OUR cricket columnist, former England batsman and Warwickshire chairman Andy Lloyd, has been poring over all the Ashes action. Here he dissects what he’s learned from the play so far.
AUSSIES ARE AT ALL-TIME LOW
I don’t think I can ever recall seeing an Australia side whose confidence has reached such a low ebb. A lot is taken from the captain’s lead and it doesn’t help when Ricky Ponting is out first ball. He has been criticised for some erratic field placements but I can’t slate him for trying something different. As skipper, he is only as good as the bowling attack at his disposal, and they haven’t been up to it. Ryan Harris is the only man who has looked anywhere near good enough, but has a desperate injury record. Spinner Xavier Doherty has done nothing and I can’t see him playing again, so expect Nathan Hauritz to return. Doug Bollinger has got a wicket, which is more than Mitchell Johnson managed, but only thanks to a complete aberration from Andrew Strauss.
BACK TO BASICS APPROACH AIDS KP
The Kevin Pietersen of old is back. In the second Test KP has been terrific: dominant, playing with great purpose and, on this form, clearly one of the best batsmen in the world. Like Alastair Cook, Pietersen had his share of flak in the lead-up to the series. But, also like Cook, he has rediscovered his touch be reverting to his natural game. Sometimes in this country we emphasise negatives too much and it can lead to players changing things for the sake of it. Now Pietersen and Cook are playing like they did when they first came onto the Test scene and it’s paying off.
PONTING DESERVES SOME SLACK
Ponting was criticised for his lack of innovation ahead of the series and is getting more stick now, but I have a certain amount of sympathy for him. He is trying to be inventive and make England’s batsmen think a bit, and it’s hard to berate the guy when he is hampered by such a weak attack.
THE ALL-ROUNDER | CONDITIONS, STATS AND BANTER
It’s still looking pretty flat, but the forecasted rain could serve to liven things up. The footholes outside the left-handers’ off-stump, created by the Aussie bowlers, will provide a big target for Graeme Swann.
STAT OF THE DAY
After just three innings in this series, Alastair Cook has already compiled 450 runs at the remarkable average of 225. This puts him halfway to breaking the great Wally Hammond’s English record of 905 runs in a five-Test Ashes series in Australia, achieved in 1928-29. Trailing Hammond are Herb Sutcliffe (734 runs in 1924-25), Jack Hobbs (662 in 1911-12), Geoff Boycott (657 in 1970-71), Michael Vaughan (633 in 2002-03) and Ken Barrington (582 in 1962-63).
“I need to tell Ricky Ponting I had lunch with the best batter in Australia. Highest score of 209 not out against England; 1002 runs in 14 Tests at an average of 56. And her name is Karen Rolten. The way a couple of these Aussies are playing at the moment she could more than do a job for you Mr Ponting.” Former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott offers the current Aussie captain some words of wisdom.
“They could have Mrs Mangle and Madge open the batting, Alf Roberts No3, Jim Robinson No4, Harold Bishop No5, keep Hussey at No6, Toadfish No7.” Andrew Flintoff has some more novel ideas to beef up Australia’s batting.