England pose questions galore
England's victory in the CBA series
was, if nothing else, utterly bizarre. Their best batsmen and their best bowler in the series both went home. Their revenant captain
came, saw, scored little, masterminded an excellent win, and returned to the ranks of the mortally wounded. Their full-time stand-in captain, known for explosive batting and expected to be a leader long on inspiration, short on nous, led the team to three consecutive wins against the side that had trounced him and his team 5-0 in the Tests. Even more, these wins weren't explosive, outstanding, once-in-a-lifetime efforts - they were workmanlike. Or, to be more generous, professional.
Where did this come from? Aside from going some way to proving Matthew Hoggard right
in his debate with Jagadish, this has been a victory for sensible (perhaps boring) cricket, as well as a victory for shambolic preparation. Without Pietersen, England have been reduced to two hitters: Mal Loye, who runs very few singles; and Andrew Flintoff, who has often come in to situations where he could not risk his wicket. England could struggle on small grounds with this approach, especially if Vaughan returns to join Bell and Joyce at the top of the order. If Sri Lanka brought pinch-hitting to the world in 1996, England might well end up with the batting equivalent of Dibbly, Dobbly, and Wobbly. Even despite this result, I'm struggling to see England making the semi-finals of the World Cup.
And that's just the England team. With the World Cup on the horizon, what has happened to Australia? They have the class players, of that there is no doubt. Ricky Ponting continues to be an unspeakably brilliant batsman. But, in an ironic twist, their side is packed with bowlers who have failed to make an impression in the county game. Shaun Tait was by far the worst, with the ludicrous figure of 18-0-176-0 from 2 games for Durham in 2004
. Brad Hogg, Shane Watson, and Cameron White have all put in excellent batting performances and mediocre bowling performances in the past few seasons for their counties.
From the outside looking in, there isn't too much of a problem with Australia. They are still the best fielding side in the world, bar none. (South Africa are good, but drop too many catches.) Their batting line up is, if not clearly the best, certainly not clearly not
the best. Their bowling has been average, but there isn't a whole lot wrong with a pace attack of Lee, McGrath, and Clark. The problem is the back-up. I like Brad Hogg and I think he should play, but it seems that if he plays, Shane Watson plays. Despite a decent record, I simply do not rate Watson's bowling. He doesn't obtain much movement, and he just looks hittable. With his injury record, he seems unlikely to ever be able to make himself a fixture in the side. Unfortunately for Australia, neither Hilfenhaus nor Tait can bat. Michael Clarke is a good spin option, but Australia's only other batting all-rounder who bowls seam-up appears to be Symonds.
Finally, South Africa are in with a very real chance
of being the top-ranked side going in to the World Cup. They need to beat Pakistan and hope New Zealand beat Australia to knock the Aussies off the top for the first time since the rankings were introduced.
Labels: australia, Commonwealth Bank Series, england, rankings