Australia v England: Four talking points
Australia v England: Four talking points as the hosts win by seven wickets in Sydney on Sunday
A change in captain?
All the talk preceding the ODI series was whether Alastair Cook would side with Kevin Pietersen or Andy Flower in an apparent power struggle in English cricket. But Cook’s comments following an eighth defeat this tour suggest he may be considering his future as well. “English cricket needs a little bit of a change,” said the captain as he hinted about relieving himself as leader from at least one of the sides he is at the head of. Although Cook’s comments are hardly revelatory, to hear them come from his mouth is significant. It’s amazing to think that under Cook, England have arguably been the second best ODI team in world cricket and were extremely close to defeating a talented India side in the Champions Trophy final. Considering the match was reduced to 20 overs a side and India’s team was far more suited to the quicker format, to push them so close was a good effort if not immensely frustrating. Should Cook decide to step down then Eoin Morgan is the obvious replacement. A certainty in the team, not burdened by Tests and unlikely to be rested, the Irishman also had experience as captain last summer against Australia and the country of his birth. Otherwise, Stuart Broad will be asked to combine his responsibilities as Twenty20 captain, although as such an important figure and one who is in his prime, it would be an extra burden.
Stokes experiment is damp squib
Dubbed England’s saviour after putting all his team-mates (bar Broad) to shame in the Ashes, Ben Stokes is continually being handed more responsibility in the side with youth now seen as vitally important to freshening the side. Thrust up to number three in the order, he found the spinners hard to get away and laboured to 15 off 38 balls before being stunningly caught one-handed by Michael Clarke when he finally connected with a sweep. With selection lacking clarity, Stokes might find himself back down the order again for the next match.
Walk the walk
David Warner walked off in the first ODI, accepting the word of Jos Buttler that he had cleanly taken a catch. On that occasion he was saved by the umpires who referred the decision before, bizarrely and against widespread opinion, he was given the benefit of the doubt. At Sydney, Morgan was caught and bowled by Dan Christian but stood his ground until the third umpire gave him out. In the gap between Christian claiming the catch and the third umpire confirming it, Clarke and Buttler exchanged angry words and finger pointing until the situation was calmed down. Clarke’s suggestion that players accept the word of the fielder is the correct one, as TV replays will see them labelled a cheat if they deliberately claim a catch when the ball bounced. But unless that is agreed upon, it is up to the umpires to give the batsman out and not the Australian captain.
Doherty the unplayable
The pitch at the SCG took some spin, especially out of the rough, but England went back to the old days of blocking the slow bowlers as Australia regained control following a good opening partnership. Cook fell with the score on 50 inside the ninth over, but when fourth man out Gary Ballance departed, the total had crawled to 121-4 off 28.3 overs. Xavier Doherty’s 10 overs brought him one wicket and only went for 28 runs. Two of those overs were maidens. For some reason, England’s batsmen felt that they were facing SF Barnes on a sticky wicket instead of an ordinary tweaker who is not of Test class. Certainly, it did not help that their best player of spin and most in-form player Morgan came in at five.