The Long Handle – 3rd Ashes Test preview and tips – December 16-20, WACA

The days of being able to rely on our batsmen on home soil are done. That’s the lesson cricket fans can take away from the 2nd Test. We already knew our bowling attack was weak and the weak spot of the side, but now we know that the stalwarts of the side – the Ricky Pontings, the Michael Clarkes, the Michael Husseys – can no longer be relied upon to bail us out. Punter is in terrible form, and the selectors would be under a mountain of pressure to drop him if he wasn’t captain. As is, that job will have to wait until the Ashes. Clarke looked to find form on Day 4, but then reverted to his old habits of losing concentration just when his country needs him the most. Hussey is finding his way back to Mr. Cricket status, but he’s not there yet.

Andrew Hilditch and the selection panel moved some chairs for Perth. Xavier Doherty paid the price of some ordinary bowling, Bollinger for his lack of fitness, North for his lack of anything approaching form or talent. Simon Katich was betrayed by his Achilles and was the one change forced on the selectors. Coming into the squad is the mercurial Mitchell Johnson. Greg Chappell tried to get us to believe that he’d been rested for Adelaide, despite all the comments from Mitchell about having to fight hard to get back into the side after it had happened. I preferred Trevor’s spin bowling, Greg, it was more honest. The good news is, Mitch stayed with the team where he could get confidence-building back rubs from Punter instead of trying to gain some of that under-rated form in Shield cricket, on the Perth pitch no less.

OK, enough negativity about the Australian performance. Junior already did it so much better.

Other additions to the squad come in the form of Phil Hughes and his shaky technique at the top of the order, and the spot where the selectors get to pat themselves on the back, telling themselves they’re making the tough and controversial decisions – the spin bowlers. Steve Smith comes into North’s “batting all-rounder” position. The Long Handle would argue that Smith hasn’t shown anywhere near enough batting prowess to take the #6 spot in the order, but then again, North wasn’t exactly setting the world alight either. Michael Beer is the other selection in the squad. Apart from Warnie’s blessing, MacGill’s curse, overhyped tales of how his height makes him a better bowler and the inevitable “passing on Bollinger for Beer” jokes, he is likely fighting for a spot with Ben Hilfenhaus on a traditionally pace-friendly WACA pitch.

Amongst all this grim tidings, an English victory is not a fait accompli. The Poms have a poor record at Perth – one win from 11 matches, and that was back in 1978. Stuart Broad, ordinary though he was in the first couple of Tests, is gone for the series, and his replacements didn’t do much of anything in the tour game in Melbourne. Chris Tremlett and his plodding seamers will come into the side, but expect no further changes. This of course heaps yet more responsibility on Jimmy Anderson, who has been England’s best bowler. The pitch should favour the pacemen here so Graeme Swann may find the going a little tough. All the batsmen but Collingwood are in good to great form, with the Victorian police providing the sternest opposition they’ve faced all summer.

The Perth wicket has hosted two Shield games this year, a green paceman’s wicket in the early going with the usual bounce. However only one bowler has taken a 5-for this season in those two games – Nathan Hauritz. Early guessing has Hilfenhaus playing over Beer, and Smith handling the spinners’ duties. The weather should be low 30s and fine throughout, so we should see a result in this one – and the way we’ve been playing, it’s very hard to tip Australia. Reading between the lines, the bookies feel that Hussey has a strong chance to perform well in this match (check performance markets at Sportingbet and compare amongst the middle order, for instance), meaning that his top scoring batsmen for the 1st innings and match have him undervalued at 5.50 and 5.00 respectively.

The Long Handle’s plays for the 2nd Test:
England to win @ 2.55 (Centrebet)
Jimmy Anderson most wickets 1st Innings both teams @ 5.00 (Centrebet)
Michael Hussey Australia most runs 1st innings @ 5.50 (Centrebet)

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