Mid-Term Ashes Review
In my last entry I said I'd write about some of England's less successful Ashes test matches Down Under; that was before the incredible tests at Cardiff, Lord's and Edgbaston, though! With this series providing such thrilling entertainment, momentum swinging between teams at levels an election-night Peter Snow would be proud of, it's hard to really go back to the nightmare that was Adelaide 2006. Maybe another time for that write-up, then.
We all know how the British (and Aussie) media also swing ferociously from feast to famine, from annointing our team world-beaters to declaring them an embarrassment. And social media indicates that an unfortunately vocal set of 'fans' follows suit. Ed Smith has reviewed excellently the phenomenon of 'Loud Voices' here http://www.newstatesman.com/media/2014/06/social-media-important-journos-let-s-keep-things-proportion.
My favourite In-Your-Face Twitter moment was someone telling Bumble before the start of Edgbaston Day 1 that, having toiled wicketless at the Home of Cricket, Jimmy Anderson was past it and should retire. Bumble replied with '????????????' but I prefer our strike bowler's 6-47 in reply. England should be anxious for Jimmy to be fit to return for the final test at The Oval but need to be positive about filling his boots as best we can for Trent Bridge.
But to get back to the point, I think we need to consider a few individual performances, both quietly successful and disconcertingly damp, that all the noise of crushing victory and humiliating defeat have drowned out.
Adam Lyth remains England's biggest worry, even with Anderson's side strain. At the time of writing he's gone 5 innings without making an impact but it was right that he stayed in the side with Ballance being left out for Bairstow: England need to tread carefully with team changes to present a measured rather than the knee-jerk approach so associated with England's dark decade of the 1990s.
***Jerusalem is blasting out at Edgbaston on Day 3 as I type this and I've still got the fear that England might somehow manage to throw it away from here. Adelaide 2006, you've got a lot to answer for!***
Ian Bell looked on course to be the first Warwickshire batsman to score a test century at Edgbaston - a stat I still find flabbergasting - before throwing it all away with a wild shot: Bell's trough in form remains a minor headache for England but I think we'd do more harm than good by dropping him at this stage. Stepping up the order demonstrated confidence in his ability but also demanded that he take responsibility for shaping our innings: here's hoping for a Bell century in Nottingham this week.
Bringing Bairstow in was an example of a well-executed mid-series team change of the type not often seen since central contracts were introduced by the ECB. They seemed to take county form out of the equation to the detriment of effective form and conditions based selection but the right decision was made here.
***With Australia now leading by 34 at Edgbaston, is anyone else having flashbacks to Trent Bridge 2005? I know there's no big bad blond Aussie leggie to be frightened of, but Nevill's 49* could go on to scarier things. 19 runs off the first two overs this morning?! Mon dieu!***
It's rather a shame that Buttler has been as quiet as he has been, although I suppose he'd rather be quiet than talked about for all the wrong reasons. Geoffrey reckons the occasion's got to him and England must hope he relaxes and plays his more naturally aggressive batting game as the series draws towards its conclusion.
Moeen Ali has contributed more and more to England's cause, most notably with his dominant batting display against Mitchell Johnson on Day 2 at Edgbaston, where we most needed to bring back the momentum our way after a rather tame middle order effort. It's funny to think about all his doubters before Cardiff: I can't see Ali being dislodged before the end of the summer, sad as that may be for Adil Rashid.
Root, Stokes, Wood, Broad, Anderson and Finn have all had much written about them and their performances speak for themselves. It's as yet unclear whether England will simply recall Wood for Trent Bridge or pluck from the counties a more obvious swinger of the ball, but Cook's captaincy has been consistently innovative and thoughtful and I'm sure he'll handle the bowling attack as well as he did in Cardiff and Edgbaston, in particular.
***Buttler has just taken a beautiful diving take off Nevill's glove from Broad's bowling but with no reviews remaining we're stuck. That ridiculous Stokes full toss review from Day 2 has just gone up a notch on the frustration scale. Aggers suggests that the umpire should have given it out so Nevill could review it (with Australia having two reviews remaining) but that takes the DRS even further away from its original purpose of overturning howlers.***
Before I go (I had hoped to finish typing this just as Captain Cook hit the winnings runs - all 25 of them - at Edgbaston, but the lead is now 69. I'll begin to worry properly if it gets past 150.) just two more things to mention. First, will Shane Warne eat his words about the Haddin/Nevill selection issue after this second innings batting effort?
Second, Graeme Swann and Kevin Pietersen will never play for England again, so they can say what they like about each other. Swann's impersonation on Aussie radio show Willow Talk is simply funny, and it's well worth ignoring Loud Voice #1 Piers Morgan's criticisms, as well as the shouts of those who think joking with Aussies is akin to fraternising with the enemy. Get over it and have a laugh.