Tuesday, 2 November 2010

We need to talk about Kevin

Paul the octopus is no more.  So pundits are robbed of the most reliable forecaster of the outcome of the coming Ashes series and have to rely on their own er.................insight and judgement.

Having neither of these qualities, Fantasy Bob is clearly going to struggle.  Nevertheless he is confident that the side winning more matches will win the series.  Conversely, the side scoring fewer runs in any one match will lose that match.  Beyond that, things are a little less certain to FB.  The prospects of a closely fought series are high, the sides appear evenly matched.  That means that the outcome of the whole series could depend on one session, which could depend on one performance by one player.  Who might it be?

FB thinks that England's series winner is likely to be one from Strauss, Collingwood, Finn or Swan.  By contrast, their flop of the series will be Trott, Broad or Anderson.  For Australia no one will top Watson, Ponting or Bollinger.  Their floperoonies are likely to be Clarke, North or Johnston.  Australia's fitness worries mean that there is an unknown out there who could suddenly come to prominence.

There are real challenges for England in getting significant contributions from Cook - a school of thought (Duncan Fletcher's no less) is that Trott should open with Morgan in the middle order.  But that would put Pietersen at 3 and that is so scary at present.  Even Bell might look a better prospect. 

KP - when it all seemed so easy
And it is Pietersen who is the real mystery - and whose form may well have most impact on the outcome. FB has not included him in either of the lists above because he hasn't a clue which KP has travelled to Australia.   He could be on either list.

KP averages 50 against Australia, the fourth-best in world cricket, but in his last six series, over 16 Tests, he has averaged 35, with no centuries.  His first class average for 2010 is a miserable 29.2 - with no hundreds.  In his first 18 Tests he hit 32 sixes but has managed only 21 in the 48 since then.  Is he a spent force?   Has the bowling in world cricket got so much better? 

With figures like that, what is he even doing on the tour?  Of course the camp say he looks good in the nets.  But Fantasy Bob looks good in the nets.  KP is a huge selection risk.  He can only ever be one over ambitious shot away from total psychological collapse, and if that shot happens in the first innings in the first test before he has scored 60 then you'd think his tour is over.  This looks a pretty steep hill to have to climb for any batsman, let alone one who has to think about his next tweet at every point of his innings.  If he fails, then England will be relying on Morgan,  untested in the hothouse, or Bell, in which case watch out for the sledgefest.  Either way, you don't get the impression that Ponting will be losing too much sleep.

But if KP comes off in the first test, he will dominate the series and he may even be forgiven another badger type haircut and another outburst on Twitter. 

FB thinks that Paul the octopus would have been circumspect in deciding which KP will turn up.  He sees no reason to come to a different conclusion.  The first warm up game will be even more vital than usual.

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