Nothing, absolutely nothing, inspires fear like ruthlessly destroying an already outclassed opponent. Like a bully walking into a classroom and decking the smallest kid in there to keep the rest in line, Australia A twatted Scotland all over the place in the opening game of their tour, sending knees knocking from Dorset to…some other English town. God, don’t make me look at a map. Sure the sight of the Australian ODI team collapsing in a heap in Birmingham somewhat muted the effect, but suffice to say the English team has been well and truly put in their place by the manner in which a second string Aussie squad (which just so happens to contain most of their first team players as well, but that’s a mere triviality) disposed of their far inferior northern neighbours. Take that James Anderson. You utter prick.
Of course the rest of the article now has to be one long moan about how inept Australia A looked in putting away such inadequate competition, plus the usual whinge about David Warner, so if you are still holding out hope that the Ashes series will be a competitive one (or are just allergic to atrocious grammar), it’s probably best to stop reading now. Right, with that out of the way we can proceed, and, due warning, Australia A really did struggle to get on top of the Scots. Which may sound odd considering that they won by 360 runs (also, coincidentally, the name of the last decent console Microsoft will ever make). Between them, the Australian top four manged one half century across both innings; Usman Khawaja’s 51 in the first dig. Considering that they picked only the four specialist batsmen, that can only be regarded as a monumental failure. Indeed in that first knock Australia A were at one point reduced to 171/5, before centuries by Brad Haddin and Peter Siddle sailed them into more comfortable waters.
All of which sounds suspiciously like how their big brothers in the Test team have been performing of late, but really just goes to show how few batting options are available to the selectors right now. With only five batsmen in the squad (one of whom has played only three First-class games), and the selectors preferring to not call up players already playing in the County Championship (a mixed blessing as it would have been nice to see how Joe Burns fared, but on the other hand means Rob Quiney is kept well away from things), there is precious little room to maneuver.
There were worrying signs for the bowlers as well. Sure James Pattinson cut through the Scottish lineup like Jack Tretton, Sony Computer Entertainment President, cut through Microsoft’s hubris (sorry, it was E3 this week. Things have been a bit intense), but that only meant there was precious little time for the other bowlers to shine. Chadd Sayers, a new name who won a call up based on the millions of wickets he took in the last Sheffield Shield season, did ok in the second innings, less so in the first. Siddle took his usual handful of wickets, with Henriques grabbing the odd one to round things off. It was the battle between the spinners, Nathan Lyon and Ashton Agar, though that intrigued. Both were given extended spells at the Scottish tail, and it was Agar who impressed most, with Lyon getting carted to the tune of an economy rate of 5.77. In the second innings Scotland capitulated too quickly too allow either to have a trundle, meaning the game created more questions than it answered.
With Fawad Ahmed now in place to take on Ireland, a shootout for the Australian spinning spot looms. In Lyon’s favor is the fact that he is the incumbent, and despite a blip in India, has long held the favor of the selectors. But Fawad is a legspinner. A LEGSPINNER! He probably has, like, 15 mystery balls, each more devious than the last. The battle between the two will be one of the most interesting side stories to the clash against Ireland. It’s a pity George Dockrell isn’t playing though.
Which finally brings us to the absurd furore surrounding David Warner. First there is the ridiculous nature of the act itself (it wasn’t a full blooded swing, but rather a ‘jumper punch’ – grabbing someones shirt and shoving them backwards, which is why he only connected with Root’s chin), secondly the bizarre claims surrounding the ‘fake beard’, and thirdly the utterly idiotic ban handed down by Cricket Australia. Why ban Warner from every game leading up to the first Test? What on earth will that achieve other than rendering Warner utterly unselectable for the first two Tests, unless they want to pick a woefully out of touch player on net form alone. They might as well have just sent him home.
Warner’s position within the team was verging on the untenable even before this whole mess. The rhetoric surrounding him has become increasingly confused. Before the tour of India the talk was that he needed to concentrate on his ‘natural game’. After some pathetically ill-disciplined performances with the bat, the new message was that he had to learn to value his wicket more. After an even worse beginning to the tour of England, the talk is again that he he needs to play naturally. Nobody has any idea of what to do with him and the best thing for Warner now would be to return to domestic cricket for 12 months or so and relearn his game. Of course the problem with this is that there is nobody ready to replace him in the Test team. Remove Warner and the next best batting average after Michael Clarke is Brad Haddin’s 35.5. Yep. Things are that bad.
Of course what all this means is that the door is now wide open for Devereux’s triumphant return. But more on that next week.