If you haven’t yet shelled out for two slabs plus 12 bucks plus postage and handling for a matching set of Talking Boony and Talking Beefy dolls, then you probably have no idea that today marks one month until the start of the Ashes campaign in Brisbane.
It almost certainly means you haven’t been following the ICC Champions Trophy currently taking place in India, which is an unexpected shame, because for once the World’s Second Best One-Day Cricket Tournament has provided something more interesting than record low scores and scenic views of Ahmedabad.
On Saturday night Australia and England played an international men’s cricket match for the first time since last year’s disaster in Old Blighty, and what made it fascinating was to see what has changed (and what has stayed the same).
Here is what the teams will come away thinking about:
- Adam Gilchrist is still a goner when facing a fast ball on a good length coming in from outside his off-stump.
- The ball that caught Gilchrist unawares was bowled by Sajid Mahmood, a bowler barely on the radar last year who has not only picked up Freddie Flintoff’s trick of trapping Gilly but also drawing out Ricky Ponting’s party trick, namely playing an unbalanced shot early in his innings to get himself out.
- Kevin Pieterson is still vulnerable to intimidation by genuine pace and bounce.
- The bare bowling cupboard that left Australia so vulnerable last year now looks well stocked, with names like Lee, Bracken, Watson, the fast-developing Mitchell Johnson, and the approaching storm-cloud that is Glenn McGrath. Shaun Tate and Stuart Clark are meanwhile waiting in the wings back here in Australia.
- England played without several Test players, including Marcus Trescothick, Simon Jones, Matthew Hoggard, Ashley Giles and Monty Panesar, while Flintoff still isn’t bowling after his injury. Throw “long shot” Michael Vaughn into the mix, and England’s greatest weapon coming into the Brisbane Test may well be surprise.
Australia may have won the game but the Poms will feel confident that they still have a few tricks up their sleeve when the clothes turn white and the game becomes very, very serious.
Now if you will excuse me, Talking Beefy wants a biscuit.