3.48am. Tuesday morning. My phone beeps, and I read the SMS inscribed upon it.
“Victory! A draw! My heart now recedes into my chest”
sender, Dan Reilly, later exclaims how exciting it had been watching
Australia fight for a draw after all those thousands of victories he has
watched over the years. Oh, the innocence of youth. All it brought back
for me was the pain of my youth, watching Australia celebrate draws as
victories – and not celebrating very often.
Most people of my
generation would especially relate the joy we felt when Mike Whitney, a
'ferret' of a batsman [for those not in the know, the 'ferrets' come
after the 'rabbits'], was able to survive the entire final over of a
Test match in Melbourne, enabling Australia to draw the match and win a
series for the first time in four years. The bowler was Richard Hadlee,
and the team was New Zealand. The Kiwi's for goodness sake! We
celebrated a DRAW against NEW ZEALAND like we had WON!! The depth of the
abyss can never be measured until you have crashed to the very bottom.
So – as much as Rocket enjoyed it, let's hope there aren't too many more of them.
will it take to win this series? Australia will consider themselves
favourites, if only for the fact that they only need to win one of the
final two Tests to retain the Ashes, a drawn series being enough for
them to do that. They will want to win the series outright to quell any
speculation. England will consider themselves favourites, if only for
the fact that they do have some sort of momentum, despite being unable
to dislodge Australia with 108 overs at their disposal at Old Trafford.
it comes to making changes to Test sides, Australia have been very
reluctant to do so in recent times. They back themselves to perform,
even if they have a player or two in the side who is struggling to
contribute. This, of course, is fine when the team keeps winning. If the
team is not winning, it certainly must make that task more difficult.
England, on the other hand, have often chopped and changed their side.
On this occasion, they have played the same eleven in each of the three
In an effort to win the final two Tests, you would expect both sides could make some minimal changes to their line-up.
will probably only consider one change, that being selecting another
bowler in the place of Matthew Hoggard. Despite picking up two wickets
on the final day at Old Trafford, Hoggard still appears largely
ineffective, and Vaughan appears reluctant to use him. If England are to
retain the balance of their team as it is, with four bowlers plus
Flintoff, then surely picking a bowler that the captain feels confident
about bowling for more than 6 overs (as occurred in the first innings)
would be a benefit. Chris Tremlett is the popular pick as 'next-best'.
At this stage, it appears that the England selectors will stick with the
eleven they have. To me, that would be folly.
Australia must now
be on the verge of replacing ailing strike bowler Jason Gillespie. 3
wickets at 100 is a true indication of the struggle he has faced all
winter. He has been given every chance to run back into anything vaguely
resembling form, and has failed to find it. Loyalty can only reach so
far, and the loyalty to Gillespie realistically expired some time ago.
Interestingly, it has probably only been his batting that has kept him
in the team this long, and it has been invaluable on two occasions.
selectors will probably fall back on Michael Kasprowicz, another legacy
of loyalty. It would, however, be nice to think that Shaun Tait might
get a run. New blood is needed in Australia's bowling ranks. Surely the
best place to learn Test match bowling would be with alongside Glenn
Loyalty will no doubt keep Australia's top 6 intact, unless
injury forces Michael Clarke out for Brad Hodge's debut. However, how
much of a difference could Andrew Symonds have made if he was available
for Test selection? Batting at six, and offering a genuine fifth bowler
option, who can bowl both medium pace and spin, depending on the
conditions? We'll probably never know – but, if the selectors were feeling adventurous...
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