Boxing Day morning at the MCG

By lunch on the first day of the fourth test at the MCG, Australia had already lost vital wickets, and also those of Hughes and Ponting.

I slept through the beginning and only awoke and searched out R5LiveSportX (my subconscious wanted to know what the score was) as they were discussing the wicket of Hughes, and right after that Ponting got out. Big news: Watson was already out. And then, just before lunch and just before a shower began, Hussey was out caught behind off Jimmy A.

After England went one up at Adelaide and before the previous test at Perth that Australia won by an innings, I was a lone voice of sanity telling England fans to calm down and stop assuming that Australia was now a failed state. Now everyone will be wallowing hysterically in sanity, pointing out that Australia were four down by lunch on the first day at Perth and still won that one by several thousand runs. Now, everyone will be saying that England should not be counting their chickens and that four swallows do not make a test match morning.

Yes they do. Let me go out on a limb here and say that England have made a very good start.


. . . W . . | . . . . W . | . W

Australia 77-8. I told you it was a good start by England.

LATER: Australia 98 all out.

LATER: I just want to have this here as a souvenir:

It’s a slice from one of the set of photos at the bottom of this page.

The point being that good moments for your team in this series have a habit of being extreme, but fleeting. I don’t believe this has stopped. Ponting double century in the second innings anyone?

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

The Ashes: chickens and now a swallow

During the recently concluded second test match between Australia and England at Adelaide, I wrote a Samizdata piece saying, basically: England supporters! Do not count your chickens before they are hatched! Now I say, switching to a different variety of bird: One swallow does not make a summer! Then as now, the fact that the leaders of the England team understand all of this perfectly is cause for England optimism, but only optimism.

Yes, England won that second game and won it well. But ever since then, the cricket commentariat has been ablaze with explanations of why England are now so unstoppably good and why Australia are now so incurably bad. Yet the very first day of this series saw England bowled out for 260 odd and, by the third day, way behind on first innings. Who is to say that something similar might not happen again, in a later test match? Yes, England recovered in that game. That doesn’t mean that a similar reverse in a later game will be so easily corrected.

I agree that England are now the favourites, as they were as soon as they had got ahead of the game in Adelaide. But all that this means is that England-to-win is a good bet. It doesn’t mean that England-to-win is now an inevitability.

I refuse to wallow in analysing why England are now better than Australia until the clear evidence is in that they really are. Australia without Warne and McGrath are clearly not the force they were. But have they declined enough, or have England improved enough, for England (thrashed 5-0 last time they visited) now to be definitely superior? Not yet settled.

Imagine the eating of words there would be if Australia won the next game. And imagine the disappointment in the England camp if that happened, and imagine what would then happen to the odds. Yet all it might take for such an outcome to come out is for Mitchell Johnson to find his length and direction.

I expect Tremlett to replace Broad in the England side. As one who closely followed Tremlett’s bowling for his new county (and my county always), Surrey, last summer, I believe that he might do quite well, and maybe very well indeed.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog