Tuesday 25 August 2009

Things Ain't What They Used To Be: Australia player-by-player

'In transition' is the accepted euphemism for 'not as good as we were' [as England should know, they've been using it long enough]. Yet Australia have been without Warne, McGrath and Langer for almost three years, Gilchrist for nearly two and Hayden since the start of '09. Unsurprisingly, the talent pool doesn't run quite as deep now. So what are they in transition to? 

Simon Katich
341 runs at 42.62, hs 122; 1 x 100, 1 x 50
The Krab laid it down at Cardiff, a man safe in self-knowledge, seemingly set for a series full of the same. Instead he got aggressive, prickly, mad, and started giving it away. Players like Katich succeed in Test cricket on the outer edges of their ability. There's just that much less margin for error.
Out of 10 - 7

Phil Hughes
57 runs at 19.00, hs 36
Fully entitled to ask which other players Australia have bailed on after such a short run of failures. Hughes is a true outlier - he doesn't play like anyone else, so the solution to his problem will come from within. Suggestions he's been worked out don't quite play: he received exactly the same kind of bowling in South Africa and mullered it.
Out of 10 - 3

Shane Watson
240 runs at 48.00, hs 62; 3 x 50
No longer young - he's 28 - no longer, judging by his bowling, an all-rounder, Watson may well have fallen into a barrel of breasts and come out sucking his thumb. He's certainly a sucker for an LBW, and there are no secrets in international cricket. His best hope for a permanent place may be at five, if Clarke moves up in place of Hussey.
Out of 10 - 7

Ricky Ponting
385 runs at 48.12, hs 150; 1 x 100, 2 x 50
Between the 2005 Ashes, when he averaged 39.88, and revenge in 2006-7, when he averaged 82.28, Ponting's series returns went 82.25, 103.00, 58.00 and 95.50. He wanted it - bad. Between the 2006-7 Ashes and this one, his series returns ran 38.28, 53.82,  38.00, 33.33, 47.50 and 35.00. So is he [finally] sated, is he tired, is he on a last, gentle downhill slide? Perhaps defeat will fire him up again: when he's in and set, he looks as good as ever. In 2005, he was culpable as captain, this time less so, and he played the media as beautifully as he batted in the Oval second innings.
Out of 10 - 8

Michael Hussey
276 runs at 34.50, hs 121; 1 x 100, 2 x 50
It's not just England in thrall to the symbolism of '05: Hussey's hundred at the Oval has been compared to Matty Hayden's. Hayden took off on a long last tear afterwards, but Hussey lacks the hubris of Haydos. 
Out of 10 - 5

Michael Clarke
448 runs at 64.00, hs 136; 2 x 100, 2 x 50; 1 wicket at 75.00, bb 1-27
The finest, most timeless batting of the series came from Clarke. At Lord's he could have been batting in any era; you almost expected Keith Miller's spitfire to fly overhead and dip its wings. As an audition for the future of Australian cricket, it passed. Must surely bat four now, and make big hundreds. 
Out of 10 - 9

Marcus North
367 runs at 52.42, hs 125*; 2 x 100, 1 x 50; 4 wickets at 51.00, bb 4-131
Which one is Marcus North again? Oh yeah... Turns unobtrusiveness into an art form, but you can't argue with the runs. 
Out of 10 - 8

Brad Haddin
278 runs at 46.33, hs 121; 1 x 100, 1 x 50
Haddin keeping to Johnson offered the great comic moments of the series; Haddin never settled after Lord's. If he was following anyone other than Gilchrist his batting would be manna from heaven. As it is, it's matter of fact. 
Out of 10 - 7

Mitchell Johnson
105 runs at 17.50, hs 63; 1 x 50; 20 wickets at 32.55, bb 5-69
In years to come, the full impact of the slaying of Hughes and Johnson on the tourists' psyche may be known. They were the two gun young players, the ones that allowed the team to argue that they were en route to somewhere cool and exciting. But Johnson is the Australian Harmison, right down to missing the cut strip. His opening spell at Lord's was the real turning point of the series. England may not have known  they would win after that, but they knew that they could. 
Out of 10 - 4

Peter Siddle
91 runs at 18.20, hs 35; 20 wickets at 30.80, bb 6-71
No man is more Australian than the Sizzler. Expect him back in four years, this time sporting an enormous moustache, accompanied by some hard-won craft to go with the graft.
Out of 10 - 7

Ben Hilfenhaus
40 runs at 20.00, hs 20; 22 wickets at 27.45, bb 5-80
The only bowler on either side to average under 30 per wicket, he was reminiscent of Hoggard at his sharpest. A jaffa did KP all ends up at Cardiff. 
Out of 10 - 8

Stuart Clark
38 runs at 12.66, hs 32; 4 wickets at 44.00, bb 3-18
Bowled Australia back into it at Headingley, but he's 33 and can't play at Leeds every week. Those sixes though...
Out of 10 - 6

Nathan Hauritz
45 runs at 22.50, hs 24; 10 wickets at 32.10, bb 3-63
Should Hauritz be pleased or discouraged by the general astonishment that he wasn't actually as bad as everyone [including his own team] thought? When you don't get a game at the Oval in a hot spell at the end of August, you might have your answer...
Out of 10 - 6

Tomorrow - the media pundit-by-pundit and the Phil Space Awards...


steve said...

Not a bad summing up!

Australia made a big mistake with dropping Hughes to proper up Johnson. Watson may have looked reasonable there, but he's not an opener and his bowling supports noone, and in the end, it made no difference to the outcome.

Hughes is the talent and type of batsman and character we need, far more so than the solid Norths and Katichs, of which there are many in the state sides. Hughes could be a match winner, like Gilchrist and Hayden.

The selectors are too conservative and timid. Johnson should've have been dropped, rather than pandered to, and then come back better for it. Mitch could also be great, if he sorts out his confidence. He and Hughes have the potential to be the real thing - the others are honest toilers.

crazy craves said...

Succinct and to the point. Can't disagree with any of that. The Royal Commissioners are gathering in London as we speak to begin taking evidence on a single term of reference in the Letters Patent – to wit “sheet home the blame”.
Their Honours will no doubt find, in the cold light of day, that the positions of Hilditch and Ponting are now, of course, untenable.In the time-honoured fashion, the buck must stop at the top.

Mark said...

Spot on about Pup - an Australian batsman you can actually enjoy watching tear your attack apart. The first since Waugh (M).

Ceci said...

I know you don't rate my lovely Steveo but I do believe those vicious removals of Hughes pre-Test matches did for him as an opener - although am sure Hughes will be back - unless Watson sees himself as an opener now, not an all rounder.

Won't argue with most of your other ratings - usual top stuff.

On the subject of the Phil Space awards perhaps a mention for someone I normally love to read - for this resume of the Swann's tweets.. http://tinyurl.com/twittowoo