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The tweet that slipped through the net

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Oliver Brett | 20:05 UK time, Thursday, 30 July 2009

At 0715 BST on Thursday, an enthusiastic colleague woke me up with a text message: "Hughes dropped in favour of Watson. Enjoy your breakfast!"

Three hours later, as it became clear that play would not start on time for the third Ashes Test at Edgbaston, the story of how Phillip Hughes, the 20-year-old opening batsman, had been left out of the Australian team was suddenly the talk of the town.

By posting a message to his 3,000 followers on social network site Twitter - "Disappointed not to be on the field today," he told them - he had apparently divulged some of Ricky Ponting's closely guarded strategies concerning team selection.

Dropped and admonished - Phillip Hughes

That was not, strictly speaking, the case at all. The Australian newspaper had by then already published an exclusive, quoting "sources close to the team" with the news that Hughes had indeed been dropped, and replaced by Shane Watson.

The veracity of their scoop was confirmed when, with the toss finally taking place at 1630, Ricky Ponting announced Australia's starting XI.

Except, as one shower after another lashed the Birmingham area during the morning, and the groundstaff spent most of the afternoon mopping it all up, the story was not about some good investigative journalism, but Hughes's over-zealous tweeting.

His agent appeared on TV and explained: "We get the Twitter from Phillip and I feed them into our IT guy," a bizarrely complicated process that completely misses the point of Twitter's spontaneity. The agent accepted the blame, saying he had got confused about time differences.

In early afternoon, I saw a sheepish-looking Hughes quietly sipping a cup of tea as he toured the perimeter of the ground with Brad Haddin acting as chaperone. Understandably, all interviews with journalists and chats with fans were politely declined.

As well as having to deal with the disappointment of being axed despite averaging 69 from his first three Tests prior to this series, Hughes was ticked off by Cricket Australia. On the plus side, Matthew Hayden - commentating on Test Match Special here - has offered to provide an unofficial counselling service for the young New South Welshman.

With Watson making the best possible use of the 30 overs available to hit a sparkling unbeaten 62, just 16 runs away from his best score in Test cricket, Hayden may have a busy summer in front of him.

Meanwhile, the tweets provided by England's Graeme Swann and James Anderson will not face censorship by the England and Wales Cricket Board, a spokesman revealed. He did, however, add: "Players understand their responsibilities when posting information on social networking sites."

Swann's contributions are often an entertaining read - including this one after England's shock defeat to the Netherlands in the ICC World Twenty20: "Wondering what was in those cakes the Dutch gave us as pre-match nibbles..."

As a fellow tweeter - is that the right word? - I hope that cricketers and sportsmen in general do not get discouraged from the network. In a world of stage-managed press conferences, where exclusive interviews are harder than ever to obtain, Twitter is a welcome diversion.


  • Comment number 1.

    "As a fellow tweeter - is that the right word?"


    I believe - but don't quote me on this - the correct term is "twit".

    Whatever the Leader of her Majesty's Opposition might believe...

  • Comment number 2.

    Thanks Oliver, great post...
    England seem to be more ardent twits (or tweeters?) than the Australian team though and include Jimmy Anderson, KP and Ian Bell as well Swann.
    Australia have also Ponting and Hussey although they aren't updating much these days.
    If you're interested, a full list of cricket twits and links included is at

  • Comment number 3.

    I can't believe they've actually dropped him, its not the way the selectors have run the test side for a long time.

    Once selected, a player is usually backed to come good. Sure Hughes has a weakness at the short ball into the body, but he's grown up scoring runs on hard bouncy pitches.

    He's 20 years old and the ashes in England is a tough stage to be on. But with the middle order batting we have i think we should have backed this kid. He has all the potential in the world and if he got going, we'd be off to a flyer.

    I do think that Watson should have been brought into the side, but i would have left out North.

    If North fails here, i fully expect Hughes to be brought back in.

  • Comment number 4.

    I would have left North out too. He batted very poorly at Lord's, but I guess selectors were thinking of his ton on the Cardiff featherbed. Trouble is, now Watson has scored this fifty as an opener, if you DO bring back Hughes where does he go? Surely not at six.

  • Comment number 5.

    Oh mama the rains of Birmingham!
    And a nightwatcman in swing!

    Freddie Flintoff and his swan song and
    A spin bowler trapping lone Ozzie scalp

    Fait accompli the result, methink
    As England cling to slim series lead.

    And onward the march to the next contests
    Too see if Aussie still have the aura in Tests

    New kings will be crown in an England win and
    The mighty Oz will someday rise again from the ashes

    Like the legendary Phoenix!
    Alas, alas no more England jinx!

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    Isn't that the whole point of a 'management company'? If the client makes a hash of something (which PH clearly did), the company tries to keep him with a good image.

  • Comment number 8.

    Great post, Brett!

  • Comment number 9.

    It's interesting seeing the number of people who feel dropping Hughes was very harsh. Now Stuart Broad has a number of people, myself included, who don't think he justifies his place right now on the basis that the potential he undoubtedly has isn't enough to warrant a place when he isn't taking enough wickets or bowling well enough. Surely Hughes is in exactly the same camp? He has potential but technique issues means that potential is nullified by his end product, a lack of runs.

    I don't see why Marcus North is more eligible than Hughes for the axe. North has scored two centuries on tour, one in the Test arena. Oliver, you say his ton at Cardiff was on a featherbed. Well, Hughes had a feather bed at Worcester to bat on and got pretty nailed by Harmison both knocks. He had a chance at Cardiff and didn't take it. North did. North is still a Test rookie as is Hughes.

    The Australian selectors have copped some serious stick but I think they made the right choice. Many people were talking of Hauritz getting the axe to allow Watson in. It would have been madness to axe a guy who has been as good as any bowler during the entire series. England's performance today showed that a good spinner can be a threat on any pitch. If by some miracle we get some sun for a couple of days, that pitch might really turn.

    If Hughes needs any inspiration then all he needs to do is to look at Katich, who came back after some time out a better player with a better technique. Likewise, Matthew Hayden can offer great advice to him in terms of how to get back to the Australian team and how to cement your place. Hughes will feel disappointed at being dropped but I'm sure he will return with a better technique that will see him score a lot of Test runs.

  • Comment number 10.

    Hughes must be gutted watching the England bowlers dish up that load of rubbish

  • Comment number 11.

    If i was Phil Hughes getting dragged over the coals over this Twitter incident, I'd tell them all to get stuffed. What a lot of inconsistent garbage from the Australian selectors. The man averages over 50 in Test Cricket and he has two bad tests, copped a rough decision in his last innings and he's out.

    What about Johnston? I have never seen a worse bowling performance in 35 years of watching Test cricket than Johnson in the last Test. They say he's still getting wickets. Johnston is the luckiest bowler in the world. I reckon at least 50% of his hundred odd test wickets have been from bad balls. I reckon he gets wickets because he sprays it around so much the batsmen doesn't know where the next ones gonna be. You're in trouble when you start selecting players (Watson) as reinforcement for a player desperately out of form.

    Never mind that Watson's got 62. My grandmother could score runs at Edgbaston, its flat as and the English bowlers were a bit scratchy.

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.


    Nowt wrong with bad balls. Botham was legendary for getting wickets with absolute garbage at times. Johnson has major rhythm problems. You look at how he was running up in South Africa, all fire and brimstone, and how he runs up in England. He looks low on confidence, a stuttering run up rather than a run up that builds to a crescendo. Any pace he generates comes from the arm and shoulder. He's asking the shoulder to make up for the lack of run up impetus.

    Hughes will be back. He has had some bad luck but he's been found out on this tour in both Tests and warm-up games. I have no doubt he will return.

  • Comment number 14.

    I think that people are underestimating the impact losing Kevin Pieterson will have on this England team. It will be a huge psycological lift for Australlia. They know England have two genuinely inspirational matchwinners, and to lose one at this stage, the other being a permenant fitness doubt. I am certain this will be something Australlia will endevour to exploit. He destroyed the Aussies on their last tour here, if it wasn't for his innings at the Oval, Warne and Mcgrath were well on their way to bowling England out. It was on a knife-edge and he single handedly took the game away from them, ok so Giles played not bad as well. No other player in this England team has the ability to do that, with the bat, under that sort of immense pressure, Australlia will take heart from this, they're are bound to.. Even though he didn't set the world alight in Cardiff or at Headquaters his presence gives the team a immeasurable reassurance. He is due for a big score and I think the team realise this subconsciously and without him they will suffer mentally. I hope I will be proved wrong, but beware the Australlia fightback, Johnson will come good and Watson hasn't started badly. He has that true aussie spirit, something which critics have said their team has been missing lately. If Freddie stays fit he win the battle of the allrounders, but to overlook a fit and firing Steve Harmison could be an error that will come back to haunt England and their selectors. Stuart Broad is a terrific young cricketer, but his form has dipped and Harmison could really hurt Australlia. What about Sidebottom he took 8 wickets at Scarborough recently. Bear in mind it was only 16 months ago he was taking a hatrick in New Zealand and getting into the top 5 icc test bowling rankings. I think if a player is mis-firing, bite the bullet and make a change. Unless Onions and Broad set the world alight in this test match, give Harmy and Sidebottom a go.

  • Comment number 15.


  • Comment number 16.

    It would be a travesty if Steve Harmison does not get a bowl at Leeds and the Oval.

  • Comment number 17.

    I cannot imagine a whole blog hogged by a twitter-happy Hughes. Surprisingly nothing on Manou replacing Hadden after the 11th hour. Very sporting of Struass! It should serve to wash away(or tone down) the undeserved criticism on account of 12th man/physio forays at Cardiff as well as the justifiable flak coming his way on the back of a dubious Hughe's catch claim at Lords. I was merely interested to know the degree of wheedling Ponting resorted to in order to get the unusual, perhaps unprecedented (but very sporting) nod from the England captain. This ought to restore the 'friendly spirit the Ashes are being played in'.
    Though the usual obituaries for a rain-aided draw are on, the match scenarios still could be;
    1. Aussies score another 350 plus (no rain) today and have enough batting left to pile up 600+ on the third day and leave England two and a half days to engineer two collapses.
    2. Australia themselves collapse to about 300+ today and England do the piling up to leave Aussies having to see off a Cardiff like situation.
    3. The widely anticipated draw, abetted by spells of unrelenting intermittent rain; a couple of serious interruptions should suffice.

    The draw, or any draws down the line favor England as they have a win on the board. In years to come Cardiff draw may seem a huge reward for the heroic fight and the famed 'bulldog' spirit.

  • Comment number 18.


    Allowing Manou to play was not 'very sporting' of Strauss. It was the standard thing to do. Strauss could have been an absolute twit and said no and copped all amount of flak but anyone half way reasonable would have allowed them to bring in a replacement keeper.
    Stop hero worshipping Strauss as if he is the second coming of Jesus, he just a standard bloke.

    PS: The criticism on account of 12th man/physio forays at Cardiff is not 'undeserved' as you state, but is in fact well deserved.

  • Comment number 19.

    I think Hughes is pretty unfortunate to be out of this test but also think some people are missing the point. I don't believe he's been dropped for his batting (regardless of how he has struggled compared to his performance in SA), rather that he has been bought in as extra bowling cover and slotted into the place where the selectors feel he would be most approprate. Looking at how Watson plays (haven't seen much of him in this format of the game before) I can see why they think he would be best placed at the top of the order (regardless of his average in that position). I don't think dropping MJ would have been considered as the Aussies know that while they're 1-0 down they must focus on taking 20 wickets, and they will need MJ to come good to do this.

    Incidentally, the amount of criticism of the Aussie selectors surprises me. They've dropped a player who is having a lapse in form and have taken a punt on a player who is 60-odd not out and will also bolster their seam attack. I think that for the moment they've vindicated themselves rather well!

  • Comment number 20.

    What a clanger the twitter thing is by Phil Hughes. The captain should announce the team, not confirm it! I bet tricky Ricky wasn't happy!
    Watson has made the most of his chance, so good on him. The session was a reminder that England can't rest on their laurels after Lords and rely on the weather playing a part. They need to get back in the contest and start looking serious.

  • Comment number 21.

    Sevenseaman, I think Strauss still owes Punter a few favours considering the rate at which we have been substituting players during this series. Some of them seem to spend a lot of time off the field for no real reason other than that they fancy a bit of a rest.

    Unfortunately most of England's bowling yesterday was complete rubbish, presumably the thinking was that this was going to be a doddle. They just never seem to learn.

    Watson is proving to be an excellent opening bat. If Manou is as good a replacement for Hadden and if Johnson comes good (which could happen anythime soon) the Aussie "Aura" will be back and we could find our somewhat fortuitous 1-0 lead go up in a puff of smoke.

  • Comment number 22.

    17 & 18. The Haddin-Manou incident is interesting as I am still not 100% sure (nor is anyone I've asked) whether the injury happened just before or just after the toss. It must have been almost simultaneous - everyone was warming up at the time except the two captains... Either way it would have been outrageously unsporting of Strauss to insist on sticking to the rules and making Haddin bat with a broken finger and play Michael Clarke as wicketkeeper or something.

    This was a case where the spirit of cricket came out on top - something that doesn't always happen in golf where you can make an honest error in signing for an erroneous card and get disqualified, which for the record I think is ridiculous.

    Anyway - beautiful sunny day here. Could be a tough one for England's bowlers. I'd like to see Onions given a couple of long spells, too much reliance on Fred and Jimmy again I sensed yesterday...

  • Comment number 23.

    Major questions must yet again raised towards our illustrious bowling coach Mr. Ottis Gibson and his apparent poor job in preparing the bowlers mentally for the task in hand. How many more bad first sessions of a test must our attack have? This same old situation has occurred countless times in recent series and is frankly unacceptable. Get rid and appoint someone with proper test experience.

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 25.

    to quote David Cameron "too many twits might make a Tw*t"

  • Comment number 26.

    Yesterdays' session was a farce. I was at edgbaston at 10.30am and it was just starting to rain quite heavily. By noon it was bright sunny and windy, ideal conditions for a drying outfield. Pitch inspection after pitch inspection the umpires finally announced that the toss would take place at 4.30 with a 5pm start. WHY oh WHY was this necessary??????

    The outfield was dry and with the bowlers charging in their were no footholes. In a lively session of cricket the fielding side were diving around here and there, but there were no apparent grass stains on their whiter than white "uniforms". It angered a lot that there needs to be this protocol of starting at the top of the hour, why not adopt a we are ready then let's go approach to test cricket. It's the usual "old F**ts who make these decisions and all because the ECB love a few quid.

    I've ranted and raved about this before last summer when the Kiwi's came to play a 1 day at Edgebaston it was again rained out for most of the day but luckily the ECB managed to pathetically wring out 28 overs of cricket and the result was a no result. Under their refund policy they can only give a full refund if less than 10 overs are bowled or 50% refund if between 10.1 and 24.5 overs are bowled.

    Bowing down at the mercy of television they have forgotten that people give time and money to follow their teams. Ig Giles and his cronies were looking around Edgebaston yesterday everyone took their seats to watch the first delivery and nobody moved until the final ball was bowled.

    We all want to see test cricket but these old f**ts are stopping the game progress all for the sake of a few bob.

  • Comment number 27.

    Jabsco79 - harsh on Gibson. No-one was complaining about him last Test when Freddie took five-for and very publicly acknowledge Ottis Gibson for his advice and plans for the Aussie batsmen.

  • Comment number 28.

    It was bound to happen! Twitter is basically a tool to allow the self obsessed to indulge in their favourite subject. The 'spontaneity', i.e. communicating without thinking, means that there had to be a slip up eventually. The real story comes from the timing of the statement rather than the actual content, which in itself speaks volumes.

  • Comment number 29.

    To digress for a second - How is getting disqualified for signing for the wrong score in golf ridiculous? We're talking about the ability (for the most part) to count to 5.

    If a player is incapable of doing that, despite the safeguards in place (2 scorecards, checks at the end of the round etc) they deserved to get disqualified. Nothing to do with the spirit of the game whatsoever.

  • Comment number 30.

    Fergaljpc - not really sure what point you are making. It is the laws of cricket that there is 30 minutes from toss to play in a Test match. Surely it just makes sense to set a nice round time to start. What would you prefer? Toss at 4.22 and 33 seconds followed by play at 4.52 and 33 seconds? Is that easier to plan for? I think you'll find that choosing and agreeing in advance a time for pitch inspections and starting permeates all cricket, down to village games. It's convenience and the honed practice of hundreds of years, nothing to do with "a few quid".

    Also it was quite clear form the coverage I saw that the bowlers' run-ups and footholds were barely acceptable. The lack of grass stains is likely due to the technical non-staining cloths used for whites nowadays. Again go to a village match this weekend and you will notice the same phenomenon on any player with new clothes.

  • Comment number 31.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 32.

    I guess this has been made even more salient after Darren Bent's alleged Twitter rants.

  • Comment number 33.

    DJ Kendrick - fair comment, however I would suggest this is more the exception than the rule. The frustration comes more from the inconsistency; we had the opportunity to really put the Australian's under more pressure yet we bowled with the impression of being under prepared and unfocused. In part defence of Gibson, the bowlers in question are experienced (Onions apart) enough to know better.

  • Comment number 34.

    Well, if Strauss had not allowed Australia to exchange Haddin for Manou then it would certainly have been unsporting and just not cricket.

    Given that Ponting didn't complain about the usual English revolving door of subs to manage their walking wounded (who walked into the game wounded) for the first two tests, Strauss could hardly be so hard nosed.

    "Sure, you've let us play with an ambulance parked on the pitch for two tests, but you can get stuffed if you want to swap over Haddin before we start..."

    Don't think he deserves any praise for this, this sort of humane sportsmanship is expected.

    Good luck today to both teams!

  • Comment number 35.

    indipper, the Bell and KP twitters you mention in your blog are definitely fakes. The same may be true of this Darren Bent one.

  • Comment number 36.

    Is it just me, or is anyone else getting tired with all the hand-wringing and hair-tearing arising from the absence of KP???? Talismans are all well & good, but they don't score runs; and frankly, neither has KP in this series. This is not Hogwarts; KP is not Harry Potter; and, even if he was, his wand is broken. If we can't win without KP, then we don't deserve to; and English cricket does not need a dose of Maclaren's Syndrome i.e. which assumes that we must have eleven specific players to make up an English team - even if that team loses most of the time. Please!! Far more worrying, it seems to me, is the English way of staying 'loyal' to players, way beyond the point when they should be excused games; Ravi Bopara being a case in point and perhaps Broad being another. Anyway, we seem to have made a moderately encouraging start today

  • Comment number 37.

    I knew that this Punters Voodoo doll was worth every penny. Took a lot of pins though!!

  • Comment number 38.


    The point I'm making is we could have had an extra hours play instead of dragging it out til 5pm. As a spectator surely it makes sense to get the toss in, 10 mins to pad up, warm up and get out there. What are you going to do in half an hour? Clock watching for a nice round figure is something brought about by tv.

    Test match cricket was in its' formative years given time to play out 2 full innings per side.

    non-staining whites?? Don't be ridiculous grass and mud is grass and mud no matter what way you dress it up. Have a look at collingwoods backside and you'll see stains!

    Think progressive not regressive.

  • Comment number 39.

    How come we bowl out the Aussies in under two sessions, for @ 250 and nobody says anyhting. Have you all gone on holiday????

  • Comment number 40.

    Thanks Oliver,
    Yes you're right - have since updated.
    Have also been pointed towards Graham Manou's twitter feed which I understand is legitimate but penned annonymously

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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