Alternate Ashes timeline

In another timeline, Alastair Cook just pushed a single to get Jonathan Trott on strike. Then Trott tickled a leg-side ball from Jon Holland around the corner, taking another one, as England won the series 3-1. Michael Clarke looks lost. Shane Watson is not there.

On this timeline, Watson burped a ball to deep square from Monty Panesar to move Australia ever closer to 5-0. Watson and Clarke embrace like brothers. Cook looks lost. Trott is not there.

It might seem completely inconceivable right now that Australia could have ever lost this series but, considering how much has gone right for them this series, it is not exactly science fiction.

Things have consistently not gone wrong for Australia.

For instance, they might not have picked Mitchell Johnson. Despite good white-ball form, and even with Kevin Pietersen and Trott flinching in the UK, Johnson might not have played had Mitchell Starc or James Pattinson been fit. Johnson was suspended on the Test tour of India earlier in the year, didn’t fit Australia’s plan of pressure through subtle movement. His batting is handy, but Australia’s tail did okay without him. So, had there been other options, or if Australia decided to move on, Johnson wouldn’t have played at the Gabba.

Without Johnson, Australia would not be 4-0.

Brad Haddin also could have been dropped. While he kept well in the UK, he also averaged 22. He is 36, it was his first real series back in the team, and he struggled to make an impact. The major reason he was brought back was to calm relations in the team but Darren Lehmann handled that quite well himself. Australia could have looked at it and decided that, with Wade averaging roughly the same and a better conversion rate for hundreds, it was time to bring him back in and let him take more of a leadership role.

Without Haddin, Australia would not be 4-0.

David Warner has made a lot of runs in second-innings knocks with little pressure. Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris have been good but have not really been tested in fifth and sixth spells. Nathan Lyon has been serviceable, but that’s easier to do with Johnson decapitating people at the other end. Watson has only passed 22 once in the first innings. George Bailey has barely played a proper Test innings yet and Chris Rogers would have been in far more pressure coming into this Test had it not been for the scoreline.

And none of that even takes into account the possibility of an injury befalling Harris, or Watson, or even Clarke.

Instead Trott went home. Graeme Swann retired. Matt Prior was dropped. And Cook looks under pressure.

James Anderson looks tired and beaten. Stuart Broad hasn’t bowled another great spell since the Gabba. Ian Bell has lost the magic he had in the home Ashes. Pietersen can’t seem to please anyone. Michael Carberry hasn’t gone on to make any real impact on the series despite looking okay most of the time. Joe Root’s constant travels around the batting order and his propensity to waft have had him in trouble. Tim Bresnan is not the same bowler he was three years ago.

And whether real or imagined, it seemed like every single decision that Alastair Cook made in this Test went against him. Whereas Michael Clarke probably made a mistake at the toss, ended up with a 51-run deficit, and still won by eight wickets.

In another timeline Prior takes the first catch, Cook takes the second and England win comfortably. But that never ever looked possible today. Just like all series, if something could go right for England, they made a mistake to ensure it didn’t.

And Australia have ridden the many gift horses into the sunset.

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3 thoughts on “Alternate Ashes timeline

  1. Matt says:

    Interesting ovservation on how chance informs results … maybe Starc would have come of age and out andersoned Anderson, maybe Pattinson wouls have out Broaded Broad while walking, maybe Hauritz would have out Swanned Lyon, maybe Wade could have outkept Prior and Barethrow combined and outscored Bellbottom too. Perhaps Shaun Marsh, the 28 run over excepted, might hae bailed up Bailey. Looking acorss the 2 series, I reckon 4-3 is about right, so I guess things even out over time. Reckon then, the last test should be a tie.

  2. Congratulations to Australia. In 99% of the alternative universes in an eleven dimensional existence, a few of which you expertly explore above, Australia would have won.

    Lehmann restored self-expression to Australian cricketers at about the same rate that Flower was removing it from England’s vocabulary and replacing it with ‘group think’.

    It was Flower’s gang that came to Perth all those weeks ago – his culture, his ‘right stuff’ http://downatthirdman.wordpress.com/2013/12/29/gang-culture-its-wrong-and-not-just-on-the-west-side/

    He chose the on-field and off-field squad and probably the selectors (certainly he chose the information he would use or ignore that the selectors and the off-field support team provided him with).

    This as been a catastrophic time for England cricketing talent, young and old. Flower’s errors and gambles over selection can be traced back to last year and thus include the treatment of Compton and Kerrigan.

    It would have been obvious to him that Trott and Swann were not fit – yet he took the secret gamble on them to go along side the more public gamble on Bresnan and the three big lads.

    This exposed Anderson and Broad. There is a reason why Broad’s performances tailed off and why Anderson’s tour didn’t even start before he was having to husband his strength.

    He chose a substitute for Swann in whom he and his captain had no confidence.

    Echoing this, he took a further gamble on Prior’s form and again did not back this with a genuine alternative in the event of that gamble not coming off.

    Three youngsters were then exposed to play out of position (only Stokes of whom was able to come through without shell shock). They effects on the futures of Bairstow, Root and Kerrigan do not bare thought.

    Gang culture excludes as well as includes. The deputies he has put in place on and off-field are weak and serve as unthreatening protection. The rot is endemic.

    The head of the ECB must go first as oversight and decisions rest with him.

    The next ‘coach’ must come from outside the Gang. Ashley Giles must be no more than a temporary replacement while true structural change above him can take place.

  3. The selectors get routinely lambasted when we go down.
    So they should be praised for the selections you detailed – especially Johnson and Haddin.

    Whether an attack without Johnson in it, and Wade keeping/batting instead of Haddin could have triumphed we’ll never know.
    Would the Lehmann magic have worked also on a slightly different eleven?

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