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Sunday, August 2, 2009

more whinging

Unless something phenomenal happens, the rain-effected Third Test seems destined to be a draw.
Further emphasising the insanity of the Australian decision to drop Phillip Hughes and play Shane Watson as a bat, Watson was hardly sighted with the ball. Then when he was, it was to a Freddie Flintoff who was settled and firing. Sadly, Watson just served up a smorgasbord of half-volleys. He appears to be lacking real match-fitness on the tour, as he is a far better bowler than that.

The decision to drop Hughes was not just a bad one, it was a disgrace. He was given only two Tests before being dropped. Mike Hussey on the other hand has now had 17 innings without scoring a century. In the games they have played together, Hughes has consistently outscored Hussey. In two of his last three innings, Hussey has been bowled without offering a shot – a sure sign of someone whose judgement is sadly lacking at the moment.

On the positive side of things, after the third day was washed out, Day Four saw Mitchell Johnson start to get something back together. While still a long way from his dynamic best, he was now pitching the ball up with far more regularity. As a result, he got his swing back at last. Ben Hilfenhaus was by far the most effective of the Australian bowlers once again. That said, Peter Siddle tends to apply a degree of pressure at the other end with sustained, hostile bowling.

Now a quick word on the replacement wicketkeeper, Manou. He was brought in a the last moment after Brad Haddin injured a finger about the time the coin was being tossed by the respective captains and had little time to prepare himself. He has consistently gloved the ball smoothly with very neat footwork. To my mind, his work behind the stumps so far in this Test has been better than Haddin’s in the previous two Test matches.

This raises the question of what is more important with a wicketkeeper – his glovework or his batting prowess. Australia has been blessed for decades with keepers who can bat. At what point however do you take one above the above? While having a keeper who can make 50 or more with the bat certainly helps with the scoreboard, how many runs by the opposition are saved by having a better keeper who can perform that little extra bit of magic with the gloves, pulling in those extra catches? Those can easily be worth 50 or more runs by themselves.

A bowler is judged by his ability to take wickets, not his contribution with the ball. So why does a wicketkeeper, another non-batting specialist, have to justify his inclusion on his batting prowess? We saw the Australian experiment in the mid-1980s persisting with Wayne Phillips whose performances with the gloves was nothing to write home about while at the same time, his batting, which got him into the side in the first place, plummeted. The team lost out on both sides of the equation.