I went down with a bad cold a few days ago, and I was either asleep or lying awake on my bed for good two days. With the curtains shut, I had no idea whether it was day or night, except I had the radio on, listening to TMS (Test Match Special) on Radio 5 Live Sports Extra. As Australia cruelly exposed the inadequacies of England batting in both innings, I was vaguely awake for some parts and asleep for others. The broadcast confused me no end, as the entire programme was repeated, starting at 11 AM UK time, so I heard things out of chronological order.
So, here is some useless punditry, while I subsist on chicken soup. England has huge problems. There have been two pivotal positions in the batting line-up for which there seems to be as yet no long-term permanent players for some time: the opening batsman, and the number 6 spot. In addition, Jonathan Trott has been an immense presence, and finding a replacement at number 3 is a tough task. I think he has been courageous and right to leave the tour, as the decision couldn’t have been easy, all played out in public, and because whichever decision he makes would have come under scrutiny and criticism from some quarters. Hopefully he will return in the near future, since he is a great cricketer and a joy to watch. With Matt Prior also struggling with the bat, England will mostly likely need either Alastair Cook or Ian Bell to perform all the time. There is also the issue of the third seamer.
Incidentally, broadly similar things could be said of Australia: the batting can be fragile and fallible, and the bowling wayward, even though the Austrailian side worked well in this match. Both teams are not as strong as they were in the past, and matched in their problems and inadequacies, so the contest can be quite close. It may be the case of teams losing matches, rather than winning them. The 3-0 result in the English summer was probably deceptive and too flattering to England, and the same observation can perhaps be made about the margin of victory for Australia at the Gabba. Australia might have an edge over England in terms of bowling options: Shane Watson and Steven Smith give Michael Clarke more options than Joe Root to Alastair Cook. Also, Michael Clarke is a very good strategic and tactical captain, as well as being one of the best current batsmen: I often feel that he deserves a better team. Anyway, I think Australia is likely to win the series, but let’s see what happens over the next few weeks.