Saturday, 24 July 2010

There will be blood

It was an end of empire sorta day today in Leeds. Pakistan beat Australia for the first time in 15 years, and if you think about it, that was probably a breach of the last of the records laid down in the immortal era of Aussie dominance. In the last couple of months, they've lost a best of five one-day series to England after three games, lost two T20s to Pakistan and drawn a Test series with a side whose new captain quit after one match.

There will be blood, most likely Marcus North's, although England would be delighted if they retained him. Slots in the Australian batting order used to be once in a generation things. More people were abducted by aliens than got one of those six spaces. Now the stasis is broken.

The old way would have been like-for-like, maybe Usman Kawaja for North. But maybe the time has come for a more daring reshuffle. There is an opportunity for them to shift Michael Clarke to three before he becomes Test captain, allow Punter to adopt the late-era Border/Waugh role a little further from the early gunfire and perhaps get Watson out of the stop-gap opener role to something more suitable in the middle order.

There should be a little succession planning, too. An unsuccessful Ashes with a barely-changed order could see a cull involving Katich, Ponting and Hussey, who are all nearer 40 than 30. Plugging those holes all at once might take years.

John Buchanan was fond of Sun-Tzu. One of the old warlord's faves was, 'always do what your enemy would want least'. So which would England want least? This:

Katich
Watson
Ponting
Clarke
Hussey
North

Or this?

Katich
Hughes
Clarke
Hussey
Watson
Ponting

With Haddin at seven and Smith at eight, the latter would beat England.

8 comments:

Lou said...

I just can't see Punter dropping down the order. I may be under-estimating his level of self-awareness and over-estimating his ego but I'm pretty sure he won't be moving from 3. I'm not sure that Clarke should be 3 anyhow.

Katich or Watson could do it a bit better than Clarke. I'm sure that Kat bats at 3 for NSW when he's there.

And North will probably go to India, but the Aussies getting beaten in India won't help. No-one expects to win there anyhow. I think it's going to take a spanking in the Ashes to get the selectors and management out of their groove.

My, I sound pessimistic.

Mahek said...

I'm not sure it's an either-or scenario - The Poms wouldn't mind seeing Hughes at the top of the order after what they did to him in the Ashes. I'd rather go with this, although I agree with Lou that there is no way Ponting would move down the order.

1.Katich
2.Jaques
3.Clarke
4.Ponting
5.Hussey
6.Watson

Russ said...

Back in the 90s Australia used to ruthlessly cut batsmen. This permanent place, see out the series, always one more chance only occurred after central contracting came in. Thing is, when the test bats go back to Shield cricket they score buckets of runs, so it isn't clear this isn't the best top-6 Australia has.

I agree with Lou, Ponting will get dropped before he moves, and Clarke isn't a number 3. If Australia loses North and the olds they'll end up with something like:
Cowen
Bailey (or Hughes or Jaques)
Klinger
Clarke
Khawaja
Watson
Smith
Paine

Not a bad lineup, potentially.

Mark said...

Agree with Mahek - a simple swap of Hughes for North, followed by a shuffle, hardly becomes a top six that will beat England.

The one surefire thing that will beat England is Mitchell Johnson bringing his bowling arm up above the 65 degrees, which is where it is now.

Mark said...

PS - Does Klinger wander about in ladies clothes and have a diehard allegiance to the Toldeo Mud Hens?

The Old Batsman said...

You Australians used to be so confident...

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Lou said...

'The one surefire thing that will beat England is Mitchell Johnson bringing his bowling arm up above the 65 degrees, which is where it is now.'

If we are depending on that, we might as well start doing rain-dances. Where his arm angle is appears to depend on some form of witchcraft that is only potent about once a year... if that.