Ashes pres­sure takes its toll on bat­tered bats­men

Dismissals of Pi­etersen, Warner, Wat­son, Clarke speak of scar­ring

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - NASSER HUS­SAIN

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.

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