As mistresses go, you don’t get much harsher than test cricket. When it rears its head, the long game is the sporting equivalent of dominatrix who specialises in vicious filth with a cat o’nine tails. And when joined by its bruising pimp, name of Schadenfreude, it is a formidable and unremitting whore. Only Wayne Rooney and Max Moseley would pay for this level of abuse.
Ricky Ponting’s back, arse and ears will be burning as I type. Not only has he got the world’s media queuing up to either tell him how wrong he is, there are also innumerate workaday commentators clogging up social networking feeds to revel in the piss-poor performance of his Australian team.
The Twitterati on show last night, from Piers Morgan to Rio Ferdinand, through Stephen Fry, Lee Westwood and Andrew Flintoff, were united in their delight at seeing Australia suffer. And while they may not all be qualified to offer in-depth analysis on the reasons for the sharp decline of the last dominant force in test cricket, it didn’t stop them having a pop. I don’t like agreeing with Piers Morgan on anything, in fact I came close to sledging the rhino-skinned shit bag, but I’ll save it for another day.
The three best analysts working in Australia are Shane Warne, Michael Vaughan and Geoffrey Boycott. Bumble, Athers, Nasser, Aggers, Ian Chappell, Beef, Lord Gower and the rest are no slouches, but they all suffer a bit from blustering around a point or rambling on about things that have no context in either the passage of play they are commentating on or the bigger picture.
Had Shane Warne not been a sex-pest with a fondness for the bookies, it’s nailed on that he would still be playing now as Australian captain. Ponting would have never got a look in. Warne is a true idiot savant. Rubbish at life with the diet of a student, he has one of, if the not the, sharpest cricket brain of the past 20 years. There is no love lost between him and Ponting, and although he sympathised with his ex-team mate over the paucity of the bowling attack, he was happy to give him both barrels over his inertia. He reckons Ponting is so stubborn that he won’t try what people want and, conversely, makes ridiculous decisions to appear proactive. Warne’s main beef was that with Pietersen dismantling the bowlers, Ponting didn’t turn to Katich or Clarke who have both had success in the past as partnership breakers. He is also unwavering in his belief that KP has more raw talent than anyone he has played with or against.
Warne is a true idiot savant. Rubbish at life with the diet of a student, he has one of, if the not the, sharpest cricket brain of the past 20 years.
Michael Vaughan has been a revelation on TMS since he succumbed to a bum knee. As the most recently retired of the pundits working in Australia, he gives a vital insight into the psychology of team rooms and how stupid tactics can come about from too much rabbit. Vaughan is unwavering in his belief that bowlers should bowl exclusively at the top of off stump with the odd surprise ball thrown in. There was a period last night, at about 3am, when Ponting had two men backward of square on the boundary. Siddle banged in three short balls and KP was in position to hook them before they had bounced. “I never thought I’d see this from Ponting,” he said, gasping like a 40 a day man.
Vaughan is also steadfast in his belief regarding KPs talent, and he is joined in that by Geoff Boycott. One of the great shames of this series so far is that Boycott is only called upon to do a close of play podcast with Aggers. And this is the reason that this missive is later than usual. I would pay to listen to Boycott talk about creeekk-eeeeeet. He refuses to get caught up in hyperbole and his thoughts on what England have to do to win this test are as pertinent now as they would have been playing for Yorkshire twos half a century ago. Aggers said that England could be in for a bit of a cakewalk due to the level of turn achieved by Marcus North.
Boycs didn’t agree, “It's not just about turn, Jonathan, it's when you get vertical and lateral movement that you've got a problem. Predicable slow turn is easy to play.”
He’s right, you know, and he’s also correct in his assertion that this was probably the finest innings of KPs career. Despite his reputation as the curmudgeon’s curmudgeon, Boycott has always been a fan of KP. As different as PCP and water they might be, Boycott has Pietersen marked as the most imposing batsman in test cricket and has continued to back him. He’s slated him for stupid shots, but he’s never taken a backward step in his support. We all like to see KP tear into an attack, but he didn’t need to here. What he needed to do was exactly what he did; use control and technique to slowly eviscerate the bowlers.
With more rain forecast, England will have hope for a bit of luck to get a win here. Their dominance is not in question, it’s whether or not mother nature and the cricketing gods are on speaking terms at present.
One man who’ll resort to anything to save this test is Warne. Just as I was about to send this report, a tweet from Warne to KP appeared in my feed.
“Well played KP today he was awesome. As much talent as anyone in the game. Trying to tweet this as I'm doing new rain dance. Hahaha…"
‘Thanks legend,’ replied KP. ‘See you in the am…"
I think we can all agree that we wish he meant at the crease.
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