Opening batsman Joe Burns has been dropped from Australia’s Test team… probably for the last time!
Aged 31, with 1442 runs including four centuries, Burns has been a little unlucky to be dropped and recalled on multiple occasions previously but this time it seems terminal. Despite an undefeated half-century in the first Test against India, he reverted to recent woeful form in the second Test. With Will Pucovski now fit, he’ll belatedly make his Test bow… well, unless David Warner really is fit, then Pucovski may still have to wait. Either way, temporary opener Matthew Wade will probably drop into the middle order with much criticised Travis Head being harshly axed.
With the likes of Jake Weatherald, Daniel Hughes, Nic Maddinson and younger players coming through too, it’s surely the end for Burns. That said, an insatiable run of form could earn him yet another recall. Shaun Marsh was famously in and out of the side and Australia haven’t hesitated in selecting older players. Chris Rogers was one whilst Moises Henriques featured recently.
For now, it’s back to Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash for beleaguered Burns!
In the one-off T20I against Australia in Sydney, we started in a way that encapsulated the hit and miss nature of our tour. Following a double mis-field off the first delivery off the match, we ran David Warner out without facing a ball! Australia had opted to bat but for the second Sydney innings in a row, Warner blobbed having made 140 in the first Test in Perth.
From 0-1 Australia hardly got going as we effected three run outs in the innings. Captain Xavier Le Tallec set astute field placings as we reduced the hosts to 82-8. A stand of 40 between McDermott (34*) and Behrendorff (21*) lifted Australia to a potentially competitive 122-8 from their 20 overs. Skipper Aaron Finch top scored with 38 meanwhile Le Tallec was outstanding with the ball, claiming figures of 3-17. Georges (1-26) and Petit (1-15) also struck.
Petit was unfortunate to have a chance dropped by wicketkeeper Maxime Bernard but the gloveman redeemed himself with a run out and catch soon after. The luckless Phillipe La Roux finished with figures of 3-0-23-0 that included 8 overthrows… would they prove costly? Zidane Thomas’s (3-0-25-0) struggles with the ball continued but Christophe Martinez’s leg spin was a revelation. The Reunion Islander conceded just 15 runs from three overs. We required just over a run-a-ball to claim our first ever limited overs victory and end a tough tour on a huge high note…
Jean-Luc Chevalier and Hippolyte Gregory started sensibly before Gregory feasted on Adam Zampa’s vegan leg-spin. Gregory struck each of Zampa’s first three deliveries over the ropes for 6 as Zampa conceded 31 from his first over. Credit to Zampa, who only conceded 34 from his next three overs but his performance was costly! Having helped compile 49 for the first wicket, Chevalier (15) top edged a pull off Jhye Richardson to wicketkeeper Alex Carey. It hasn’t all been roses on this tour for Chevalier but he’s got enough about him to be better for it.
Gregory went onto make a career best 35 from 28 deliveries before being bowled by Coulter-Nile with the score 90-2. The run flow stymied somewhat as Matteo Phillipe batted sensibly but possibly got a little bogged down. He’d made 7 from 17 balls when he reviewed an LBW against Glenn Maxwell. Phillipe, like the rest of us on the balcony, was spewing his supper when he was given out. This was despite the video evidence clearly confirming that he’d got bat on ball before being struck on the pad. He’d flown a long way for just 7 runs and desperately wanted to be there at the end.
From 108-3 the supremely composed Zidane Thomas finished a tough winter by edging the ball… time stood still as everybody turned their gaze… for four to seal our first ever white-ball win. Thomas finished 49 not out from 44 deliveries with Zvonimir Pitko undefeated on 3 alongside him. The Iceman Pitko was of course at the crease when we won our first Test. It’s hard not to feel sorry for Australia’s bowlers: Behrendorff (4-0-10-0), Coulter-Nile (4-0-13-1), Richardson (3.1-0-14-1), Maxwell (2-0-8-1)and Short (1-0-2-0) all of whom keep things tight but Gregory’s onslaught on Zampa won us the match. That’s not to undermine what was a consummate team performance with contributions throughout.
Australia skipper Aaron Finch was humble in defeat but didn’t regret choosing to bat first. We struck immediately and never let Australia get away from us then batted sensibly without a hint of panic when chasing an historic victory.
The home fans were superb and for our supporters who’d travelled all the way from Europe, it was a special moment to be shared by all. President Macron was on the phone immediately… he’s never shy to share any glory!
This winter hasn’t always been easy but we’ve won a Test in India and a T20I in Australia. We’re ahead of where we expected to be. Bring on the summer!
Win the toss… check. Opt to bat… check. 75-6… that wasn’t in the script!
Following an uncomfortable tour game against Western Australia, we fronted up against the whole of the nation on the very same turf in Perth. Opening duo Jean-Luc Chevalier (10) and Enzo Petit (19) started steadily as ever, reaching 25-0 before the former was bowled through his legs by a sensational swinging delivery from Mitchell Starc (2-56). That prompted an ugly collapse as the terribly out of form pair of Gilles Smith (4) and Youssef Rizvi (11) as well as an out of sorts Petit, all fell to the short ball. Zvonimir Pitko (5) and Marwan Leroy (0), two young players who both came out of the India tour with their reputations enhanced, soon followed as ignominy awaited our side. Cue Zidane Thomas, who mustered only 17 runs @ 4.25 in the India Test series, an aggregate that included a tortuous 15-ball duck in his final innings. Having retained his place he stuck to his guns to score a swashbuckling and crowd-lifting 41 from just 34 balls. He compiled a fifty partnership with his skipper Xavier Le Tallec who led from the front himself.
The recalled Paco Georges, fresh from first innings figures of 5-52 on the very same deck only a few days earlier, then cavaliered his way to a pulsating 52 from only 27 deliveries. Off-spinner Nathon Lyon (1-46) copped some disdainful treatment from the tall left-hander meanwhile Mitchell Marsh (0-27), who claimed 11 wickets in the tour game, went wicketless. Tailenders Louis Martin (0) and Mehdi Qadri (1) didn’t last long but Le Tallec finished 59 not out to haul his side to 236. Having being 75-6 we’d recovered to 144-7 and 223-7 before subsiding rapidly to 236 all out. Josh Hazlewood (7-63) was tormentor in chief meanwhile Joe Burns claimed four catches.
Despite folding quickly at the end, our lower order and importantly our captain had dug deep to keep us competitive. Le Tallec, Thomas and Georges displayed guts and were unfazed by having their backs firmly against the wall. They attacked and cleared the ropes on numerous occasions but this wasn’t just slogging. The trio played their own game and made the right shot selection, something our top/middle order could learn form.
On that note, an anxious wait… awaited the woefully out of form Smith and Rizvi who would need to contribute scores of substance in the second dig to retain their places in the playing XI come Sydney.
In response to our batting efforts, Australia then raced to 194-0 during which time we dropped four catches… none of which the game allowed me to try and catch! This included two edges off part-timer Jean-Luc Chevalier’s first over, the first over after tea. When we eventually clung onto an edge from Burns (58) off Chevalier (1-28), it was actually dropped by wicketkeeper Leroy but the fielding circle did at last appear and Smith reacted at slip. ANNOYING/FRUSTRATING/INSERT AS APPROPRIATE!
Our luck turned however as captain fantastic Le Tallec (1-38) struck with his first ball, the first after drinks, to dismiss David Warner for a magnificent 140, Leroy holding a smart catch. Leroy then clung on once again when Georges (1-121) lured Labuschagne (18) to nick his first delivery having switched to bowling around the wicket. We then ran Steven Smith (20) out as Australia tried to run on overthrows. We should’ve then run out Marsh without scoring but threw to the wrong end. After his outstanding performance in the warm-up match however Marsh’s (4) disappointing Test continued when he edged Qadri (1-86) to Chevalier. Qadri then found the edge again, this time off Oz captain Paine. The ball deflected off Leroy to Smith at slip who got his fingers under the ball yet the decision was not out. Tim Paine and his team can spout about “Elite honesty” but if they don’t back up their talk then their words are hollow!
Paine and Head survived one more over to reach the close on 274-5, a lead of 38 but that was some collapse having being 194-0. As the players left the field there were heated exchanges between our incensed fielders and the Australian batsmen. As things threatened to boil over an enraged Le Tallec shepherded his herd away and with the TV cameras and mics listening in to every word, he demanded that his side wait until tomorrow to respond… with the ball! We’d fought back superbly… twice. Could we do it again?
There are people in this world who think that Test cricket is boring, people who wouldn’t ever give it the light of day. Well those people missed out on a day of epic drama, collapses and comebacks, ebbs and floes and a little controversy too in Australia’s far west. What were they doing instead?!
Despairingly day two began with any hopes we had of continuing our fightback soon shattered. Australia’s overnight pair set about causing us severe and prolonged head pain! Travis Head reached fifty off the last delivery of the old ball as he and captain Paine lifted the hosts to 354-5, a distant 118 runs ahead.
The new ball did the trick though not in the way we’d expected. Head, set on 52 and with the Paine partnership up to 93, was run out courtesy of a boundary throw from Enzo Petit. By lunch however Australia were up to 381-6, a lead of 145.
Paine ascended into the nineties and seemed destined for a ton before Zidane Thomas intervened. Thomas trapped the Australian captain deep in his crease but Paine opted to review. For a moment it looked like height might save the Tasmanian but he’d used up all his luck in the infancy of his innings. It would’ve been a hollow Test ton and the bitterest of pills for our team to swallow. Paine departed for 90 and Thomas (1-92) provided him with the farewell send off that he merited!
Despite the departure of their captain Australia batted on… and on… and on… messrs Cummins and Starc took them to tea on 504-7 with the lead having ballooned to a whopping 267. Eight deliveries after the interval, Australia declared on 507-7 with Cummins 57 not out and Starc undefeated on 40. The lead was up to 271.
In our quest to make our hosts at least bat again, we lost Chevalier for just 1 with the score on only 11. The left-hander unconvincingly edged Hazlewood to Smith in the slips. That brought the hugely under pressure Gilles Smith to the crease. Yet to make a fifty in nine Test innings, Smith needed nothing less in order to retain his place for the second Test in Sydney. Pressure… what pressure? He promptly smacked Mitchell Starc (0-72) all over the park. His innings included a 97-metre 6 that nearly landed in the Indian Ocean! He passed fifty for the first time at the highest level and when stuck on 60 for almost half an hour, didn’t panic. He defended, left then eventually got going again. He did the same again when pausing on 84. All the while Enzo Petit, like Smith, kept the pull and hook shots in his locker to keep the Australian bowlers at bay. Petit’s innings was more attritional than Smith’s but it displayed classic Test match opening batting application and temperament. At the close the pair had compiled a partnership worth 126, Petit resolute on 28 and Smith sleeping a little uncomfortably on 86. Placed at 137-1 we still required a further 134 to make Australia bat again but once more we’d shown great heart and fight.
Australia commenced day three by providing byes and overthrows to help the partnership grow to 136 but soon made a breakthrough. With only nine minutes on the clock, Petit (33) defended a short delivery from Cummins but edged high to Smith in the slips and his 80-ball vigil had reached its conclusion. The score was 147-2 and the fall of wicket brought Youssef Rizvi, sweating over his place in the team, to the crease. Rizvi got off the mark first ball but to the next delivery Smith, like Petit, defended only to nick behind, this time to gloveman Paine. The Australian captain claimed the catch high above his head. Only ten minutes on the clock and all the previous day’s hard work was rapidly unraveling courtesy of Cummins’ (2-23) short stuff. Smith (87), trudged forlornly back to the pavilion. 148-2 still 123 behind. The century he had spent the night dreaming of remained just that… a dream!
Australia soon replaced spinner Nathan Lyon with paceman Josh Hazlewood and Zvonimir Pitko promptly became the third wicket to fall in the space of twelve minutes. Like Petit and Smith before him, he was at least trying to defend a ball that posed a question but Paine dived to his right to pouch another catch. Scores of just 5 and 1 in the match for The Iceman and 147-1 had slipped to 149-4. Next up Zidane Thomas resisted for a few minutes but then couldn’t, err… resist! The right-hander top edged a pull off Hazlewood into the grateful hands of Smith. 155-5 and Marwan Leroy striding to the crease on a pair. It would be Youssef Rizvi (5) who fell next however. His cluttered mind coming to the fore as be needlessly attacked Lyon and was bowled around his legs. In that moment, Rizvi knew that his responsibilities in Sydney would be limited to ferrying beverages. Having started the India tour with a First Class ton and Test fifty the runs have since evaporated for the diminutive dasher. Back to things at hand and we were floundering at 156-5 having lost five wickets for just nine runs!
Make that 9-6 as Le Tallec (0) joined the procession! The skipper played an unnecessary and ugly hoik off Lyon that was snaffled by Hazlewood. It was a poor end to a proud performance on his part. Leroy and Georges fought back with a whopping partnership of … 11 before Georges (4) went skyward off Lyon and into the hands off the waiting Warner. 167-8 still 104 away from avoiding an innings defeat. Three balls later Leroy (5) prodded forward off the roaring Lyon into the gleeful hands of the fielder positioned at silly point. 147-1 had become 167-9! Moments later Qadri (1) top edged to Warner off Hazlewood (4-33) and we’d lost nine wickets for just 21 runs. 147-1 had ignominiously subsided to 168 all out. All the character and guts we’d displayed up to that point had vanished. The margin of defeat an innings and 103 runs. Off-spinner Nathan Lyon finished with astonishing figures of 4-5!
On behalf of the team I’d like to apologise for the inexcusable nature of the batting collapse. Take nothing away from the opposition but our display on day three shaded all the progress, fight and never say die attitude that we’d shown on the first two days. Some players will pay with their places. Multiple changes will be made to the playing XI come Sydney!
If fit, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc will lead the line for Australia against England come this summer’s Ashes series.
Which English batsman will be taking them on is anybody’s guess!
Up until only recently, it seemed as though Australia were in turmoil and that England were near-certainties for Ashes success. With home advantage and the returning Steven Smith and David Warner likely to be undercooked, at least in the longest format then England probably can still wear the favourites tag.
The identity of the England players and in which order they’ll walk to the wicket is somewhat uncertain and because of that, this summer’s Ashes encounter seems tantalisingly poised.
Australia had a few questions answered in their most recent Test. Admittedly there’s a lot of cricket (Though not Test) between now and the Ashes but Australia’s likely XI is as follows:
England’s XI is not so predictable. At the very least, opening batsman, number three and first change pace bowler are places that are very much up for grabs, though Mark Wood might have just solved the latter and the top order have today to cement their places.
One of England’s more complex characters of recent years has bowed out after failing to make a single first team appearance (First Class/List A/T20) for Middlesex last season. That is not meant as a criticism, more an observation that Nick Compton doesn’t appear like a Graeme Swann type one of the lads or to a lesser extent somebody such as James Anderson but that he comes across as an extremely insular character. It seems more a trait of batsmen but not all (Chris Gayle/David Warner) are reserved or appear as intense as Compton.
Compton seemed to thrive on an old fashioned approach: pitch a tent, occupy the crease as long as possible and pretend that the fate of mankind rested on his shoulders… sprinkled with the odd beautiful boundary. He seemed a player who exhausted so much energy, mental and physical, getting into the England team that, particularly second time around, he then had nothing more to give. Flummoxed by Trevor Bayliss’ comments Compton forgot how to be himself. This resulted in some unnecessary dismissals in South Africa and a limp international ending at home to Sri Lanka. He never recovered and took time away from cricket but good on him for going to Sri Lanka and adapting and performing well on their domestic circuit.
I hope that Compdog writes an autobiography. I anticipate it would be far more insightful and introspective than those of many cricketers.
Firstly, prior to the 2019 Ashes series, there was an oddly scheduled trio of T20I matches of which we managed to lose each one. Well at least we were consistent!
Alex Hales’ 124 from just 64 deliveries in the third encounter was a rare highlight. The next highest score in the innings was Ross Whiteley’s career best 10 from six balls.
Onto the Ashes and the first Test ended in a frustrating rain-affected draw. Having bowled Australia out for 250 (Footitt 4-45), we compiled a mammoth 594-9 (Bairstow 173). Australia managed to hold out though and finished on 286-7. In doing so the visitors acquired the momentum for the matches forth.
In the second Test, we again had Australia in strife but Travis Head’s excellent 126 was the difference between the two sides as the visitors assumed a series lead courtesy of a brutal 272-run victory.
Then, the darkest of days. There have been many bad days in the history of the England cricket team but few Tests have been lost from a position of such supremacy. Having dismissed Australia for 325, Alastair Cook (153) and Haseeb Hameed (140) compiled an opening partnership of exactly 300 (THREE HUNDRED!). Even though an archetypal English collapse ensued, James Vince (113) ensured that each of our top three registered tons to provide us with a first innings lead of 171. The tourists then made a strong second innings score of 368 but that still meant we only needed 198 to square the series. We didn’t even get close, bowled out for a pathetic 124!
In the fourth Test there was at least a return to form for captain Joe Root. The Yorkshireman made 114 in another draw that meant Australia sealed the 2019 Ashes.
The series then ended like it began, with a frustrating draw. In the fifth and final Test Australia compiled 454 in their first innings but we responded with 469. Root (162) maintained his return to form whilst Somerset spinner Dom Bess (79) made an entertaining maiden international fifty. We then bowled Australia out for 327 in their second innings. Essex debutant Jamie Porter responded to a wicketless (23-1-101-0) first innings showing by claiming figures of 3-83. The equation boiled down to us requiring 312 for victory. We committed to go for it. We may as well have lost the series 3-0 than 2-0 playing for a draw. We got mightily close (286-9) and only for the final four overs did we abandon the chase and shut up shop in an attempt to avoid another defeat.
2-0 is not a thrashing. If time had been limitless we would’ve won the first Test. We should’ve won the 4th but fair play to Australia because they did and we didn’t. We had a real go and came almightily close to winning the fifth. In the early part of the series we dominated their top order but allowed their lower order to score runs. In the latter matches we allowed the top order to make big runs but limited the contribution of the tail. Yes we lost the series and to lose the third Test in the manner that we did was inexcusable. However we regularly competed and are not a million miles away from where Australia are.
For the record: Joe Root (485) topped our run charts, closely followed by Alastair Cook (477) and James Vince (445). Ben Stokes topped the averages with 55.43.
James Anderson and Stuart Broad, with 22 and 18 wickets respectively, silenced their critics. It was a young spinner with 11 wickets at 26.00 who topped the averages however…
Dom Bess, recalled part way through the series, made an encouraging impression not only with the ball but with the bat too. Our immediate tours however are to New Zealand and South Africa so not necessarily spin paradises. We’re spoilt for choice on the spin front so we’ll see what happens this winter before a short trip to Sri Lanka.
At the conclusion of the Ashes there was a trio of ODI matches. I’m delighted that we restored some pride with a deserved 2-1 win.
Jos Buttler’s 127 not out paved the way for a win in the first match but Australia fought back in the second. Buttler again top scored with 82 but our bowling lacked penetration. David Warner feasted on some insipid deliveries to finish unbeaten on a dominant 161.
Cometh the hour cometh the man! In the deciding ODI, Surrey starlet Sam Curran, having been dismissed for a duck and gone wicketless on debut in the second encounter. struck 27 from 24 deliveries before claiming astonishing analyse of 6-37!
Another newcomer, Warwickshire tearaway Ed Pollock, followed scores of 2 and 21 with 70 from 77 deliveries at the top of the order. Ben Stokes, promoted to three in place of the recalled James Vince who suffered a disappointing return, made 87 from just 79 deliveries. Jos Buttler again made runs with 54 off 51 in his new position at number five. Having players of the quality of Stokes and Buttler so high in the order rather than leaving them at six or seven is the way forward. After Chris Wood had dismissed danger man David Warner first ball, Aaron Finch was run out off a free hit before Sam Curran took over. #priderestored
It seems a shame that the inaugural Global T20 Canada, should be tainted by potentially having cheat and former Australian skipper Steven Smith take part in the ICC sanctioned tournament. The fact that the ICC have sanctioned the competition though, confirms that these are exciting times for cricket across the globe. Coming of the back of T20I status being applied to all 104 associate nations, Ireland and Afghanistan’s elevation to Test status and even though it’s not perfect, the Test Championship.
The Global T20 Canada is a great opportunity to help promote the game in a nation where potential has yet to be maximised. Though I love First Class cricket, T20 is, for reasons of practicality, the logical way forward in emerging cricket nations. The cities of Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg are those to be represented as well as an all-Caribbean outfit.
Many have suggested that Smith and co’s suspensions were harsh but they misunderstand. Though the cheat crew (Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft) were in part banned for their offence, they were for the most part banned for, as somebody eloquently phrased it… brand damage. Of course, like an ex-con being reintegrated into society and provided a chance to contribute value then Smith and collaborators deserve the opportunity to redeem. They say that all publicity is good publicity and for cricket in Canada, having Smith in the mix will help court attention.
It’ll be interesting so see which other well known cricketing figures from across the globe rock up in North America. Could Nick Compton, who recently finished a successful campaign playing in Sri Lanka but currently unable to get a gig at Middlesex, head to another far flung destination in the quest for runs?
England’s long winter has reached its conclusion. It began with fifties for each of England’s Ashes virgins and it has ended the same way.
Mark Stoneman, James Vince and Dawid Malan have each bookended their Australasian adventure with half-centuries in Brisbane and Christchurch.
For Hampshire’s Vince, it began with 83, run out on that fateful day Down Under. The Ashes were lost there and then. It ended with 76 across the Tasman and in truth, there wasn’t a lot in between.
For Middlesex man Malan, there was the most extreme performance of the three. His 140 in Perth means that whatever happens, he has a Test ton to his name. He made three fifties in four innings in the T20Is as well. His one failure coming when he was fantastically run out by… David Warner! Though he contributed little in his first three innings in The Land of the Long White Cloud, he has at least rounded things of with a fifty.
For Surrey’s Stoneman, well, he did what everybody expected and what his track record, particularly when he was up at Durham, suggested he would do. He fought, he battled, he occasionally punched a couple of boundaries in quick succession but he didn’t go on. He didn’t register a century.
Without fifties in their final innings of the tours, Vince almost certainly and Stoneman possibly, would have bid farewell to their Test careers. Even another failure for Malan could have proven critical provided England’s desperation to have Ben Stokes bat at five. Malan need only look as far as Stoneman’s former county colleague and opening partner Keaton Jennings to know that a hundred doesn’t necessarily keep you in the team for long.
Of course England are currently advertising for new selectors, so whether or not any of said three batsmen ever play for England again is very much up in the air!