Threes and Fives: Michael Vaughan, now the Beeb's bumptious but insightful between-ball waffler, said the other day that he'd only had two players that he didn't want in the side landed on him by the selectors during his years as England captain*.
It's a consistency of selection that England nicked from Australia, of whom it used to be claimed that the only thing more difficult than getting into the side was getting out of it again. Now the rot goes far deeper than the 34-odd players used over the last four years. Choosing the team is only half of selection. Choosing how the team fits together is the other, tougher half.
England's batting order only really dropped into place with the unlikely arrival of Jonathan Trott [strange now to think that his rival for the place was the lost prince, Ramps...]. Asked on TV the other night to name great England number threes, Bob Willis came up with Barrington, Cowdrey and Dexter. The gap since has yawned somewhat. The theory with number three is that it's either the position for your best bat - Richards, Ponting, Lara [when he felt like it] - or someone who is essentially a third opener - Boon, Dravid, Amla. Trott is the latter and offers a solidity that Bell couldn't come up with. He has quelled thoughts of Pietersen shifting up. He's also weird enough to bat there for years, whittling away at the crease, in thrall to the rituals that get him through. England's order will probably jiggle after Sydney and the likely farewell of faithful Colly, but Bell to five and Morgan in as a tyro six offers a line-up that can push them towards the top of the rankings.
By contrast, it's hard to think of an Australian who is batting in the right position. There are probably only two: Hughes, who they should stick with, and Hussey. Australia haven't had to think about number three for a generation, but Punter has done his noble time there. That leaves Watson, who is a natural number five, Clarke, who has failed at four but made his name at five, and Ponting, should he stay to shepherd the transition, ready to bat five. And of course Hussey, who looks fit for another long stretch at... number five.
Trotters - not the maddest in the dressing room: 'There has been more ribbing this week about my crease-scratching, especially when I put in one final scratch after James Anderson had been dismissed to leave our side all out. I’ll probably still be doing it when I’m 80 years old and standing in the street... I’d like to point out, though, that I’m not the most superstitious person in our changing room. On this tour in Australia, I’ve seen a few things go on that make me think, “Crikey, I’m not as mad as everybody else”... I’m not going to name names, but you might want to look out for the bloke who always bowls the same number of warm-up balls to mid-off, and then to mid-on...'
And...: 'Apparently the only other batsman to average over 100 in Ashes cricket is Albert Trott, an Australian all-rounder who played around the end of the 19th century. My grandfather always said that he was related to Albert Trott, though I never knew how. What I do know is that Trott shot himself at the age of 41, after living his life in the fast lane. I prefer the slow lane myself' - Daily Telegraph
Compliment of the day: It's massive pressure coming into the side for the Boxing Day Test. Luckily he's thick as two short planks so he didn't realise' - Graeme Swann on Tim Bresnan
*One was Darren Pattinson, the identity of the other remains mysterious...