Routed – A History of the 3rd Test

Retreat from MoscowThere is no other way to describe the beating that Australia took in the 3rd Test at Edgbaston last week. And the causes for this apparent reversal of fortune from the ‘triumph’ at Lord’s were gross errors of management and selection.

Here are some thoughts:

First, the mis-reading of events at Lord’s. The talk of featherbeds has seemed to get the better of everyone. The Lord’s wicket provided bounce and pace. They were ideal conditions for Australian bowlers against England batsmen, many of whose technique has not been tested in such conditions.

The difficulties with consistency of length and direction that Australian bowlers, especially by the two left armers, had at Cardiff were forgotten. The middle order batting weakness was obscured by the two big hundreds from Rogers and Smith. Nevill batting 7 arrived at the wicket with score at 450 and followed this enjoyable batting practice with some comfortable catching courtesy of Lyth et al.  Anderson feigned disinterest.

Australia moved on to Derby but seemed to fail to notice the rain that was making pitch preparation at Edgbaston ‘complex’ with the covers remaining in operation throughout the process. Arriving at the ground, Clarke commented that he had seen nothing like the wicket – the seaming track that England yearned for – yet the Australian High Command chose to leave out the experienced and accurate Siddle, for whom conditions were ideal, drop their Vice Captain, mascot and counter-attacker , Brad Haddin, and, to compound it all, decided to ‘have a bat’ in conditions ideal for Anderson, Broad and Finn. It was as if Australia were totally ignorant of the England v India Test match played on the same ground, the year before. But isn’t that what management and analysers are for?

What then was going on? Or what IS going on? Has Rod Marsh arrived with ‘ideas’ and worse still favourites? Sure there are reasons to question Haddin’s form and Watson’s technique. But what they have in common is membership of the old family business, which is now under new management. If so, England could not have dared hope for these changes and this disruption in the wake of their own dismal performance just a week before.

The Australian batting was woeful. England bowled very well, but the visitors’ middle order, starting this time at No 3, folded and only Rogers coped with the conditions. On the basis that England would bat in similar conditions, 225 might have been a decent score in the circumstances . A bit of grit and, of course, a counter attacking innings from Haddin might have got them there. As it was, the score board froze at 136 just as Napoleon’s advance had frozen at the walls of Moscow.

England arrived at the wicket with an opener whose bat doesn’t come down straight, a number 3 on notice that failure would see the end of his international career and great bowling conditions.

By Starc’s second over, with the ball being sprayed around like a garden hose in the hands of an infant on a very hot day, the bowling coach was dispatched to the fine leg to ‘support’ the bowler. He was followed rapidly by Siddle in his day-glow bib. At the other end Hazlewood found the conditions too helpful and adjusted his line rather than his position at the bowling crease with the inevitable result. (For a tutorial from Mike Hendrick, see this.)

The unpredictable left armers returned to their Cardiff form. On field the captain’s fielding positions and bowling changes became more and more bizarre, resembling those one might make facing a stand of 500 rather than when bowling on a wicket where a score of 150 might have been expected from England. Bell, the condemned man, escaped, the gallows. After a heart-in-mouth start he made a plucky 53 and left the noose that had been round his neck on a hook in the dressing room like a mislaid jock-strap.

England’s first innings ended at a mighty 281, a mammoth and intimidating lead of 145. The game was up. The retreat inevitable.

And finally, what of Johnson and Clarke? The former began Day 2 with two wonderful steeply rising deliveries that disposed of Bairstow and Stokes, and inexplicable decided that that was that as far as this kind of delivery was concerned. Wither Captain Clarke? And in the second innings, defending a lead of just 120 the Captain waited until England were well on their way to victory at 47 for 1, before bringing Johnson into the attack.

One has to ask whether these strange decisions and this poor bowling in wonderful conditions from the quicks would have occurred had the Vice Captain been on the field, organising the seam attack and steadying Clarke’s experimentation.

On the field, rout comes from disorder as much as anything. If morale falls away and capacity evaporates, it is more than anything a failure of command. It is hard not to imagine that players and management are now even more at odds. Lions and donkeys come to mind. But for management to make the necessary changes, it would have to admit their errors of the last week.

That does not seem likely.

HT:JR

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Routed – A History of the 3rd Test

  1. thanks for an original and insightful analysis. I do not share your faith in Haddin as a batsman, however. I think his technique is shot – just look how comical he was at Cardiff against Anderson. Clarke, however, I agree is captaining in an odd manner and surely Siddle would have been a better pick than either of the Mitches for Edgbaston. If Australia had lasted another session at Edgbaston and the English innings played its course, then Warner might still have been around on a placid 4th day deck….well placed to wreak carnage in a very fragile English attack. If Harris had been playing, however……

  2. Thanks MIAB.
    Yes the presence of Harris would have transformed events in this series.
    A future bowling coach?
    Not sure that there has been sufficient attention given to the impact of Rod Marsh. MSM seem to have just accepted his impact without critical analysis.

  3. Good analysis. I’m not sure about Haddin. I think he was hanging on to a position he does not actually deserve right now. The Australian bowling has been strange, to say the least. They’ve not been able to gauge conditions, adjust and adapt.

    The batting on both sides is pretty frail. Warner has never inspired confidence ( imo ) and Smith’s golden run has got to end sometime. The middle order on both sides is missing completely.

    I heard someone say that there are wheels within wheels and there are rumblings in the Aus dressing room…

    I woke yesterday to see 60 all out and the manner in which those wickets fell certainly raises loads of questions.

  4. All good stuff as usual, TM. They’ve been so hopeless – and at times apparently under-motivated, something you can rarely say of an Australian side – at Trent Bridge as well, that I wonder if there’s discontent behind the scenes.

    One factual point – there was no Test between England and India at Edgbaston last year.

  5. Brian, thanks for the fact check. TM was confusing the 4th Old Trafford Test v India with the 2015 Edgbaston Test. It is interesting to see the similarities between those two Tests and with the 2014 5th Test at the Oval and the present Test at Trent Bridge.

    TM is convinced that there are major splits within the touring Party and is surprised that MSM has not picked this up. Something has clearly occurred following the arrival of Rod Marsh into his present role.

    Australians are very hard on their players – think of their reaction to Clarke some years ago. And therefore this seems to have diverted scrutiny of team management and selection. TM has been trying to compensate for this.

    The question should be asked, could a side with Siddle, Haddin and even Wato have performed any the worse? People put forward ‘form’ and ‘technical issues’ as reasons for their omission , but why were they on the tour, then? The decision to a) include them and then b) drop them and lose their huge experience and status in the side was amazingly disruptive, and clearly aggravated concerns over tour management among the players that must already have existed.

    Clearly the atmosphere and environment created has not been conducive to the Australians as a ‘fighting force’ and to the development of the latent talent of for example Starc and Hazlewood.

    Technical issues in batting have been highlighted, but actually, as TM hopes to explain soon, these apply to many of the England batsmen too.

    The real difference between the two sides is the stuff that comes from morale. Morale has been growing among one squad and leaching away dramatically in the other.

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