Only 20 days ago, I was preparing to write a column about how there was only three sure things about Australian cricket: 1) Mitch Johnson’s claim to be a good cricketer is as legitimate as Lara Bingle’s IQ. 2) I trust the captain of the Costa Concordia more than Cricket Australia. 3) I’m going to drink a shot for every time I hear Warney compare Ian Bell to The Sherminator (THEY LOOK NOTHING ALIKE, SHANE, GET OVER IT!)
Getting two of my three certainties correct, isn’t bad (I refuse to trust Cricket Australia. Its rotation policy and homework tasks for grown men was an embarrassment to professional sports). I recognise that Moustache proved me wrong. Do we credit Johnson’s rise to stardom to the thinking man’s alcoholic, Boof Lehmann, or do we finally recognise that maybe, just maybe, Johnson is more resolute, determined and competitive then we ever believed?
Australia lead 2 – 0 and have won its last six Ashes test matches in Perth. Oh, and the WACA is Johnson’s favourite test ground! Australia couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to reclaim The Ashes.
England arrived in 2006-07 as favourites and left with the same obliterated look I had after watching The Hobbit (OK, you get it now. I HATE that movie. Peter Jackson destroyed Middle Earth for me in the same way that Josh Schwartz butchered post-season one of The OC. Let this be a lesson to all those rookie producers out there – Don’t air 27 freaking episodes in one season). This 2013-14 England team may well be heading down the same miserable path. Are you getting a little deja vu?
Let’s see… David Warner has resembled a professional cricketer. Chris Rogers is batting within himself and Phil Hughes isn’t playing for Australia. Yet, it’s Michael Clarke’s captaincy and batting that has been the most historically significant and impressive feat in this series. Since Mark Taylor, no other Australian captain has been as commanding, fluent and in touch with his team’s heartbeat, as Clarke is. He knows how to expose defensive batting tendencies, when to go for the kill and always make the right bowling change – this is what sets him apart from Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting and current international test captains.
Day two of the first test will forever be the day England lost the Ashes and Clarke proved to be Australia’s finest batsman as test captain since Greg Chappell. Great teams protect tactically passive captains but adversity reveals a captain’s tactical nous. Johnson might be England’s dread but it’s Clarke who has been the glue-guy and the series’ most valuable player.
Shane Watson. He glares, pouts, sledges… and is one of the softest competitors in the history of sports (Don’t worry, Jordan McMahon, you still hold that title). Watto’s skill set is absurdly intriguing – he’s probably Australia’s best exponent of reverse swing bowling, he can tie down an end and he’s solid in the slips. His batting is textbook – perhaps to technically sound – and he can score in all parts of the ground (just don’t ask him to rotate the strike).
Watto’s fragility in the mind is his downfall. Most batsmen have technical flaws, which the world’s premier fast bowlers always attempt to expose. We all know Watson has as much difficulty with his front foot movement as Warney does pronouncing, “Australia” (apparently there’s an ‘h’ after the ‘s’). Yet, Watson should still find a way to score more test centuries. Or, perhaps, we should stop the He Should Be Dominating World Cricket and, instead, accept that what we are seeing from Watson, right now, is who he really is – a skilful journeyman international cricketer who is fortunate to play in a weak era.
Johnson and Stokes new found love deserves a series spinoff. Seriously, their clash on the pitch sparked more chemistry than the entire series of Lois & Clark.
THE GOOD NEWS:
Wait for it … There’s still three test matches to be played! Plenty of time for Warner to get back on the piss and for Siddle, Johnson and Harris to breakdown from one of the following: stress-fracture/broken foot/Chondromalacia/Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex/REST. No need to panic.
THE BAD NEWS:
There’s still three test matches to be played! MORE MITCHELL JOHNSON, SWEET JESUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
MORE BAD NEWS:
I might be one of the few people who genuinely enjoys watching Jonathan Trott bat. I love his South African smugness and his tendency to walk at the fast bowler. News of Trott’s departure from the series and his battle with mental illness has been the darkest point of the summer. Historically, cricket has one of the highest rates of mental illness and suicide across all sports – and you wouldn’t know it! The Ashes needs Trott (being South African-aside) and the game of cricket needs all the star power it can muster.