Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Draw confirms Australia's batting strength and both sides' bowling weakness: Ashes T3 D5
Australia 263 and 5/375 (112.2 ov, M Clarke 103*, M North 96, M Hussey 64, S Watson 53) drew with England 376: Ashes 09 T3 D5 at Edgbaston
The first two sessions of play were absorbing. Australia worked their way steadily and without too many indiscretions towards a position of safety and then, as tea approached, one of some strength which could have made for an interesting result had the match been played to a finish.
Shane Watson and Mike Hussey kept the England bowlers at bay for the first hour and a bit. From the last ball of the day's 16th over (and, surprisingly, his first) Jimmy Anderson induced Watson to snick one to the keeper: 3/137. Watson's 53 (114b/9 x4) completed a good batting double and hushed the many critics who thought he was no Test opener.
Michael Clarke looked assured from the outset. This was just as well, for not long after his arrival Hussey, who had looked in better touch (and more assured about which balls to leave) than previously in the series, fell to Stuart Broad for 64 (130b/13x4): 4/161.
The England bowlers were steady but far from unplayable: they weren't able to swing the ball as some of them had done in the first innings. At lunch 4/172 it was clear that a considerable though not impossible improvement (like two or three quick wickets) was required to keep England in with a good chance of victory.
That didn't happen. Clarke and Marcus North, the one elegant, the other pugnaciously gritty, batted through the next session against some increasingly pedestrian bowling (Graeme Swann was especially disappointing) . During the extended afternoon session 36 overs were bowled and Australia added 121. 4/293 (Clarke 73*, North 64*) at tea was safety plus.
There were one or two wobbly Australian moments in the last session, when England needed six or seven of them (and a couple of miracles). Unfortunately for them their prospective miracle worker Andrew Flintoff listened to his stressed body and didn't bowl. He must be doubful for T4.
In the 11th over after tea North was brilliantly caught by Anderson in the gully off Broad for 96 (159b/ 15x4). This was the third and last wicket to fall in a day when 84.2 overs were bowled. When Clarke reached his century the captains called the game off, leaving him 103* (192b/14x4) and Australia 5/375, a healthy lead of 263.
So, an honourable draw. England were on top for most of the game but couldn't finish off a resolute and perhaps (though it's really too early to tell) resurgent Australia.
Yet in the series England are still ahead 1-0. Therefore the challenge for Australia will be how to maintain its batting strengths while reshaping its attack. The batting order shouldn't change, but the attack must. Lawrence Booth writing for The Guardian's The Spin succinctly states the obvious:
Are England glad Stuart Clark is serving the shandies? You bet they are.
Australian selectors please note.