I don’t know what depresses me more. Steve Smith or this bloody MCG pitch. Both made for a very disappointing, and at times unwatchable, final day.
First we’ll talk about Smith … and only because we have to. The guy might be the new Shiv Chanderpaul in terms of style, but you have to admire his mental strength. The guy just doesn’t make many (if any) errors. He’s like Alastair Cook but better. And on surfaces like this, when the bowlers have no assistance whatsoever, he’s simply unmovable.
Had Ben Stokes been available and Smith missing for Australia, we might have seen a different outcome this series (or at least a more competitive one).
And now to this MCG pitch. This drop in, and soon drop off, surface. What a farce. In some ways I guess we should be grateful as the lifeless surface played right into Alastair Cook’s hands. In fact, four of his last five test hundreds (here, Birmingham, Rajkot, and Abu Dhabi) were all made on lifeless featherbeds like this when concentration, rather than technique, are all important.
However, although we’ll be forever grateful for Cook’s epic, which has successfully averted the whitewash – so his runs did matter! – it didn’t exactly make for compulsive viewing. There were times on the fifth day when the ball barely carried to Bairstow ankle-high. And I’m afraid that’s just not good enough in an era when test cricket is under threat.
How many kids would have been turned off by this snoozefest and then turned on by the subsequent Big Bash game in the evening? Thanks heavens it was two Englishmen (ahem) who stole the show: Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer. I might dislike it when players seem to care more about white ball cricket than test cricket, but if they keep producing poor pitches like the one we saw at the MCG, guys like Buttler and David Willey will feel completely vindicated.
So now it’s on to Sydney – which is amongst my favourite grounds in the world. I once saw my boyhood idol Graeme Hick make an ODI century there on my birthday. I can’t believe he’s now Australia’s batting coach. Come on Graeme, turn your back on our rivals and come and coach Worcestershire instead! Pretty please.
Games at Sydney are usually quite interesting because it turns there. This leaves England with a bit of a dilemma. Do they select Mason Crane? Unfortunately I don’t think they have any choice in the matter. Moeen Ali has been simply awful and his confidence looks shot. It’s always the same with Mo: he’s excellent at home (he took 25 wickets at just 15.6 against South Africa this summer) but beyond woeful abroad. It’s really odd.
Unfortunately with Stokes missing I don’t think we can drop Mo outright because we’ll have a tail longer than a diplodocus. Therefore I believe Crane should simply play ahead of Tom Curran, who brought a lot of energy but not many wickets (just one in 41 overs combined). I like the cut of Curran’s jib – which why I suspect he’s another Liam Dawson style Andy Flower pick – but I’m not sure he’s a test bowler at all.
Talking of guys who probably aren’t test quality, it’s unfortunate that England probably won’t have the luxury of facing Jackson Bird at the SCG. With Mitchell Starc likely to return, and the pitch bound to offer more pace (plus turn for Lyon), I suspect we’ll be up against it once again.