The Ashes: What is it with England’s middle order?

A lot of people at my internship were at an event in the afternoon, so
I clocked off early, and watched the last 30 minutes at the pub. It
beat compulsively checking cricinfo and imagining the match based on
their (excellent) commentary.

I make no apology for jumping on the Mitchell Johnson is awesome
bandwagon earlier this year. I know he’s bowled poorly today, but the
sharp difference between batters and bowlers is that bowling is more
dependent on being a class act. Even between the nonsense, he bowled
two crackers to get rid of Cook and Prior. The one to Prior is not a
ball you can learn, or really practice. It requires the perfect
combination of a low arm, arm speed, and wrist position. So I would
still say persevere with Johnson, because he will get the best players
out more than say, Stuart Broad. I was really impressed by Hilfenhaus
today, who I knew little about before this summer, but who bowled
really well today, and the ball to get Flintoff out was a bit of a
stunner. Make no mistake, this is a good Australian pace attack, and
with Lee to come back, they are to be underestimated at our peril.

What is it with England’s middle order? Having flair players at 3 and
4 probably doesn’t help that much. For that reason, I’d like to see
Pieterson at 5 for a change. Keep the howls down for a second, I have
a theory. Test cricket is played at such a cracking pace these days
that number five isn’t as pressed for time as much as he was before. I
think Pieterson finds it confusing to play second fiddle to a man
already batting well, so why not let him marshal the lowish order,
and have license to dominate. He’s not young, he won’t change his game
just because the papers ask him to. To get the best out of him and England’s middle order play him at five.

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Strauss of course batted rather nicely today, although it probably
helped being assisted to 30+ by copious long hops and half volleys
from Johnson (the same goes for Cook, although I’m glad he asserted
himself finally). Strauss plays almost exclusively with a horizontal
or vertical blade; not for him the diagonal slashes of Pieterson or
Hughes. On a pitch offering exaggerated movement and a big slope (see
Hilfenhaus today) that sort of technique will fare well. I’m waiting
with nervous anticipation to see what Hughes will make of the slope,
although he did score about a million runs for Middlesex early this year at
Lords.

Big day tomorrow. England need to step up and really stamp themselves
on the game in the first session. If Broad ever picked a time for a
maiden hundred in Tests, this will do nicely…