My review of the Third Ashes Test

Australia have regained The Ashes! They have taken a three-nil lead in the 2017-18 Ashes Series after defeating England in the last-ever Ashes Test match, at least for the foreseeable future, at the WACA (Western Australian Cricket Association) Ground in Perth by an innings and 41 runs in what was a dominant display for the most part from the Australians!

England, in fact, started off the match very well, making it to 2/91 at lunch on Day One before Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow built a fifth-wicket partnership of 237 runs after being 4/131 midway through the second session on the opening day. However, England managed to lose 6/35 in the second hour on Day Two to be all out for 403, a total well-below the score of 500-plus that they and many others were expecting.

Australia made them pay with Steve Smith and the returning Mitchell Marsh dominating the England bowling attack, smashing them into submission and towards another Ashes defeat. Smith made 239 in a man of the match performance, his highest test match score and the second double century in his Test match career, both achieved against England, as he reached 1000 runs in a calendar year for the fourth-consecutive time to move within one of Matthew Hayden’s record of scoring 1000 runs or more for five-consecutive years.

Smith only needs a further 27 runs to reach 10,000 first-class runs, and has the most runs after batting in 108 innings in the history of test match cricket. He only needs 204 runs in the Fourth Test Match to become the second-fastest player to reach 6000 runs in the history of Test match cricket, with only Sir Donald Bradman (68 innings) reaching the milestone in quicker time (should Smith reach the milestone at the Melbourne Cricket Ground).

In addition to this, Smith (62.32) has the second-highest batting average in the history of Test match cricket (minimum of 20 innings), and looks set to be the best batsman since Bradman.

And what about Marsh?

He has really tightened up his technique while maintain the devastating stroke-play and shot-making that we have become accustomed to seeing in limited overs cricket to score his first Test match century in his 22nd Test match, defying the critics that have been on his back, and in fact on the back of his brother Shaun, the critics who feel like they have been given an easy run into the Australian team, in particular Mitchell, due to their father Geoff Marsh playing 50 Test matches and 117 one day internationals for Australia between 1985 and 1992, showing symptoms of tall poppy syndrome.

However, the selectors kept faith in Mitchell Marsh throughout the good times and the bad, and he has managed to repay their support, at least for now, by breaking through to get his first century in Test match cricket.

Australia declared at 9/662, a lead of 259 runs, and from there, England were no chance of coming back, being bowled out for 218 to surrender The Ashes back to Australia.

England have a number of questions to answer, in terms of selection, for the final two test matches of the series, but in terms of what they are lacking, England need a quality all-rounder, a quality spinner, and a fast bowler who can actually bowl express pace and intimidate the opposition.

Ben Stokes should be ashamed of himself for letting England down, as he would have been the quality all-rounder in the England Cricket Team if he wasn’t stood down from his duties after an altercation outside a nightclub in Bristol back in September. He will be castigated by many people until The Ashes are returned to England!

In terms of a quality spinner and a fast bowler who can bowl express pace, England, other than Graeme Swann in the spinning department, have not produced either a quality spinner or an express fast bowler in years! England need to give leg spinner Mason Crane a go, and actually believe in him for a period of time.

As for the fast bowlers, James Anderson is still bowling very well, Craig Overton is a promising prospect, while Stuart Broad has been awful and should be dropped from the England team immediately, while Chris Woakes hasn’t been much better, and is seemingly a stop-gap option for England at the moment in place of Ben Stokes.

I am not sure who England should select to replace Broad, but it must be someone with express pace that can intimidate the batsmen! Do they go back to Jake Ball? Do they give George Garton a go? Do they go with someone outside of their current squad? Or, do they ignore my advice and continue on their current path, hoping that things turn around like magic?

And talking about their current path, there is no way in the world that Andrew Strauss, the director of England cricket, let alone the previous management, should have barred Kevin Pietersen from playing for England again, and English cricket is paying for that decision today.

Pietersen may be portrayed by many people as a man who disrespected team culture, and only had a clear focus on himself when in fact that was far from the truth. I think Pietersen was more than willing to help the team, and probably had many, many ideas as to how the England team could improve, but no one was willing to listen to him, or if they did listen to him, weren’t willing to take him seriously because he was different!

While Andrew Strauss and the previous management of the England Cricket Team have been painted as “the good guys” of this whole debacle, but they should be described as bullies, people who should never, under any circumstance, be put into positions of responsibility of any “minor” organisation, let alone in management positions inside the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

Organisations run by these bullies, or have bullies in key management positions within organisations will struggle and eventually fail! Organisations who don’t allow people within them to be themselves, or find the best way of doing certain things for themselves will fail in the end! Organisations that don’t hire people that are different to most others and think outside the square will die!

In fact, Pietersen should be the current-day England captain, and should have taken over from Alastair Cook after the 2013-14 Ashes Series! I think he would have captained England in a similar fashion to the way that Steve Waugh captained Australia, and would have taken over the England captaincy at a similar age to Waugh.

I believe Pietersen would have led England potentially into a glorious era, and I believe he would have finished his Test match career with an average over 50, and with over 10,000 runs in Test match cricket! In addition to this, I think other players, such as Cook and Joe Root would have benefited from Pietersen being the England captain, allowing them score runs without the pressure of responsibility, something which Root is struggling with at the moment!

Talking about Cook, since the 2013-14 Ashes Series, he has scored 3665 runs at an average of 43.63, which is lower than the rest of his career, where he had scored 8047 runs at an average of 46.51, and before the start of the 2013-14 Ashes Series, Cook had scored 7801 runs at an average of 47.85.

As well as this, Cook has gone 10 innings without scoring a Test match half century or better, which is the longest streak without scoring 50 or more in an innings in his entire career. In my opinion, I think his mind is just not there any more, and I think his career is coming to an end at the end of this Ashes Series.

However, even if many of these suggestions were taken up sooner rather than later, only poor weather can prevent Australia winning the 2017-18 Ashes Series five-nil!

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My review of the Second Ashes Test Match

Australia have taken a two-nil lead in the 2017-18 Ashes Series after winning by 120 runs at the Adelaide Oval in the first-ever day/night Ashes Test Match between Australia and England.

It was a match highlighted by the performance of Shaun Marsh with the bat, scoring 126 not out from 231 deliveries to score his fifth Test match century in his 25th Test match for Australia, surpassing the record of his father Geoff, who scored four centuries in 50 Test matches for Australia from between 1985 and 1992.

It was a tough and gritty performance which proved to be the difference in a match where for the most part all other players failed to go on to make big scores on a pitch which it was often hard to score quickly, thanks in part to the behaviour at times of the pink ball, as evidence by David Warner’s struggle to get going in the second innings, scoring 14 runs from 60 deliveries. Warner seems to be struggling to find top form at the moment you sense, but you would have to believe that playing at the WACA in Perth, a place where he has a great record, averaging 89.22 and achieving his highest Test match score of 253 there against New Zealand back in 2015, will bring the best out of the Australian vice-captain.

Other performances to highlight include the five-wicket hauls in their respective second innings’ for both James Anderson (5/43), which was incidentally his first Test match five-wicket haul in Australia, and Mitchell Starc (5/88), who took the last three wickets of the match to give Australia a two-nil series lead, as well as Nathan Lyon’s performance in the first innings (4/60), and the performance of Chris Woakes (4/36) in support of Anderson in the second.

However, the biggest talking points of the match were of two key decisions, one made by England captain Joe Root, the other made by Australian captain Steve Smith. Before I talk about Root’s decision at the toss to bowl, I want to talk about Smith’s decision to not enforce the follow-on after Australia bowled out England for 227, which left England 215 runs behind Australia after the first two innings’ of the match.

In my view, regardless of the result of the match, Smith made the right decision not to enforce the follow-on, and although Australia’s batting performance in their second innings wasn’t necessarily up to scratch, Smith’s decision not to enforce the follow-on was vindicated with a 53-run opening partnership by England’s opening batsmen in Alastair Cook and Mark Stoneman, and England were at one stage 3/169 before a wicket late on Day Four, with Pat Cummins clean bowling Dawid Malan from round the wicket to change the momentum of the match.

England proceeded to lose 7/63 on-route to losing the second test match of the series by 120 runs. However, even if England managed to go onto win the test match to level the series, I think Smith made the right decision not to enforce the follow-on, and would have been more vindicated in my mind of that decision if England had gone onto win the test match, despite this thought process going against common logic.

Instead, if Australia had lost the second test match, the vast-majority of the criticism should be directed at the Australian fast bowlers in Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, and Pat Cummins for their lack of overall fitness and durability, as well as Pat Howard, the General Manager of Team Performance with Cricket Australia for his inability to manage the overall fitness and durability of fast bowlers in Australia.

Cummins, in particular, looks so stiff and unnatural when he is running in the field, and still has a pronounced limp in his gait when he is walking, and until he starts to run a bit more naturally, a long process given the back problems he has had in the past, Cummins will always be vulnerable to injuring his back again when he is bowling.

And while many of us are criticising the batting performance of Australia in recent times in Test match cricket, the inability for Australia to produce fast bowlers who are durable for a long period of time has hindered Australia’s ability to produce top-quality batsmen. It is important to think about this before criticising the batsmen because you can score as many runs as you would like, but if you don’t take 20 wickets, you are no chance!

As for Joe Root’s decision to bowl first at the toss, even if England were able to come back to win the test match, Root made the wrong decision to bowl first as England failed to bowl out Australia in the opening innings, especially when they need to bowl out Australia for a small total, so it was a massive mistake, as is his belief that England can come back to win or retain The Ashes.

At the WACA Ground in Perth, a place where England haven’t won a test match at in 39 years, and have lost eight of their last 10 Test matches there, including their last seven, I am expecting Australia to dominate the third test match of the series in what will likely be the final Ashes Test match held at the WACA, with only a minor miracle able to prevent Australia from regaining The Ashes.

India vs. Australia – Limited Overs Series Preview

On Sunday, the limited overs series tour of India begins for Australia when they take on the Indian team in Chennai in the first of five one day internationals in a limited over series that also includes three Twenty20 Internationals.

The one day international series starts in Chennai (Sunday September 17), before moving to Kolkata (Thursday September 21), Indore (Sunday September 24), Bangalore (Thursday September 28), and Nagpur (Sunday October 1). After this, the Twenty20 International series begins, starting in Ranchi (Saturday October 7), before moving to Guwahati (Tuesday October 10), and Hyderabad (Friday October 13).

It is set to be an enthralling one day series to start off with between the third-ranked Indian Cricket Team, and the second-ranked Australian Cricket Team, before a captivating Twenty20 series between the fifth and sixth-ranked Twenty20 sides in the world.

It will also be the last time that the current laws in regards to bat sizes will be used, and on pitches that typically suit batsman in limited overs matches, the one day and Twenty20 series should be a guaranteed run feast with scores well in excess of 300 in nearly every innings.

The battle between the two captains in Virat Kohli and Steven Smith is going to be absolutely fascinating, both on and off the field.

Kohli, after the Test series earlier this year in India, said that he no longer considered players within the Australian team as friends after a torrid series in which India managed to win 2-1 after being pushed all the way by Australia, and Kohli didn’t have a good Test series against Australia, scoring just 46 runs in his five innings at an average of 9.20 in the three test matches he played in during that series, missing the final test of the series because of a shoulder injury.

However, in that same series, Smith had a brilliant series, scoring 499 runs in eight innings (one not outs) at an average of 71.28, but despite his magnificent contribution, he couldn’t quite lead his team to what would have been their first series victory in India since 2004.

And although there should be less tension in this limited overs series compared with the Test series, there still will be a lot of heat and pressure on the two teams.

In terms of the players to look out for in what is sure to be a batsman-dominated one day and Twenty20 series, I am looking forward to the battle at the top of the batting order between Rohit Sharma and David Warner.

Rohit Sharma has been in great form in one day international cricket in the 10 matches he has played in 2017, scoring 606 runs in 10 innings (two not outs) at an average of 75.75, and at a strike rate of 91.67, scoring three centuries, and three further score of 50 or more, achieving a top score of 124 not out against Sri Lanka last month in Pallekele in what was a match-winning innings in a low scoring run chase. He will play a big role in determining whether India can dominate over Australia during the one day series.

David Warner has also been in wonderful one day form in the eight matches he has played in 2017, scoring 446 runs in eight innings (one not outs) at an average of 63.71, and at a strike rate of 108.78, scoring two centuries, the highest score being 179 against Pakistan back on Australia Day in Adelaide. He will have a vital role, and could determine won wins the series.

As for who I am tipping for both the one day series and the Twenty20 series, both bowling attacks will have a huge say in who will win, even if they don’t take a bag full of wickets consistently, and with India missing both Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja for the opening three one day matches, and Australia missing Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood from the entire tour, it is set to be a really tough time for the bowlers.

I am predicting Australia to win the one day series by three matches to two, and India to win the Twenty20 series by two matches to one, assuming the weather is fine, but regardless of the result of both series, it is going to be exhilarating!

My view on the pay dispute between Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers Association

The pay dispute between Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) has escalated to a level that no one had expected, or wanted it to go to.

However, with the June 30 deadline already passed, 230 cricketers in Australia are unemployment, and while the very best players, particularly the best male players in Australia are unlikely to feel the pinch of not being paid, the ongoing dispute over Cricket Australia’s desire to make changes to the revenue sharing model.

In most businesses, a revenue sharing model is the distribution of profits (and losses) between the stakeholders of a business, which could be general partners, employees, or between companies in some kind of business alliance or partnership.

The players in this circumstance are not only employees of Cricket Australia, they are also general partners of Cricket Australia, the major product for Cricket Australia and of the game of cricket, and the ability to generate profits, such as from ticket sales for matches, particularly big matches, such as international matches (Test Match cricket, One Day International (ODI) cricket, and Twenty20 (T20) International cricket), as well as domestic cricket, including the Big Bash League.

However, if the pay dispute between Cricket Australia and the ACA continues on for a longer period of time, then the ability of Cricket Australia to generate profits from their major product, the players, will become close to non-existent, and this puts at grave risk the Tour of Bangladesh, the ODI series in India, and The Ashes series against England at home in Australia.

Cricket Australia’s motive for wanting to change the revenue sharing model is the need in their view to pour more money into grassroots cricket, and junior development programs, but at the expense of domestic male cricketers, the players who aren’t on the Contracted Players List at Cricket Australia, and female players, with payments increases capped at 18 percent and 150 percent respectively out of a total surplus revenue share for the whole game (both men’s women’s players, including contracted players at Cricket Australia) of up to $20 million.

The motive of the ACA for wanting to keep the revenue sharing model the way that it has been is about keeping on a path that strives towards equality in Australian cricket, and making sure that players at both international and domestic level in both the men’s and women’s games receive their fair share of the monetary pie. They also believe there is already more than enough funding going into grassroots cricket, and junior development programs at that level. They also believe that Cricket Australia is giving them little to no details on their plans for the future of Australian cricket.

Looking at both sides, I think we all agree that a lot more money should be put into junior development to help the stars of tomorrow.

However, should more money be placed into grassroots cricket, and what do you define as grassroots cricket?

Is it grade cricket in the major capital cities of Australia? Is it grade cricket in the major regional cities of Australia? Is it grade cricket in the regional towns of Australia? Or is it junior cricket across all cities and towns in Australia?

If grassroots cricket refers to junior cricket development, then everyone would agree investing money into that would be beneficial for everyone in Australian cricket. If grassroots cricket refers to grade cricket across all cities and towns in Australia, I don’t think you can invest vasts amounts of money into grassroots cricket.

Both sides of the pay dispute know that for a player to make it all the way to the top, and potentially play for Australia in the game of cricket, they must be identified at a young age, and both sides of the argument know that there is a very, very slim chance that a mature-aged cricketer is going to come up from lower grade cricket to end up suddenly playing international cricket for Australia.

So, it makes it all the more astounding that Cricket Australia hasn’t clarified to the ACA what they meant by the term “grassroots cricket” so that the ACA can readjust or reaffirm their side of the argument in terms of what the players want from the new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

However, the biggest crux of the pay dispute between Cricket Australia and the ACA is to do with the revenue share that domestic cricketers and female players could receive from the total surplus revenue share for the entire game.

Cricket Australia want payment increases capped at 18 percent (domestic male cricketers) and 150 percent (female cricketers) out of the $20 million surplus revenue share. The domestic payment cap doesn’t include cricketers playing in the Big Bash League, who would receive a 42 percent pay increase under Cricket Australia’s because they see it as the biggest revenue maker for them.

However, the Big Bash League has made a loss of $33 million over the last five years, and the host television broadcaster of the Big Bash League, Network Ten, is currently in receivership after being placed into administration last month, and at this stage, logic suggests its contract to broadcast the Big Bash League will not be renewed at the end of the coming season.

Though, that is not the reason why the ACA is furious about the cap on player payment increases.

The Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) value domestic cricket, and feel that the Sheffield Shield and the Domestic One Day Cup is the best way to produce the best international cricketers, and believe the cricketers who primarily play at this level deserve to be paid their fair share, more than the 18 percent Cricket Australia says it should be.

In addition to this, the ACA feels that the player payment cap increases for female players shouldn’t be at 150 percent, because they want male and female players to have an equal say in the way the game of cricket is being run in Australia. They want to be equal partners in the game of cricket at all levels, and this what the talk about being partners in the game of cricket in Australia is all about!

It is not about Cricket Australia and the ACA feeling like they are equal partners in Australian cricket, because Cricket Australia is still and will remain the governing body of cricket in this country, but the ACA wants the players at all different levels, and of all different genders to be paid and treated equally.

On the otherhand, I think Cricket Australia is trying to send a message to the domestic male cricketers of Australia to think about playing first class cricket overseas, particularly in England during the Australian winter, to improve their games if you want to challenge for Australian selection.

However, there is no way Cricket Australia can get away with treating female cricketers the way that they are, and the ACA is holding them to account on that one!

However, the current pay dispute between Cricket Australia and the ACA affects more than just the players, it effects all broadcasters and narrowcasters, particularly television and live streaming providers.

In terms of live streaming providers that show primarily the lower levels of cricket, such as the Sheffield Shield, the Women’s National Cricket League and the matches of the Women’s Big Bash League that are not shown on television, the way that Cricket Australia is valuing domestic male players and female players by giving them a smaller share of the monetary pie (in their proposal) should have these narrowcasters alarmed!

Narrowcasters, or live streaming providers, who are already struggling to generate money to survive, despite many of them saying that they are growing, will be wondering, along with current, and prospective business partners, if live streaming cricket competitions that are not being valued by the game’s governing body in Australia, even if the ACA wins their debate over Cricket Australia, is the best way to go about their business? It is caveat emptor on that one!

However, in terms of the television broadcasters, their deals to broadcast in the game of cricket in Australia all comes to an end after the upcoming season, and things aren’t looking good for Cricket Australia on that front.

Network Ten, as I explained earlier, look set to lose the rights of the Big Bash League due to issues at the besieged broadcaster, but also because of the growing value of the competition, despite it making a loss, which may reflect badly on Network Ten more so than anyone else.

The Seven Network is currently under contract to broadcast the Australian Open (tennis) and Australian Open Series (tennis) until the end of 2019, so it is unlikely they will bid for any broadcasting rights to show any form of cricket in Australia.

The Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) are also unlikely to be able to afford the sort of money Cricket Australia wants to broadcast cricket on television in Australia.

That just leaves the Nine Network, Fox Sports and Optus Sport as the only television broadcasters who could afford to cover cricket, and with the anti siphoning list currently the way that it is, the Nine Network is only suitable candidate to cover international cricket in Australia, as well as the Big Bash League.

However, I don’t think it will end up this way.

I suspect there may be changes to the anti siphoning list for the coverage of international cricket in Australia to allow competition for broadcasting rights so that Cricket Australia gets the money that it wants from the rights for the next four years or longer (depending on the length of the deals).

The Nine Network have been urged by financial analysts UBS to consider ending its long-term association with Cricket Australia and the game of cricket due to losses per year of $30-40 million during its current deal of around $500 million ($100 million per year), and explained back in April that “We think it would seem logical for Nine to enter negotiations with the following mindset: i) more cricket content at no additional cost, or ii) to step away from the cricket contract.”

However, with Cricket Australia wanting around $250-300 million for the television broadcasting rights of the Big Bash League, that is unlikely to happen.

So, will the Nine Network step away from covering the game of cricket in Australia?

I don’t think so, but I suspect the Nine Network will have to give up some of the cricket content they have in their current portfolio if they want to broadcast the Big Bash League.

The Nine Network still values Test Match cricket, and is covering Australia’s Ashes Tour to England in 2019, and decided to send their own commentators over to England in 2015 to cover The Ashes series.

So, I think the Nine Network will want to cover test matches in Australia, but I suspect they will have to lose the broadcasting rights to all other international cricket matches in Australia in order to get the Big Bash League, and maybe also the Women’s Big Bash League.

So, what would happen with the rights to one day international (ODI) cricket, Twenty20 international (T20I) cricket, women’s international cricket, and the online/mobile rights for covering cricket in Australia?

For Test Match cricket in Australia, as well as the Big Bash League and the Women’s Big Bash League, I would think it would be logical for the Nine Network to have the online rights through its 9Now service/app, or like they have in recent years, simulcast their coverage on cricket.com.au, and through the Cricket Australia Live App.

As for the rights to ODI cricket, T20I cricket, women’s international cricket, and the online/mobile rights to those three, I suspect Fox Sports and Optus Sport will be in a fierce bidding war for the rights to each of those three, and while I suspect Fox Sports would be the favourite to take the cake on all three, plus online rights through its Foxtel App, Optus Sport have been getting involved in Australian cricket over the last couple of years with addition premium extras and reports on each match, showing matches live in conjunction with the Cricket Australia Live App, and showing classic moments of years gone by.

If Optus Sport wins the rights to any, or likely all three formats/items, plus the online and mobile rights, Optus will need to consider calling a truce with Foxtel to allow Foxtel customers the access to Optus Sport, either by adding them to the existing sports package for a small fee increase, or be sold separately in a different/additional package to Foxtel customers.

If Fox Sports wins the rights ODI cricket, T20I cricket, and women’s international cricket, then I would suspect Optus will get the mobile rights to all cricket in Australia, including Test Match cricket, while Fox Sports would have the online rights to its coverage, plus having access to their coverage via the Cricket Australia Live App.

Another thing that will also need to be considered is whether either Fox Sports and/or Optus Sport would want to show Test Match cricket in Australia, the Big Bash League and the Women’s Big Bash League, particularly if they use their own commentators and score graphics, even though the Nine Network would be the host broadcaster?

All of this could give Cricket Australia the money that it needs in terms of broadcasting rights to then sort out its issues with the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) and the players, who I suspect would want the next television broadcasting deal sorted first so that they know what they are working with in terms of sorting out their pay dispute with Cricket Australia.

However, Cricket Australia want to sort out the pay dispute with the ACA first because they will have no chance of convincing television broadcasters that they should bid for a product where 230 of its key assets are unemployed.

Overall, both parties involved are at fault for where we currently stand right now, and are both situated between a rock and a hard place, putting at grave risk the Tour of Bangladesh, the ODI series in India, and The Ashes series against England at home in Australia.

In conclusion, and in my opinion, you may think that the pay dispute between Cricket Australia and the ACA only affects the two parties in question, but as I have explained throughout this article, it is far from the truth, and that is sobering thought for everyone!