Lutters’ Ashes Lines – part four (the first Test)

THE first Test match drew to a close with honours even it seemed. Or were they? Who had the better of the game?

Wednesday, 1st December 2010, 1:10 pm

The Gabba is usually a fortress for the Aussies, played out by the fact that they are unbeaten there in the last 21 Test matches.

They haven’t lost there since the late 1980s to a very good West Indies side, so one could argue that this really should have been a banker for them. And so it nearly proved to be after posting an enormous first innings lead after a paltry effort from the England batsmen first time around.

It was at this point that their bowling, or lack thereof, was exposed on what was essentially a flat deck.

Peter Siddle, a journeyman international bowler, was easily their premier performer with the ball, which only goes to show how weak their attack is. He is a great back-up bowler, but shouldn’t really worry an entire side, although having said that, his hat-trick was a spot of very good bowling.

The guy who really is under pressure is reputedly the home side’s match-winner with the ball, Mitchell Johnson. He had what can only be described as a stinker. As well as getting a 19-ball duck, and dropping a sitter when Strauss was in the sixties (the score, not the era), his figures were 0 for 170, bowling at second or third change, which says two things:

1. He’s not bowling well.

2. His captain doesn’t think he’s going to bowl well.

Not a healthy situation for either the individual or the side. As Michael Holding, the great West Indian paceman said, we keep hearing how good he is, but very few have actually seen it.

Johnson does appear to be living off past glories a little. He will no doubt play at Adelaide and pick up 10 wickets in the match now!

Xavier Doherty, the spinner controversially picked ahead of Nathan Hauritz, looks average. No-one is expecting another Shane Warne, but in patches Doughie lacked control, which is unforgivable for an orthodox spinner. Having said that, Graeme Swann didn’t do a lot better with the ball.

As far as batting goes, the Aussies looked reasonably solid apart from Marcus North, who must be one of the luckiest men in cricket to still be an international.

I suppose he bowls as well, and “adds balance”. But the game is full of fine lines and had Michael Hussey been rightly given out LBW by Aleem Dar early on (Dar’s only real mistake during the five days), then things could have been very different.

Let’s be honest, England will be the more pleased of the two sides, but their first innings was shaky at best.

Cook confounded his pre-series critics and got 300 runs in the game, and Bell looked imperious, but the rest looked fragile at times when the going was a bit tough. Okay, Strauss and Trott got big second innings runs, but you can’t guarantee that batting will be easier second time around. Collingwood and Pietersen certainly need to up their game.

On the bowling front, Finn took six wickets, but was expensive. Anderson was unlucky, as was Broad, who managed to keep his toys within the perimeter of his cot for the entire game. Swann, as I’ve already said was disappointing, but we have come to expect a lot from the so-called “best spinner in the world at the moment”.

Adelaide is a flatter pitch than Brisbane, so a draw is favourite, but no doubt more surprises are in store for the late night viewer.