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Saturday, August 01, 2015

England, as expected, win convincingly to take 2-1 lead: T3 D3

England 281 & 2/124 (32.1ov, Bell 65*/90b/10x4, Root 38*) beat Australia 136 & 265 (79.1ov, Warner 77, Nevill 59/147b/7x4, Starc 58/108b/1x6 6x4, Finn 21-3-79-6) by 8 wkts; T3/5 D3/5 at Edgbaston. England lead Ashes series 2-1. Player of the match: Steven Finn.

It was inevitable, given the match situation at the start of play, that England would win. It was small comfort to Australia that they made England wait two sessions to claim victory. The greater part of that comfort came form the lower order batting, not the bowling, as Peter Nevill and Mitchell Starc showed more resistance than those ahead of them in the order.

When England began its modest run chase most Australian supporters would have wished for a tight contest. There was a sniff of that when both openers fell, but Ian Bell, tasking advantage of a letoff in the slips, struck out again and saw them home.

Jimmy Anderson will miss the next Test, and perhaps the rest of the series. For all the talk about his record, and properly acknowledging his great bowling the first innings of this match, I believe that Stuart Broad has been the most consistent threat across the three Tests to date.

And Australia? Adam Voges should be replaced, and perhaps one or two others - but not Michael Clarke who I believe is a class batter, despite his bodily infirmities (about which there has been surprisingly little media comment). Remember the saying: form is temporary, class is permanent.


Friday, July 31, 2015

Australia narrowly avoid defeat in two days...but still face big loss: T3D2

Australia 136 & 7/168 (55ov, Warner 77/62b/11x4, Nevill 37*, Finn 13-3-45-5) lead England 281 (67.1ov, Root 63/75b/1x6 9x4, Moeen Ali 59/78b/11x4, Bell 53, Cook 34, Broad 31, Lyon 3/36, Hazlewood 3/74, Johnson 2/66, Starc 2/71) by 23 runs with 3 2inns wkts in hand: T3,5 D2/5 at Edgbaston.

When Mitchell Johnson removed Johnny Bairstow and Ben Stokes in the space of three balls, England were 5/142, a lead of only 9. But that turned out to be the high water mark of Australia's day as the bowlers were unable to confine England to a total around 200-220 which the seam bowler friendly conditions (albeit with more sunshine) seemed to the experts and me to be both desirable and achievable.

But it was not to be. Joe Root took his score to 63, Jos Buttler went cheaply before Moeen Ali and Stuart Broad, the latter looking more comfortable with the bat rhan he'd done for some time, added 87 for the 8th wicket: no record (as far as I know) but very significant in the context of this Test.

Australia batted again, Chris Rogers fell cheaply but David /Warner played his natural game and raised hopes ( or wishful thoughts) that he might lead the team to set a target which would challenge England batting last.

But this wasn't to be either.  Steve Smith, Michael Clarke (a real worry this), Adam Voges and Mitchell Marsh compiled 17 runs between them as Steven Finn, who was deemed unselectable during England's last tour here (18 months ago), cleaned them all up: 5/92. When Warner fell to Jimmy Anderson, who later walked off injured, Austrslia were 6/111. Peter Nevill marshalled the tail, and has taken the Test into a third day, but a likely short day ending in a heavy Australian defeat and a 1-2 series deficit.

Tonight I will grit my teeth, pour myself a glass of red, and watch England complete a well deserved victory. This doesn't mean that I believe that the Ashes will change hands, especially given the roller coaster nature of the first three Tests ( not dissimilar to the three Test series in Soiuth Africa last year. But then we had Ryan Harris. But now England may not have Anderson. Enough wishful thinking for now!


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Anderson leads demolition of Australia: T3D1

England 3/133 (29ov, Bell 53/56b/10x4, Cook 34, Root 30*, Lyon 2/3) are  3 runs behind Australia's 1st inns of 136 (36.4ov, Rogers 52/89b//9x4, Anderson 14.4-2-47-6, Broad 2/44, Finn 2/38) T3/5 D1/5 at Edgbaston. Toss: Australia.

Australia never really recovered from 3/34. Jimmy Anderson. the old hand who many wondered whether should have been retained after poor figures at Lord's, struck first by removing David Warner then Steven Finn, restored to the Test XI after a 2 year absence, used helpful conditions to remove D
Steve Smith and Michael Clarke cheaply. Chris Rogers batted through this with his wait-for-the-ball -to-hit- and-hit-it hard-into-a-gap strokeplay and Adam Voges looked solid until lunch. But after that interval,  which was prolonged by rain, Anderson returned and, in collaboration with Stuart Broad, whose wicket of Rogers at 110 removed England's last remaining significant obstacle, took the last 7 wickets for 59.

England batted and, but for more rain and some loose strokes, would probably already have passed Australia's first innings 136. Ian Bell proved me wrong  ( I admit to thinking he should have been omitted) but has preserved, if not perhaps secured, his place for the rest of the series. Which team will benefit most from this remains to be seen.

Australia's middle order batting was patethic. Voges, whose 16 was the second highest score of the innings, the rest (no names, no pack drill) were appalling - read the Cricinfo reports for for how they fell. Yes, the conditions - weather and a friendlier pitch for bowlers than in the preceding Tests- helped, but the application, shot selection etc was below Test standard, even for the Edgbaston pitch and the conditions.

When England batted, the quick bowlers made little impact either in the wicket taking department or in observing the fundamentals of line and length , as they had by and large done at Lord's. They seemed to have slept through the onfield masterclass which Anderson had given earlier in the day.

The likeliest winners now are either England or the rain.


Monday, July 20, 2015

England meltdown as Australia continue resurgence to level series 1-1: T2D4

Australia 8/566 d & 2/254d (49ov Warner 83/116b/12x4, Smith 58/48b/9x4, Rogers 49 ret hurt/77b6x4 beat England 312 & 103 (37ov, Broad 25, Johnson 10-3-27-3, Hazlewood 8-2-20-2, Lyon 9-3-27-2, M Marsh 1/8, Starc 1/16) by 405 runs: T2/5 D4/5 at Lord's. Series level 1-1; Player of match: Steven Smith.

Australia batted on with little trouble apart from Chris Rogers's retirement from the innings (not, I hope, the series given the medical blackout which seems to have descended upon his circumstances). 

Michael Clarke declared and set England 509 to win. I didn't expect that they'd mount a serious challenge, but I did think that, after watching Alistair Cook's gritty first innings, they might have been able to bat long...if not the full five sessions required to draw the Test, let alone win it.

But it didn't happen. England melted down- Ian Bell, Cook, Joe Root, Ben Stokes (run out for a duck without grounding his bat or his feet) & Moeen Ali included: 40 runs between the lot of them. Clarke changed his bowlers shrewdly and they all - not only Mitchell Johnson (well as he bowled)- delivered a shock & massive defeat to England. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Australia keep upper hand despite Cook & Stokes resistance: T2D3

Australia 0/108 (26ov, Warner 60*/84b//10x4, Rogers 44*/72b/5x4) & 8/566dec lead England 312 (90.1ov, Cook 96/233b/13x4. Stokes 87/128b/1x6 13x4, Moeen Ali 39/57b 91x6. 5x4, John son 3/53, Hazlewood 3/68, Marsh 2/23) by 362 runs with 10 2nd inns wkts in hand: T2/5 D2/5 at Lord's.

When play began Alistair Cook and Ben Stokes continued to breathe life ibefore Marsh nto England's first innings,each combatting the Australian bowling in his distinctive way. Just as it seemed they might make it through to lunch Mitchell Marsh induced an edge from Stokes which hit his stumps. From then on it was Captain Cook vs the rest (of the opposition, not his team). Jos Buttler walked when hotspot (not always the most accurate source of evidence?) was - to put it tactfully - inmconclusive. Cook reached 96 before Marsh (Mitchell to to distinguish him from his sub fielding brother Shaun) induced another inside edge to remove Cook for a masterly 96. When he sunk to his knees as he realised what had happened it reminded me of a Roman emperor/ defeated general falling on his ssword.

After that Moeen Ali hit out, showing once more why he's wasted at number 8, but the others didn,t add many (though more than the top 5 apart from Cook. 312 wasn,t a bad total about the shsaky foundastion of 4/30, but it was a feeble reply to 566' well as the Australians - special mention to Mitchell Johnson- bowled.

Then Chris Rogers sand David Warner continued the defanging of the England attack even Stuart Brosad.- by batting through to stumps without being parted.

Yes the pitch is still playing quite well, and the weather may yet influence proceedings ( I've not checked the forecast) but Australia should win from here.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Smith 215 propels Australia forward. then bowlers make inroads into England batting: T2D2

England 4/85 (29 Ov, Stokes 38*, Cook 21*'Johnson 2/16) trail Australia 8/566 dec (149Ov, Smith 215/346b/1x6 25x4, Rogers 173/300b/28x4, Nevill 45/59b/5x4, Warner 38, Broad 27-5-83-4,Root 2/55) by 481 with 6 2nd inns wkts in hand: T2/5 D2/5 at Lord's.

The first ball of the day's play, bowled by Jimmy Anderson, struck Chris Rogers on the helmet. After receiving attention on the field he continued, but only added 15 before Stuart Broad bowled him: 2/362 Thereafter Steven Smith continued to stamp his mark on the Test, rarely looking in much trouble as he moved to a double century. He was given reasonable support by his teammates, except for Michael Clarke who made a scratchy 7/32b, but who would have been delighted by his team's performance' which enabled him to declare just after tea. Then his quick bowlers tore into the top of the England order taking 4/30 before Ben Stokes counterattacked with 38*/50b/1x6 5x4, while Alistair Cook 21*/85b/3x4 held his end up until stumps.

11 wickets for 314 in the day suggested that the piytch was not the flat track demonised by many after day 1. Broad, once again England,s best bowler,bent his back and showed what was possible; then Mitchells Starc and Johnson and Josh Hazlewood indivually surpassed him, scything through Adam Lyth, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell and the prize scalp (although somewhat casually offered up on this occasion) of Joe Root.

The Australians bowled better than at Cardiff. They bowled more accurately and were rewarded for doing so. They would of course have been grateful to Smith for giving them such a huge total to bowl at, not to mention the extra time off the field.

Smith's innings was masterly. It was amusing to hear some English commentators on TV and radio trying to explain his huge score. They acknowledged his big innings at home but some of them have erred by assumimg that his double failure at Lord's in 2013 - 2 &1 - and modest returns at Cardiff a week ago were evidence that England's bowlers have his measaure. Those misjudgments can now be consigned to the dustbin of cricket history.

Wary of making misjudgments of my own as I am, I won't go too far out on a limb and predict a swift or large (or both) Australian victory. But at the moment a victory of some sort for them looks likely.


Friday, July 17, 2015

Rogers and Smith centuries put Australia in front on flat Lord's pitch: T2 D1

Australia 1/337 (90ov, Rogers 158*/282b/25x4, Smith 129*/217b/1x6 13x4) vEngland; T2/5 D1/5 at Lord,s. Toss: Australia. 

Winning the toss gave Australia, who brought in Mitchell Marsh and Peter Nevill for Shane Watson (as expected dropped) and Brad Haddin (personal reasons) the considerable advantage of first use of a flat Lord's pitch. Chris Rogers and Steve Smith, coming together after David Warner was dismssed for what now looks a trifling though quickfire 38, have added 259 for the 2nd wicket . They gave few chances (fewer, I thought,  than were in the eyes of some beholders/commentators) and with their judiciously aggressive strokeplay capitalised on the blandness of pitch to reduce the England attack to near impotence.

Much of the quick scoring came at the beginning of the innings and during the last session. In between England, whose bowlers lacked the edge and some of the accuracy they'd showed at Cardiff, opted for a wide of off stump line in the hope of induced some errors. The scorecard shows that this strategy didn't work.

The pitch has been rightly criticised for its flatness. Whether it is sufficiently flat to condemn the Test to a draw is too early to say. Australia have a good numbers of runs on the board at the moment, but they will need to add many more to give them the scoreboard pressure which might assist their bowlers to dismiss England twice. Just over a month ago New Zealand lost to England at Lord's after a first innings of 523.

For all the assistance offered by the pitch both Rogers, on his English home ground, and Smith batted extremely well.