The Reverse Sweep: The Week in Cricket

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This week’s Ashes special looks at the fallout in the respective camps after Australia’s thrashing at the hands of England in Adelaide. Where do Australia go from here? We also check out how India are shaping up just a few months away from the World Cup on the subcontinent.   

The Reverse Sweep is an irreverent and acerbic round-up of the week that was in cricket. For similar musings on the sport that God would play, please visit our blog also entitled The Reverse Sweep – selected as one of the 50 best cricket web sites in the world by The Times. Alternatively, you can follow us on Twitter @TheReverseSweep.

Where do demoralised Australia go from here?

In the end Australia left Adelaide with barely a whimper and long before the arrival of the thunderstorm that must have being praying on English minds overnight.

In truth the only storm that counts is the one that is now engulfing Ricky Ponting and the Australian selectors as they try to find an XI that can compete with England and somehow win two and draw one of the three remaining tests in the series. Otherwise, Ponting is in danger of having his legacy as the best Australian batsman since Bradman besmirched. Instead, he will forever be known as the captain that lost three Ashes series.

As an honest Ponting admitted, Australia were “out-batted, out-bowled and out-fielded” by a rampant England team. And as he and the selectors pick through the wreckage, the temptation will be to make wholesale changes to the side that takes the field at the WACA next week.

There will be at least one change, with Simon Katich’s achilles problem ruling him out of the rest of the series and given his years will perhaps curtail his test career for good. Phil Hughes is likely to return at the top of the order. Elsewhere, Marcus North’s position at number six will come under scrutiny and then there are the bowlers. Of the four who played in Adelaide, only Ryan Harris comes out with any credit with the other three all in danger of losing their place.

Aside form Andrew Strauss’ injudicious leave, Doug Bollinger looked was simply dreadful – he wasn’t quick enough, leaked too many runs and his body language was terrible. He certainly lacked the fizz that his name would otherwise imply. As such Mitchell Johnson’s exile may only last for one match.

Peter Siddle has experienced the highs and lows of test cricket in just a week – six wickets and a birthday hat-trick on day one of the series and 54 wicketless overs since. Whilst he continued to run in and give it everything, Siddle looked like what he is – a bowler returning from a long-time injury. It is likely to come down to a borderline decision between him and Ben Hilfenhaus – who was inexplicably left out at Adelaide.

Both may play if the selectors opt for four seamers – as Xavier Doherty’s brief sojourn in test cricket will surely be put out of its misery. The gamble simply hasn’t worked – hardly surprising given his first-class record. However, having dispensed with Nathan Hauritz before the series, are the Australian selectors prepared to look a bit foolish by going back to him cap in hand now? Or do they turn instead to the rookie Steve Smith, who could take North’s place and provide support to a four-seam attack? If so, Mark Cameron of New South Wales is a good outside bet to join Harris, Johnson, Siddle and Hilfenhaus in the squad.

If Hauritz gets the nod and Australia retain the four bowler policy with Shane Watson as back-up seamer, North could survive for his home test. Cameron White – a possible alternative to Clarke as next captain, Usman Khawaja and Cameron Ferguson are all contenders for North’s spot if the selectors press the eject button.

For what it’s worth our squad would be as follows, with the XI highlighted in bold: Watson, Hughes, Clarke, Hussey, Ponting, White, Haddin, Johnson, Hauritz, Harris, Hilfenhaus, Siddle and Smith. We’ve been calling for Ponting to drop down the order for a while. It will allow him to compartmentalise the captaincy and give him a better chance of getting back to his imperious best with the bat.

Singing in the rain

There are no such problems for England after their first innings victory in Australia for 24 years, and with only one more win required in the next three tests to retain the Ashes. At this rate, Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower will be quietly confident of inflicting the kind of series defeat that Australia has ritually handed out for the last 20 years of Ashes contests. Most of the England side are at the top of their games – Cook, Trott, Pietersen and Bell all average over 100, Swann emphatically overcame his Brisbane blip and Anderson proved once and for all that he can flourish on good Australian wickets. The only blow is losing Stuart Broad for the remainder of the series, but Chris Tremlett is a ready-made replacement – especially at Perth – and certainly he and probably even England’s other back-up seamers Bresnan and Shahzad would make the current Australian line-up. At this rate, Strauss and his men will arrive back in England like a King’s Pardon – to the sound of bells and fanfare.

India looking good for the World Cup

Whilst most of the attention in the cricket world has been on events in Adelaide, India have been quietly dismantling New Zealand in their home five match ODI series. Virat Kohli and Gautam Gambhir have stood out on the batting front and they were yesterday joined by Yusuf Pathan, who despite several impressive performances in domestic cricket had hitherto been pretty non-descript in an Indian shirt. But three wickets with the ball and a brutal 123 (off only 96 balls) not only propelled India to victory, but illustrated just how much strength in depth India has. They are certainly going to be extremely hard to beat in their own backyard come the World Cup in February.

Have the Australian cricket team gone soft?

Finally, back to the Ashes. In the Sunday Times last weekend, Martin Johnson suggested that the Australian cricket team’s rapid decline could in part be because of the “namby-pamby nanny state” that he says Australia has become. At first, we weren’t sure, but after more thought there does seem to be a bit of a distinction between the older and younger players in the Australian side. No-one could accuse Ricky Ponting of being soft, nor Simon Katich after battling his achilles injury and refusing a runner. But when you see an Australian cricketer apologising on Twitter for not walking and the metro-sexual vulnerability of the likes of Watson and Johnson, then you begin to think that Martin Johnson may well be on to something.

Quote of the week

In the aforementioned piece by Martin Johnson, he wrote a wonderful paragraph comparing typical Australian bowlers from different eras and how the current model has other concerns on his mind than intimidating the batsman at the other end…

“whereas a batsman once saw a mean, aggressive fast bowler steaming in at him, he now sees a bloke with a wig who daren’t cross a road without the assistance of a lollipop lady or sit down (on the loo) without first ensuring his seat is in the correct position”.

Great stuff. That’s all for this week folks.

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