So finally England’s marathon tour of Australia is over. By the end of it Swann, Bresnan, Morgan, Tremlett, Collingwood and Shahzad were barely walking wounded. Australia had suffered a fair share of injuries themselves and the Test Match Sofa commentary team was down to the bare bones. Hendo has disappeared with Possibly Dead But There’s No Way Of Finding Out Without Calling Hospitals, The Police and The Morgue Syndrome. Everyone else is just terminally bored.
From the look of the small crowds attending the last couple of ODIs, even the fans have succumbed to sickness, injury and advanced ennui.
The teams that took to the field at the WACA bore no resemblance to the sides the two countries will put out for the World Cup, and consequently the cricket was pretty poor fare.
Australia batted first, got into terrible trouble at the top of the order (as has been the case for most of the series) and then found someone who miraculously knew how to bat. On this occasion it was Adam Voges proving the selectors must have a screw loose if they really think Steve Smith is the answer to anything.
His 80 off 72 balls with only four boundaries on a two paced pitch was a masterclass in how to bat the middle and final overs. At no stage in this series has any England batsman showed the equivalent game intelligence and this has been the difference between the two sides.
Indeed it is rather fashionable for TV commentators to dwell on the relative runs scored by the sides during the power plays. If you did that in this series you would find England just ahead. For a real measure of how to dominate ODIs, however, you should look at the middle overs; the period of lull between the fireworks of the power plays. It is in these passages of the games that Australia have massively outperformed England thanks to excellent contributions at different times from Watson, Marsh, Hussey, Voges and, Godammit, even Clarke once.
For England the lull overs have been explosive but in the wrong way as wickets have tumbled to a succession of collapses that wouldn’t look out of place on the London Stock Exchange. They have been beyond dreadful. I’m frantically searching for an existing word but in its absence I hope “Derspunkingly shite” will suffice.
At Perth it was the 6th different new ball pairing of Plunkett and a revived Anderson who kept Australia in such check that they had reached only 55-2 at the end of the first 15 overs. But Hussey and Voges took advantage of England’s thin resources with a partnership of 95 in 14 overs and an eventual total of 279 looked well beyond England’s reach.
That view was confirmed when the recherché opening partnership of Strauss and Davies, reunited with Prior dropped down to six where he is far more suited, departed inside two overs with neither registering a run. Strauss thus neatly book ended his tour with ducks at Brisbane in the 1st test and now at the WACA.
When Trott, Pietersen and Bell contrived to boost the confidence of the home town, milky eyed, Oedipal and normally wayward Johnson to leave England 64-5 the match was as good as over.
England finally lost by 57 runs with six overs remaining, yet again failing to see out their allocation, and in so doing conceding the series by six matches to one.
It’s hard to believe that the best preparation for the World Cup for either team was a seven match series in Australian conditions. Both sides will now head to the sub continent with barely a break, though the Aussies will at least be confident.
We can only conclude that Cricket Australia and the ECB reckoned on making so much money from these pointless games that however witlessly one side played, it would all be worth it in lovely shiny dollars. Well it wasn’t. It was frankly a gigantic waste of time that has threatened to relegate cricket back to the media margins it had struggled so hard to escape from during the Ashes series.
Everyone knows administrators have concerns that don’t feature for the average fan, but given how consistently shite Australia’s cricket was during the Ashes I’m tempted simply to assume that the fixture list merely reflects a trend of incompetence that runs through Australia’s top brass. The fact that Giles Clarke agreed to it should come as no surprise (though I don’t suppose we’ll ever get him to comment as he’s too busy avoiding Stanford’s creditors to give actual cricket administration much of his time right now).
There is a strong suspicion that the England bowlers will be ready by mid February and were in fact relieved of their duties to get rest before the World Cup. Judging by the ruthless manner Flower sent them to Brisbane to avoid the Hobart match prior to the first test, it would seem likely that once more the coach is one step ahead of his clueless paymasters.
As for the Sofa team we now have two weeks to refresh our weary minds before the jamboree begins on 19th February. I for one cannot wait to watch teams other than England and Australia. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Sri Lanka finish up on top. After all, they’ve had the best preparation. The persistent rain has meant they’ve hardly played a match in two months, and this tournament is going to be another marathon.
For a list of World Cup matches covered by Test Match Sofa go to www.testmatchsofa.com/schedule. Hopefully Hendo will have surfaced by then.