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    August 29, 2005

    Ponting gets away with it ... so far

    During a shameful batting, bowling and fielding performance at Trent Bridge, Australia bowled 123 overs in 537 minutes in England's first innings and 32 overs in 168 minutes in England's victorious chase. Taken individidually, that works out to 13.7 overs an hour and 11.4 overs an hour respectively. Eleven and a half overs per hour is an appalling over rate. Yet, nothing has been done about it, so far at least. Katich and Ponting have been fined for outbursts following their dismissals though.

    I really do think that Ponting (and the rest of the Aussie contingent) are harping too much on England's use of substitutes. Perhaps they ought to remember that Simon Stephen Peters' missed run-out attempt at Old Trafford ultimately benefitted them. Plus England were using a 37-year old Trevor Penney for a fair bit of the game yesterday (and perhaps earlier as well). But this is obviously not the crux of my argument.

    Sourav Ganguly and Graeme Smith were banned for similar 'offenses' and their punishments were in fact upgraded to the next level since they'd already been culpable earlier during the year. It isn't as though Ponting hasn't been charged with his team's slow over-rate so far. He'd already been fined twice, in 2004 and 2005.

    Nothing was done about it when Australia were two overs behind the mark in a one-dayer against New Zealand last year or when South Africa bowled slowly against India during last year's tests. In fact we're of the opinion that the ICC should step in and fine teams which play boring cricket and bat as if the game was a timeless Test.

    Amidst the slow over-rate and anger over dismissals, Ponting faces the wrath of his entire cricket-crazy nation, and a few other bloggers too, for the now realistic possibility that England could win the Ashes. A win at The Oval would save him a lot of blushes, but a drawn series against England, after being 1-0 up, would be hard to stomach. Two weeks ago, I wrote that the series could only get boring henceforth given what had happened in the first three tests. For most of the first four days, I was proved right. England piled up nearly 500 at less than four an over.

    Australia's bowling has been really crappy. They bowled 30 no-balls in the test, and have bowled 90 in the eight innings so far. Effectively, 15 overs more at England with no hope of getting a wicket, unless any of the batsmen were going to be brainwashed into attempting an impossible run. I can recall a few instances of the batsman actually getting out on a no-ball and later piling on the agony. If Buchanan's job is not to ensure that things like these are sorted out, he should either be getting a bowling coach as part of the support staff.

    Warne bowled just 30 overs in England's first innings and was the only one to have any sort of control over the proceedings. I find it hard to explain how Lee and Kasprowicz bowled more overs than Warne did in England's first innings. Australia's batting display, in both innings, was pathetic. Hayden must surely be on the verge of being dropped now. His batting has dropped off alarmingly over his last 15 tests, coinciding with his lack of success in India last year. Katich just about saved his slot with a couple of forties and was perhaps unlucky to be given out yesterday. Gilchrist would probably be somewhere in seventh heaven because he actually got out to someone without a a dodgy elbow and who isn't an all-rounder (although Hoggard would dispute that claim given the runs he made yesterday!).

    England batted, bowled and fielded (minus Kevin Pietersen's catching horrors) superbly. Without Simon Jones available to bowl, they still managed to dismiss Australia. That gives you a proper idea of how poorly Australia is batting at the moment and how England's bowlers seem to have the wood on the opposition batsmen. Despite a couple of breathtaking catches, I think their fielding is a very weak link. Geraint Jones performs twice or thrice better in front of the stumps than behind them. I think England are just plain lucky that none of the dropped catches or missed stumpings have cost them badly yet. Hang on, actually it did. Pietersen's dropped catch off Warne at Old Trafford meant that Warne ate up some more valuable time.

    With just 129 to win, I was expecting England to knock off the runs quickly, given the way Australia's bowlers had operated in the first innings. At the same time, I was hoping for some sort of a fight from the bowlers. Lee and Warne were magnificient and after Lee cleaned up Flintoff, followed shortly thereafter by Jones playing a brainless lofted shot off Warne, Australia were effectively just a hat-trick away from an amazing victory! The tailenders batted very sensibly and Lee's full-toss which conceded a boundary to Hoggard sealed the game. Lee must be thoroughly gutted by now. He's been part of the end-game in three consecutive close tests without winning any! Shane Warne has been a total colossus for Australia. He has batted far better than most any of the top order batsmen and his bowling has held together during England's assaults. Coincidentally, England's victories have come when McGrath has been absent. Perhaps that is a pointer to ensure that he is fit for the last test.

    There're two ways to look at the way this series has turned out. One is that Australia have been a whisker or two away from victory in the last three tests, which means that they still know how to win. The other point of view, and in my opinion the correct perspective, is that Australia've been doing all the running for the first three-quarters or so of every game since Lord's. So England have done excellently in getting to the position from where they can now hope for rain for the next week.

    I think that is exactly what is going to happen at London. After a couple of day's play when Australia find themselves in a good position, it will rain and Australia's 16 year-old hold on the Ashes will be released. Just what is it about Australia and the number sixteen? Their loss at Calcutta in March 2001 followed a sixteen test winning streak! Yes, I am now resigned to the idea.

    So what does the rest of the media world think about this? Feel free to click on the links to the various sites to find out. Right now, I'm far too angry to bother linking to news reports of gloating Poms! At my wits' end

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    Thus spake Jagadish @ 1:55 PM |
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    6 sledge(s):

    I don't know what makes me smile more; the fact England are on top in The Ashes, or Jagadish fuming at their performance! Ahh, sweet joys.

    By Anonymous Will (29-Aug-2005, 9:56:00 PM)  

    By the way, it's Stephen Peters, not Simon.

    By Anonymous Will (29-Aug-2005, 9:56:00 PM)  

    They were really only within striking distance of two victories in the last three tests, not three. They avoided a loss at Old Trafford;they were nowhere near victory.

    By Blogger E.Wurzel (29-Aug-2005, 11:59:00 PM)  

    On the slow over rate issue, do you need to add the extra 6 overs or so Australia bowled that don't count ;-)

    And can there be concession made for fetching the ball from the boundary once or twice every over :-(

    By Blogger Stu (30-Aug-2005, 11:56:00 AM)  

    William: Thanks. Simon changed to Stephen. I'm fuming at Australia's performance. While it is true that England haven't let them be at their best, England have provided enough openings in the form of dropped catches and shoddy bowling for Australia to capitalize. The fact that they haven't is what rankles me.

    Alan: At Old Trafford, Australia were in with a chance when Warne and Ponting were batting. Warne got out when 80 runs were needed in 18 overs or so. Not entirely difficult. Warne's dismissal meant that Australia had to bat for the draw

    Stu: You can only factor in the overs Australia bowled. It was their fault (in setting a target of only 129) that they didn't bowl more :)

    By Blogger Jagadish (30-Aug-2005, 12:37:00 PM)  

    80 runs to get with 18 overs was a big ask with a tailender at one end, even a relatively talented one. They didn't really come close to a winning position.

    By Blogger E.Wurzel (01-Sep-2005, 12:42:00 AM)  

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