Tuesday, December 2, 2008

On the QT: Almost stumps

All this week, despite the odd attempt by Christopher Pyne to have a go at Julia Gillard, or Malcolm Turnbull yet again beginning a question with "And I refer to the statement by the Prime Minister...", Question Time has been a bit by the numbers.

Everyone knows this is the last week. Everyone knows no real big political points are going to be scored, because the public are switched off politics and are themselves thinking about Christmas and the like.

Yes the Government (Julia Gillard in particular) have had fun at Julie Bishop's expense, but what of that? Give me that barrel and let's put some fish in it to shoot at.

Pyne has been trying to coin the adjective "bungled" when referring to the computers in schools policy. But while he has tried well, he bungled himself yesterday when during one answer by Wayne Swan, when Swan rhetorically asked the opposition what things the Government shouldn't be spending money on, Pyne yelled out "computers in schools". So from now until the next election Julia G will be throwing that interjection back in Pyne's face.

Rudd has had fun referring to Andrew Robb, Peter Dutton et al as wannabes for Julie Bishop's job, and it must be said Bishop hasn't done a lot of asking of questions this week. I thought Turnbull might dump her over Christmas, but now I'm not so sure. I don't think he has the numbers to do it. West Australian Liberals account for 20% of the party room, and on this issue, I think they'd vote in a block. And with a poll coming out yesterday that showed Turnbull is behind Julia Gillard in the Better PM stakes, you just know he can't walk into the Liberal Partyroom and demand whatever he wants.

And so with two QT's to go, the test match of 2008 is already over. The ALP won by an innings and with lots of wickets to spare - after all they needed one less leader than the opposition did, so I think we can call that an innings defeat.

But elections are a best of three test series. The ALP are one up with two to play - and in politics, the last test always counts for double.

The ALP has been fortunate to have the best player on the park in Julia Gillard - she can open the bowling and batting - her batting against Julie Bishop in particular recalled Sobers against Graham Nash.

Kevin Rudd, the Captain of the side, is a boring opening bat in the Boycott mode. He doesn't lose his wicket cheaply, and does have all the shots, it's just that he prefers defence to attack. His batting also seems more suited to international pitches than those in Australia.

In Anthony Albanese the ALP have a wicket keeper who can come in deep into the innings and make a quick half century even if the ball is starting to swing reverse - which is often the case when the bowling is being done by members of the National Party.

Wayne Swan at Number 3 has not had a consistent year, but batting on dodgy wickets, in bad light, he has at least kept his wicket intact even if he hasn't scored many runs. He may benefit from being dropped down the order, but the word from the dressing room is that the Captain likes him at first drop.

Lindsey Tanner, the demon bowler from Melbourne Ports, has carved up the Liberals. He obviously hates the opposition batsmen, and loves nothing better than coming off the long run and delivering a fatal sandshoe crusher. And in those times when he has shared the new ball with Julia Gillard, they have looked like Lillee and Thommo incarnate.

In the middle order has been the capable Nicola Roxon and Chris Bowen. Roxon is a bit of a dasher, who no doubt fancies her chances of being promoted up the order. Bowen, batting with Swan, had a good partnership going and was on his way to a marvelous century, before he was out hit wicket when he confused his Yen and his Yuan.

Tony Burke at number 6 has been a dependable all-rounder who together with his fine batting has a good right arm medium pace. He has been playing on a lot of country pitches this year, and faced a number of mystifying deliveries from Bob Katter, but has done well - especially when batting with Anthony Albanese against the National Party attack.

As first change bowler, Stephen Smith has not done a lot wrong. He doesn't make the ball move much, in the air or off the pitch, and the Captain has a tendency to want to bowl all his overs for him, but he continually puts the ball just short of a good length, and has notched up a stack of maidens, if not many wickets.

Jenny Macklin is a left arm spin bowler, who doesn't spin the ball much, but doesn't seem to go for many runs. She was fortunate in that the opposition decided to let Tony Abbott try and hit her out of the attack, and really it was a grade cricket level effort from the Member for Warringah.

Joel Fitzgibbon at Number 10 is a steady medium pacer, who got through his overs with a couple wickets - notably when he found the opposition's defence was pretty limp when it came to helicopters.

The Opposition was led at first by right arm spinner Brendan Nelson. Unfortunately he bowled neither leg nor off spin, and instead hoped his specialty of straight-breaks would garner some wickets. It didn't. He was hit out of the attack, and only the lack of any team cohesion kept him on the team sheet for as long as he was.

He was taken over in the Captaincy by the right arm fast medium, Malcolm Turnbull. Malcolm does have promise, except he thinks he is a mixture of Glenn McGrath and Dennis Lillee. Unfortunately he bowls more like a mixture of Paul Reifel and Rodney Hogg - good but not great. Too often he takes such a long run up that by the time he delivers the ball, he has run out of puff. He would be better served coming off a short run, and spending less time thinking that he is Bradman with the bat - for while he has scored some quick runs, he has not put together a decent partnership with anyone, and has yet to make a century.

His captaincy also warrants questioning. He has kept Julie Bishop in the attack for far too long, and often seems to want to change the field after each delivery. This means his bowlers don't know where to pitch the ball, and end up invariably pitching it either too short, or down legside for easy runs.

As the opening bowler, Julie Bishop has failed to show any ability. She hasn't caused the batsmen to play and miss once, and late in the match seemed to be losing all composure and looked all set to take her bat and ball and go home. Most of the time she seems to be bowling a line that didn't work in the last year's series, and yet she persists with it, as though she has no choice but to keep working away at it.

As the Opposition wicket-keeper, Joe Hockey has been more Wayne Phillips than Adam Gilchrist. He talks a good talk to the slips cordon, and is forever being heard on the effects microphone calling "Bowled Shane" (or perhaps it's "Hear, hear!"). As a batsmen he has been out cheaply in both innings. He is an old style wicketkeeping batsmen - hits a six, then gets bowled the next ball. Probably would be captain at state level, but is struggling at the moment for form and consistency.

Andrew Robb has opened the batting with Peter Dutton, and they would both get a place in the New Zealand side... with a bit of coaching. Neither seems to be capable of displaying any tight defence, indeed Robb doesn't seem to know whether he wants to bat or bowl, as he keeps suggesting to the Captain that he should take the new ball instead of Julie Bishop. Dutton is much the same - not one shot of his is memorable, and he hasn't been able to score any runs off of Nicola Roxon at all.

At number 3, Warren Truss himself knows he is only in the side because of his membership of the National Party. He really is a Number 7, but somehow is always selected in the top order - and given the opening pair of Robb and Dutton, he is often having to bat against the new ball. He is a handy swing bowler, but too often this year he has bowled short against the batsmen, allowing for easy runs hit to cow corner.

At Number 4 Tony Abbott, scored a pair in this test match. He is finding the going tough after spending 11 years batting on flat tracks with a bribed umpire. He did fancy himself as an opening bowler, and also captain, but when he decided to tell the media that he was sick of batting at number 4, new Captain Turnbull decided to keep him there just to spite him.

The all-rounder of the team, Peter Costello, didn't know what to do this year - concentrate on his bowling or his batting. At times he told everyone he was going to be a specialist bat, and then he would laugh and wonder why anyone would think he was other than a specialist bowler. In the end no one cared what he did, because they realised he did neither very well. In any other team he would have been dropped, but in this team there are still those who think he should be captain.

The young firebrand first change bowler Christopher Pyne suffered due to his always being brought on to bowl after Julia Gillard had settled in. He went for a lot of runs, but unlike most of the others in the team he kept hitting the pitch hard and at a good length - it's just that his pace is not quick enough at this level. His tendency to argue the decision with the umpire is also to his detriment, and won't help in any close LBW decisions. He also seems to have no confidence in Hawkye, deeming that computers are just costly gimmicks.

The other young bowler, Greg Hunt, has impressed with his leg spin. He is future Captain material, and with better fielding may have returned better figures. He is a dasher with the bat as well, and looks to be given a greater role in the next two tests.

Finally, Steven Ciobo as representing Small Business, Independent Contractors and the Arts, hasn't seemed to know what to bowl, nor to whom. Too often he is forced to bowl his right arm predictables to Julia Gillard, or Chris Bowen, and too often he has watched the ball being hit back over his head for four easy runs.

But the Opposition hasn't been helped by occasional heckling from the former Captain, John Howard, now sitting comfortably in the member's stand. His calls from the sideline have distracted many - especially Bishop, Abbott and Hockey, and have left Turnbull wondering just who is the real captain of the squad.

But with the game finished, and only Richie Benaud left to wrap up the match, we look forward to the next match, where the pitch is likely to be less batsman friendly, and containing dangers for both sides.

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