Ashes pressure takes its toll on battered batsmen
Dismissals of Pietersen, Warner, Watson, Clarke speak of scarring
THERE are some scrambled brains among some of the batsmen of England and Australia now, the result no doubt of being nine Tests into back-toback Ashes series. It is almost as if these sides are punchdrunk from facing each other so often.
Just look at the dismissals of Kevin Pietersen, David Warner, Shane Watson and Michael Clarke on the second day at the MCG. None of them will be pleased with themselves and all showed signs of mental baggage, scarring, call it what you will. Only Chris Rogers, really, got his head down and played properly and even he gave it away in the end.
That is not to say the England attack did not deserve their success on the second day. They managed to pressure the Australian batsmen, had the benefit of having five bowlers, and the advantage of scoreboard pressure, however minimal a total of 255 is, so the home side were less able to get after Monty Panesar as they had Graeme Swann. The result was England’s best day of the series.
It did not begin that way. Pietersen had to give himself half an hour to get himself back in yesterday morning. Yes, I know Tim Bresnan was out to the first ball he received yesterday but it wasn’t as if Pietersen was down to Jimmy Anderson and Panesar for company. Stuart Broad can more than hold a bat.
And I know I said on Boxing Day there was part of me who wanted to see Pietersen play his natural game but you cannot just go from first gear to fifth gear the way he tried to do against Mitchell Johnson. He went from block to slog, which wasn’t good enough. There has to be something in between.
What you would say is that Pietersen must have been concerned that Johnson would again blast away the tail and decided to try to score as quickly as possible.
Johnson certainly did his job again for Australia in keeping England to 255.
Then you have Warner. I’m pretty certain that it was Warner who Graeme Swann was talking about when he talked of certain players being “up their own backsides” and it will be interesting to see how Darren Lehmann handles him. Here he was trying to play a shot a ball, before hitting one straight up in the air.
Warner is a very talented, highly skilled batsman but when you are in nick, as he clearly is, you have to make the opposition pay. You can’t mess about with form because per- haps one day soon when he is not in such great nick he might look back to the day at the MCG he gave it away when he was playing beautifully.
If that was a gift for England, the Australian innings was a good test for England’s seamers even if Watson and Clarke were similarly kind to them. I thought 300 would have been a par score for England because there was a bit of nip in the pitch and a slow outfield and it wasn’t easy for Australia either. The final session swung the match possibly decisively England’s way.
Bresnan’s pace was down and he seemed more military medium than the bowler who would hit the bat harder than many batsmen imagined he would. But one thing you will know about Bresnan is that he will keep going for you. He chipped in with the vital wickets of Rogers and Johnson.
The England attack as a unit will be very pleased with the way they controlled the run rate and were so disciplined.
It was also nice to see Jimmy Anderson returning to form and taking wickets after the difficult time he has had since the Trent Bridge Test.
So has this been the start of England’s new era or a continuation of them just trying to get something out of a tour that has gone so badly wrong for them? Well, you couldn’t help thinking that some selections they made ahead of this tour were returning to bite them up the backside a bit.
Chris Tremlett, for instance, should have played at the Oval so England would have known then what Surrey have been saying and what Ricky Ponting told Sportsmail when he played with him – that his pace is down.
As it was, England weren’t sure about him when they brought him here and, equally, weren’t convinced about Steven Finn’s form either so they brought Boyd Rankin too. And none of them have played, other than Tremlett at Brisbane.
I don’t think England believed in their wildest dreams that they would have to drop Matt Prior by the end of this series. I don’t think they’re convinced that Jonny Bairstow is the next in line to replace him.
Now I said on Thursday Bairstow will have to be given a proper chance and that is only fair. But England will have to decide after this series whether they really feel that he is the man to take them forward, because in selection you always have to look two steps ahead. For now, though, they can enjoy a job well done and they have not been able to say that too often in this series. – Daily Mail
PUNCH-DRUNK? David Warner was playing very adventurously before gifting England his wicket.