25 April 2013
You may think it's rather like a dog that persists in gnawing at a bone long after whatever meat was there in the first place but I continue to see reminders of that fateful morning in 2005 when Glenn McGrath turned his ankle on a stray cricket ball, Ricky Ponting won the toss and sent them in and Brett Lee proceeded to bowl in a most profligate manner. It was a decision that might seem to belong to the dim and distant past, but we're still seeing the ripples of its effect, most recently in the question of why we've recalled a thirty-five year old veteran of a single Test to the Australian squad for the Ashes tour.
Regardless of the implications (cited here) of being issued with a baggy green that may or may not have been too small and seems to have resulted in a migraine, Chris Rogers was always going to have to make way for Matthew Hayden's return to the side. That was in the summer of 2007-2008, when the Australian side was rebuilding after the retirements of Langer and Martyn (and Warne and McGrath) with Gilchrist and Hayden on the verge of leaving and Ponting and Hussey starting to approach their use by dates, so you can see why Hayden had to come back in the short term.
Had we held the Ashes in 2005, one suspects the retirement/rebuilding process would have been managed differently.
Still, having chosen to bring on younger players in the interim (Phil Jaques, Simon Katich, Phil Hughes, Shane Watson, David Warner and Ed Cowan) there's the possibility of a pleasingly ironic turn of The Ashes tail if we regain the urn thanks to the efforts of an opening batsman who's spent the past five Australian winters amassing a mountain of runs and gaining valuable experience in English conditions, playing County cricket because he wasn't in the Australian side.
That said, with the predictable reinstatement of Brad Haddin to the premier glove man position yesterday's announcement of The Ashes squad provided few surprises, though it does raise some interesting possibilities and a few intriguing conundrums.
For a start it does look like a bowling attack that'll be able to take twenty wickets in English conditions. Three out of Siddle, Pattinson, Starc, Harris and Bird with either Watson or Faulkner as a fourth seamer and Lyon, who has finally managed a bag of wickets in a Test (and, one notes, is moving to New South Wales, put a big tick in the developing the spinner box) looks like a pretty sharp attack.
It's also interesting to note four of those five quicks in the Australia A squad, along with Lyon and young Ashton Agar as well as Haddin and Khawaja. There'll be plenty of chances to assess form and performance prior to the start of the First Test at Trent Bridge on 10 July. There are tour matches against Somerset and Worcestershire before that, and Australia A play Scotland, Ireland and Gloucestershire while they get the Champions' Trophy sorted out.
On that basis, crystal ball gazing three months out might seem pointless. You'd expect the twelve for Trent Bridge to include four of the five quicks plus Lyon, with Clarke and Haddin the only obvious certainties. Throw in Rogers and Watson as highly likely, and you've got three batting spots up for grabs with Warner, Cowan, Hughes and Khawaja as the candidates.
Pretty straightforward for mine. Rogers is an opening bat, so put him in first, with Cowan, Hughes at Three, Clarke at Four, Watson at Five and Warner at Six. Haddin is the obvious Seven, Starc, Siddle, Pattinson and Lyon rounding out the eleven with Harris or Bird carrying the drinks.
But we'll see. There are several bridges with quite a bit of water to flow under them between now and then.
Ashes squad: Michael Clarke (capt), Brad Haddin (vice-capt, wk), David Warner, Ed Cowan, Phillip Hughes, Shane Watson, Usman Khawaja, Chris Rogers, Matthew Wade (wk), James Faulkner, Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Jackson Bird.
Australia A squad: Brad Haddin (capt), Steven Smith (vice-capt), Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird, Alex Doolan, Ryan Harris, Moises Henriques, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Nic Maddinson, James Pattinson, Chadd Sayers, Peter Siddle, Jordan Silk.