Thursday, 30 July 2009

Australia coming from behind

I've been too busy to say anything about the 2nd Ashes Test until now. It could have been a fairly dull draw if not for the fact that England capitalised on the opportunities they had. Australia was firstly beaten comprehensively in the first innings, and then, I think (in hindsight) Strauss made the right choices concerning the follow-on and the declaration. It's good to see England playing to win.

Speaking of playing to win, it must be said that even during Australia's winning streaks, they were well behind after the first two innings quite often. Some would say they deserve more of a reputation for being slow starters than for being able to win coming from any distance behind. In any case, they weren't invincible, they simply had a culture of taking on the challenge to win in any situation.

I am convinced that such an attitude has been part of the difference between Australia and some other teams. Fortunately, they still seem to have it, even without the same quality to actually pull it off. Hopefully it won't be crushed by a few more failures...

Of course, such an optimistic outlook also means that fans are left wondering whether a few umpiring decisions had gone a different way. While it wouldn't have made much difference, Australia did seem to cop most of the questionable ones this time. The Katich wicket is a good example of why it is foolish to only look at appeals when judging umpire competence. Anyone who says Strauss knew he didn't catch the ball doesn't understand what they are seeing in the replays, but the earlier Hauritz catch did look at least as clean as that one.

From one point of view, the rules call for inconsistent use of tv replays in these circumstances, but on the other hand, they are not that helpful at the moment, and as long the umpires do not use a broader standard of doubt than they do without the presense of a 3rd umpire, the game isn't any worse off. As for the referral system, while it has a lot of potential, I don't understand the commentators who have suggested it would have solved the problems in this particular innings. If the plans for later this year are the same as the trials, then the Hussey (non-)edge would have been the only one of the much discussed decisions to be overturned.

In any case, we now go on to Edgbaston with England on the front foot and the effects of ever-present English weather firmly in England's favour. Unlike 2005, there hasn't been a tornado in Birmingham this time, but I suspect the Thrid Test will have more impact on later selections than on the series scoreline. Speaking of selections, it is hard to believe reports that Hughes has been dropped for Watson! ABC Radio says the inside word is that Siddle makes way for Clark, which is less surprising. I'm glad I'm not a selector right now.

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