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Ashes Open Thread: Third Test, Australia 385 v England 180-4

[ 22 ] December 14, 2013 |

Given that the 2013-14 series is in Australia, I’m not following it as closely as 2005, 2009, or this past summer. Instead, I’ve been waking up each morning to the first two words I learned about cricket: “England collapse”.

And collapse they have. All they need(ed) to retain the Ashes was a series draw: any combination of five results that did not give Australia an advantage in test wins would suffice. However, going into the third series, they’re down 2-0, and in neither test was the result in doubt after the first day. In the third test, Australia’s 326-6 was the highest first day total at The Waca in Ashes history.

To retain the Ashes, England need to win no fewer than two of the remaining three tests, and do no worse than draw the third. At the time of writing, they closed Australia out for 385, and are on 180 for 4. In other words, they’re not in great shape. Indeed, the current odds at one on-like bookie is 22/1 for an England Ashes series win, and 9/1 for a series draw. 9/1 is stingy. An Australian series win is paying out 1/20. Meaning, if I rushed out and placed a £200 bet on Australia winning the Ashes, I’d make an entire profit of £10.

So, what the hell has happened to England? They’ve won four of five Ashes series dating back to 2005, losing only 2007 (by an embarrassing 5-0) in Australia. 2005 was one of the best sporting series that I’ve experienced, in any sport. 2013-14 is basically over already. Going into this series, most assumed an easy England victory. Australia’s squad was in disarray, they hadn’t rebuilt following some key retirements over the past six years (think Warne, McGrath, Ponting), and their ICC world test ranking was falling fast (currently fifth). There were some warnings in the uneven 2013 series in England, but most chose to ignore them.

It should also be noted that Kevin Pietersen, in two and a half test matches (five innings total), has scored 18, 26, 4, 53, and today was out for 19. It’s not just his fault of course, this has been a top to bottom, attack and batting, collapse.

It was a good run, winning four of five Ashes. But now, maybe we can return to the warmth and security of an American’s understanding of cricket being a bunch of numbers and meaningless words strung together, followed by “and England lose”.

Comments (22)

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  1. sibusisodan says:

    As far as I can tell, England are mentally knackered. There were definitely warning signs this summer, when Ian Bell basically rescued us, and further back than that against NZ, when our bowling wasn’t up to much.

    But England have been looking to refresh / change the team, its just that none of the changes have had much of an effect – see Kerrigan’s nightmare debut last summer for the least successful example.

    Basically, when Cook, Trott, KP, Anderson and Swann all lose form at the same time there’s nothing much one can do!

    Kudos to the Aussies – they’ve blown us away. Johnson has been excellent.

    • slightly_peeved says:

      Anyone assuming an easy win for England strongly under-estimated the home field advantage in the Ashes. England have won an ashes test in Perth once. Once.

      It is funny to hear the English start complaining about sledging, when Anderson in particular has never had a problem doing it himself.

      (note for Americans: despite the image of cricket as a genteel game, cricket players are probably as foul-mouthed and abusive to their opponents as any sport in the world. Insulting or “sledging” an opponent is considered a key part of the contest. At its best, it produces some pretty clever, if crude, insults. At its worst, it’s having some 6-foot blonde Australian hurl a ball at your head at almost 100 miles an hour then call you a fucking wanker. Repeatedly. For several hours.)

      • snarkout says:

        “Why am I so fat? Every time I fuck your wife, she gives me a biscuit.”

        • West of the Cascades says:

          translation: “she gives me a cookie.”

          I lived in Australia for a year in 1986-87 and got the full flavor of the Ashes and the cricket bug (I also relished how a five-day sporting event could be a wonderful way to avoid working on my master’s thesis). I’m pretty happy with how the first tests have gone and looking forward to following Day 3 on Cricinfo this evening (Portland, OR time). The disappointing thing for me here in the USA is that I can’t find any broadcast or stream of the matches (haven’t tried that hard, honestly), and also that Cricinfo doesn’t seem to have a lot of video highlights.

          • dave brockington says:

            Let us know if you find a source, as I fly to Portland from Heathrow tomorrow morning, and I’ll be there for a week or so (before Seattle, New Orleans, and Atlanta . . . ).

            • JS says:

              Umm, you can get a stream in the US. I’m watching one now. Google is your friend. (tho also, I’ve “heard” that something called crictime works pretty well maybe?)

              • West of the Cascades says:

                Google and JS are Our Friends, evidently, for which we are grateful! Apologies to the England team, but the Aussies on 128/0 is pretty harsh in the second innings …

      • Linnaeus says:

        At its worst, it’s having some 6-foot blonde Australian hurl a ball at your head at almost 100 miles an hour then call you a fucking wanker. Repeatedly. For several hours.

        Maybe it’s good that I don’t play cricket, because at some point, I’d charge him.

  2. Ken says:

    This American’s understanding of cricket is a bunch of meaningless words strung together, followed by “and lasts forever.” You aren’t doing anything to dispel that – “neither result in doubt after the first day” indeed.

    • Sam240 says:

      Earlier this month, New Zealand was 367 for 3 after the first day of the Dunedin test, which is ordinarily a score that would put a Kiwi win beyond doubt. They declared after scoring 609 runs, which was followed by West Indies managing just 213 in their first innings.

      However, due in part to Darren Bravo’s double century in the second innings, the West Indies managed to gather a draw.

      (Of course, given what happened in Australia’s 2001 test in Kolkata, there’s no such thing as a sure result in cricket.)

      • Ken says:

        Oh yes, I forgot that part. Lasts forever, then ends in a draw with a score of 987 to 623.

        • Sam240 says:

          Perhaps you would prefer a limited-overs form of the game. ODIs (50 overs per side) and T20 matches (20 overs per side) are finished in one day, and, unless weather interferes, they don’t end in ties or draws.

          A T20 match can be finished in less time than the four hours that it takes to play a 60-minute game of American football.

          • Ken says:

            That’s important time needed for commercials. One of the great peculiarities of American professional football is that there is a penalty for delaying the game, but it is stopped every two to three minutes for commercials anyway.

  3. junker says:

    For anyone interested, TVTropes has a surprisingly decent primer on the rules of the game, in that typically TVtropes wry style.

  4. dSmith says:

    A joke I heard Stephen Fry tell:
    On a highway in G.B. the police pull over a car that has been weaving. The policeman asks the driver to use a breathalyzer. The man hands the policeman a letter, signed by a doctor, stating that “This man has asthma please don’t take a breath sample from him”. The policeman then says they would have to take a blood sample. The man then hands him another letter from a doctor saying “This has hemophilia, pls don’t take a blood sample from him” The policeman then says he would need a urine sample. He hands the policeman a third letter saying “This man plays cricket for England, please don’t take the piss from him.”

  5. JS says:

    I’m not sure it’s entirely fair to say that most assumed an easy English series win this time around. Tho probably is fair to say that most assumed a closely fought contest that England would edge (that’s anyway my sense from the Guardian’s coverage leading up to the series). So yeah, the way it’s gone has been pretty shocking. For me, the ineffectiveness of the bowling attack has been particularly surprising. I don’t follow English cricket _that_ closely, but until quite recently you’d have rated the English attack as second only to SA’s. Meanwhile, Swann’s been outbowled by Nathan Lyon!

    One minor point: At the end of the first day in Brisbane, things weren’t looking too bad at all for England, probably the last time that’s been the case of course.

  6. Vardibidian says:

    I have to say–the big news about this Ashes is the Trott news, isn’t it? Obviously because England has missed his batting (his on-form batting, his batting-that-was) but mostly because this was a huge moment for the way athletes with mental illnesses can be treated. I know he isn’t the first to withdraw from a major series, but it was (to me) utterly remarkable how much his withdrawal was treated, in the news (that I saw) and by his teammates and management and the rest of the cricketing world almost identically to a bad back or a bone spur or something. A combination of Oh, that’s why he has sucked so bad and Why didn’t he tell everybody earlier instead of stinking up the pitch for so long and running a distant third Maybe he’ll recover enough to be useful again someday.

    As for most assuming an easy win, they were certainly favored, but much of what I read was worried (or, alternately, hopeful) that Cook and Trott would not beat Moustache of Doom, and nobody is happy relying on Bell in a crunch. Still and all, nobody expected the England Collapse to be quite so… England-y.

    Thanks,
    -V.

    • slightly_peeved says:

      Australian bowler Shaun Tait left the national team for similar sorts of reasons a few years ago. I think things like movember and the Beyond Blue charity in Australia have done a lot of good work to remove the taboos and judgement that previously surrounded admissions of depression.

      • slightly_peeved says:

        Also, movember is responsible for Mitchell Johnson’s bitchin’ moustache, which deserves credit along with coach Darren Lehmann for the turnaround.

    • dave brockington says:

      See also Marcus Trescothick, 2006-08. Like Trott, his illness was a blow to the side. IIRC, his “stress-related injury” was treated nearly as well as Trott’s in terms of it being accepted and legitimate. Given the intense pressure of test cricket, especially being expected to scores over a half century while at bat (which takes hours), during which one error destroys that (and the prospects for the side), there’s no doubt that Trescothick, Trott, or Shaun Tait are not the only three.

      • JS says:

        Yeah, my sense is that England are really pretty good about handling this sort of thing, the management I mean. Happened with someone else too, no? LImited overs bowler? (Sorry, totally forgetting name, but he may have flown back from India?)

  7. JS says:

    Though, man, if I actually supported England, this would be the fucking worst! Wouldn’t it? (Not that I support Aus either.)

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