5 things we learned from MCG Ashes Test

5 things we learned from MCG Ashes Test
Updated 02 January 2018

5 things we learned from MCG Ashes Test

5 things we learned from MCG Ashes Test

SYDNEY: Alastair Cook got back among the runs in Melbourne with a vengeance, but some old-fashioned stodge from David Warner and Steve Smith was enough to save Australia the Boxing Day Test, and maintain a 3-0 lead in the Ashes. With the Sydney Test starting on Thursday, we look at five things we learned from the series so far…

Whose goose is cooked?
Even by his feast-or-famine standards, 2017 was a very odd year for Cook. In 20 innings, he made just two half-centuries, but also accounted for the highest Test scores of the year – 243 against West Indies at Edgbaston and 244 not out in the Boxing Day Test at the MCG. There were no dramatic first-ball dismissals, but a string of low scores after getting a look-in made many wonder whether his time at the top was drawing to a close. You cannot say the critics were wrong either. The first sign of a batsman’s waning powers is when he fails to convert the starts into big scores. Cook was the first to admit that he had been dismayed by his performances in Australia, and the MCG epic came too late in the script for his team. It did, however, spare Joe Root, his successor as captain, the ignominy of a 5-0 thrashing. That was Cook’s lot four years ago.

Drop-in-the-bin pitches
The first 13 Tests in Melbourne this century all produced results. Since then, there have been some ridiculous totals, as bowlers have struggled to make any headway. In the past, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has fined or censured venues for preparing spin-friendly surfaces, even after they produced exciting, event-filled games quite unlike the snore draw in Melbourne. In reality, however, it’s these surfaces where nothing ever happens that are really driving the crowds away from Test cricket. At first glance, the overall MCG attendance of more than 262,000 was impressive. Four years ago, however, 10,000 more turned up to watch what was a four-day game. If you can’t offer a contest between bat and ball, the fans may as well stay at home.

The Bird did not fly
Before the Boxing Day game, Jimmy Anderson had ruffled a few Australian feathers by questioning the depth in their pace-bowling ranks. “They’ve had three bowlers who all can bowl 90 miles an hour and they’ve stayed fit for three games, but you look beyond that and they’ve got problems,” said Anderson. “(James) Pattinson’s injured. (Nathan) Coulter-Nile is injured. They haven’t got much other than these three that are bowling at the minute. The figures suggest that he wasn’t far wrong. Bird was the only pace bowler on either side to not have taken a wicket, and his 30 overs cost Australia 108 runs. Like the emu on the Australian coat-of-arms, he didn’t take off. Those are hardly career-ending numbers, but they illustrated why he is seen as a back-up. If Starc is fit to play in Sydney, England could be put through the wringer again, but Anderson’s point stands.

Khawaja woes
His frailty against spin has cost Usman Khawaja dearly whenever Australia have headed to Asia. But his fluent strokeplay on the bouncy pitches back home was a big factor in his selection for the Ashes. Remember too that Khawaja bats at No.3, a slot previously occupied by the likes of Sir Donald Bradman and Ricky Ponting. It is not that Khawaja has batted poorly this series – he has two half-centuries. But a highest score of 53, and a strike-rate (41.86) well below his career number (52.74), are not good enough, not with spots opening up for the upcoming tour of South Africa.

Woakes may not be the answer away from home
In English conditions, Chris Woakes is the perfect lieutenant for Anderson and Stuart Broad. In 11 Tests, he’s taken 42 wickets at a superb average of 24.28. But after 2 for 197 in South Africa (two Tests) and 3 for 244 in India (three Tests), he now has ten wickets at 49.5 in this Ashes. Without the seam movement he thrives on, Woakes has struggled to impose himself. It is not just Anderson and Broad that England need to replace before their next overseas tour.