Sunday, July 21, 2013
Lords: The Wash Up
It’s probably delusional to think that we were right in this game up to that LBW referral, but I think it’s fair to suggest that things would have been at least slightly different if it hadn’t been made.
The Rogers LBW would have been referred, Hughes wouldn’t have come to the crease when he did and mightn’t have gone as quickly as he did and things might, possibly, have been different. We would, just after lunch, have been One-for with two referrals in hand.
As it was, shortly after lunch we were three-for, with none, and that, I think was where things moved out of the challenge and response ebb and flow of a competitive game and the tide started running heavily in one direction.
It’s probably even more delusional to suggest things might become more competitive at Old Trafford, but if they do it’ll be down to the batsmen getting something resembling their collective act together.
There’s not a lot of chopping and changing that can be done at the moment. The only spare batsman on hand is Cowan, and with the A Team in roughly the same time zone in South Africa there might be someone who sticks his hand up and says Hey, pick me. That may or may not be Warner, but it doesn’t alter a fairly straightforward situation in the here and now.
The batting resources are the six from Lords plus Cowan, and the only one who’s safe is Clarke, and that safety only lasts as long as his back does.
Becoming competitive, on the other hand, will require batting time and accumulating runs, so anyone who can do that is giving himself the best chance of holding down a place in the medium to long term, so let’s look at the candidates one by one.
Rogers, in two games, hasn’t done a lot with the bat but can stay for Old Trafford and possibly beyond since he’s out to prove (or should be out to prove) he’s a prospect for the Australian summer rather than a bloke who’s been drafted in to plug a weakness because he’s experienced in English conditions.
Khawaja has, IMHO, the rest of the series to establish that he has what it takes at Test level. It’s not as if he’s going to be facing a bunch of pie chuckers. England are out to knock us over, and they’re not going to be doing anyone any favours, so if Khawaja can stick there and score runs he’s there for the medium to long term.If he doesn’t he’s got the early part of the Shield season to make a case for retaining his place.
You can say the same thing as far as Hughes is concerned. There has been plenty of criticism of his technique, and it’ll be under the microscope for the rest of the series. If it comes through he stays. If it doesn’t, he’s got to perform at Shield level early in the domestic season.
Smith is a slightly different case since he can bowl. He might not be a front line bowler at the moment, but you can possibly class him as a batting all-rounder. If he does a bit with the bat and can continue picking up the odd wicket he might be useful.
Then, of course, there’s the difficult question of Watson. That’s only a difficult question because he’s been allowed to dictate his own fate for a little too long. You might want to question a little in that last statement, but it’s fairly clear that if he holds his place opening, one more LBW for not many without a substantial score between now and when it comes will see him out of the opening role, at which point he’ll start making pronouncements about being needed to bowl.
There’s a fairly obvious case for Cowan to take his place, though if he does, I doubt the Watson ego would handle a spot lower down the batting order and it becomes a case of who gets dropped to allow a bloke who’s promised far more with the bat than he’s actually delivered.
Look below Haddin at Seven and it’s fairly obvious we’ve got a useful tail, but selections there are going to depend on fitness, so you can leave that side of the equation to a case of Agar at Eight and we’ll see how things look from there.
If Agar were to come on a little more with the bat you could make a case, what with the lower order consistently pitching in with runs and all, for shifting him up to Seven, playing an extra bowler (Lyon?) and we wouldn’t be needing Watto at all.
That, however, is a little bit premature right at this point in time, though it may well be an option at some point in the future.
There’s a county game between now and Old Trafford, and you’d reckon (or at least I would) that everyone will get a bat there (except, possibly, Clarke) with Lyon, Bird and Faulkner getting a trundle.
Anyway, that’s the way it looks after the morning walk and a glance at a score card that revealed an LBW 20 to Watson, fifties to Khawaja and Clarke and runs at the end to Pattinson. One notes we were 3-36, got a partnership between Khawaja and Clarke, lost three quick wickets and had Haddin and the tail add 99 for the last four wickets.
Seems to be about par for the course, really, so it’s a matter of seeing whether anyone in the first six can put his hand up and claim a place in the long term picture.
Between the time I set out for the walk and the time I got home, this rather interesting article (The rotting of Australian cricket) appeared on Cricinfo, raising the regular issue of the decline of the Shield competition as an avenue that produces quality batsmen.
It may be, rather than chopping and changing in quick succession, a case of giving the Khawajas, Smiths and whoever else is drafted in to the Test side an extended run at Test level, because if there’s anything there at all it’s more likely to be developed in the furnace of Test cricket than it is at the domestic level.
The astute reader will, of course, have noted the names of Khawaja and Smith rather than Watson, Hughes, Rogers and Cowan in the previous paragraph. One or more of those four may well have a part to play in the short to medium term, but a successful side in the long term will be built around the next generation of bats who won’t, as far as things look at present, be mastering their trade on (in the words of that Cricinfo article):
sporting or worse surfaces, as state teams chase the outright results required to reach the Shield final ... a litany of low-scoring matches and bowlers celebrating far more often than they did during the relatively run-laden 1990s.
Anyway, that's the way it looked on the walk this morning, and Mr Brettig's article offered a degree of confirmation...