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

One thought on “The Ashes: chickens and now a swallow”

  1. 3 comments on the original posting:

    Yeah, if the series is going to swing back the other way, now seems to be the perfect time for it to do so. It’s going to take a big change for that to happen, though. Something like Mitchell Johnson being recalled and finding his best form again. Not an impossible thing, in truth. Not a likely thing either though. Perth is the place for that to happen, though.

    Posted by Michael Jennings on 14 December 2010

    There is another bird to consider. The duckling who turned into Swann. I think he is likely to be a big factor in any five day test, especially if we bowl fourth.

    Posted by Tony Hewson on 14 December 2010

    Australia are now very slight favourites on Betfair. (2.7 to England’s 2.72). As you say, being only the market’s opinion, it means little.
    I have found it mildly profitable to lay the favourites in Test matches, as they fluctuate so much over the course of five days, and later back them at much better prices.

    Posted by Tony Hewson on 14 December 2010

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