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Monday, August 24, 2015

Something for everyone: Australia win T5, hand back Ashes to England



Australia 481 def England 149 & 286 (101.4ov, Cook 85, Buttler 42, Moeen Ali 35, Siddle 24.4-11-35-4, Lyon 2/53, M Marsh 2/56) by an innings & 46 runs: T5D4 at The Oval. England win series 3-2 and regain the Ashes. Player of the match: Steven Smith; Player of the series: 
Joe Root.

The forecast rain came when Australia had removed Mark Wood and Jos Buttler, and on TV looked to be bucketing down, raising hopes or fears, depending on which side you supported, of a wasshout draw.

But it passed, play eventually resumed and Australia (Peter Siddle to be precise) inevitably if not as quickly as they'd have liked, took the last two wickets, and the satisfaction of a crushing victory in bright sunshine.

England of course had already achieved the satisfaction of  recovering the Ashes. The post match celebration of this duly (and properly) overshadowed Australia's dead rubber win. An England player deserved to be names player of the series, and was. I thought that player should have been
Stuart Broad, not Joe Root. Yes, both did very well, but in my opinion Broad maintained a consistently high standard, even if he appeared a little weary in this Test. He may have bowled a few bad balls, but did he bowl a bad spell?  I can't recall one.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Australia proceed steadily towards victory, despite Cook's resistance: T5D3


England 149 (48.4ov, Moeen Ali 30, Wood 24, Cook 22, Johnson 8.4-4-21-3, M Marsh 9-2-30-3, Siddle 2/32, Lyon 2/40) & 6/203 (79ov, Cook 85/234b/11x4, Buttler 33*/80b/3x4, Lyon 2/52, Siddle 16-10-14-1, Smith 1-0-7-1, Marsh 1/28, Johnson 1/51) need 129 more runs to avoid an innings defeat: T5/5 D3/5 at The Oval.

Once England's tail had wagged a little more and Mitchell Johnson had removed the principal waggers Moeen Ali and Mark Wood, Michael Clarke went against his previous practice and relied on his commonsense to enforce the follow on.

England, or more specifically Alistair Cook, made a better fist of things at the second attempt. But Cook's dismissal, caught at short leg off Steven Smith in the closing minutes of the day's play, must surely have, barring very heavy rain, sealed their fate, but not of course their recovery of the Ashes.

Cook's judicious strokeplay and exemplary (until that mistake) contrasted with the lack thereof of most of his teammates. A few of them played one or two good strokes, but none of the top order came close to matching Cook. Only Jos Buttler (who isn't, on his form thus far in the series a bona fide top order batter) managed to survive against the unrelenting Australian attack, in which Peter Siddle's economy was the highlight for me. I didn't think he was up to it, but am happy to acknowledge my error of judgment, unlike Shane Warne who on TV has continued to pooh-pooh him as a medium pacer. Some medium pacer, say I.

If all goes to plan the Test should finish on day 4. Even if things don't work out quite as Australia hope they have a considerable margin of safety in terms of runs and, maybe, time. The major threat is rain, which is forecast,as  I understand, for each of the last two days, though not for the entire days's play. Australia should win this one from here, but if England manage to hang on for a draw it won't be the first time that English weather has spoilt proceedings. Let's wait and see.


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Australia keep us wondering...why they've not been this good more often: T5D2


England 8/107 (40ov, Cook 22, Marsh 3/18, Siddle 2/18, Lyon 2/32) trail Australia 481 (125.1ov, Smith 143, Voges 76, Starc 58, Finn 3/90, Moeen Ali 3/102, Stokes 3/133) by 374 runs: T5D2 at The Oval.

Another day to Australia as Steve Smith and Adam Voges kept England in the field before a few wickets tumbled, then Mitchell Starc hit a quickfire 58 as the last three wickets added 105. 481 looked a good total but not, I thought, as good as it might have been bearing in mind instances in the last decade where teams have made 500+ in the first innings and still lost.

But these were in Australia.The Oval pitch seemed more benign than many close to it expected, but after England fell apart when they batted, it appeared as if its demons had not been tamed. Yet this understates the difference in quality between the two attacks: Australia focused, driven by Peter Siddle and Mitchell Marsh (and with each other bowler doing their bit); England, with Stuart Broad used sparingly (to preserve him for future series?), sub-par.

From here Australia should win. The weather apparently threatens to disrupt proceedings on days 4 & 5, so Michael Clarke needs to break with recent Australian and enforce the follow on.

Disclosure: I had a long day on Friday and was disappointed that I fell asleep (through fatigue, not boredom) when England batted and thus missed all 8 wickets,  I did see some highlights and replays: enough to get an idea of how well Australia bowled, and how vulnerable England are when put under the pump as they were on this day.

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Better too late than never in this Ashes series as Warner & Rogers lay foundation for Smith: T5D1


Australia 3/287 (79.4ov, Warner 85/131b/11x4, Smith 78*/132b/1x6 9x4, Voges 47*/87/8x4, Rogers 43/100b/7x4) v England T5/5 D1/5 at The Oval, London. England won toss and sent Australia in to bat. England: unchanged; Australia: M Marsh, Siddle in, S Marsh, Hazlewood out.

David Warner and Chris Rogers hung on grittily until lunch against some sharp England bowling, especially (again) that of Stuart Broad who began with a 5-3-4-0 (initially 4-3-1-0) spell which tested the pair's judgment and resolve, but failed to part them.

0/82 at lunch in English conditions was English Test cricket at its best, and  not only because the openers had responded so well. I exhaled a sigh of relief as the players walked off, relieved that Australia hadn't imploded once more, but well aware that its brittle middle order needed, unless the Warner-Rogers stand went on and on, to show more than they'd done in most of tis series.

Well, it did (Michael Clarke's 15 excepted). After Rogers, and then Warner, fell Steve Smith stepped in, and up. He had his scratchy moments (and I'm not referring to his restlessness before facing the bowling) but he persevered and in time, as he got his eye in and took the measure of the home attack, flourished' leaving Australia, at the end of a day curtailed by bad light, comfortably placed to at least save the Test (which no Australian supporter would wish for) on with what looks (perhaps through rose tinted spectacles0 a half decent chance of winning the dead rubber.

Scorecard

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Something to play for in Clarke's last Test?


There seems to have been little enthusiasm among Australian supporters for the Fifth Test : get it over and done with is the impression I've gained.

A rain interrupted draw against a modestly credentialled Northamptonshire (who were boosted by a ton from a former S Aust U19 player) at least provided a breathing space -as was the rule rather than the exception in the old days - for the two national sides. It also showed Patrick Cummins's (remember him?) potential with bat (82* to lead a much needed lower order revival) and ball. It has also given him a place in the XI for the march which will begin shortly, replacing Josh Hazlewood, and why not say I.

I'd prefer to see a get over it mentality to take over, accompanied by a full blown attack upon England, who must be more than satisfied with their efforts to date. 

And of course it's Michael Clarke's farewell. He has adopted a more positive attitude than most towards this occasion, yet has continued to emphasise the impact of his batting failures upon his team's performances. He has some point, but there are other matters needing attention. 

A seaming pitch has been promised, so is another short Test looming? We shall see, but in any event hope that Australia put up a better fight than they've done everywhere except at Lord's. 


Monday, August 10, 2015

Game, series and Ashes to England, then Clarke announces retirement:T4 D3


England 391 def Australia 60 & 253 (72.4ov, Warner 64, Rogers 52, Voges 51*/118/7x4, Stokes 21-8-36-6, Wood 3/69, Broad 1/36) by an inns & 78 runs: T4/5 D3/5. England lead Ashes series 3-1. Player of the match: Stuart Broad.

The end, though not the actual result, came sooner than Australian supporters probably expected, as Ben Stokes and Mark Wood made short work of the Australia tail, leaving Adam Voges unbeaten with by far his highest score of the series.

Enough of that for now.

In the post match Channel 9 interviews Shane Warne sensitively elicited Michael Clarke's retirement from Test cricket announcement. Much as I'd hoped that Clarke would (1) make a big score in this Test  and (2) remain as Australia's captain beyond this series, (1) didn't happen and (2) won't happen. A double pity. 

More anon.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Broad 8/15 scythes through Australia - all out 60 before lunch- then Root 124* confirms England dominance:T4 D1 to


England 4/274 (65ov, Root 124*/158b/1x6 19x4, Bairstow 74/105b/12x4, Cook 43, Starc 3/73) lead Australia 60 (18.3ov, Extras 14, Johnson 13, Broad 9.3-5-15-8) by 214 with 6 !st inns wkts in hand: T4/5 D1/5 at Trent Bridge, Nottingham. Toss: England, who sent Australia in.  England XI: Wood in for Anderson (injured); Australia XI{  S Marsh replaced M Marsh.

Stuart Broad bowled magnificently, inducing an appalling, if not entirely inexplicable, batting collapse before lunch. Australia's embarrassing 60 all out, apart from all the records it broke, has effectively allowed England to win the Test and thereby reclaim the Ashes.

If there were any doubts about this they were dispelled by Alistair Cook and Joe Root who took England into the lead after two early wickets fell, and then Root and Johnny Bairstow's  173 run 4th wicket stand.  This also exposed the limitations of the four man frontline bowling attack, which in turn questioned the competence of the selectors. In my opinion Adam Voges should have been replaced by Shaun Marsh, leaving Mitchell Marsh in the eleven (unless the selectors followed my wilder thoughts and restored Shane Watson, or Brad Haddin, or even Peter Siddle)

England had the better of the conditions- overcast at the outset turning to intermittent sunshine in the afternoon-  but this does little if anything to excuse Australia's technical deficiencies. It is one thing to look to bat aggressively but it is folly, as so many,perhaps all, Australians did, to fail to tailor your responses to the conditions by, for example, not going so hard at the ball as you would do on your
home pitches.

Magnificent as Broad's bowling was, his team supported him well. Mark Wood had David Warner caught behind in his first over after Broad had removed Rogers and Steve Smith in his first. 3/10 was only marginally better than Australia's 3/2 at the start of the 2010 Adelaide Test, but on this occasion was no recovery.

And England's fielding was superlative, Ben Stokes took the catch of the series when he caught Adam Voges in the slip cordon - watch it on TV or YouTube where it will surely be replayed many times.  My favourite was Alistair Cook's Aussie Rules style mark to remove Michael Clarke wafting outside off stump for an undistinguished 10 - the third highest individual contribution' after extras 14 and Mitchell Johnson's 13.

I watched England overtake Australia's paltry offering in the English afternoon but slept soundly through, and beyond, the last session. No nightmares during my slumbers: I'd already had them in real time via my TV screen.


Scorecard