It is surprising how just four days into the Ashes series Australia’s form and chances of success have taken a beating.
All that was considered an advantage before the first Test began – age, experience and bowling – now appear to have become a liability in the face of the youthful charge and verve exhibited by England.
So where did it go wrong for the Aussies at Cardiff? For a start, they were completely taken aback by the manner in which the ‘new’ England train ran them over on all fronts. Australia failed to counter that charge and came up short in all departments.
In bowling, they were erratic with their fast bowlers not adapting to the slow pitch allowing the England batsmen, high on their new-found aggressive approach, to feast on them.
Captain Michael Clarke missed a trick by continuing with attacking fields as his bowlers faltered in length and there appeared to be no Plan B when Joe Root was compiling runs at a fast clip.
Contrast that with the discipline of the English bowlers who bowled to a plan, especially to nullify the Steven Smith threat.
The Aussie catching was also sloppy as Root and Moeen Ali were the beneficiaries of wicketkeeper Brad Haddin’s largesse and their batsmen were guilty of not capitilising on the starts they got.
What’s worse is that they are losing key personnel to injuries. Ryan Harris was forced to retire ahead of the series as his knee injury flared up and now left-arm pacer Mitchell Starc is battling a sore ankle which has put the 25-year-old pacer’s participation in the second Test at Lord’s, beginning Thursday, in doubt.
All-rounder Shane Watson and Haddin have copped the biggest criticism from the Australian media, which is a tad surprising as it has been a collective failure.
Watson, 34, may still lose his place to 23-year-old all-rounder Mitchell Marsh, who scored back-to-back centuries in the two tour games ahead of the Ashes, but it will be akin to changing worn out tyres when the whole car is creaking.
Haddin’s place is relatively secure as it would be too risky to push the uncapped Peter Nevill straight into the Ashes fire.
Australia must head to Lord’s thinking the only way is up after hitting rock bottom at Cardiff. One loss does not make them a poor outfit; they still have a lot of class and pedigree to counter what England have come up with.
They can take encouragement from Chris Rogers’ first innings of 95, Mitchell Johnson’s second innings bowling and batting display and also the fact that despite their faults the Australian attack still took 20 wickets on a surface where the bouncer was largely ineffective.
The Lord’s pitch could turn out be similar to the first Test as England look to offset the Aussie bowling threat by rolling out slow surfaces.
It’s here the injury to Starc could turn out to be a blessing in disguise as it opens the door for veteran pacer Peter Siddle, who is a stickler for discipline and may prove quite handy on sluggish tracks.
Australia will also be aware of England’s inconsistency as they lost the second match of the New Zealand series after winning the first game last month.
So all is not lost yet for Australia and there is still a lot to play for as they look to arise from a rude wake-up call in Cardiff.
The Netherlands romped to their second win in the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier 2015 by seven wickets against United Arab Emirates.
— ICC (@ICC) July 12, 2015
After choosing to field at the Grange Cricket Club Ground in Edinburgh, the Dutch bowlers bowlers, led by Roelof van der Merwe (2 for 10 in four overs), kept UAE down to 119 for 7 in 20 overs. Ben Cooper then anchored the chase with an unbeaten half-century as Netherlands reached 125 for 3 in 17.1 overs to record an easy win.
Timm van der Gugten provided the opening breakthrough when he bowled Mohammad Shahzad for 13. Faizan Asif, the other opener, fell for 17 in the next over to Ahsan Malik to leave UAE 35 for 2.
Shaiman Anwar (15) and Swapnil Patil (34), the wicketkeeper, then began the rebuilding process and put on 44 for the third wicket. However, they consumed 45 balls in doing so. When Michael Ripoon, the left-arm chinaman bowler, had Anwar caught to end the association, UAE had 79 on the board with eight overs to go.
Patil fell soon after, and Netherlands’ bowlers then made sure they prevented any late surge as UAE lost wickets in a cluster, going from 99 for 4 to 116 for 7.
Van der Merwe found good support from Rippon, who ended with 2 for 14 in three overs, and Malik, the right-arm medium pacer whose four overs fetched him returns of 2 for 17 in four overs.
Manjula Guruge, the left-arm pacer, struck in the fourth over of the Netherlands chase when he had Stephan Myburgh caught for 10. Wesley Barresi, the other opener, fell two overs later when he was caught off Mohammad Naveed for 18.
Cooper then did the bulk of the scoring in a 54-run third-wicket stand with Michael Swart to shut the doors on a fightback.
Fayyaz Ahmed castled Swart but with the score on 86 then and more than five overs left, the probability of a win for UAE was very slim.
Peter Borren, the Netherlands captain, then joined Cooper and made a quickfire 23 off just 10 balls to see his team through. Borren struck three boundaries and a six, while Cooper finished with three boundaries and as many hits over the fence.
“We did not post a competitive total,” Tauqir said after the match. “It was a good wicket and 119 was not good enough. Par score was always 150 plus. Their bowlers choked our batsmen, who should have been a bit more careful. It is disapointing that we lost three games, but we are looking forward to doing well in the remaining matches. We need three wins in three matches.”
Netherlands will face Oman next in Edinburgh on Tuesday, while UAE takes on Canada on the same day at Stirling.
Half-centuries from opening batsmen Ajinkya Rahane and Murali Vijay and four wickets from Bhuvneshwar Kumar saw India beat Zimbabwe by 62 runs in the second one-day international and take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) July 12, 2015
Rahane and Vijay put on 112 for the first wicket after India were sent in to bat, and although the tourists could not fully capitalise on that platform, they were still able to post 271 for eight.
In reply, Zimbabwe were pegged back by Kumar’s brilliant first spell, which brought the wickets of Hamilton Masakadza and the in-form Elton Chigumbura.
Chamu Chibhabha made 72, but the hosts faded after he was run out and they were eventually bowled out for 209, with Kumar finishing with figures of 4 for 33.
After collapsing to 87 for five in Friday’s first ODI, which they still won by four runs, India took a circumspect approach on Sunday as Rahane and Vijay batted out the opening 26 overs.
“I was not playing at my best, but according to the conditions we decided not to give early wickets because then the team is under more pressure,” Vijay said. “We thought 260 or 270 was a good score on this wicket because it was getting slower and lower.”
While Rahane’s 63 was his 10th fifty in ODIs, Vijay had never before crossed 33 and so his 72 was a landmark for the Test regular.
Despite their dismissals, India went into the final 10 overs well set on 194 for two, but then lost Friday’s centurion Ambati Rayudu for 41 and Manoj Tiwary for 22.
Seamer Neville Madziva ensured that Zimbabwe finished strongly as he picked up three wickets at the death to close with career-best figures of 4 for 49 in 10 overs.
With Kumar taking 2 for 19 in his initial six-over spell, Zimbabwe fell to 43 for three in reply and rarely threatened from that point.
When Chibhabha was run out in a mix-up with Sikandar Raza Butt the game was effectively up, and although Richmond Mutumbami and Graeme Cremer put on 52 for the seventh wicket, Kumar returned to finish the job off.
The third ODI takes place on Tuesday, and will also be played at Harare Sports Club.