Ashes 4th Test Aftermath

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England sadly didn’t have a scooby doo in the 4th Test.

Some dismal reading  Top 10 England Collapses. Congratulations to the Australians – a fine performance and a side that seems to be gelling at the right time. Johnson and Siddle, who took pelters from all corners, both got five-fors. Would our players when criticised ram it down journalists throats? The idiots booing Ponting should be booing the England top 5.

Hayden talks some sense here. England shouldn’t panic and restructure the entire side for the Final Test that would be madness. We will go into The Oval Test 1-1 and we should remember that in two of the four Tests England have dominated even though the likes of Bopara haven’t been firing. We should also remember that this is a good Australian bowling attack but it is not a great one.

That said, I think Bopara has to be dropped in my opinion. He has been unlucky twice but at the same time he doesn’t look like a Test Cricketer. One minute he’ll be smashing a cover drive so beautiful that you think Michael Vaughan is back at the crease and then, for an over or two, he is scratching around slowly looking like a club batsman who has been dropped into the England team by mistake. I think the Australian bowlers have him in their sights and they would be delighted to see him on the teamsheet for The Oval.

Broad, despite my reservations, showed admirable qualities here and was England’s man of the match (although Extras should get an honourable mention for his contribution in runs…). Strauss should also consider his captaincy. Yesterday we leaked over 250 runs in 57 Overs. That is bad bowling, bad fielding, bad field placing and bad captaincy. If we were crushed on Friday, we were smeared very publicly all over Yorkshire yesterday.

So who should come in? One hopes, for all he is over-hyped, Flintoff comes back in for Harmison. He is held together by duck-tape but the Australians fear him. One last Flintoffian performance might just swing the Ashes our way. Furthermore, England need to remember this is Test Cricket – it isn’t supposed to be easy, it is supposed to be hard. There is nothing wrong with what Collingwood did at Cardiff (that is batting for a day to save the game and it doesn’t matter if runs aren’t coming). You cannot lose a game if the opposition cannot take 20 wickets, after all.

So who should bat at three? Bell has the ability but not the psychological capacity. If he isn’t scoring runs at four, he sure as eggs is eggs won’t score them at three. Collingwood has the mental toughness but has a huge technical deficiency outside his off-stump at present and one that he is over-compensating for by shuffling over to the off-side. Even though we brought Trott into the side for Headingley, I think we need a better and more experienced batsman at three and therefore there are two options: Rob Key and Mark Ramprakash.

I am opposed to Ramps coming back because I don’t believe the analysis here from Scyld Berry or Alec Stewart. Ramps is a fantastic batsman and has knocked some enormous runs this season (averaging 105) but I’d always be cautious about bringing in a player for one Test. Why does Berry think we should recall him? Not because he is in the runs or because he is a fine batsman but the two reasons we have before us are a) he is experienced b) he plays for Surrey.*

I think Rob Key, as Botham said in coverage this morning, has been treated pretty shabbily by the ECB. Key has come out this morning to say to keep faith in Bopara. This is admirable and I don’t think he should come out and say ‘Drop Bopara, pick me’. However, I think the selectors could do a lot worse than pick Key even if that might be a little unfair on Trott. My analysis of Key’s strengths and weaknesses here.

Elsehwere, Justin Langer’s Ashes ”Dossier” can be found here. I think he is just about spot on in his analysis of most of the aspects here although think he is wrong about Bopara’s wickets (he seems to get out LBW a lot rather than caught at Third Man). I’d also read Vaughan’s response.

Vaughan and Langer are correct. English players do play too much cricket and there are clear and obvious flaws within the County system (Will Buckland’s phrasin”Never in the field of sporting history have so many earned so much to be watched by so few” is tellingly accurate).

What is the overarching point of the County system? Is it to provide entertainment? If so, too who? Barely anyone watches the four day format. Is it provide the England team with top-class players? If so, we need them to play less cricket at a higher standard and spend more time working on their various abilities. The Sheffield Shield format works fairly well for the Australians and I’d be in favour of moving to that sort of system and, possibly, having some level below that (something akin to the Super 14/NPC division of labour in rugby in New Zealand).

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