Saturday, December 3, 2011
So, Day Three, a substantial first innings lead and what do we know now?
Well, for a start, never discount the impact of luck.
The Pup should never have got that ton, Starc shouldn't have got off the mark and under other circumstances we'd have been struggling to get to 295. But you ride your luck, look to accept (or take advantage of) every chance you're given, and see how far the ride takes you.
So 70 to Ponting, 139 to Clarke, 80 to Haddin, a 32 run cameo from Starc and 132 runs to the good with McCullum back in the sheds seven overs into the second innings and you'd be looking at a fairly comfortable victory, wouldn't you?
Well, you would, but there are a couple of issues regarding the steady renovation of the Australian side.
For a start, a glance at the Black Caps' bowling figures indicates the difficulty you're going to have with a four man attack where there's only really one bowler of genuine class.
This four man Australian attack has no established bowlers of genuine class, though there's the opportunity for someone to stick his hand up and claim that mantle. It doesn't mean that's going to happen today, but the opportunity's there if someone's good enough to grab it.
The ten overs from Guptill, Brownlie and Williamson only cost twenty-nine and delivered the wicket of Haddin, but the fact that four bowlers weren't enough on a good batting track underlines the importance of Watson's overs when he's there and fit to bowl and underlines the importance of someone who's good enough to count as a front line bowler in the top six.
At the moment we're still looking for an attack that'll take twenty wickets, and Watson (or someone along the same lines) is going to be a vital part of that picture.
Which inevitably brings us back to Messrs Ponting and Hussey and the timing of their departure.
Assume Watson is fit and ready to bowl at Bellerive. He must come back, so who goes out?
Now, please don't say Hughes, Warner or Khawaja.
We're looking at a long term gig at the top of the batting order, and it seems fairly obvious that if Watson's going to do his share of the bowling he can't (or rather he shouldn't) open the batting.
Personally, given the fact that he's probably the best bat in the side after Clarke and Ponting (we're talking technique and potential here, folks) it seems a waste to put him in the position where he's liable to receive a first day new ball Jaffa.
Watson's long term batting position should be at Four, Five or Six. The judge's decision should be final, and no correspondence should be entered into.
That means if he's fit for Hobart it will have to be a case of Sorry Mr Cricket unless somebody has the sense to give a press conference and announce their retirement.
One suspects that if somebody does, the somebody won't be Ricky Ponting. He seems to be labouring under the delusion that a couple of decent scores will be enough to cement his place in the side into the medium term future, which presumably, in his own mind, stretches through the series against India and the West Indies and beyond.
There's one thing we should have learned from the spin bowler shuffle debacle and that is when you've identified a bloke to fill a long term role he deserves a chance to show what he's capable of.
Hughes, Warner and Khawaja should, injury permitting, be right for Bellerive, Boxing Day and the WACA. Midway through the seres against India if the three of them haven't delivered it'll be time to be looking for replacements, and if there's one or more new faces in the mix then, they deserve a couple of games to show whether they've got what it takes.
Maybe if Khawaja doesn't look like the answer at Three you might consider keeping Ponting at Four while the new bloke finds his feet, but there would also be a case for Khawaja, who is obviously seen as a talented player with long term potential, to have a chance to cement his place in the side at Six, then work his way back up the order.
More particularly, however, recent dismissals suggest that the bowlers have established a chink in Ponting's armour, and as someone pointed out recently, umpiring referrals have closed off something he used to be getting away with as he falls away across the line.
Given the fact that it's Ricky Ponting you'd probably want to refer a close not out decision. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. We are, after all, looking at getting one of the world's greatest batsmen out, and more than likely doing it fairly early before he has a chance to do too much damage.
We've also got the case where one of the world's greatest batsmen is determined to prolong his own career, so if he's given out under the same circumstances he's going to refer the decision.
Those two factors coincide with his dismissal yesterday. Regardless of the result of the appeal there wasn't enough ball hitting the stumps to reverse the umpire's decision.
I don't know how much TV umpires watch, and how closely they look at referrals in games where they're not officiating. I don't, for that matter, know how much attention they pay to the referrals in games where they are officiating.
One suspects, however, an umpire looking at these things might come to the conclusion that when Ponting falls across the line and gets hit on the pads you can probably rule out any benefit of the doubt as far as hitting the stumps is concerned, and if Ricky refers you're not going to be left looking like a goose.
So there's an increased possibility that close calls that would have been given the benefit of the doubt back in pre-referral days will be given out. If you're talking a series where the opposition don't want the referral system that'll probably still be the case.
On that basis, if you're the opposition, you know that targetting Ponting's pads is likely to be productive. You get the decision, Ricky'll refer, and Australia loses one of the two. You don't get the decision, you refer and, while you might get it overturned, you might also be creating the possibility that next time you go up for LBW the decision may come down in your favour.
We're talking the man who lost The Ashes twice and did a lot to create the circumstances we find ourselves in, so he's overstayed his welcome as far as I'm concerned. If you reckon that's a bit harsh, the LBW issue provides a cogent argument against his continued place in the side.
It is to be hoped that he'll have the sense to see where things are headed and call that press conference.
Looking into Day Four, the big question is going to be how well the new look attack performs.
Pattinson's spell yesterday afternoon was a significant improvement on anything he did in the first dig, though I thought he was still a tad too short. Siddle's three overs suggest we need to be looking elsewhere when it comes to new ball duties.
Starc has shown he can contribute useful runs with the bat, which is something we used to say about Mitchell Johnson when he was firing, and now it's a matter of seeing whether he can deliver with the ball.
Lyon will get plenty of work, and I'm expecting him to further cement his place in the attack.
And I'll be watching Haddin's glove work (not that I'm an expert in that department) and Khawaja under the lid at short leg….