domingo, 14 de julio de 2013

The Ashes: This could be like Edgbaston '05 all over again, says Michael Vaughan - Daily News & Analysis

At the end of this match Alastair Cook and Michael Clarke will feel as though it lasted for three weeks, such are the mental, emotional and physical pressures in your first Ashes Test as captain.

It drains the life out of you more than any other match you have played, regardless of your experience. Clarke has captained Australia against England before but the one-off Test in Sydney three years ago was completely different.

Then he was standing in for Ricky Ponting, the Ashes had been regained and England were expected to clean up the series. This time he is in charge. This is the Michael Clarke tour to England.

This match has ebbed and flowed so much that there has not been a moment when the captains could relax. Cook will not have lived a single moment without nerves.

There have been no easy passages of play for him to sit back on the balcony and chill out. There have been mistakes from both sides, as you would expect in a match of this magnitude.

England lost it when Ashton Agar and Phillip Hughes put on 163 for the final wicket on the second day. Cook set a few defensive fields but in the second innings showed he had learned the lesson.

At first he had a man out on the point boundary yesterday when Steven Finn was bowling to Ed Cowan, basically to cover a bad ball. But he brought him back in to keep the pressure up on Cowan.

He set some attacking fields to Chris Rogers and then was brave to bring on Joe Root for Finn, just when Finn was starting to find his length.

I would have kept Finn on for longer, but he went for Root and he made the breakthrough before tea. Cook will be a better captain for those experiences in this match. The same for Clarke.

You improve all the time for living through pressurised situations. We lost my first Ashes Test at Lord's but then won by two runs at Edgbaston.

This game could end in a similar way. It could be Edgbaston '05 all over again. As a captain you really want to win tight games because if you get in a habit of losing close matches you can quickly attract the 'chokers' tag.

You want the reputation of a leader who stays calm in those situations. Not the other way round. In an Ashes series it is the captain who stays calm who can be the difference between winning and losing.

For England the statistics are on their side. Only 26 times in Test cricket has more than 300 been chased successfully and England do not want to be part of history for the wrong reason today.

It will really hurt if England go 1-0 down because they gave Australia a sniff of victory when they had them down and out at 117 for nine in the first innings. The pressure will then really build for the rest of the series.

All the players have looked tense and nervous at Trent Bridge but at Lord's next week there will be a calmer feel to the match. I did not go to many matches during the last Ashes series in England so this is my first outside the team environment and until this week I did not realise the amount of emotion and expectation surrounding the players.

The sense of occasion is far greater than I felt when I was playing. They are expected to perform at their maximum, everyone wants miracles and mistakes are magnified. When you bat under pressure then you want to force the pace.

You play a big drive and chase balls you should not because you want to make an impression on an Ashes Test match. That was the downfall of some of the Australians in the first innings.

What this week has also shown is that if you arrive in an Ashes Test not in top form you will be found out. You have to know your game inside out. Look at Chris Rogers.

He is 35 but playing his first Ashes Test. He has played enough first-class cricket to know his stance, his backlift, his technique to certain types of bowling and has looked an elder statesman.

Contrast that with Cowan. A man out of form and desperately searching for an answer in the most pressurised match of his career. There is also something not right with the mindset and form of Finn.

The areas he has hit on the pitch have been inconsistent. There is something technically wrong with his run up and these things creep in when you have not bowled much recently. If you arrive on this stage with those problems you will come unstuck.

As an individual player you have to grab all the experience you can take out of this week. Remember the emotion and feeling of what it is like to play in this game. Store it up and play with more know-how in the next game. That is what Ashes cricket is about. Learn, survive and improve.

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