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Cricket XX - Debutants Balls


Stubby

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It seems like the slow speed of England's scoring has all but removed the possibility of them winning this match. They needed to be up and around Australia's total by the middle of tomorrow for there to be enough time in the game, and they won't be after such a slow start.

ST

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To be honest, when a team batting first takes two days over its first innings, it's always going to be hard for the team batting second to force a win. I don't think England's slow scoring has been entirely wilful, either: I doubt the players were told to go out and crawl along at two runs an over. The top three are short a bit of form, Australia have bowled well, and it's been a bit gloomy all afternoon. Even Bell, who's been the best batsman of the series by a country mile, has been finding it difficult to score quickly. They could have tried to throw the bat at everything, but they'd probably be following on by now if so: it's a big total Australia have set, and they need to build a long innings to rein them back in.

If the pitch and conditions continue to deteriorate (rain permitting) the last two innings could be quite short: we're not staring down the barrel of a draw quite yet, I think.

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Oh, I agree that they aren't necessarily doing it intentionally. Just saying that the slow scoring rate has taken them further away from winning. You're right that it's the first innings bowling performance that has put them in this mess. It's just a shame they haven't been able to make more of a fist of getting out of it.

ST

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There was a school of thought - with which I'm not sure I agree, even if I can see where it was coming from - that Paul Collingwood's double century in Adelaide in 2006 was a disaster for England cricket. (England's failure to find a reliable #6 batsman since Colly's retirement doesn't do many favours for the theory).

But over the next four years, if this proves to be a one-off and Watson doesn't improve, this century might come to be seen in a similar light.

During the rest of Paul Collingwood's career England won two consecutive Ashes series, rose to the brink of being ranked number 1 in both Tests and ODIs (admittedly the Test peak was just after Collingwood's retirement) and won the World T20 (under Collingwood's captaincy). If that's the sort of disastrous future Australia have to look forward to, I think they might not complain too much.

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Assuming England get the 45 they need to avoid the follow-on - and I'm sure they will - I think we'll really be in draw territory. Even with a big lead, Clarke won't want to set a gettable total for England, otherwise he runs the risk of presiding over a 4-0 series loss. I don't expect him to be adventurous with a declaration if it comes to that, and England themselves don't have much of an incentive to push the issue either.

Our only hope is if the pitch (as Adelstein says) suddenly deteriorates and throws up some gremlins.

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In the event that it becomes relevant and doesn't rain all day, I might have a spare ticket for tomorrow. I've offered it to a friend but he hasn't got back to me; assuming that's a no, it's up for grabs.

If anyone's interested please PM me!

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On a completely random note (given the lack of cricket today) I want to point out that Nathan Lyon has had a good tour. Agar's selection for the first two Tests was a mistake and Lyon really should have been playing in all of them. It's clear he is miles ahead of Agar in terms of bowling usefulness; he has actually looked threatening at times (e.g. Pietersen yesterday) and the England batsmen have been unable to attack him.

At Old Trafford he bowled well without much luck - a combined 1/103 off 38 overs, but since then he has gone 7/97 off 42 at Durham and 1/41 off 26 here. In all cases, even Old Trafford when he didn't get wickets, he has been very economical. One might say that's more due to England's sedate batting rather than Lyon's brilliant bowling, but I think it's a bit of both, certainly England have the guys (Pietersen and Bell in particular) who can tonk the spinners when the mood takes them, but for whatever reason no one has done so.

Just for reference, Lyon's total stats (9 wickets for 241 runs at an average of 26.78 and economy rate of 2.27 RPO) compare quite nicely with Graeme Swann's (25 wickets for 716 runs at an average of 28.64 and economy of 2.96 RPO). Slightly better average and much better economy rate for Lyon, although Swann obviously leads in total wickets since he has played all of the matches.

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On a completely random note (given the lack of cricket today) I want to point out that Nathan Lyon has had a good tour. Agar's selection for the first two Tests was a mistake and Lyon really should have been playing in all of them. It's clear he is miles ahead of Agar in terms of bowling usefulness; he has actually looked threatening at times (e.g. Pietersen yesterday) and the England batsmen have been unable to attack him.

I agree, Lyon's omission was always a bit odd and his performance in the Tests compared to Agar's bowling have shown what a bad selection decision it was (even if Agar's batting did almost save the first Test). I wonder how long it will be until the selectors decide to focus on another new prospect? Ahmed has been selected in the ODI squad so he might the next step in the selector's never-ending search for a bowler as good as Warne. I haven't seen him play but he does have more experience than Agar so he might be a better bet, but I suspect Lyon's still the best option.

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Lyon is only 25, so in fairness he should be the long-term prospect until proven otherwise. No one is going to be the next Shane Warne, but in his place I'll happily take Lyon if he bowls like this. He can bowl long spells and keep it tight, even if his Test career bowling average is just on the wrong side of 30.

People like Agar need to tear up the first-class scene before they displace Lyon. Just like I argued in relation to the batsmen in the last thread, we mustn't throw bowlers in too early, especially spinners. Let them have at least one really successful season in first-class cricket. In no way was Agar's first-class career adequate for the Test team (34 wickets in 13 matches at an average of 36) and it showed.

Conventional wisdom suggests that spinners take time to mature. And certainly they need to be comfortable and experienced with their own bowling as they're the most likely to get attacked. I can understand picking a fast bowling prospect while he's still got his pace, so no problems there if you want to fast-track a seamer into the side based on good current form rather than a hefty first-class record, but for spinners and batsmen I'd take a more conservative view.

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