Thursday, 11 July 2013


Fail to prepare and prepare to, um, have moderate success...

Australia have kept everyone guessing this tour. First they picked a red herring as coach – very fishy – then they select players who they’d first sent to the Home Counties Premier League to prepare. Ashton Agar counted Adam Dobb, Alex Chalker and Steven Snell among his victims for Henley, and recovered well from a full bunger first up to show encouraging signs. Such as not yipping up.

Meanwhile, a guy they originally picked to open the batting with Ed Cowan – who, naturally, is now at three – was sent to Zimbabwe (where else?) for a warm-up match, much to the chagrin of the bijou Nottingham hostelry to be found at 11-15 Friar Lane (rhymes with talkabout). Presumably Warner will be back in time for the Lord’s Test – he has to cut the ribbon on his stand, after all.

Body talk

England’s initial batting efforts were marked by both Root and Trott’s serenely positive footwork and general movement at the crease, in contrast to Cook’s tentative hanging back. This was Greg Chappell’s thing: positive movement leads to positive thoughts (more so than the other way around). The England skipper seemed overly concerned by some early swing batted as though trying not to get out lbw. Root, we know, gets back and forward in the crease and plays the ball under his eyes. His first 16 runs were all run down to third man. It was classical opening batsmanship and no doubt educed a purr of appreciation from Sir Geoffrey of Boycottshire up in the TMS box, possibly even his first orgasm since the undredth undred. Impressive, right up until he got out.

Trott, meanwhile, might walk out all flubberdy-dubberdy, like a youth team ice hockey goalkeeper, but he looked the most assertive of the lot, transferring his weight and stepping lithely into whatever was thrown at him, footwork precise and crisp, caressing the ball on the top of the bounce, frequently with a crunching sound off the blade. To be bowled chopping on to an innocuous length ball was, understandably, annoying and his mock swipe at the stumps suggested as much. Still no Test fifty at Trent Bridge, but his form looks promising.

Siddler on the Roof

Truth be told, none of Australia’s seamers were at their best in the morning session, with England picking off 18 boundaries in 24 overs. Pattinson’s bumper-wide to start proceedings – after the interminable and overblown pomp – invited the predictable quipped observations that it bore some sort of cosmic significance and had “set the tone” not only for the series (if anything had set the tone, it was those quips), but also the EU debt crisis, the second wave of the Arab Spring, and the implementation of the Kyoto protocol.

Mitchell Starc, meanwhile, was forced to bowl in plimsolls so as not to create rough for Swann, the significance of which the English media may slightly have overstated (it being well known that it is absolute suicide for any left-arm seamer to play against is ever again).

The other Dandenongian, Peter Siddle, recovered from a frankly dross first spell of 4-0-27-0 to show his usual blue-collar honesty and bag a ‘Michelle’. He may have been slightly fortuitous to have yorked Root with his first ball back (surely no-one intentionally bowls a yorker first up), but swung a couple at KP – who is contractually obliged to feel bat on ball – to nick him off, then did the same to Bell, before the drag-on of Trott. But the big gimme was Matt Prior, toeing a wide nothing ball to short point, the low point of a callow England batting display. Five-fer, under par.

Broad shoulders?

There was, it seemed, a distinct and pre-meditated plan to get stuck into Broad. While the green-and-gold-clad Fanatics in the Parr Stand regaled the hometown boy with the Aerosmith classic ‘Dude Looks Like a Lady’, Starc and Pattinson wasted no opportunity to bounce him and generally show aggressive body language. Both hit him on the body – Starc’s early blow that glanced off his back for four also bringing Haddin up to within earshot for a spot of advice; Pattinson’s blow on the shoulder preventing him from taking the field – and it’s fair to say he can expect a bit more, um, cock-measuring as the summer goes on.

Anyway, after a couple of impressive punched fours off the back foot, Pattinson, persevering with the short stuff, changed the angle and it paid immediate dividends with a clothed pull offering a simple return catch. Given that this was a docile surface, Broad can thus expect several more such examinations. You could of course have told all this is soon as the first ball of the series was bowled.

Finn does surprise  

When you’re rolled inside 60 overs on the opening day of the Ashes, you need something, someone to spark you off. Step forward – with rather a large stride – Steven Finn, opening the bowling in the absence of Broad (how Cook must have been thankful that Bresnan wasn’t his third seamer). Things didn’t start so auspiciously – Watto crunching boundaries off front and back foot from his first two balls – but the first two balls of Finn’s second over went rather better, Watson and Ed Cowan offering catches in the cordon.

Of course, a certain amount of synchronicity between the timing of England’s opening burst and the peak in a day of lager consumption helped whip TrentBridge into a cauldron of noise – good natured and witty noise, too, it has to be said. Anderson then castled the now-mature Australian skipper, ‘Dog’ (formerly known as 'Pup'), with a ball that, had he told him he was going to bowl it, he still wouldn’t have been able to play, before trapping Rogers, lbw b DhaRmaSena.

Steven Peter Deveraux Smith

“Hi, I’m Steve Smith.”
“Steve? Smith?”
“And what do you do, ‘Steve Smith’?”
“I play cricket for Straylya.”
“Do you now. Batter or bowler?”
“Well, I used to be a bowler, a leggie–”
“Why ‘used to be’?”
“Dunno. Just… Dunno. Couldn’t really land it.”
“Or spin it.”
“Oh. So now you’re a batter?”
“How’s that working out?”
“Well, I probably still need to tighten up a bit, maybe not have so many moving parts, but the selectors have told me: ‘Look mate, we’ve got a bit of a batting drought, so even though you wouldna come within a Nullarbor of the side six years ago we’re gonna have to give you a run’. So, I’m pretty stoked.”
“Cool. How you go today?”
“Alright, mate. Yeah. Pretty good.”
“Well, best of luck ‘Steve Smith’ who plays for Australia.” 


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