Act IV, Scenes II-III

I have to admit that I am kind of sick of writing about the Ashes.

England are relentlessly grinding down Australia…again; on their way to another comprehensive win…again. And there just isn’t much for me to say about that. It’s effective cricket, but it is also boring cricket.

Last summer, South Africa were good enough to overturn England’s style and use it against them (witness Amla’s bone crushing 311* at the Oval), and their bowling attack was superior enough to not allow England’s batting to lull them to sleep.

But Australia is not South Africa. And so you get what we have got here this summer. England sneaking into Australia’s bedroom at night, and slowly but surely suffocating them with their own pillow – and the game and the series along with them.

*

In football, this is called “parking the bus”. Setting up shop defensively, putting 10 men behind the ball, staying organized, working hard, and hoping to grab one on the counter. It’s effective – very effective even (see Chelsea in the Mourinho era) – but it is also boring. And while we can’t expect all teams to play like 1970s era Brazil or early 2000s Arsenal, you do hope for a little flair, a little attack, a little style now and again.

England’s cricketers, however, give us none of those things.

Don’t get me wrong, they are fine cricketers, very good at what they do. But they are a machine keeping time. A metronome. Ticking along over after over. They have none of the swagger and fun and flash we see in Indian cricket, South African cricket, Pakistani cricket. But at the same time, what they are doing is very effective. And they are winning.

And cricket is not a game that too often rewards style over substance like, say, basketball or football. It is a game that rewards pressure, consistency, and rigidness. Unlike other sports, where there is room for magic, cricket is highly organized – six balls per over, 90 overs per day – and so therefore rewards efficient, well organized, detail oriented play.

Play like we are seeing from England this summer.

“Efficient, well organized, and detail oriented.” I guess what I am trying to say is that England would make for a very good legal secretary.

*

All of this sounds like I am giving England a bum rap – that I am calling their style “anti-cricket” the way Arsene Wenger decried, say, Bolton for playing “anti-football”. But I am not. This is my way of congratulating them. They went out this summer with a job to do and they have done it. I love seeing personality and flair on the cricket pitch, but I can also appreciate well organized and efficient cricket – because in a lot of ways, that is how the game is meant to be played.

*

Until tomorrow.

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3 Responses to Act IV, Scenes II-III

  1. Where is the Indian flair? The Pakistani flair? What are you talking about? Deary me.
    England are doing what to Australia? Grinding them into the ground? Really? What examples of that do you have?

    It’s utter nonsense. At Trent Bridge, England had the artistry of Anderson swinging the ball both ways at 85mph. At Lords there was Swann with his looping off spin and Root batting superbly (eventually) to 180. At Old Trafford, the bowlers toiled on a very flat track against an Australian team fighting for pride and including Clarke who hit a lovely century. They managed to fight past the follow on and one way or another came out with a draw. So far in this test they’ve continued in a similar vain, batting pretty badly at times or getting out to brilliant bowling and followed that up with some decent bowling of their own. All of this while Ian Bell, largely regarded as one of the ‘best to watch’ batsman in the world, piling on the runs.

    They still need 100 runs in this innings to really put the pressure on Australia, which they have about a 50/50 shot of getting.

    I’m really not sure what people expect sometimes. This isn’t T20, it’s not the over-hyped IPL. What do you want? The top order to basically be crap so someone like Dhoni can come in and smack a run a ball century? Just not possible on the pitches they’re playing on I’m afraid.

    • Matt says:

      There are few things I love more than a reasoned, well worded, and intelligent comment on a blog post. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

      I am going to write more about this today – as I received some flack for this post on Twitter, too – but I think our differences might simply be a matter of perspective.

      And for the record, while I think the T20 format has its place in World Cricket, the absolute last thing I want is for it to bastardize Tests.

      More later. Cheers.

    • 5w_haul says:

      are you kidding apart from k.p. and bell (in form of life) england is decent team playing ugly defensive and percentage cricket. great teams or even very good teams like south Africa don’t play like that they dictate terms, have swagger, they play ruthless cricket non of which england are doing currently.
      1. their so called great no 1 bowler struggle to pick wickets when there is no movement.
      2. their so called great batsman who can’t drive the ball struggling with batting and don’t have idea about how to captain a settled and experienced side.
      3. future great talent don’t know anything about frontfoot
      this so called great england team can’t perform properly against most mediocre Australian side in the history of the game.
      they almost lost from no.8 ranked team, no wonder andy flower demanded flat tracks.
      you been hearing too much sky punditry about how wonderful england team and their coaching unit are.
      they are just good decent team nothing more

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