Ashes flops: Useful players who were far from useful
WITH Australia and England to resume hostilities in the first Test at Edgbaston on Thursday night (AEST), we take a look back at some of those useful players who were far from useful in Ashes arena.
It wasn't easy being an English bowler in the 1990s. England didn't hold up the little urn once throughout the whole decade, meaning many of their best players' efforts were liable to be ignored or forgotten. Malcolm's huge frame propelled the ball at high speeds, and he was good enough to net 9/57 against the Proteas just before the 1994/95 Ashes series. Many expected the same of him in Australia. And his spells in Adelaide in Perth were scintillating. But while his bowling was good, his fielders couldn't catch a cold. He finished with an Ashes average of 45. Ouch.
Australia's preeminent all-rounder in the late '80s, Simon O'Donnell fit the mould of a Test cricketer like a glove. A talented fast bowler, aggressive batsman and sure-handed fielder, O'Donnell became a crowd favourite in ODI cricket. His Test stats make less impressive reading. Coming into a Test side for the 1985 Ashes depleted of many first-choice players due to a rebel tour of South Africa, his useful bowling netted him only six wickets at the grimace-inducing average of 81. He played only one more Test against New Zealand before being pigeon-holed as a limited overs specialist.
It's fair to say that Michael Bevan could be one of Australia's greatest ever batsmen. From first-class cricket to one-dayers, Bevan averaged well over 50 in every form of the game. Except Test cricket, where it sat at a lowly 29. Many believe his difficulty with the short ball contributed to his problems as a Test batsman, and a look through his dismissals is a history of bowlers preying on that weakness. In the half dozen Ashes Tests Bevan played, his highest score was 35, with an average of 11. You know things aren't going well when Craig McDermott has a higher Ashes average than you.
Cricket history has treated Mike Brearley well. His intuitive and thoughtful captaincy was comfortably his finest attribute. He was also an important figure in the 1981 Ashes after relieving Ian Botham of the pressures of captaincy (and in doing so, sunk Australia's hopes). It was lucky he was such a good captain, because his batting inspired little confidence. He failed to score a ton in 15 Ashes Tests, and averaged a mediocre 20. To put that in perspective, Shane Warne has a better batting record.
"No way, not Brett Lee," you shriek. "He was an amazing bowler." And you're right. He was. But his Ashes record doesn't reflect how good he was. Not one bit. Despite taking 62 wickets in 18 Ashes Tests, he averaged an uncharacteristic 40 with the ball, and never took a five-for. However, that famous photograph of Lee and Andrew Flintoff in 2005 will remain a historic moment in Ashes history, so you can be assured 'Binga' will be remembered.