Saturday, 8 January 2011

When the hurly burly's done,

When hurly burly's done, when the battle's lost and won.................. From the opening of Shakespeare's match report on one of Macbeth's greatest Test victories.   Time to reflect.

Ticker tape causing interference on the air waves
The final report to Fantasy Bob from Paul Collingwood’s sock lapsed into incoherence.  FB attributes this to atmospheric conditions prevailing between Sydney and Edinburgh which seemed to introduce continued background distortions of continually intermingled '3-1, 3-1 and wheay the lads'. There seemed to be repeated sounds of something like a pop gun being fired.  FB struggled to make any sense of it.

However he is very grateful to the sock for the special insights and comments.  He will be greatly missed from the Test scene. 

Fantasy Bob reminded himself that in his first post on the Ashes series, he suggested that the series could be close indeed too close to call.  Now part of this was FB’s lifelong disposition to sit on any fence put in front of him (or behind him for that matter), but remarkably it was the common viewpoint amongst the more intelligent pundits.   The teams were deemed to be evenly matched.  Despite Australia’s evident decline and loss of form in key players. There was a quiet confidence in the English side but there was concern  about the the form of Cook and Pietersen.  Concern as to whether the bowling attack could take 20 wickets in a game.  How wrong can you call it?  Instead of a series of nail-biting finishes, there was one draw and 3 big victories and a big loss.  Manicurists are complaining that they do not have the business they expected in repairing nails chewed to the quick and beyond.

The margin of victory for England cannot be underestimated. It was the first time any team had won three Tests by an innings in a single series away from home. The last time England had done it against any opponents, India, had been in 1959.  It was also the first time Australia had lost three Tests at home since 1988-89, when Viv Richards' world-beating West Indies side also won by a 3-1 margin.

Best batter - best bowler
This link will take FB’s readers to datablog via the Guardian on which all manner of info on the series can be found.  Put the anorak on and have a look.  FB is only an occasional anorak wearer, but even he can see some interesting figures in all this.  It shows how England outplayed their opposition in absolutely every aspect of the game.

The achievements of England's top order batters are evident and Alastair Cook is deservedly man of series with 766 runs at 127.66.  He batted for over 36 hours in total – this is probably pretty near the total time that FB has spent at the crease in his whole career which did not start yesterday!

England also had the stand out bowler in Jimmy Anderson.  All doubts about his ability to swing the Kookaburra convincingly dispelled.  But his 24 wickets at 26.04 were only part of an exceptional team bowling performance.  Tremlett, Finn and Bresnan all contributed as did Broad in 'bowling dry' in the first 2 games.  This is a great tribute to the work of bowling coach David Suker whose focus on line and length and creating pressure through maidens makes the traditionalist proud.  While Swann was talked up before the series, as most spinners have found before him, Australia is a hard place for the slower bowler.  But he bowled exactly 1000 dot balls and chipped in with 15 wickets. He forced batsmen to play defensive shots to 46.46% of the balls he delivered, the highest ratio of any bowler.  In short he was key to establishing control – and only Mike Hussey had an idea of how to deal with him.

FB thinks that the most important story to emerge at the tail end of the series is that Suker has signed up for a further 3 years.  This should take English bowling to new heights.  India watch out.

England also had the stand out fielders with Paul Collingwood leading a superb team effort.  Again the statistics reveal the gap between the sides.  Collingwood had 9 catches – including that miracle take at Perth.  Haddin had 8, a pretty poor return for a keeper over 5 games.  Prior had 23.  English fielders saved runs on 109 occasions compared to just 68 by the Australian players.  There were 4 disastrous run outs in Australian innings – all involving Shane Watson.  Something is wrong there – but it needed cool and accurate fielding to capitalise.

Finally showing both the quality of the bowling and the loss of form by Australia’s skipper Ponting  edged 7.76% of all the deliveries he faced, of top order batsmen only Philip Hughes (8%) edged a higher ratio.  Is Hughes really the opener on whom to build Australia’s future?

Fantasy Bob can take or leave many of the antics of the Barmy Army – he doesn’t see why it is necessary to behave like football supporters but they did create an atmosphere of intensity for the players so they were a factor in overcoming the intimidation that is expected in the cathedrals of Aussie cricket.  And they contributed some half decent jokes.

What's the difference between Australia and a F1 car?
The car can reach 250.

What do you call an Australian with a bat? 
A vet.

Why can no-one drink wine in Australia at the moment?
They haven't got any openers.
FB notes that Andrew Hilditch considers that he and his fellow selectors had done "a very good job" in choosing the teams for the five matches.  Well, they got 11 players out which is always an important achievement as FB and all players in lower leagues know.  so respect on that.  But a policy of 'any spinner will do' and a complete absence of knowing who the best 6 bats in Australia are, doesn’t seem all that great a set of criteria to judge yourself by.   FB thinks there is a bit of work to do there.

For England the next Test challenge is significant - India next summer.  A team rich in batting and showing its grit in drawing a tightly fought series in S Africa.  This will be a true test.

It is appropriate to leave the last word to Paul Collingwood.  Asked by Mike Atherton whether would not regret that he’ll never get to wear that cap again, he said. "Well, I can still keep it and then take it out and look at it sometimes."  And that goes for his socks too.

The catch

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