abuse someone about their family is it? ‘Banter’ ‘sledging’
Not saying how he reacted is right but it’s no wonder people are leaving the game when abuse is so freely tolerated. Say that at work or in the street and you’ll have no teeth left
Actually in Warner defence, I know hard to do at the best of times, but the South African reminded him of the incident involving Warner’s wife, when single, and the All Black, Sonny Bill Williams, in a toilet cubicle in Perth WA. Not cricket at all
You “can’t remember” because India have never won a series down under, which makes this a bit more significant.
England’s ability to win tests without a top order is uncanny, Perhaps we need to pick more wicketkeepers if we run out of bowling all rounders.
Our top 3 are basically nightwatchmen … there to protect the lower middle-order from the new ball ;-)
We already have three wicket keepers and five bowling all rounders. Add Anderson, Broad and Root to get your eleven.