Archive for December, 2010

England: more than good enough

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

I’ll admit I got slightly emotional when I watched the England team do their lap of honour around the MCG on the fourth day of the fourth Test.

It wasn’t just the fact I was in Australia watching the Ashes. The importance of sport in this country; the hospitality of its inhabitants; the weather for the most part – all this after coming from a snow-bound UK to the extent where I am considering applying for meteorological asylum.

It wasn’t even just the fact I was watching history being made, with that 24-year wait to take the urn on Antipodean soil brought to a long overdue end when Ben Hilfenhaus edged behind off the bowling off Tim Bresnan.

It was for the most part gratitude at how far the England team has come: a quantum leap from the nightmare that was 2006-7 and Harmison’s ball to second slip, a captaincy which Flintoff was completely unsuited for and a team with all the morale of beaten curs rather than elite sportsmen representing their country.

There was no self-belief then, no fight, and that horrible Adelaide result knocked the stuffing out of them and every England fan who was watching and who had thought “surely we cannot fuck this up from here”. In the Tests, fucking up was all England were good for, and victory in the following CB series was a desperate consolation prize the winning of which was blown out of all proportion because anything was better than the team coming home with nothing.

This time, it is different; it feels different. One is caught between gloating and pity when viewing Australia’s current predicament; gloating because it has been a long time coming and pity because England fans know too well how it feels to be the underdog.

Ricky Ponting seems to be in the process of having the captaincy taken away from him by stealth; the Herald Sun reported two days ago that Ponting would definitely lead the team in Sydney since Michael Clarke was also short of runs; how convenient, then, that an x-ray taken after the MCG Test should show his finger injury has been exacerbated and he cannot play. The groundwork was laid; selectorial arses covered.

No bad thing: Khawaja, brought in to replace Ponting at 3, may have failed in the tour game at Hobart but he looks to have something about him with the bat, as well as the stats to back it up, and rebuilding of this team has to start sooner rather than later.

As far as England go, the series so far has been testament to the entire squad and not just the 11 who have taken the field. Tremlett and Bresnan, brought in for an injured Broad and expensive Finn, have surprised everyone with their performances. Shahzad is another promising prospect waiting in the wings and Eoin Morgan’s day will come.

Australia, in stark contrast, are short of young talent who can step in for players who are well past their best-by date.

England’s first team regulars have also for the most part significantly outperformed their Australian counterparts, and nothing has given me more pleasure than seeing the names “Trott” and “Bradman” uttered in the same sentence when it comes to Test averages. Australia’s number three is on the verge of winding down his career; England’s number three has only gotten started.

Like I said, to gloat, or take pity: an extremely surreal but not unpleasant situation for an England fan to be in.

Perhaps the best thing though, was Andrew Strauss’ post-match interview. He said “there’s more to England cricket than the Ashes”. The goal now is the climb up the Test rankings.

Australia lasted barely 90 minutes on the fourth day at the ‘G and they now face the same rebuilding England embarked on after their 2006-7 drubbing. They must pick themselves off the canvas and play for pride in Sydney.

At the post-match presentation at the Oval in 2009, Strauss put England’s regaining of the Ashes down to the fact that when England were good, they were just good enough.

What a difference a year makes.

Job done

Job done

Singing lady getting fatter at the ‘G

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

England need only 4 more wickets at the MCG to retain the Ashes.

With Ryan Harris hors de combat due to a stress fracture that caused him to pull up painfully during the morning session, that target is realistically only three – not that it would make much difference in any case.

Jonathan Trott finished not out on 168 with an average second only to Bradman as England made 513. Australia are currently 169 for 6 and it is likely that by lunch today it will be over.

Australia’s collapse for the second time in this match was their series in microcosm: men under pressure Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke failed again; Shane Watson got 50 but failed to kick on and in the process hammered another nail in the coffin of Phil Hughes’ Test career by calling him through for a dodgy single and running him out.

Mike Hussey, Australia’s erstwhile saviour, went for a duck.

Tim Bresnan was the chief wicket taker, Anderson and Swann chipped in and Tremlett was all over the batsmen like a rash for no reward; he looked bloody exhausted by stumps.

He wasn’t the only one – sitting in the Norovirus stand among a bunch of other poorly England fans who cheered every wicket with explosive sneezes and hacking coughs had me feeling a bit under the weather myself, and by lunch today I hope to be as high as a kite on flu medication and an England victory.

Happy days!

Ponting loses rag, captaincy may follow

Monday, December 27th, 2010

If ever there was a clear indication that the criticisms of his captaincy are getting to Ricky Ponting, today provided stark and ugly evidence of it.

On a day on which England ended 5 wickets down but with a 346-run advantage and a 150-plus partnership between redoubtable number 3 Jonathan Trott and resurgent keeper Matt Prior, Ricky Ponting let his frustrations boil over on the field when a caught-behind appeal after lunch for the wicket of Kevin Pietersen was turned down and upheld on review.

Hotspot showed no edge and so it was difficult to see exactly why the Australian captain was so livid, but livid he was, exchanging angry words with wicketkeeper Brad Haddin and then assailing umpires Aleem Dar and Tony Hill with an extended rant which continued even as he stalked off towards his fielding position as the match continued.

Not Ricky Ponting's finest moment

Not Ricky Ponting's finest moment

Ponting has a history of questioning umpires’ calls, and of trying to influence decision-making on the field, most notably in 2008 during the series against India in which his gamesmanship and utter lack of respect left such a bad taste in the mouth that even Australian fans and media turned against him; indeed, journalist Peter Roebuck even called for Ponting to be sacked.

That was pure ugliness from the captain of a national cricket team; today, Ponting’s rantings and ravings smacked only of sad and naked desperation, of a man who has not only found himself in the Last Chance Saloon, but has ignored the dress code, cannot pay his bar tab, and is watching as the bouncers move towards him through the crowd to evict him forcibly from the premises.

That bum’s rush will most likely come at the end of this series, if Ponting cannot pull off something spectacular.

His captaincy is most under threat; his place in the Australian side is under scrutiny too.

Not only has he seen his team demolished first innings for 98 runs, but he himself could only contribute 10 of those runs, and so far his record in this series has amounted to only 93 at a dismal 15.5.

That he is in the twilight of his career is undeniable; that he can muster one last hurrah as arguably Australia’s finest batsman since Bradman is now looking ever more remote.

There have been suggestions that his eyesight is going, his reflexes too; that he has problems picking up short-pitched deliveries he would once have pulled with glorious and virtuoso abandon, and that he broke his little finger attempting a catch in the slips simply because he did not see the ball.

Ponting’s abdication of the captaincy, voluntary or otherwise, will cause problems for an Australia no longer certain of its place in world cricket’s hierarchy – or even of its ability to vanquish its old enemy, England, who once were Australia’s whipping boys but who provide easy pickings no longer.

Michael Clarke, once considered a shoo-in as next Australian captain, is in similarly abysmal form, and others talked of as future leaders, Wayne White and Callum Ferguson, are not even in this Test side. Tim Paine, impressive while filling in for an injured Brad Haddin, looks to be a safe pair of hands, both keeper and captaincy-wise, and is no slouch with the bat, but that is a couple of years down the line still, and Australia need a saviour now.

Whatever the reason for Ricky Ponting’s stark decline, it is a sad end to the career of a great player.

What is even more sad is that, on the evidence of what we saw today, he seems unable to end it with dignity.

Australia go fishing while England make hay

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

It is technically summer in Australia, but by the end of play on Day 1 at Melbourne the dropping temperatures and chill wind sweeping the mostly empty stands can only have added to the abject misery of the few Australian fans who remained.

More reminiscent of Grace Road in early April, England made the most of a green wicket early on and overcast conditions to plunge the opposition into a slough of despond from which they never managed to escape.

Bresnan came in for Finn, as predicted, and Australia stuck with their Perth line-up – perhaps a selection predicated on winning the toss, as Ricky Ponting admitted he too would have bowled had the coin come down in his favour.

James Anderson was the pick of England’s bowlers, despite watching Shane Watson being reprieved twice off his bowling early on, dropped by Collingwood in the slips in only his first over, and then again by Pietersen at gully.

Chris Tremlett’s snaring of Watson came as karmic redress for the opener’s continued and undeserved presence at the crease, but Anderson really deserved more than the 4 wickets he ended up with.

Tremlett again continues to show his worth, removing Ponting when the Australian captain had only 10 runs to his name – another low Ponting can ill afford while his captaincy, as well as his performance as a batsman, are under such intense and damning scrutiny.

Bresnan chipped in with the wickets of Hughes and danger man Haddin, and Australia’s entire innings lasted only 42.5 overs.

Mike Hussey, Australia’s shining star in this series, went in the last over before lunch, and with him, you felt, all hope of reaching a total approaching respectability rather than the dismal 98 they ended up with.

All ten wickets came off edges caught behind the wicket; poor judgement in fishing at deliveries that should have been left alone will no doubt make batting coach Justin Langer wonder just what in the hell his charges were doing.

Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook toyed with Australia’s bowling until stumps, making the most of the bright sun that broke through the cloud cover and a pitch that will only get flatter as this match goes on.

Anderson led England's attack

Anderson led England's attack

It is days like these that win or lose Ashes series. England may well be able to point to today as the one that saw them tighten their grip on the urn.

Melbourne Preview

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

My flight took off from London’s Heathrow airport twelve hours later than scheduled from a snowbound Britain crippled by freezing weather.

I was one of the lucky ones. I understand only now are flight schedules returning to normal, the cold weather front having moved on from the UK and deciding to blow its load all over France.

I hate flying – it terrifies the hell out of me, irrational though that fear is – but I have never been happier to set foot on a plane. Thank you god for Qantas, diazepam, and a window in the fucked up UK weather.

I am here, I have no clue what day it is – I have informed it is Christmas Day but the weather is muggy and there is no snow so that is obviously bullshit – but all that is important is that tomorrow is the first day of a Test which could make history, not just in terms of attendance figures (95,000 is the figure being bandied about for Sunday) but if England win it will be their first Ashes series victory in Australia since Gatting’s men carried off the spoils back in ’86-‘87.

There was much talk in the aftermath of England’s dismantling at the hands of the opposition in Perth about a doctored MCG pitch, and while it had a slight green tinge to it when I took a gander at it – albeit from a distance – on Friday, going on how wickets here have played in Shield matches recently it’ll do a bit early on and then flatten out considerably. Whoever bats first will have to pull up the drawbridge for the first session or so, but batting should get easier the longer the match continues.

I watched Jimmy Anderson in the nets yesterday and he looked fine, with no niggles or soreness. Finn was also given a decent workout, and while Andrew Strauss has said he will wait till Sunday morning to decide, with indications that Bresnan could play, opinion seems to going towards the way of England playing a side unchanged from Perth.

This could be risky; Finn took wickets in Perth but went for a shitload of runs, and dropping Collingwood and playing a fifth specialist bowler would take some of the pressure off a young man who seemed to be struggling under the workload.

Ricky Ponting has given assurances he will play, but will be directing operations from mid off or mid on, rather than his customary position of second slip. He can also expect to receive a barrage of short stuff targeting that broken left little finger, but he is long overdue for a big score and his record at the MCG of 1186 runs at 62.42 in 13 matches means that time is now if his chances of retaining the captaincy are not to disappear down the crapper entirely.

Australia will have their own gamble with their all-pace bowling attack should they decide to continue on this course, as seems likely. The last time Australia beat England in a Test at the MCG with four seamers was 52 years ago, and they cannot call on the likes of Lindwall, Davidson, Meckiff and Rorke now.

An England team coming off the back of a defeat; Australia with momentum from a comprehensive victory but with an injured captain and still with no apparent plan as to how or when to utilize a spinner, or indeed who that spinner should be in the long term. Make no mistake; this match will be a cracker.

I am expecting less chat, less susceptibility to petty distractions from England this match. I am also hoping to see more application, at least from the batsmen. England took their foot off the gas and their eyes off the road in Perth with disastrous consequences.

If they do so again it will make their task of ending that 23 year wait for an Ashes series victory Down Under that much harder.

KP in the Nets

KP in the nets

Many a slip ‘twixt urn and lip

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

I wouldn’t say the new England, the England that got the best of a draw at Brisbane and beat Australia at Adelaide, had made me blasé about the likelihood of retaining the Ashes.

While likelihood had hardened into certainty for some, it still felt too much like a novelty to me to take an England that can win games Down Under for granted. The scars left by Australia’s 5-0 demolition of us in 2006/7 go too deep.

Mitchell Johnson was chiefly responsible for England’s collapse yesterday. Today, they really had no one to blame but themselves.

Ian Bell and nightwatchman Jimmy Anderson will walk out to the middle tomorrow. England are 5 wickets down and it will require 310 runs and individual acts of heroism to stop Australia from squaring the series. With two whole days to go in this Test, that ain’t going to happen.

Oh, England batting collapse, how we thought we had waved good-bye to you, hopefully never to see you return – well, not in this series, anyway.

But this is England, and their capacity for digging themselves a hole, jumping in and handing their opponents the shovel should never be underestimated.

This is not to say England have gone backward, but if this team is to retain the urn and look beyond that to climbing up the Test rankings then there are things they clearly still have to work on.

They are still relatively weak against spin, although thankfully this isn’t a problem they’ve had to deal with against this opposition. But against venomous pace bowling on a bouncy, fast WACA pitch they have had to learn to readjust from the low, slow tracks they’ve become accustomed to, and it has been a struggle.

England’s second innings got off to an edgy start and they never looked comfortable. Strauss and Cook were out to good balls; Pietersen, Trott and Collingwood wafted late and ineffectually at balls they should have left. Looking to impose themselves on the bowling, all they did was hasten the increasingly inevitable.

Hometown heroes Mike Hussey and Mitchell Johnson prospered with bat and ball respectively, with Hussey feasting on the England bowling; anything short-pitched was pulled disdainfully to the boundary.

Swann bowled hardly at all, and Finn was once again expensive. Of the bowlers only Tremlett emerged with credit once more, taking a well deserved 5 wicket haul, in a losing cause.

And so England go to what will be the last day of this Test on a hiding to nothing. Perhaps, after the dream of the Adelaide victory, with the series square and two Tests to go, this will have been the wake-up call they needed.

They cannot afford complacency, nor can they afford another abject collapse like this one.

Mitch ado about nothing

Friday, December 17th, 2010

Mitchell Johnson, dropped from the Australian team at Adelaide and banished to the nets, said today in an interview after his explosive bowling on the second day of the Perth Test, in which he has so far taken 6-38: “I got to work on a few things”.

What those things are was not immediately obvious. Nothing about his action seems to have changed, particularly: still the same low, slingy left arm; his head still flopping over like a rag doll’s when the ball is released.

The only obvious difference seems to have been between the ears.

Mitchell’s always been a lippy bastard. Quiet off the field, he has plenty to say on it. He and various members of the England team have exchanged a few verbals in this match, and not for the first time.

The difference here is that he let the ball do the talking as well.

On a wicket offering him extra pace and bounce he found swing too, using it to lethal effect in removing Cook, Trott, Pietersen and Collingwood for a total of 7 runs before lunch. The balls that accounted for those last three were late inswingers that were nigh on unplayable.

How often have you watched a fearsomely talented quick self-destruct in spectacular fashion? Steve Harmison is perhaps the other bowler of recent times who most readily springs to mind.

Confidence is everything with these men. Consistency too, with Johnson in particular veering dramatically between lethal blitzkrieg and damp, wayward squib.

Cricket Australia had begun to lose patience with the rapidly diminishing returns Johnson was giving them, after all that time spent nurturing him in the Petri dish of its Academy, and after all of those second chances.

When Johnson bowls this well he is worth taking a chance on.

After all the howling invective and demands that he be dropped at Adelaide, those criticisms levelled at him now seem academic. It was probably less a case of “working on a few things” than it was simply having a break. Over-coaching is one of the most insidious destroyers of a young bowler’s form and confidence there is.

Johnson bowled like Jesus today. Next time, he may just as easily bowl like garbage.

Perhaps Australia’s selectors should just accept that.

Goober no more

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Chris Tremlett admitted to having a few nerves prior to bowling his first ball in a Test match for three years.

6 deliveries later, after softening Phil Hughes up with a couple of short balls, he had the newly-recalled 22-year-old playing all round a fuller delivery that removed the bail from his off stump. Australia were 2-1, after all of ten minutes.

Tremlett says he felt better after that.

From then on, the nerviness was to be all Australia’s.

There’s something immensely satisfying in seeing a talented player come back from the wilderness. Clashes of personalities; changes in coach, selectors or both; a bad or erroneous first impression that sticks: there are many reasons why players are discarded, or not given a chance at all to prove their mettle in the international arena. Often, talent is not enough.

Chris Tremlett arrived at Surrey in January on the back of three years in the international wilderness and a decade at Hampshire dogged increasingly by injury, staleness and a low, slow Rose Bowl wicket that gave his height and pace no assistance.

He has also had to put up with criticisms of not being hard enough, of not getting in the batsman’s face, of being too nice by half. “Gentle giant” is a term that gets applied to him a lot. So, until he moved to Surrey, was the nickname Goober, bestowed on him by then-teammate Dimitri Mascarenhas in reference to what was perceived as lumbering, dorkish timidity.

Shane Warne seems to have run out of patience with him at Hampshire, and while Tremlett admits the move to Surrey was necessary to help him mature and take him out of his comfort zone, it would seem that the man-management of a bowler good enough to take the wickets of India’s galacticos back in 2007 went awry somewhere down the line.

England bowling coach David Saker says he kept close track of the rumblings coming out of Surrey: the swiftly-increasing momentum of Tremlett’s renaissance. Entrusted by manager Chris Adams with leading Surrey’s attack and with a blanket ban on the use of that Hampshire nickname, Tremlett repaid his new county with 48 wickets, including a ferocious 4-32 in a county match against Sussex in August on a green Guildford wicket.

Today, he completed his journey back as the pick of the England bowlers with 3-63 to help limit Australia to a below-par total of 268. Bowling with menace and aggression, his consistently tight line and length did for Michael Clarke and Steve Smith, both batsmen wafting weakly outside off stump and edging fuller deliveries to keeper and first slip respectively.

Andrew Strauss’s decision to bowl first and make the most of the seaming conditions, as well as to play Tremlett, are signs of a new aggressive England.

Belated tail-end biffing from Johnson, Siddle and Hilfenhaus aside, only Mike Hussey and Brad Haddin once again made anything like respectable scores. By the end of the day the WACA pitch had flattened out considerably under the broiling Perth sun, and England will be looking to bat Australia out of the game and retain the urn.

Chris Tremlett may find it harder to take wickets the second time around, but surely after what he has done today he deserves an extended run in this England side.

At 6ft 7 inches he is most certainly a giant, but today Australia found him anything but gentle.

Perth preview

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

The wicket looks green but it will probably be a road; Chris Tremlett will play but then again so might Tim Bresnan; Australia are looking to the future through Beer goggles, and Andrew Strauss is warning that this Perth Test is going to be no pushover.

Meanwhile, Kevin Pietersen has been caught doing 21kph over the speed limit in Shane Warne’s Lamborghini, and Shane Warne’s been caught doing Liz Hurley.

And if it’s a free piece of official Australia cricket kit you’re after, then Nathan Hauritz is your man, and he might perhaps even throw in a book about Viv Richards if you’re lucky.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING, as Bill Lawry would no doubt scream in his more excitable moments – of which there have been many – but the truth is no one seems quite sure how this 3rd Test will go, with “caution” seeming to be the most favoured approach, if you’re Andrew Strauss anyway.

“If Australia were wounded in Adelaide and have a point to prove, they will be much harder to beat and we have to be ready.”

History would suggest Strauss is right not to be over-confident. England’s last victory at the WACA was in 1978-9 against a team weakened by the lure of Kerry Packer’s World Series. Their last 5 Tests here against Australia have resulted in defeat, they have failed to score 300 nine times out of ten, and have never bowled Australia out twice.

Against the Australia of four years ago, at this ground you wouldn’t give England a hope in hell.

The Australia of 2010 is a wounded animal, but wounded animals are unpredictable and have the tendency to rip your face off.

Nevertheless, Australian selection for this Test has been confusing, and not even Ponting seems to know what his final eleven will be, stating that he will want to take one final look at the wicket before he decides.

Michael Beer, a grade cricketer until two months ago, looks unlikely to play, which makes his inclusion rather puzzling. One can only assume the fact he is a left arm spinner who took Kevin Pietersen’s wicket in the tour game against Western Australia has something to do with it, as KP’s then-perceived weakness against left-armers seemed the sole reason for the selection of the now discarded Xavier Doherty. Doherty did succeed in his mission, albeit not until Pietersen had wracked up an imperious 227 runs.

Beer is now the tenth spinner called up since Shane Warne’s retirement, and even Beer’s predecessor Doherty has admitted, “I am sure the selectors are not quite sure who the next person is”. They certainly seem unable to offer any convincing rationale for this latest selection.

It all leaves one feeling rather sorry for Nathan Hauritz, spotted the other day giving away his Australia kit in front of his house with the explanation, “I don’t play for them anymore.” (Note: may not be exactly what happened.)

While this may be cricket’s equivalent of throwing one’s toys out of the pram, Hauritz, known to be an emotional sort, has a point in feeling aggrieved. He recently took 5 wickets at the WACA and scored a maiden first-class hundred at Sydney, yet the message being sent to him by the selectors seems very much to be one of complete and final rejection.

As far as Australia’s other likely men go, recalled pace enigma Mitchell Johnson could be a handful if the Fremantle Doctor gets up a head of steam, and Phillip Hughes has vowed to go all Sehwag on England if they attack him with any short stuff. Good luck with that.

For England, press reports seem to have been swinging back and forth between proclaiming Tremlett, Bresnan, and then back to Tremlett as Stuart Broad’s likely replacement.

While this pitch might not offer the bounce and carry of WACA decks of old, England would be crazy to decide on the safe option of Bresnan.

Chris Tremlett last played Test cricket for England in the India series of 2007. I saw him take 3 wickets in a losing cause on the last day at Trent Bridge when India had only 73 runs to make and he was magnificent. The notion of him being “timid” or “not aggressive enough” has always seemed to me spurious bullshit. The fact he took the wickets of Laxman, Tendulkar and Dravid during that series should suggest that his talent is beyond question, and his appetite for a fight as well.

If he shares the new ball with Jimmy Anderson in a Test that could retain the Ashes for England, he will get another chance to silence the doubters.

Ghosts of Adelaide haunt England no more

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

England have won their first Test in this Ashes series. It is only one win with three more Tests to go, but it feels like the Ashes are England’s.

After the horrible trauma of the last time England played Australia on their home turf, I can only begin to describe how weird this feels.

It’s like breaking out of the basement dungeon Australia have kept us prisoner in, and watching while they get run over by a train.

It feels like freedom, and it smells like victory.

England needed just over an hour to dispose of the six remaining Australian wickets to win by an innings and 71 runs. Graeme Swann got a five-for with support from Jimmy Anderson, Steven Finn, and the golden arm of Kevin P. Pietersen.

Two hours after the match ended, the rain came down like Armageddon.

I still think it was a gamble for Strauss to declare. He got lucky. If the rain had arrived any earlier, with Australia, say, 8 wickets down, he would have been ruing that 40 minutes spent adding runs he didn’t need. If Michael Clarke had hung around, and Hussey and Haddin had reprised their Gabba heroics, England could easily have run out of time, ending up with a draw when they deserved better.

But, after this stunning victory, that is really just cavilling on my part.

Because Australia are now in the position we became so used to seeing England in – captain without a clue, revolving-door approach to picking a bowling attack, and batsmen who, in the words of Michael Vaughan circa 2008 are “hitting it really well in the nets” but not quite so well out in the middle.

And fuck me, but that feels good. Weird, but good.

Ironically, despite each side’s exchange of fortune, there has been some synchrony in that both teams have suffered casualties.

Stuart Broad is out for the remainder of the tour due to a torn abdominal muscle, and likewise Simon Katich, who admirably made do without the use of a runner, is out for the rest of the series with a ruptured Achilles.

Broad is more easily replaceable than Katich, with Chris Tremlett being the most obvious choice for the next Test at Perth, where the fast, bouncy WACA wicket will be tailor-made for him.

Philip Hughes will most likely step in for Katich. Hughes is in good form at the moment in domestic cricket, and clearly the Australian management are keen to give him another opportunity in the Test arena, though Andrew Strauss maintains his technique remains flawed and can be exploited.

If this Test does prove Simon Katich’s swan song, I will miss him. Nice bloke, good batsman (if ugly as hell), once tried to strangle Michael Clarke.

I will also be surprised if Marcus North hasn’t finally worn out the patience of Australia’s selectors, but as replacements Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson were less than convincing in the Australia A game in Hobart.

Xavier Doherty will almost certainly not play in Perth, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nathan Hauritz back. I thought they were a tad hasty in dumping Hauritz in the first place; he doesn’t have all that bad a record against England. They also need to stop summarily picking and discarding bowlers because they’re not the next Warne, and give one bloke a decent go.

Doherty got a lot of stick in this match, but he should not bear the brunt of criticism; the batsmen gave him little to defend in the way of runs. Michael Clarke’s form remains bingled since his break-up with Lara, and Ricky Ponting needs to drop down the order.

Watching the reaction of the Australian press over the next few days will be revealing as well as entertaining.