Tuesday, December 10, 2013

This Ashes series is over

I am flying to Perth on Thursday night from Singapore. I'm going to see an old friend, have a few (ok a lot of) beers and have dinner at a cracking restaurant on Friday night. He happens to be a member at the WACA and at some point on both Friday and Saturday (all day both days basically......) I'll be there. I'm looking forward to seeing me old mucker and having a good steak but absolutely nothing about the cricket I"ll be seeing. It is going to be torturous.

England have given up. I don't know why, maybe they just weren't that good in the first place, for me your greatness in sport is measured when there is competition and it's tough, not when you are bullying teams and winning easily. If it was on the basis of  the 'ticker' that they've shown as Warney puts it I simply wouldn't go. They don't deserve the support the Barmy Army is giving them right now.

I shall of course get on the plane and I'll have a great time regardless. I love the WACA, it's a wonderful ground and I've been through horrendous times watching England down under before. I was there when Brett Lee took Alex Tudor's head off, at the WACA again when Gilchrist smashed the second fastest test century. I was at the MCG when Warney got his 700th wicket (a genuine pleasure that last one I have to say). I've seen it all and I keep coming back.

It is of course easy to kick someone when they are down but what I think is irking people so much is the manner of the capitulation. Listening to Alastair Cook being interviewed afterwards, he was almost laissez faire about the whole thing.

When questioned about the amount of wickets falling to legside catches he almost just gave an apologetic shrug as if if to say 'it happens'. Ian Bell for instance has had innumerate plaudits in the past couple of years yet with England on the ropes he got out trying to haul a part time leg spinner's full toss to mid wicket, it's all a bit ridiculous for me.

I think there is an inherent problem with British sport, winning is not a habit and when success comes along, it usually comes with a massive drop off in performance shortly thereafter. The fact that Monty Panesar (a marginally better batsman than me) showed the most heart with a bat during the first innings says it all. England are right now, a disgrace.

There is of course a queue of pundits and ex players (all more qualified than me) lining up to slaughter this team, it's not difficult. I however am the voice of the paying fan and so in many ways I feel that voice has more resonance.

England haven't become a bad team overnight and Australia haven't suddenly become world beaters again and that is even more galling. By Australian standards, this is a pretty ordinary team yet they are playing as a team and competing far far harder than England are.

Mitchell Johnson is taking much of the plaudits right now and rightly so, he's been magnificent especially given how much he was maligned in the run up to this series by many within Australia.

The England batsman however are making it far easier for him by simply not doing the basics properly. He is bowling with almost no pressure on him and in those circumstances his suspect action and fragile psyche remain intact.

Johnson when he's on fire like this and Ryan Harris are world class. Siddle is a good solid seamer and Nathan Lyon is capable of holding down an end. It is however a long way from the halcyon days of McGrath and Warne. England should be doing far better than they are.

The England team certainly appears to have peaked with Cook, KP, Prior, Swann and Anderson all performing levels below their previous bests. Jonathan Trott is sat at home and they have yet to find a stable opening partner for Cook now that Strauss is gone.

For Australia it is time to make hay. As with any concentrated period of competition between two teams, much bad blood has emerged and there is little doubt now that Australia will turn the screw.

England were a far better team than Australia last time down under and even then they were blown away at the WACA, such are the demons that Perth holds for England. It seems unlikely that anything else than another heavy defeat lies in wait for the dishevelled tourists.

England at least need to start playing for pride. They have shown in small patches that they can actually bat if they put their minds to it. Whilst Australia have played far the better cricket, much of this is mental for England as the ridiculous statistic about the number of them getting out to leg side catches would indicate.

Test cricket has always been about preparation, hard work and concentration, nothing has changed in that respect. The discipline to play a long innings however seems to have entirely deserted the England players, the first innings totals they have been posting have been poor for some time now and I have written several times, things during the English Summer could have been very different very easily.

I truly hope that England 'buck up' and compete at the WACA but I seriously doubt their ability or desire to do so, there is nothing in their body language to suggest they are anything else than already beaten.

I'm taking my entire family for two days in Sydney also, by that stage we will simply be enjoying the beer and the pleasures of watching a nice relaxed dead rubber, it is already all over.

Incidentally, I wrote a piece about the 20/1 I got for 5-0 after the Gabba, that has now shortened to 5/1 - No Nonsense.