The Curious Case of the Missing Centuries

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Where are the English Tons?


“I say what I like, and I like what I bloody well say”

Geoffrey Boycott could probably teach the england batsmen a few things about digging in and grinding out runs . . .

It really is a strange turn of events that has found England STILL with only one century in the current Ashes campaign. I guess that they are still in with a fight in the series is also an oddity, given their collective inability to push on and make big scores against a so-so Australian bowling line-up. So, it was with interest this morning to Jonathan Agnew who tried to explain why the Poms just couldn’t buy a ton.

In their excellent daily wrap of play, BBC 5 Live, featuring Agnew and the always entertaining Geoff Boycott, again had to explain why England had thrown away a solid start on the first day of the 5th test. It was interesting to hear them describe the crowd during England’s impressive start to the day. They described the mood as hesitant, as the learned fans knew that a collapse was simply a fait accompli.  You see, other than the terrible 102 in the last test, the English batting has been generally pretty good. Most batsmen have struggled through and got to a decent score before getting out. Scores of 30’s and 40’s have been all too common for their batting line-up.

So, listening to ‘Aggers’ proved to be quite illuminating. The venerable Jonathan was at pains to stress that the English dismissals yesterday were predominantly due to poor batting rather than superior bowling, and this certainly rings true for me. It seems odd why players who are seemingly set, would play such loose shots, particularly considering the importance of this game. Strauss’ shot after reaching 55 was so brainless, that Allan Border back in the Fox Sports studios merely shrugged his shoulders and said ‘ We all have a brain fade from time to time’. Collingwood’s shot was perhaps even more unbelievable. Probably the player who you would least expect to throw his wicket away, Collingwood played an incredibly rash shot at a time when England were really grinding down the Australian spirit. In fact this notion of ‘grinding down’ is an interesting one.

Geoff Boycott, (in)famous for his dour batting, was very critical of the English batters for not showing the required level of application. You see, the effect of limited-over’s batting has played a big role in this series. Gone are the days when batsmen just grind and grind until the bowling attack loosens their grip, and then the batsmen take control. It seems that batsmen these days feel that if they aren’t rushing forward, they are going backwards. But surely yesterdays play called for a good dose of ‘Boycott Batting’. The Australian attack is VERY inexperienced, and you feel that if the Poms just set themselves to not get dismissed, the Aussie quick’s (particularly without the back-up of a quality spinner) may have got a little nervous. Instead, the batsmen did their best to get out. On top of Strauss and Collingwood, Flintoff and Prior’s shots were just horrendous, particularly given the situation. Really, all the bowlers did was to put it on a good length, and credit to them that they did have the patience to keep on keeping on.

All of this is not particularly useful to England now; the horse has bolted. They must now throw caution to the wind, and play some extraordinary cricket to claim back the Ashes. Some sensible batting yesterday may not have won them the game, but it may have given them the psychological edge, and we know that ol’ Freddie only needs a whiff to feel that he’s in with a shot.

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