Monday, 8 June 2015

Dad's Army

Firstly, apologies for not writing a write up of the second Test versus New Zealand. This wasn't because we lost, apathy reigned or sour grapes. Quite simply it was because I was in Greece and didn't see enough of the game to paint a true picture, not that it ever matters much on The Middle Stump anyway. Whilst sitting in a taverna, eating a souvlaki with the skewer driving through the middle of it, much like the Kiwi bowling to our middle order I wondered if we have played our strongest opposition so far this summer? I wondered if we build up the Aussies too much, as we tend to do in these shores, and I have come to the conclusion that we have. Here's why...

English or Australian this summer?
Idle thoughts in a beautiful country floated across my mind, and one was whether the economy of Greece is like Ian Bell. A rich history, easy on the eye, but now owing his people and you wonder if there is much left in the bank. One of the above will eventually come good sooner or later, and unfortunately for the Greeks, it is the man from nearer Atherstone than Athens. Bell has had times of austerity in recent years, but was a class act in the last Ashes and we need him to perform again this time.

The reason I think he will, is that Australia don't have as good an attack as New Zealand.

They have three decent quicks. Everyone talks about Mitchell Johnson and whilst facing him on a bouncy one in Perth is as much fun as sitting down in a meeting with Angela Merkel when you owe her 59 billion euros, last time he was over here, he defaulted. He was about as accurate as the Greek repayment plan, and like Demis Roussos, he can't bowl forever and ever. A lot rests on Johnson's shoulders and if he doesn't get it right, he can be fiscally challenging for his skipper. Any quick who is wayward, can cost a few bob.

Pitta Siddle

Peter Siddle is the steady man; the 'go to' man for Michael Clarke. A very good bowler in his day, he is about as penetrative as a eunuch at times in England, and needs conditions and pitches in his favour. Unlike Nana Mouskori, he can't bowl "over and over" anymore, but spells here with Nottinghamshire and Lancashire will help him in these conditions.

So therefore the Aussies will be keeping Ryan Harris in cotton wool. They will be making sure he is fit, ready and doing his stretches. Saying that, he is not the only Australian R. Harris who is doing his stretches in English conditions this summer, as namesake Rolf is 'doing his bird'. And I'm not talking about Jackson Bird. Harris is the best of the Aussie trinity, and his fitness is crucial to their chances of retaining the Ashes. Aussies hope he isn't the Parthenon.

Hazlewood is an unknown quantity, and not many Aussies get it right on their first tour to England. It will be interesting to see how he gets on. Nathan Lyon, whilst looking like a man you really wouldn't want to buy a used motor vehicle from, is a decent enough off spinner but I can't see us preparing pitches to suit him. The whole Aussie attack needs the mileage clock turning back, something that Mr Lyon looks like he may have done to a few vehicles in his time.

Lyon..."nice little runner, one lady owner blah blah"

The Aussie attack whilst not spectacular, won't be bowling many bad balls. Saying that, the old adage amongst English batsmen is never trust an Australian bearing gifts.

The batting looks more potent. Clarke may be old with a dubious back but is still world class. Steve Smith has been in sparkling form, and surely this has to stop at some point? Like David Warner, he goes hard at the ball although these two are in the right age bracket to be at their prime. Warner, no doubt will be as popular over here as the Greek finance minister is in Brussels, or his namesake Jack is in Sepp Blatter's house at present. Chris Rogers will retire at the end of the series, although he knows English conditions, and is always a dangerous customer. Just ask Yorkshire followers, on the receiving end of a spectacular double hundred as Rogers underpinned the Middlesex fourth innings chase of over 400 last year. In his last series for want of a bad Greek pun, this is no minor tour!

'Saga' Shane Watson needs a good tour to get the critics off his back. Often injured, he is no good to the side if he is like sanitary protection and in for one week, and then out for three. Brad Haddin was the scourge of England on our last tour over there, but age can be a cruel mistress especially for those with the gloves. The one who is a real danger is Adam Voges, and I can see him scoring runs over here this summer. He already has some under his belt in his short but successful stint at Middlesex.

The Parthenon...built when Brad Haddin was a small boy

So can this Aussie side come here and win or draw the series? Age is against them, and their physio could be the key to how this Ashes series goes. Will this lot have one last battle or will the years be their Achilles heel? Crumbling ruins?

They will be up for it, and the verbals will be flying but we shall see if they are like the Greek government, talking a good game or backing it up with actions. There will be plenty of Medusa like stares from the likes of Johnson, and they will be a tough as the Spartan army.

The Ashes, like the Elgin Marbles reside in the UK at all times, but possession with this urn is not nine tenths of the law. The Aussies possess them at present, but will they come September?

Or have England already faced their strongest opposition so far this summer? We often talk up the Aussies too much instead of getting at them, and this isn't anywhere near the strongest Australian side I have seen.

I for one, can't wait for this Iliad to be played out.