Following the Ashes

4 December 2010

The arrival of a new Ashes series always sends me in search of Gideon Haigh, who is probably the best cricket journalist currently writing in English: informative, insightful, illuminating, measured, and with a keen sense of the game’s history and wider context. As in 2009, he’s covering the series for the Australian Business Spectator (free but needs registration). So far he’s hit his usual heights. Here are some extracts from the first two days play at Adelaide.

From Day One, which started a few hours after the FIFA World Cup debacle in Zurich:

Misery loves company, and there is something consoling about tradition too: no matter how many brown paper bags change hands at FIFA, Australia and England will always have each other. So there was something rather warming and reassuring about the preparatory rites of the Second Test: all rise for the national anthem, and let’s salute the red, white, blue and green, the last provided by the Milo munchkins, lined up to mix their corporate message with the patriotic ones.

Day One again, with Ponting coming in at 0-1 with Katich run out in the first over without facing a ball:

Early losses are one thing; self-inflicted wounds another. Katich’s was the sort of death by misadventure that rocks a dressing room, still to seat itself comfortably, still to obtain itself the first cups of tea, maybe still straining to detect early movement on television. Passing a batsman yet to face a ball was certainly not the manner in which Ponting would have imagined batting in his 150th Test.

From Day Two, on Andrew Strauss’ early dismissal after leaving the ball:

Because it is necessarily exploratory, opening the batting is full of such infinitesimal judgements. Strauss could even claim that his non-shot selection was vindicated by Hawk-Eye, which mysteriously pronounced that the delivery would barely have grazed the target. But leaving on length – as Strauss also did to the first ball of the second innings in Brisbane – is frankly better left until a proper evaluation of bounce is made, particularly when one is unfamiliar with the bowler, as Strauss is with Bollinger.

And on Trott’s narrow escape from being run out early in his innings:

Cook turned his partner sternly back, and the fielder at mid-wicket was a left-hander, Doherty, who had to run around the ball before collecting it, and his necessarily hurried throw missed the stumps. When the ball is new and hard, and the ball is likelier to travel square than straight, mid-wicket should really be right-handed: Trott the fielder would have comfortably run Trott the batsman out.

When you read the columns for extracts such as these, you notice two things. The first is how well written they are, with considered sentences and carefully structured syntax. The second is that I could have picked four or five, each as interesting as those above: on Cook’s batting style, on Pietersen playing spinners, on Ponting’s vulnerabilities early in his innings. There is depth along with the richness. Enjoy.

The portrait of Gideon Haigh at the top of this post is from Melbourne Cricket Club, and is used with thanks.

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