So England have made an ”unofficial” approach to the match officials about the repeated short-pitched bowling by the Australians (Nathan Lyon’s arm ball excluded, I assume) during the first Test.
”Unofficial” is such a cop-out. It means England don’t dare put anything in writing lest there be hard evidence of whinging, a direct line to taking the soft option, seen to be weak and affected.
”Unofficial” means you don’t want anyone to find out you are unhappy, you are filing a complaint that isn’t a really a complaint but would like to draw attention to the inequities of the ghastly opposition tactics.
Ian Bell of England evades a short pitched ball from Mitchell Johnson at the Gabba. Photo: Getty Images
You go covert to make a point without the opposition, the fans or the media finding out. You are looking for an advantage but don’t want to be seen, especially by the opposition, as disadvantaged by the tactic you are whining about. Douglas Jardine would turn in his grave at this soppy posturing and, anyway, the news was soon made public and that made the inquiry as good as ”official”.
In an era where the debate over the historical context of Jardine’s Ashes-winning tactic has resulted in a far wider acceptance and appreciation of ”fast leg theory” as cricket genius rather than precipitating a war of independence, it seems anathema that England should find fault with the practice, or at least the spirit.
Certainly there was a disproportionate number of leg-side dismissals compared with an average Test, but the intimidation laws and the bouncer limit laws are markedly defined.
Jonathan Trott’s dismissals were always going to be termed ”weak” or ”soft” in cricket parlance, but that is somewhat different from Trott himself being called those things and England’s bleating on that account is way off target, unwarranted and another sign of where their collective psyche is after the unexpected thrashing.
Trott had some buddies in the ”weak/soft” dismissal category. The demolition of the England lower order, an order that has produced valuable runs so many times recently, was a tribute to aggressive bowling plans and ruthless execution.
The West Indies used to do this sort of stuff with four express bowlers. The adage for teams playing against them was ”six out, all out” such was their efficiency in disposing of the non-specialist batsmen (they weren’t too bad disposing of the top six either). Australia had only one genuinely fast bowler in Brisbane but two others quick enough to hop, step and jump numbers 9, 10 and 11. Watching the tail-enders hit your fast bowlers through the covers, a sight that was much too frequent during the previous Ashes, is like a knife jab in the side with each stroke.
Australia have given up delivering half volleys and substituted half trackers with velocity. The game has changed to one played between hip and head – and don’t forget to wear your armguard, Jimmy.
Four years ago, Alastair Cook and co prospered on a diet of flat, steady, unvarying seam bowling. There was virtually no genuine aggression shown through a series dominated by England’s run makers. That England were shell-shocked into capitulation in consecutive innings was quite remarkable for a veteran team used to responding positively under pressure. The short-pitched assault was only a fraction of the plan and, if there is continued emphasis on debunking that singular tactic, England will fall for other traps.
The new pitches in Adelaide have been fermenting in their vats for a couple of years but have yet to reach maturity. The Sheffield Shield games on the Oval this summer have been batting feasts on grassless buffet plates. There is a standard of measurement used for the hardness of surfaces and concrete is rated at 150, rice puddings at 0.5. Last week’s Adelaide Oval pitch was measured at 147 and there were almost no foot marks after four days. Curator Damien Hough promises more grass for the Test; Darren Lehmann has sent him a wheelbarrow full of fertiliser as an early Christmas present.
Given the early mail on the pitch, the second Test may be a traditional Adelaide batathon as the cracks and scarring that might present over five days fail to eventuate. Neither side has a leggie of Shane Warne proportions but surely Graeme Swann can’t have two bad games in a row.
Lyon will bowl his share but I’m not sure if this Test will be a repeat of Brisbane. Australia, now they are leading the series, can afford to take a more conservative view while England search for aggression. A draw is likely. One thing is for sure, though, come the third Test in Perth, England had better stock up on helmets, armour and unofficial complaints.
Twitter – @Henrylawson180