The only shred of comfort emerging from England’s persistent batting troubles is an easing feeling of nostalgia. Alastair Cook and his dreadfully out-of-form batting line-up have managed to take the English public back to the pre-2005 days as they wilt under Australian aggression and meekly surrender their grip on the Ashes urn. England are yet to score 200 in three Test innings on this tour and it has now been 19 innings in total since they last managed to notch up 400 anywhere. This indicates a greater problem than just a poor start to this particular series. Unless Andy Flower, Graham Gooch and Cook find a way to drastically improve performance at the crease, England will staring down the barrel of a potential 5-0 series defeat and a repeat of the 2006/7 humiliation. Poor shot selection did for Joe Root and Kevin Pietersen to leave their side in real trouble at 66-3, while Carberry was a victim of the pressure built up on him from tight bowling and excellent captaincy. Ian Bell, once again, was the player who looked most at ease with a fluent 72, but England will need three or four more of their batsmen to reach Bell’s level of consistency to stand any chance of retaining the Ashes.
Mitchell Johnson’s Ashes experience is never a dull one. Mocked and jeered in 2009 and 2010/11, the left-arm quick has now re-found the devastating form that helped him burst onto the Test scene in 2007. Johnson took 7-40 help blast England away for 172, including 6-16 after the tea break, and the Western Australian seamer now has 16 wickets at an average of 8.9 in the three innings. Effectively, he’s helped dismiss England on this tour. If the tourists have any chance in this series they must learn how to cope with Johnson. Root, Carberry and Bell have all played him fairly well in this Test but others need to improve and quickly. The third Test is at Johnson’s home ground the WACA, traditionally Australia’s quickest and bounciest track, and the opening bowler will be at his most menacing in a place he feels most comfortable.
Not content with his superb 148 in Australia’s first innings, Michael Clarke had a huge impact on the game with his captaincy on day three. Known across the sport for his innovative style and intelligent plans, Clarke can take huge credit for the wickets of Pietersen and, in particular, Carberry when the Hampshire opener and batting partner Bell were scoring freely in helping rebuild England’s innings. Clarke switched from wicket-takers Nathan Lyon and Peter Siddle to the far more economical Shane Watson and Ryan Harris. The result was five maidens in a row and then the wicket of Carberry, superbly caught one-handed low down at mid-wicket by David Warner. Clarke starved the two batsmen of runs and set good field positions, which ultimately led to the downfall of England’s opener. The same can be said for the removal of Pietersen, who fell into the trap of flicking one in the air to mid-wicket where two Australian fielders were poised. Johnson will rightly receive many plaudits for his bowling display today, but it’s Clarke who made the key moves when England still had a sniff of survival.
With the second Test result a mere formality, England’s thoughts will soon turn to Perth and the selection of the side to face Australia in the third Test at the WACA. Victory will be vital in one of the hardest grounds in the country to face the hosts. One of the two spinners, Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, will go out of the side and be replaced by one of the tall quicks. Former England opener Geoffrey Boycott wants Monty to keep his place, believing Swann is out-of-form and unsure how to get the best out of his bowling. Boycott has also said he wants Bell to bat at three rather than Root and doesn’t see enough quality in debutant Ben Stokes. Certainly one of Chris Tremlett, Steven Finn or Boyd Rankin will play in Perth but England may opt to keep Stokes as the extra seam option and someone who can bat at six – much will rest on the second innings. However, perhaps the sensible alternative is Gary Ballance, who provides stronger batting cover above Matt Prior at seven. Picking Ballance would mean reverting back to four bowlers, a staple Test diet for England’s selectors in recent history, and offers much needed added strength to a misfiring batting line-up.
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BIOGRAPHY: Ethan Hazard
BIOGRAPHY: Daniel Sturridge