Strange reversal in cricket


When Australia toured England last summer, they were beaten 3-0 in the five Test series, with two no-decisions (‘draws’ in cricket-speak), one of which could easily have been an additional loss. Then six months later, England toured Australia and just received a massive drubbing, losing 5-0. Such clean sweeps are rare. I do not recall a previous time when dominance between two teams switched so overwhelmingly in such a short time and I am at a loss to explain it, though to be fair, I have mainly been following the top-line scores and not in detail. I am sure that England and Australian cricket fans can probe more deeply.

But even on a superficial level, it was clear that England’s batting was pathetic. In five-day Test matches, a good team should consistently be able to score over 350 runs an innings but in its ten efforts in Australia, England was able to do so only once, and then barely reaching 353. On six occasions they scored less than 200. They deserved to lose with such a pathetic batting performance.

So why the dramatic reversal in fortunes? Home field advantage is one possibility but does not usually play such a big role. Australia now feels cock-a-hoop after defeating their traditional rival but their big challenge will come soon against South Africa, the team currently ranked the best in Test cricket. They will be playing in South Africa with the first Test beginning on February 12.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka is struggling with the fact that they have no decent bowling since the retirement of Muralitharan and Vaas. Opponents are able to score against them with ease, which makes it unlikely that they will do well in the long-form Test format, and will likely only have partial success in the 50-over or 20-over limited format, where batting prowess is more important, and purely defensive bowling that restricts opponents from scoring is as valuable as actually getting them out.

Comments

  1. DsylexicHippo says

    I was expecting zero comments on this one being that nobody understands that game over this side of the Atlantic but #1 beat me to stating the obvious.

    What about “Malinga Slinga” (Lasith Malinga) for pure pace? Vaas, of course, was the better of the two in terms of success.

  2. Mano Singham says

    left0ver1under,

    Actually broken cricket bats are rare but not unheard of. I have seen it happen. The handle is attached to the blade through a kind of wedge-shaped insertion. The wood can also break if it has not been ‘seasoned’ properly

  3. Mano Singham says

    @DsylexicHippo,

    It is not just speed. Vaas had the ability to get crucial wickets, especially early in the game and that loss is hard to overcome. I got the feeling that he was a shrewder, and steadier, bowler than Malinga.

  4. Rob Grigjanis says

    @2:

    nobody understands that game over this side of the Atlantic

    There are regulars from both sides, and both hemispheres.

  5. Mano Singham says

    @Sunday,

    I thought cricket might was obscure enough for American readers without introducing further esoterica like the Ashes!

    Actually, I don’t recall the passage in Adams’s book. I have it and will see if I can find it.

  6. Nathair says

    this side of the Atlantic

    I’m almost certain that the internet doesn’t actually stop at the American border.

  7. says

    So many things wrong with the English performance this time around that it’s hard to point out just one point of failure. Australia’s home ground advantage was always going to be a factor but even leaving that in, it was clear from the first Test in QLD that England’s batting lineup just wasn’t firing on all cylinders. New draft Carberry, for example, was able to stay in for ages, but scored at a pathetic rate and left cheaply. Team skipper Cook opened the batting but consistently gave his wicket away with thoughtless strokes. Bell was kept in the middle order until the final match, when it would have been prudent to move him to first drop straight away so he could support the openers. Stokes and others who made good scores had little support from the rest of the lineup. Of course, England had Australia’s intimidating three-pronged pace attack of Johnson, Harris & Siddle (plus Watson’s swing) to deal with as well as Lyon’s beautiful off-breaks to make things interesting; even if England did manage to dismiss Australia for what seemed like a relatively low score, the Australian bowlers made sure that the English batsmen couldn’t capitalise. Fielding also needs to be mentioned: England seemed to want to make a sport out of dropping catches while the Australians, for a long time one of the best fielding sides in all forms of cricket, seemed to have been practicing little else but grabbing flying balls from the air.

    The Oz batsmen were also in decent form despite some top-order collapses, with Steve Smith and especially keeper Brad Haddin happy to occupy the crease, play smart and occasionally brutally to salvage more than one innings for the home team. Even the Oz tail-end had a few good wags while the English tail was full of kinks and seemed to start at around number 5!

    As good as the Australians were under the tutelage of new coach Darren “Boof” Lehmann (Adelaide boy, like me), the English seemed to be in complete disarray – not just in terms of on-field form but organisationally as well. Cook seemed a little amorphous, wanting to change his field around every time his bowlers incurred a boundary instead of, like Clarke, going into the field with a solid game plan, only making adjustments if really required. The retirement and departure to England of Graeme Swann, right after the loss of the third Test (and therefore the Ashes) wouldn’t have helped the English in the morale department either.

    I think it was just one of those times where a solid team playing near their peak encounters a team who are in a significant lull. Lordy knows it’s happened to Australia more than once, especially recently. It was a little sad, actually – much as I like Australia to mercilessly devour England in an Ashes series, I like a decent scrap instead of a walkover. I think only one of these Ashes Tests reached the fifth day, while the final match was over on the third – that result seemed to pretty much sum up England’s summer.

  8. lsamaknight says

    Ever heard of the West Indies cricket team? Made up from players from several Caribbean nations and while not currently at the top of the game, still a formidable team. Also Canada has regularly sent sides to the Cricket World Cup for a while.

    Regarding the broken bat… yeah it was unusual where it broke. When they do break they tend to break at the handle as mentioned, or at the far end of the blade which tends to cop the most abuse by being thumped into the pitch.

    As for England’s sudden reversal or fortunes…. many things are being blamed. Poor batting is definitely one factor but it’s not the only one given that Australia’s top order was a bit hit and miss and wasn’t always firing on all cylinders. Poor leadership on Alastair Cook’s part (the English captain) is definitely a popular issue as well as are rumors of a rift between coach Andy Flower and batsman Kevin Pietersen.

    The general consensus seems to be while these are all contributing factors the heart of the issue is that England didn’t really know how to respond after the drubbing they got in the Gabba Test and that in subsequent matches they were just going through the motions. Some of the junior players tried to make a go of it but without the support of the senior players and effective captaincy, there was no way to build on those individual performances, especially in the face of Australia’s aggressive bowling attack.

  9. says

    And as for Carberry’s broken bat, I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve seen breaks before but usually at the base of the handle or a separation right at the splice – as far as I know a bat snapping right across the grain is unprecedented. That specific piece of willow must have had a small but fatal flaw and the stresses of play gradually took their toll.

  10. Sunday Afternoon says

    @Hankstar: I broke a bat in nets around 30 years ago across the grain to provide precedence for Carberry’s break. The bat that went was old and clearly had a creeping crack before the contact that broke the remaining wood. The break of my bat was lower than Carberry’s.

  11. fentex says

    I asked a old cricket team mate who keeps more up on current games than I why he thought Oz swept the Poms clean and he told me that first off although Oz won all the games it wasn’t by large margins and several could have gone the other way (except he said the last which was dominated by bad decisions from the Poms).

    He thought the difference was three things – English discipline was poor, Australia had a fast bowler come on form at just the right time to complement his companions and exploit that poor discipline and one Oz batter in particular was solid every game providing a reliable average that saw Australia through tough spots.

    He also has a theory that Australians, once they get a nose ahead, play better for it rather than relaxing in the comfort of success as some might at times.

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