Saturday, 1 August 2015

After seeing Mitchell Johnson's two monstrous balls on Thursday morning, I thought this series was over

After Johnson had removed Bairstow and Stokes with two terrifying deliveries, I switched off the TV...only to switch it back on after checking the score online an hour later through splayed fingers while holding my breath. (I was spared having to follow the same procedure during the latter stages of the second Australian innings yesterday morning, as I was driving to Brighton - I kept the radio off all the way. I didn't half enjoy the TV highlights on our return to London, though, watching them from start to finish no less than three times during the course of the evening.)

Despite England securing a great victory, I'll mainly remember this match for those two terrifying deliveries from Mitchell Johnson. Naturally, at the time, I was cursing Bairstow and Stokes for throwing their wickets away at such a vital stage of the game: in the heat of the moment, I may even have called their manliness into question. Ridiculous, of course, because when someone's hurling a rock-hard spherical object at your head at over 90 miles an hour before you've had time to get used to the conditions, well, who can blame anyone - even an international cricketer - for succumbing to the understandable instinct to fend the ball away from his face? (If I had to face one ball from Johnson - even if wearing a suit of armour with the visor down - I'd wet myself and burst into tears before promptly losing consciousness.) 

Mercifully, from all accounts, that was all Mitchell Johnson had to offer on Thursday: let's pray that's all he has to offer for the rest of this series, and that he suffers another of those bouts of dismal form which in the past earned him this heartfelt tribute from  England cricket supporters:

Now that England's best bowler is hors de combat for the next match - and possibly for the final test as well - and even with Starc and Hazlewood below par, we simply can't afford Johnson at his best. (Before this series, Glenn McGrath claimed that Australia possessed "the best bowling attack in the world." I wonder if that's still his considered opinion.) 

Test cricket is apparently in a state of transition from how it used to be played - with a run-rate of between two and two-and-a-half an over, and the best teams able to occupy the crease for two days to secure a valuable draw - to a 78 rpm, Comic Cuts version more like an extended T20 contest, where runs are routinely scored at over four an over and a side managing to last for a whole day on any but the deadest of wickets has become a rarity. A change was almost inevitable, given how poorly attended test matches are around the world - apart from the Ashes tests, which are often still standing-room-only affairs: I doubt very much if today's cricket fans, brought up on the instant gratification offered by crash-boom-bash slugfests would be willing to pay a small fortune to watch the likes of Boycott, Trevor Bailey or Chanderpaul occupy the crease for hours on end while the opposition clocks up endless maiden overs.

Whatever happens in the rest of this series, I think we have to welcome the England team's embrace of the new amphetamine style of not-so-long-form cricket. No doubt there will be some more depressing disasters like the one at Lord's along the way, and, of course, we'll all reserve the right to moan about the team when their new laissez-faire approach fails and to call for a return to the days when sides were capable of parking the bus for six sessions in a row - but I doubt if many of us would choose to forsake amphetamines for mogadon. 


  1. Tremendous victory.
    Would punters pay to see Geoff Boycott these days? I am old enough to remember Barrington being dropped in 1965 having taken 7 Hrs 17 Mins to score 137 against New Zealand and Boycott [great commentator, shit human being] suffering the same fate in 1967 because he took 10Hrs to score 246 against India. They were the Chris Gayle and Brendan McCullum of their day. One bloody six after another!
    The Ultimate Bore was Chris Tavare. In 1982 he scored the second slowest 50 of all time [5Hrs 15Mins against Pakistan - this was Imran's first game as captain. His first act was to drop his legendary older brother Majid Khan on the morning of the match.How could you do such a thing?] . Tavare followed this up in 1983 by scoring 35 runs against India in 6 Hrs 30 Mins. He was not dropped because he was very quiet and self-effacing - a good attitude when dealing with the blazered classes.
    All this whizzbang Test cricket is great to watch while it lasts [not so good for the hypertension] but it does deprive young test cricketers of valuable time in the middle because of lost days [Bairstow, Buttler and Stokes could have done with another outing with the bat] and also the poor spectators [especially those who pay to attend and have pre-booked]. Already in this Ashes series 4 days out of a potential 15 have been lost [let the businessmen worry about the loss to the TV companies, clubs, catering franchises etc. That's their risk], but a way of ensuring that the next two matches run their full course would be:
    1. Ban attempted 6s or reverse sweeps before a team has reached 350.
    2. Re-call Nick Compton. Institute a no shaved head policy.
    3. Conduct an enquiry into the ECB with a special focus on the selection committee
    I am not a fan of Graham Swann, but his impersonation of Kevin Pietersen on "The Willow Talk" Radio Show is priceless. It is on YouTube if you have not already caught it.

    1. In the first test at Wellington against New Zealand in 1978, the “shit human being” – England’s captain at the time – took 7 hours and 22 minutes to make 77 runs. England lost their first match against the hosts in 64 years. During the second test, in which England needed to make quick runs, Vice-Captain Bob Willis promoted 22-year old Ian Botham to 4 in the order and sent him out with two instructions – to score rapidly and to “go and run the bugger [Boycott] out”. Which he did 20 minutes’ later. As he walked off, Boycott said, “What have you done? What have you done?” To which Botham allegedly replied, “I’ve run you out, you c***”. England leveled the series.

      I agree with your three suggested rules (especially the one about Nick Compton, who deserves another chance) and would add another: “If you receive a bouncer from Mitchell Johnson within 15 minutes of starting your innings, drop on all fours immediately – you’ll look a right prat, but you’ll still be in.”

      I think you’re a bit harsh on Graeme Swann: I rather admire him for admitting he was no longer good enough to play test cricket – although I agree he should have waited until the end of the series. I hadn’t heard his Kevin Pietersen impersonation – it’s quite superb (especially the bit about the practice game in St Lucia and the line: “Listen, I am ready at any stage to come back to play for my country – or England, if they ask, as well.”) The interview can be found here: