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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Australia sweep spiritless England aside T4D4

Australia 204 & 2/231 (51.5ov,Rogers 116/155b/13x4, Watson 83*/90b/11x4) def England 255 & 179 by 8 wkts; Ashes T4/5 D4/5 at MCG. Man of the Match: Mitchell Johnson. Australia lead series 4-0.

England barely resisted Australia's march to victory. Chris Rogers and Shane Watson swept an inept, and ineptly handled, attack aside ( why did Joe Root bowl before Monty Panesar?) and took advantage of some slack fielding to deliver another convincing victory to Australia. A victory which for two days seemed improbable, but at the end seemed, in the light of England's record so far  this antipodean series, inevitable.

<a href="">Scorecard</a<

Saturday, December 28, 2013

England take lead then fall apart : T4D3

Australia 204 (82.2ov, Haddin 65/68b/1x6 7x4, Rogers 61, Anderson 4/67, Broad 3/45, Bresnan 2/24)   & 0/30 ( 8ov) need another 201 runs with all 2nd inns wickets in hand to defeat England 255 & 179 (61ov, Cook 51/64b/7x4, Pietersen 49/90b/6x4, Lyon 17-3-50-5, Johnson 15-5-25-3);Ashes T4/5 D3/5 at MCG.

After England gained a 51 run lead which, thanks to Brad Haddin and Nathan Lyon , wasn't as large as looked likely overnight, its middle order imploded, leaving Australia a relatively modest 231 to go 4-0 ahead in the series.

Only Alistair Cook, who got the innings off to a positive start, and Kevin Petersen, grittier than usualuntil he ran short of good partners p didn't let their side down badly. Poor strokes (Ian Bell's ultra soft first ball dismissal the worst) and sloppy running between wickets helped the Australians, led by Nathan Lyon & -you guessed it -Mitchell Johnson, back into the Test.

Why should be the final day of the match should be a tight struggle, but England, who looked
crestfallen in the field during the 8 overs they bowled before stumps, will need to regroup overnight. Australia will need to improve with the bat, and bat sensibly on a pitch which, if wearing a little, is by no means unplayable.

<a href="">Scorecard</a>

Friday, December 27, 2013

England bowlers turn Test around as Australia's batting collapses: Ashes T4 D2

Australia 9/164 (73.3ov, Rogers 61/171b/8x4, Haddin 43*/49b/1x6 5x4, Anderson 16-4-50-3, Broad 16.3-5-30-3, Bresnan 18-6-24-2) trail England 255 (100ov, Pietersen 71/161b/1x6 5x4, Johnson 24-4-63-5, Harris 24-8-47-2) by 91 with 1 1st inns wkt in hand.

When Mitchell Johnson, carrying on from where he left off on D1, scythed through England's remaining batting cheaply in the morning session, it seemed as if this Test was following the script of the first three matches. That Kevin Pietersen, who failed to continue in his D1 resolute mode, was one of Johnson's victims, further reinforced this perception. 255 looked an inadequate total on a wicket which seemed to be playing well, if not as quick as the WACA one.

Yet that was where the similarities ended - except that for the first time since the opening day of this series England's attack bowled like Australia's: as a disciplined group. By doing so they exposed some frailties (both known and suspected)  of the home batting. Just when a century was needed to underpin a respectable response none was forthcoming. 

After the four top order series-to-date century makers fell (having added 48 runs between them) Chris Rogers, who'd ground his way to 61, played a loose stroke to Tim Bresnan, leaving Australia in strife at 5/112. Despite some characteristic aggression from Brad Haddin wickets fell regularly as the bowlers maintained their stranglehold. At stumps England were, in spite of their morning session meltdown, firmly on top: the first time in the series that, after two days' play, this can be said. 

In the day 13 wickets fell for 193 from 84.3 overs. Another day for the Test cricket aficiando, of whom there must have been a good number among the 71,000+ spectators. With the bowlers of both sides on top so far Australia will have its work cut out to avoid defeat. 
<a href="">Scorecard </a>

Only Pietersen stands firm as England crumble against tight Australia bowling: Ashes T4 D1

England 6/226 (89ov, Pietersen 67*/152b/1x6 4x4, Carberry 38, Harris 20-8-32-2, Johnson 20-2-59-2) v Australia; T4/5 D1/5 at MCG. Australia won toss and sent England in. Australia unchanged, England Swann (ret) and Prior replaced by Panesar and Bairstow.

91,092 spectators turned up at the MCG to watch what turned out to be a day for the connoisseur of Test cricket, rather than the run feast which many of them may have wished for.

England, somewhat surprisingly sent in by Michael Clarke, never dominated an attack in which Ryan Harris was outstanding throughout while Mitchell Johnson came back late in the day to take two wickets. Only Kevin Pietersen, batting more responsibly than he's done hitherto in the series and riding his luck, stands in the way of Australia's dominance.

Pietersen aside, the England batting was poor: each of the top seven got a start of sorts ( if reaching double figures counts as a start), five of them got to 24 but Michael Carberry's 38 was the second best. Good as the bowling was, slipping from 1/96 to 6/226 was a weak effort.

There were times during the first half of the day when, as England gutsed it out, Iquestioned the wisdom of Clarke's decision to field. But by stumps his bowlers had more than vindicated his choice.

<a href="">Scorecard </a>

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Stokes century keeps England sort of in game until Johnson and Lyon wrap up Ashes and series after lunchT3D5

Australia 385 & 6/369 dec def England 251 & 353 (103.2ov. Stokes 120/195b/1x6 18x4, Bell 60, Pietersen 45, Johnson 25.2-6-78-4, Lyon 22-5-70-3) by 150 runs T3/5 D5/5 at WACA Perth. Australia lead series 3-0 and therefore regain Ashes. Man of the match: Steve Smith.

Ben Stokes who , on the evidence of his appearance in Adelaide, I didn't rate as a Test no6 batsman, proved me wrong with a pugnacious century which kept Australia in the field until the second session before what had for some time looked obvious, the England lower order crumbled. Thechief destroyers this time were Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Lyon.

England now head back east for the two big Test matches in Melbourne and Sydney with their collective tail between their legs. Australia will be looking hungrily for the 5-0 whitewash. Barring injuries to key players it's not out of the question, though England (or some of the team) fought gamely at times in this match. That sounds patronising, but there's only just over a week to reverse what, even with the second innings fightback, looks like a demoralised team. Matt Prior, Jimmy Anderson, Graeme Swann and yes Kevin Pietersen to name a few have  underperformed. They and the selectors will need to think hard about the composition of the Boxing Day Test XI. Surely they must make changes. Australia will only do so if injury makes them do so

<a href="">Scorecard </a>

Monday, December 16, 2013

Boy picks up pieces of man's errand gone wrong to delay England defeat and Ashes loss until fifth day: T3D4

England 251 & 5/251 (67ov, Stokes 72*/96b/12x4, Bell 60/93b/1x6 7x4, Pietersen 45/57b/1x6 7x4) need  253 runs with 5 wkts in hand to beat Australia  385 & 6/369 dec (87 ov, Warner 112, Watson 103/108b/5x6 11x4, Rogers 54): T3/5 D4/5 at WACA, Perth.

Ben Stokes, whose batting in England's second innings  has shown more maturity and resolution than his top order teammates, is really all that is standing in the way of another England drubbing which will  surrender the Ashes to Australia.

The morning session was all Australia's. First they added 134 from 17 overs. Shane Watson, in limited overs mode, belted the England attack to complete a quickfire century (and silenced those who were concerned about his apparent inability to notch those numbers). He virtually threw away his wicket - Ian Bell dropping a not too difficult skied chance redeemed on the scoreboard (though not in spectators' minds) by bowler Tom Bresnan effecting a run out. Then, to complete England's discombobulation, George Bailey, another whose place in the Australian Test team had been questioned by some, whacked 39*/30b/3x3 3x4, including 28 from an already out of sorts Jimmy  Anderson before Michael Clarke declared, leaving England to bat for five and a bit sessions or score 500+.

Just when it looked as if the situation couldn't get any worse Ryan  Harris bowled Alistair Cook with the first ball of England's innings. Michael Carberry and Joe Root hung on until lunch and for a time thereafter but neither mastered the tight Australian attack, each building a foundation but getting out for 31 and 19 respectively.

At 3/76 Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell began what needed to be at least a double century partnership if England were to survive. They hadn't put on 50 before Pietersen let himself go and was well caught in the deep by Harris off Nathan Lyon. Bell and Stokes added 99 before Bell fell foul of the DRS - Snicko indicated an edge to the keeper. Stokes and Matt Prior saw out a day where England's deficiencies were once again exposed by an Australian eleven which has continued to play consistently above the standard I expected from them before the start of the series.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

England lose grip on Ashes as they unravel in continuing Perth heatwave: T3D3

Australia 385 & 3/235 (70ov, Warner 112/140b/2x6 17x4, Rogers 54/135b/8x4) lead England 251 ( 88ov, Cook 72, Siddle 3/36, Harris 3/48) by 369 runs with 7 2inns wkts in hand: T3/5 D3/5 at WACA, Perth.

Just about everything that could go wrong for England did today at the WACA: a lower order batting collapse against good quick bowling which handed Australia a lead of 134, followed by a below par response in the field to a 157 opening partnership dominated by the irrepressible David Warner. As if this wasn't enough injuries to Stuart Broad ( broken toe ) and Graeme Swann (hamstring) have reduced the England attack to three frontline bowlers (including Ben Stokes), though Australia surely won't bat much longer on D4. And yes, the Perth heat did not relent.

When England fell apart with the bat it seemed that part of the blame could be ascribed to the pitch, with its irregular bounce (Broad was lbw to a shooter which broke his toe) caused partly by some very wide cracks  (very obvious from spidercam pictures taken directly overhead). But in Australia's second innings it caused  little trouble as Warner and Chris Rogers tamed the England bowlers, who were let down badly in the field (eg Matt Prior was very poor behind the stumps and Alistair Cook missed a slip catch).

Yet Australia once again played exceedingly well: the quick bowlers combined well while Warner's brilliance at the head of the batting took the lead to 369. With two days still to play, and no respite  from the heat expected tomorrow, though a modest drop in temperature to 30C - not exactly a cool change- is forecast for Tuesday,  Australia should have plenty of time to wrap up the Test and series and wrest back The Ashes.

<a href="">Scorecard </a>

Saturday, December 14, 2013

England start well then succumb to tight Australian bowling, their own shortcomings and inept umpiring.T3D2

England 4/180 (68 ov. Cook 72/153b/10x4, Carberry 45) trail Australia 385 (103.3ov, Smith 111/208b/2x6 14x4, Warner 60, Haddin 55, Broad 3/100) by 205 runs on 1st inns: T3/5 D2/5 at WACA Perth.

England regrouped well to wrap up Australia's first innings for 385, and then made a good fist of chasing 385 until the Perth heat induced some errors from their batters and one from the umpires which left them well behind Australia.

Captain (Alistair) Cook's innings was gritty and determined. Michael Carberry's was more fluent, but after putting on 85 for the first wicket, when ideally 250 was needed, Carberry was bowled by Ryan Harris. Then Joe Root was cruelly given out  by on field umpire Erasmus (who hesitated before deciding). This was upheld on the flimsiest of video evidence by TV umpire Hill ( Kerry O'Keefe on ABC Radio described snicko as registering a fly breaking wind)   This is not how the DRS is supposed to work.

Thereafter Cook hung in, but wasn't able to impose his authority on the game against some very tight Australian bowling. Even so it was a surprise when he cut a shortish Nathan Lyon delivery to point. At 72 he'd gone some way towards making his point, but not far enough.

It was also a surprise to see Kevin Pietersen,who'd looked to be digging in for a big  innings,holing out to mid on (a great Aussie Rules mark by Johnson). But then that's KP, isn't it?

England had a better, albeit not good enough, day today. Yet it's hard to see them matching Australia's first innings score let alone building a big enough lead to let their bowlers loose in a third innings  on a pitch which already has some very wide cracks. And the heat is expected to continue.

<a href="">Scorecard</a>

Friday, December 13, 2013

Ashes to Ashes, dust to dust; if the Perth heat doesn't get England then the Aussie bats must...? T3D1

Australia 6/326 (87 ov, Smith 103*/191b/2x6 13x4, Warner 60/77b/1x6 8x4, Haddin 55/100b/2x6 5x4) v England T3/5 D1/5 at WACA, Perth. Australia, unchanged, won toss and chose to bat. England replaced Monty Panesar with Ton Bresnan.

The Ashes resumed in Perth hard on the heels (3 days) after England's comprehensive defeat at Adelaide.The first day's play followed a similar pattern to those at Brisbane and Adelaide, and we all now know how they finished, yet there seemed to be, at least for the first session and a half, a fresh resolution about England's play. This was exemplified by much improved fielding, notably Jimmy Anderson's sharp run out of Chris Rogers for an uncharacteristically rapid (and brief) 11/9b. The bowling was also sharp enough to winkle out most if the Australian top order- neither Shane Watson, nor Michael Clarke nor George Bailey contributed much.

David Warner batted well for 60, but he was fourth out at 129, and it was 5/143 when Bailey departed.
Haddin remained, but with Steve Smith, not Clarke, as his partner. And they stayed adding 138, when Mitchell Johnson joined Smith to keep the metaphorical heat on England, who showed signs of wilting in the literal heat (40+deg C according to the scoreboard thermometer).

Haddin was Haddin 2013 mode: enough said? As for Smith, we know that he can score runs, but aren't always sure how he manages to do so with his mannerisms and unorthodox blend of big hitting and defence. But he has a good temperament which today underpinned his innings, which has given the D1 honours to Australia. 

England are by no means on the ropes, but they wouldn't want to be chasing more than 400, or fielding for much longer in the WACA furnace, which is forecast to remain just that for the next few days.

Ashes to Ashes, dust to dust, if the Perth heat doesn't get to England then the Aussie bats must. And they have done.

<a href="">Scorecard </a>

Monday, December 09, 2013

England self destruct in less than an hour to go 2 down: Ashes T2D5

Australia 9/570 dec & 3/132 dec beat England 172 & 312 (101.4 ov, Root 87, Prior 69/102b/12x4,Pietersen 53, Siddle 4/57, Harris 3/54) by 218 runs: T2/5 D5/5 at Adelaide Oval. Australia lead Ashes series 2-0 with 3 matches to play.

It rained early in the morning, but only delayed the start of play by 10 minutes. Stuart Broad threw his wicket away at the outset with a hoick (presumably intended to be a hook), Matt Prior went down with all guns blazing, and the rest surrendered feebly to some honest Australian bowling. 

I was hoping to see some evidence of Joe Root style iron in the soul, but Prior aside, and even he 
played as if there was no tomorrow (or second session), it seemed as if England had already conceded the match before play began. 

After the end of the match Alistair Cook made some bland statements, but but he looked  rattled. He will need to pull himself and his team together pronto before hostilities resume in Perth in 3 days. 

 I was wide of the mark in predicting a draw on the new Adelaide Oval wicket, but when England's poor record at the WACA is coupled with its current disarray, it's hard to foresee any result other than a third, Ashes regaining, victory. 

Root and Pietersen arrest England's slide to defeat: T2 D4

England 172 & 6/247 (90ov, Root 87/194b/9x4, Pietersen 53/99b/3x6 2x4) need 284 more runs to beat Australia 9/570dec & 3/132 dec; T2/5 D4/5 at Adelaide Oval.

After the  threat of rain prompted Michael Clarke to declare at Australia's overnight score leaving David Warner 83*,  England batted unevenly through the day but thanks to Joe Root  and Keviin Pietersen at least took the match into D5.

The rain didn't materialise but the grey skies persisted throughout the day while the temperature remained in the low 30s, not enough to deter another full house crowd - the fourth successive 30k+ attendance.

When Alistair Cook and Michael Carberry were both caught at fine leg unnecessarily 
 hooking the match, with England 2/20 looked to be heading for an early finish. But Root, supported by Pietersen, provided a couple of metaphorical rays of sunshine for England. The Yorkshireman showed his colleagues how to blunt the menace of the Australian attack on what was still a docile pitch while KP took the long handle to some wayward slow bowling from Nathan Lyon and Steve Smith. They added 111 for the third wicket - a small dent in a huge target but England's first century partnership of the series. 

Later, despite Ian Bell hitting a Smith full toss to mid on, Ben Stokes 28, Matt Prior 31* and Stuart Broad 22* also helped put a better face on England's situation. Nowhere near enough to win nor, in the absence of rain forecast for D5, to draw, but enough to salvage a small amount of pride. 

<a href="">Scorecard </a>

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Johnson's 7/40 demolishes England on good pitch: T2 D3

Australia 9/570d & 3/132 (39 ov, Warner 83*/117b/1x6 9x4, Anderson 2/19) lead England 172 (68.2 ov, Bell 72*/106b/4x6 9x4, Carberry 60/144b/10x4, JohnSon 17.2-8-40-7) by 530 with 7 2nd inns in hand: T2/5 D3/5 at Adelaide Oval.

Mitchell Johnson,supported by the other members of Australia 's attack. demolished England for a paltry first innings score which has almost certainly prevented them from winning, and perhaps from drawing, the second Test.

Johnson's bowling was fast, furious and penetrating. Watch his wickets on TV or  check out YouTube to see a master bowler's second coming.

Amid the Johnson-led carnage only Michael Carberry and Ian Bell stood firm for a while. Yet neither made the century which their colleagues's failure made imperative if England were going to compete in this match. 

Friday, December 06, 2013

Clarke's masterly 148 & Haddin's ebullient 118 give Australia upper hand: T2 D2

England 1/35 (21ov) trail Australia 9/570dec (158ov, Clarke 148/245b/17x4, Haddin 118/177b/5x6 11x4, Harris 55*/54b/2x6 6x4' Rogers 72, Bailey 53, Watson 51.Broad 3/98, stokes 2/70, Swann 2/151, Anderson 1/85, Panesar 1/157)  by 535 runs on 1st inns: T2/5 D2/5 at Adelaide Oval.

This photo of the big screen at the Oval late today says a lot about how Mitchell Johnson tore into the England batting in the latter part of the day's play, but it doesn't reveal how Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin, by adding 200 for the 6th wicket , put Australia in a dominant position. To get an idea of how well they batted try to watch some video highlights.

Australia regained the initiative in the first half hour when neither Stuart Broad nor Monty Panesar, a surprise if not unpopular,  choice ( esp Monty) to open the day's proceedings, were able to  break through and conceded more than a few runs.

 Clarke and Haddin added exactly 200 for the seventh wicket, then a couple of players sold their wickets cheaply before Ryan Harris  and Nathan Lyon hiT out, taking the score past 500 and allowing Clarke to declare with a comfortable, though by no means commanding, lead given the way some Adelaide Tests have gone in the last few years.

The England bowlers plugged away but never looked consistently threatening. Ben Stokes was the most consistent, and according to the speed gun, the second fastest, albeit some distance behind Johnson, on the day. Broad and Jimmy Anderson were both used in short spells: the former had his moments, the latter stayed well within his capabilities. Panesar and Graeme Swann toiled away until the last phase of the innings when they wilted under the pre- declaration onslaught. Surprisingly neither Joe Root nor Kevin Pietersen bowled. 

Conditions were perfect for batting: the pitch continued to play true, the sun shone all day and the temperature remained low by Adelaide standards. The difference between the two sides was the quality of Clarke and Haddin's batting, while Johnson's burst of speed underlined the gap between the pace attacks of the two sides.

For England to save the Test they will need to through D3 and beyond. It's hard to see them doing so without a major contribution from Pietersen and Ian Bell plus high order support from the others. Australia's task is more clear cut, but won't be easy if the pitch, as seems likely, doesn't deteriorate.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

England fumble as Australia stumble: T2 D 1

Australia 5/273 (91ov, Rogers 72/167b/11x4, Bailey 53/93b/3x6 4x4, Watson 1x6/6x4, Clarke 48*/99b/5x4, Warner 29/32b/4x4, Broad 2/63, Swann 1/55, Anderson 1/56, Panesar 1/68) v Australia: T2/5 D1/5 at Adelaide Oval. Australia won toss and chose to bat.

A good day of Test cricket, albeit with a few sub-Test match standard moments. These have kept the two teams closer than might have been the case if some Australian batters had turned their promising starts into more substantial scores, or if England had caught better.

There were a few surprises, too. First England's team selection,  with Monty Panesar being reinstated and Ben Stokes being preferred to Tim Bresnan. Second, the unseasonable Adelaide weather: cool (18.5C max) and thrice interrupted by English style shores in the fires session. (I could add a third - that    England bowled 91overs - one more than the minimum required- in the day).

Australia made most of the running until half an hour before tea. After David Warner looked set for a big score, yet cut Stuart Broad to backward point/deep gully, Chris Rogers dug himself in, overcoming some early signs of vulnerability, and added 121 with Shane Watson. But both fell at 151,a reality 
check for Australia who had until then confirmed that the drop in wicket was in the Adelaide tradition of where 450-500+ first innings scores are possible, and expected.

But it wasn't to be. Steve Smith didn't stay, being bowled by Panesar with what looked on the replay to be a straight ball. At 4/174 Australia were wobbling. Michael Clarke and George Bailey struggled at first but then restored their team's position with, especially from Bailey, some forceful stroke play. They also rode their luck, each being dropped once, yet by taking the total to 257 they restored a modicum of respectability to Australia. Bailey was well caught by Graeme Swann playing one too many lofted strokes: he showed that he has the makings of a good Test batter, even though many of his runs were scored with shots from the ODI coaching manual.

In the dying minutes of the day Brad Haddin was dropped by Michael Carberry at backward point off a sitter (Panesar the unlucky bowler), allowing Australia, with two of the batting heroes of Brisbane still at the crease, to breathe a little more easily.

After watching bits of the two Sheffield Shield matches played at the Oval this season, I predicted a draw for this Test. That may still happen, not least because there my be further rain interruptions, but despite their butterfingered rumblings I'd give the day's honours to England. I also thought that to play Panesar and Stokes was wrong but both have thus far bowled serviceably (Panesar at times more than this).

There was a full house at the reduced capacity Oval today, thanks to the many visiting England  supporters, whose applause for their side IMO almost matched that of the locals. A draw looks much less likely than I thought.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Australia win Test by by 381 runs as England fold a second time: T1D4

Australia 295 & 7/401dec beat England 136 & 179 (81.1ov, Cook 65/195b/3x4, Johnson 21.1-7-42-5) by 381 runs: T1/5 D4/5 at The Gabba, Brisbane. Australia lead series 1-0.

Despite weather interruptions, some stout resistance by Captain Cook and more modest support from Kevin Pietersen 26, Ian Bell 32 and, at the end, Joe Root 26*, Australia bowled out England a second time for a well below par score and registered a thumping victory.

Mitchell Johnson once again had the best bowling figures, and continued his impressive (and to me unexpected) career revival. But each of the other three main bowlers did something: Ryan Harris 2/49 again sustained his pace and his menace, Nathan Lyon 2/46 had Cook, when he seemed impregnable, caught at the wicket by a beauty which turned and bounced , and Peter Siddle  induced an edge from Ian Bell just as he seemed to have settled in.

Australia's win was certainly well merited, but it, or at least the margin of victory, surprised me. Why? Because so many players performed above what I thought them capable of. This was especially so of  the bowlers. Johnson & Harris were, or looked, quicker than any of their England counterparts except for Stuart Broad in the first innings, while Nathan Lyon extracted more turn and bounce than Graeme Swann.

In batting it was a relief to see Michael Clarke regroup with a ton after his first innings woes, but we all know what he's capable of. David Warner, Brad Haddin & Johnson did more than their bit, covering for the modest returns of other top order players, each of whom should be given another chance.

As for England they had several  - too many - passengers in both departments. It was hard to credit that so many of the batters failed to do justice to their reputations, while only Broad among the bowlers  enhanced his.

Australia will be hoping that they can field the same attack in Adelaide next week ie that there are no injuries to the likes of Harris and Johnson (or Lyon).

England  now will travel to Adelaide via Alice Springs, where they play a 2 day match against a scratch side. They will have to think seriously about changing the XI. Chris Tremlett, despite have the best figures in Australi's second innings, looked more honest trundler than the tearaway of some years ago, while Jonathon Trott, despite his formidable record and reputation, went through the batting horrors in this game.

I find it hard to believe that England can ( or will) play so badly again.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

England need 537 more to win after Clarke and Warner flog bowling: T1 D3

England 136 & 2/24 (15ov) need 537 runs with 8 2ndinns wickets in hand to defeat Australia 295 & 7/401dec (91ov, Warner 124/154b/1x6 13x4, Clarke 113/130b/1x6 9x4, Haddin 53/55b/5x4): T1/5 D3/5 at The Gabba Brisbane.

Michael Clarke's classy 113 put Stuart Broad the bowler back in his box while David Warner converted his previous day's good start to an authoritative century. They, with handy contributions from Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson and George Bailey, enabled Australia to declare with a massive lead and time to take two England wickets for a trifling 24. 

Three years ago at the Gabba, England made 1/517 in its second innings. It 's hard to see them coming close to that again unless Alistair Cook repeats his  2010 performance, or a frontline Australian bowler is incapacitated, or both. If the weather intervenes, as it did briefly today, and according to the forecast may do so again over the next two days, a draw is not out of the question. 

But so far Australia, having redeemed a first innings top order batting failure, and bowled with consistent hostility, are unquestionably are the better side.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Australia's attack eviscerates England on day of upsets: Ashes T1/5 D2/5

Australia 295 (97.1ov, Haddin 94/153b/1x6 8x4, Johnson 64, Warner 49, Broad 24-3-81-6) & 0/65 (22ov, Warner 45*)  lead England 136 (52.4ov, Carberry 40, Johnson 17-2-61-4, Harris 15-5-28-3, Lyon 9-4-17-2) by 224 with all 10 second inns wickets in hand: Ashes T1/5 D2/5 at the Gabba, Brisbane.

What a day! In the middle session Australia's attack turned the Test on its head taking by  6/9 and reducing England from 2/82 to 8/91, and ultimately, after a very modest recovery, to 136.  David Warner and Chris Rogers' unbroken 65 stand rubbed salt into England's wounds and placed Australia in a position which, despite memories of a massive England recovery three years ago, looks impregnable.

The script written by many commentators (and me) had Brad Haddin scoring a valiant century and taking Australia to a total around 300, followed by England steadily making inroads into it. Neither happened:Haddin was run out for 94 leaving Australia 5 short of 300, then the visitors disintegrated spectacularly against Ryan Harris, Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Lyon. 

Harris removed Alistair Cook cheaply, then after a wayward opening spell Johnson returned to remove Jonathan Trott in the last over before lunch: 2/55. When Peter Siddle missed a sharp return catch from Kevin Pietersen I thought that England's fortunes may have turned. 

I was wrong, again. 

Harris had KP well caught by George Bailey at short mid wicket, then Johnson bowling round the wicket had Michael Carberry caught at slip off a beauty, Nathan Lyon extracted enough bounce and turn to dismiss Ian Bell and Matt Prior off successive deliveries, and in short order Johnson snaffled Joe Root and Graeme Swann, leaving England's innings in tatters.

After failing to separate Rogers and Warner England slipped further behind and now must be hoping for the rain, which was forecast for days 1 and 2 but which hasn't materialised, to truncate the Test and let them regroup for the Perth match.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Broad scythes through Australia and, despite Haddin-Johnson fightback, leads England to ascendancy. Ashes T1/5 D1/5

Australia 8/273 (90ov, Haddin 78*/132b/1x6 7x4, Johnson 64/143b/2x6 6x4, Warner 49/82b, Broad 20-3-65-5) v England; T1/5 D1/5 at The Gabba Brisbane. Australia won toss and chose to bat.

Stuart Broad, spurred on by the local paper's attempts to avoid mentioning him by name, cut through the Australia top order on a warm, sunny and, despite the weather forecast, dry Gabba Only a 7th wicket partnership between Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson prevented an embarrassing rout, but their efforts were not sufficient to deny the honours of the first day's play of this Ashes series to England.

Broad looked menacing from the outset. He extracted bounce from the Gabba pitch,dismissing Chris Rogers early in the piece and Shane Watson just before lunch.

 2/71 turned the first session's balance England's way but Broad wasn't finished. His master stroke was to induce Michael Clarke to pop a short ball limply up to short leg. 3/73: not a good look for the captain, Australia and quite likely the match. And things went from shaky to worse as David Warner who'd looked promising if not in peak form, fell to Broad for 49 and George Bailey on Test debut snicked Jimmy Anderson to slip.

Steve Smith also made a start but fell to Chris Tremlett, who generally bowled within himself and rarely troubled the batters. At 6/132, an embarrassing score given the favourable batting conditions, Haddin and Johnson began the fightback: welcome as the 114 runs they added were it was not enough to wipe all the egg off Australia's face.

 It will be hard to save the match, and possibly even the series, from this point.

<a href=""> Scorecard </a>

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ashes T2 harbinger? SA & WA draw after 4 high scoring days on Adelaide Oval's new drop in pitch.

Despite some good intentions, after hearing on ABC radio ( which despite stories floating around seems not to have just yet stopped broadcasting Sheffield Shield cricket, at least on weekends) that WA looked to be holding the SA attack at bay, I turned my mind to other, non  - cricketing, things.

A draw eventuated as expected,  and in its wake speculation about the Adelaide Oval wicket. Too much in favour of batting? Is the Pope a Catholic?

There is another Shield match - SA vTasmania - to be played on the Oval before Ashes T2, though at the same time as, and hence in the shadow of, T1 ( not to mention the just announced Rolling Stones concert to "open" the new Oval - as if T2 won't).  

I'd expect that one - the Shield fixture that is - to provide a further pointer to the likely result of T2: a draw.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Yesterday, as India completed an innings trouncing of the West Indies in Mumbai, Sachin Tendulkar left a Test match ground for the last time.

As millions of others have pointed out he is by general agreement India's greatest ever cricketer, and among the best ever batsmen of all time. His Test career spanned an extraordinary 24 years, a length which it's hard to imagine being exceeded.

I was fortunate enough to see him play live and of course to watch much more of him on TV. Everyone will have their special memories of him: mine, oddly enough, is of him being given out lbw in an Adelaide Test when he ducked into a Glenn McGrath ball which kept - sort of - low and hit him on the shoulder. 

His farewell speech yesterday just after he'd walked off the field for the last time was masterly, delivered without apparent notes. watch it if you can.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Hughes 204 leads S Aust to 1st inns points v WA: D3/4

South Australia 4/520 (153ov, Hughes 204/393b/23x4, Klinger 125/309b/16x4, Head 98/163b/11x4, Duffield 3/114) lead WA 434 (North 110, Agar 93, Whiteman 65, Botha 4/120, Zampa 3/93) by 86runs on 1st inns: Sheffield Shield D3/4 at Adelaide Oval.

Phil Hughes dominated the day's play as he moved first to a century, then doubled it (pic above shows him reaching his 200), and in doing so took SA to the brink of a 1st inns lead and surely kept his name near   ( or restored it to) the forefront of the national selectors' minds.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Redbacks start long chase well, but must keep going: SAvWA D2/4

I watched the second half of the day's play and didn't see a wicket fall.

This was because I arrived at the Oval just as Michael Klinger  and Phil Hughes began chasing WA's 434/132.2 ov, a larger total than looked looked likely at 6/200. But once again an opposition lower order confounded the Redbacks as Ashton Agar 93/146b and Sam Whiteman 65/147b added 147 for the 7th, and others chipped in, showing that the drop in wicket is a good one to bat on.

Spinners Johan Botha 4/120 and Adam Zampa 3/93 had the best figures. In this season's two home matches the quicks have not delivered wickets. A flat pitch only partly explains why.

The play that I did see intriguing viewing chiefly for connoisseurs of long form cricket. Hughes took to Nathan Coulter-Nile's first over, but then dropped a couple of gears to accumulate 63*/156b, mostly on the off side (though thankfully not through the slips). Klinger 76*/193b was also watchful  but played shots to more points of the compass. Coulter-Nile after his first over bowled zipping, the other five used were steady and rarely troubled the batsmen.

Well as Klinger and Hughes have batted thus far, everyone knows that they have only given SA a fighting chance of perhaps a draw. If they could take the total beyond 200 that would give supporters more hope, but there are not many big scorers to come.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Shield cricket returns to Adelaide Oval construction site

Yesterday I spent a bit of time at the Oval, together with a good, by Sheffield Shield standards, turnout of spectators  ( or rubberneckers keen to check out the progress of the redevelopment). 

The Southern Stand seems to be some way from completion. While the structure looks to be pretty much finished, and the shade cloth awnings which were torn in a burst of windy weather three weeks ago have been repaired or replaced, there's much to be done in the three weeks before the Test. Most of the seats still need to be installed: there were only three or four workers on that job yesterday afternoon. Fingers crossed.

The playing surface and pitch look OK, though the latter played slowly and gave some assistance to the spinners. Johan Botha  (4/71) and and Adam Zampa (2/63) took all 6 wickets to fall as Western Australia, anchored by Marcus North's 110/213 b, moved sedately to 6/269 from  96overs.
At 6/200 it was South Australia's day but Ashton Agar 39* - yet again looking very good with the bat - and Sam Whiteman 30* steadied the WA innings, leaving at least in my opinion, honours even.

The sunny, relatively mild, weather is forecast to continue for the rest of the match, so a result should be achievable. WA will be keen to revenge their loss at the WACA a few days ago, while SA will be hoping to fuel their Shield campaign, which began disappointingly against Queensland at Glenelg Oval, 
with another outright victory.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

New first class season, new ground

It's been a while since I posted but then I've been travelling and haven't followed cricket as much as I would normally have hoped to.

But today I went to a new first class cricket venue for the opening day of the Sheffield Shield season. 
Gliderol Stadium is known to many South Australians as Glenelg Oval, home of the Glenelg Aussie Rules and District Cricket clubs. It's drawing a long bow to call it a stadium as there are only two smallish stands, with a couple of rows of seating around a reasonably sized (ie enough to allow the occasional three to be run) playing area enclosed by a white picket fence.

I didn't arrive until tea when South Australia looked shaky at. 4/170 or so,  Yet this was an improvement on 4/101, which turned out to be the Queensland high water mark. Tom Cooper 165*/206b (7x6, 18x4) and Johan Botha 59*/148b (4x4) have added 193 against a steady but far from menacing Bulls attack. Thanks to Cooper's masterly hand the Redbacks are comfortably placed yet far from dominant at 4/296 from 96 overs.

Although Queensland suffered from injuries, notably captain James Hopes who was not in the eleven, they still fielded a good attack which nevertheless seemed to run out of puff in the final session. Perhaps they had celebrated their win in the Ryobi Cup on Sunday too well.

Here is a picture I took of the ground. Yes, it was sunny but a stiff breeze off the sea kept the temperature down.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Test comes alive as both sides chase victory - and England nearly achieve it before bad light stops play: T5 D5

Australia 9/492d & 6/111d (23ov, Broad 4/43) drew with England 377 (144.4ov, Root 68, Pietersen 50, Prior 47, Bell 45, Trott 40, Faulkner 4/51, 3/92)  & 5/206 (40ov, Pietersen 62/55b/10x4, Trott 59/87b/6x4): T5/5 D5/5 at Kennington Oval, London. England win series 3-0 and retain Ashes.
Player of the match: Shane Watson. Players of the series: Ian Bell and Ryan Harris.

On the last day of the series The Fifth Test roused itself from an overcautious player-induced and weather-assisted torpor. An extraordinary day's play, the like of which has rarely been seen in Test cricket, saw Australia hazard much to pursue a slender chance of victory, only to be trumped by England who were closing in on a win when the umpires called off play on what to English supporters seemed like a pedantic technicality, to Australian a fair decision.

When England were, after some breezy lower order batting, eventually dismissed 115 behind Australia's first innings score a draw seemed, as it had for some time, the only possible outcome.
But Michael Clarke thought (or hoped, or wished) otherwise. So the batting order was recast and instructions to hit out issued. After 23 overs Australia had lost 6 wickets and added 111. Clarke declared, setting England 227 from a maximum 44 overs. The England batters responded feistily, rattling several  Australia bowlers in the process, and were galloping towards victory when the umpires intervened.

This was an exciting, yet ultimately disappointing day of Test cricket. Its later stages were redolent of a T20 match, albeit one played without any of the field restrictions of that format. The circumstances under which it concluded will be long and maybe even fiercely debated. I don't want to dwell on what might have beens except to say that a draw in this match was a fair result, as was England's 3-0 margin a fair reflection of their class and gritty ability to come back from shaky positions.

Not long to wait for a rematch. Bring it on!

<a href="">Scorecard</a>

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Long day's journey with little delight: T5D3

England 4/247 (116ov, Root 68/184b/11x4, Pietersen 50/133b/4x4, Trott 40) trail Australia 9/492d by 245 runs with 6 1st inns wickets in hand; T5/5 D3/5 at Kennington Oval, London.

An attritional - many would say dull -  day's cricket in which England,without ever being in serious trouble, crawled to 4/247, still 45 away from saving the follow on which Australia will need to enforce to have a chance of forcing a consolation victory.

In the face of a huge total England's best hope, sitting on a 3-0 series lead and hoping that the forecast rain would eventuate, was to hang on for a draw.

2.12 runs an over so far pretty well says it all. Each of the top order batters followed Alistair Cook and Joe Root's example set the previous evening and dug in against an Australia attack which on a deadish wicket was steady rather than penetrative. Mitchell Starc 2/60 has the best figures to date but he was less accurate than the others, none of whom was exactly profligate. Nathan Lyon extracted some turn and, bowling around the wicket, kept Kevin Pietersen if not in check then at least more watchful than in their previous encounters.

There's not much more to say. Even the commentators, if not at a loss for words, found it hard to rise above the banal and trivial, eg asking for statistical assistance to ascertain whether Chris Woakes hitting the first ball he faced in Test cricket for 4 was a record  (I don't recall the answer, but I'd be surprised if others hadn't been there before him). End of my excursion into banality.

Woakes soon - the next  ball- reverted to instructions and added only 11 more from the 48 other balls he faced. He and Ian Bell stayed together until stumps, living to fight another day which, if the weather forecast is not too wide of the mark, may not be the scheduled D4.

Frustrating as it is for Australia, they would have done exactly the same, maybe with a little more positivity, if they'd have been in the same position. Not the best advertisement for Test cricket, but it's part of the whole package, especially in the English summer.

Come rain or shine, a draw looms.

<a href="">Scorecard</a>

Friday, August 23, 2013

Smith continues where Watson left off to put Australia on top and in race against weather: T5D3

England 0/32 (17.3 ov) trail Australia 9/492d (128.5 ov,Watson 176, Smith 138*/241b/2x6 16x4, Anderson 4/95) by 460 runs with 10 first inns wickets in hand:  T5/5 D2/5 at The Oval, London.

Rain prevented play for the first session and beyond, and bad light truncated a day in which Steve
Smith followed Shane Watson's example and led Australia to an imposing first innings total.

Smith's century was well deserved. His imperious driving of Jonathan Trott (a modest bowler maybe, but he took a rare Test wicket - Brad Haddin's - today) for 6 to move from 94 to 100 was the stroke of the match so far, and confirmed the young man's transition from leg spinning allrounder to frontline batsman (who, like Trott, can still bowl a bit).

His temperament is, as he showed earlier this year in India, good and ,while he fidgets at lot at the crease, he seems to have the ability to get into position to defend or leave the good and hit the bad, and sometimes not- so-bad, ball. 

Jimmy Anderson was the pick of the almost exclusively pace England attack, which took its time bowling to increasingly defensive fields. Chris Woakes took his first Test wicket - James Faulkner - amid the pre- declaration buffing, but Simon Kerrigan wasn't trusted with the ball. Will he get another chance?

Alistair Cook and Joe Root held out for 17.3 overs before the umpires, despite the floodlights, called time for bad light. England's resolution (ie determination to draw) and the weather, in whatever proportion, may well combine to force a draw: a victory for them is out of the question, and will be hard  for Australia to achieve in what the weather forecast suggests will be the limited time available.

<a href="">Scorecard </a>

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Watson's 176 gives Australia honours against England attack of uneven quality: T5, D1

Australia 4/307 (90ov, Watson 176/247b/1x6,25x4, Smith 66*/133b/1x6, 9x4) v England; T5/5 D1/5 at The Oval, London. Australia won toss and chose to bat.

But for Shane Watson answering his critics in the best possible way ( and from no 3 at that) Australia would be in a much less comfortable position than they are.

I was sceptical about the changes to the Australian team.  Mitchell Starc for Jackson Bird was fine, though James Faulkner, described by several  commentators as a bowling allrounder, for Usman Khawaja, the formervno3 was not easy to fathom. 

Yet Watson, after being tried as an opener and no6 in this series, stepped back to no3 and has made it his own with an innings of characteristic positive stroke play. The difference this time was that he batted on and on, struggling a little in the 90s, but eventually crossing the century threshold, and continuing from there. (In.another reversal of previous form the DRS reprieved him from another appallingly wrong lbw decision from Umpire Dharmasena).

England were two (or at best one and a half) bowlers short. Neither of their debutants, Chris Woakes  Simon Kerrigan, looked Test class, especially alongside the old stagers Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and especially Graeme Swann who had to bowl more than they'd have wished. Anderson returned to something near his best form though Swann, after Kerrigan's embarrassing Bryce McGain-like Test debut 8-0-58-0 (I reckon I'd have done better than him and I never bowled my left arm spin higher than Adelaide Turf and English village cricket) had to bowl more defensively.

So it was definitely Australia's day, but if Watson had been caught at slip off a hard but catchable chance, they would have been 4/151 and clearly frittering away the opportunity to build a score on a good wicket against bowling of widely varying quality.

For most of the day England kept themselves if not in, then not far out of the game. They did so by, Watson's let off excepted, taking a wicket just as it looked as if they were fading. Steve Smith has batted well in his fidgety-aggressive style, and he will need to shepherd the others to take even fuller advantage of batting first and England's shortcomings.

<a href="">Scorecard</a>

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Australia select curate's egg team for Fifth Test (or is it Hobson's choice?)

The fifth and final Test is about to begin at The Oval. Australia have announced that Mitchell Starc and James Faulkner will replace Jackson Bird and Usman Khawaja in the XI. To accommodate the beefing up of the bowling a deemed fit (at least to bat) Shane Watson will move up ( back?)to no3, Brad Haddin will bat at no6, leaving Faulkner to follow at no 7 and, presumably, Starc thereafter.

This is a curate's egg of a team: but the good parts are those are already in place, having been developed by a sometimes rudimentary looking trial and error process over the course of the series - the opening partnership, Ryan Harris rising above his physical frailties (fingers crossed that he survives this match), Nathan Lyon reconfirmed (for how long, I wonder?) as no 1 spinner.

Much as I'd hope for an Australian victory, the composition of this team doesn't fill me with hope. And I've not given much thought to England, who are not without difficulties of their own.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

1/120 at tea, all out 224 at stumps: Broad bowls England to series win in a bleak session for Australia; T4D4

England 238 & 330 (95.1ov, Bell 113/210b/11x4, Bresnan 45, Pietersen 44, Swann 30*, Harris 28.2-2-117-7, Lyon 3/55) def Australia 270 & 224 (68.3ov, Warner 71/113b/1x6,10x4, Rogers 49, Broad 18.3- 3- 50-6, Bresnan 2/36, Swann 2/53) by 74 runs: T4/5, D4 at Chester-Le-Street, Durham. England lead series  3-0 with one Test to play.player of the match: Stuart Broad.

For England this would be, as Paul Keating said when his party won the 1993 election, the sweetest victory of them all. At least of this series, though it will probably be remembered and mythologised as one of the sweetest of the Ashes contests.

That the Test was hard fought until almost the last session will be overlooked as the tale of how Stuart Broad pulled England's socks up in the face of David Warner's judicious aggression will be embellished. There's no denying that Broad bowled very well on a wearing wicket (as at times did Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann), but so did Ryan Harris the supposed crock who with a little help from 
Nathan  Lyon kept Australia in with a chance despite some English lower order resistance

Bear this in mind: at tea Australia were 1/120 , needing another 179. Warner 57* was on song and Geoffrey Boycott in the Test Match Special commentary box was praising him and excoriating England. 

How then did the wheels fall off? Broad and bad batting are the obvious answers, but other questions about the Australians' mental approach need to be posed, and some answers proposed. I have none to suggest at the moment, but hope that the team leadership can come up with some in time to avoid another loss of a match, and face, at the Oval next week.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Another Bell ton puts England in box seat: T4D3

England 238 & 5/234 (74ov, Bell 105*/189b/10x4, Pietersen 44/84b/6x4, Harris 20-1-74-3, Lyon 2/46). Lead Australia 270 (89.3ov, Rogers 110/250b/14x4, Watson 68, Broad 24.3-71-5, Swann 2/48, Anderson 2/66) by 202 runs with 5 2nd inns wits in hand: T4/5 D3/5 at Chester-Le-Street Durham.

in the second half of the day Ian Bell scored his third century of the series, and with support from Kevin 
Pietersen and Jonny  Bairstow, stroked England ahead of Australia and well on the way to an impregnable position.

At the end of the previous day's play Australia's situation looked potentially good. But while the worst case scenario didn't come to pass the fact that the last 5 wickets, including Chris Rogers, who made only 5 of them. added a less than expected 48 must have given England some heart. But Australia had a first innings lead, which should have done likewise for them.

And the English top order crumbled yet again, this time in the face of some superb bowling by Ryan Harris (watch a replay of him bowling Joe Root if you can). At 3/49 - effectively 3/17 -  it seemed that the match was pivoting back towards Australia.

Enter Ian Bell. Over the ensuing hours he once again imposed his skills and determination on the match, and in doing so has probably saved his team from defeat and possibly, depending on what happens in the first part of D4, set up a win. Masterful (again).

As if Bell's performance isn't enough Australia look like being a player down for the rest of the Match, as Shane Watson has apparently succumbed yet again to (unspecified) injury/injuries. His bowling will be missed but his batting will be required if Australia is to have much of a chance of chasing down a target of 250+ which the pundits, eg Shane Warne & Andrew Strauss, have suggested will be  sufficient, and which the scorecard suggests is more than likely. 

<ahref="">Scorecard </a>

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Rogers and Watson claw Australia back in face of Broad onslaught: T4D2

Australia 5/222 (74.4ov, Rogers 101*/233b/13x4, Watson 68/134b/7x4, Broad 20-6-48-4) trail England 238 (92ov, Cook 51, Trott 49, Lyon 20-7-42-4) by 16 runs with 5 1st inns wkts in hand: T4/5 D2/5 at Chester-Le-Street, Durham.

On a tightly contested and shortened (by the umpires' call of bad light) day Chris Rogers and Shane Watson clawed Australia back into the Test in the face of some penetrating bowling by Stuart Broad. 

Neither side delivered anything like a knockout blow but Australia's recovery from 4/76 without a contribution of note by Michael Clarke (6/18b) gave them the day on points. They are still to overtake England's first innings score and the lower order with no Mitchell Starc may not be able to bat on to the substantial lead that having last innings on an apparently deteriorating pitch suggests would be required.

When play began Jackson Bird troubled Jimmy Anderson, ending the England innings without troubling the scorers further. Then Australia wobbled against Broad, who lifted a notch or two above what I thought him capable of, to 3/75 at lunch and 4/76 immediately after. 

Even Rogers was not immune from trouble but he survived plays andmisses, close calls and even the dreaded DRS. But he, as the WW2 slogan advises, kept calm and carried on, at least until he approached his century, when Graeme Swann held him in check for a while. 

But he got there, to general relief (including mine and that of many commentators and England supporters who recognised the grit and determination which enabled him to pull Australia's socks up) he got there...and is still there. Apart from the proximity  to the century he was considerably swifter than Cook : compare their strike rates - his 43.34 v Cook 31.09. Who's the stonewaller? 

Watson fell but not before he'd shown everyone else (if not himself) that no6 plus some tight overs is a good fit for Australia (and, if he can see it, him). There still be a few pieces of the batting jigsaw to identify and fit together. This applies to both sides, though as an interesting analytical piece in today's London Sunday Times shows, only Ian Bell of the 2010-11 winning side had been punching above his weight for England.

Another intriguing day in prospect. Pity the Australian surge has come after England has held the Ashes. But wait for the return series...

<ahref=""> Scorecard </a>

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Another good day for Australia: pity they're coming so far into the series: T4 D1

England 9/238 (90ov, Cook 51/164b/5x4, Trott 49/60/7x4, Lyon 20-7-42-4) v Australia: T4/5 D1/5 at Chester-Le-Street, Durham. England won toss and batted.

Hard to believe that Australia, 0-2 down, have won 5 (perhaps all 6) of the last 6 days in this Test series. I didn't expect them to do so, but a collective resilience has risen from the ashes of the Lord's drubbing and the loss of the Ashes which has put an often sluggish and slapdash England on the back  foot both literally and metaphorically. 

I thought that Mitchell Starc deserved to play instead of Jackson Bird, but, once satisfied that Ryan Harris was fit to take the field so soon after T3, the selectors preferred the line and length man to the mercurial one. It seems to have been the right decision for the slow opening day wicket, but whether Starc's batting will be missed remains to be seen.

Nathan Lyon, another who hasn't enjoyed the selectors' favour this year, was the surprise packet. He'd bowled reasonably well at Old Trafford, where his 1/100+ for the match didn't reflect the quality of his bowling. Here the statistical balance was redressed: he was subtler, yet didn't spin the ball that much, but took the wickets of numbers 2-6 after the four quick bowlers had held England to 1/57 at lunch, Alistair Cook's acquiescent 21*/90b setting the pace (if that's the right term). 

In the afternoon session Lyon, assisted by some shrewd bowling changes by Michael Clarke,  winkled out a seemingly well set Jonathan Trott, then took the wind out of Kevin Pietersen's full blown sails, before snaffling  Ian Bell to a lazy shot and baffling an out of sorts and tortoise like Jonny Bairstow, while Cook droned on to a torpid 51 before Bird had him lbw and his team 4/155.

The Australian quick bowlers kept things tight and wickets at regular intervals. 9/238, which looked below par to me, prompted some England supporters who know, or claimed to know, the vagaries of the Durham wicket, to state that 250 is a good total. Sounds like whistling in the dark to me, but Australia will have to reprise much of their Old Trafford first innings form to prove me wrong.

<ahref=""> Scorecard</a>

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

England retain Ashes after rain washes out Australia's victory thrust: T3 D5

Australia 7/527d & 7/172d drew with England 368 & 3/37 (20.3ov, Harris 2/13): T3/5 D5/5 at  Old Trafford Manchester. England lead series 2-0 with 2 Tests to play.
Player of the Match: Michael Clarke.

Had rain not intervened Australia would almost certainly have won. As it is England by virtue of wins in the first two Tests have retained the Ashes. But the series is still alive and Australia are on the up, despite continuing uncertainty about the batting order and, perhaps, with the fourth Test four days away, the fitness of some key bowlers eg Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle, both of whom went off the ground during the short period of play on D5.

England too are not problem-free. Alistair Cook's failure in the England second innings  confirms him as a passenger in his own team. Will he survive tip lead England in Australia or will he be tolerated as a latter day Mike Brearley?

But can Australia maintain their improvement? That is the question

<ahref="">Scorecard </a>

Monday, August 05, 2013

Australia lose edge as England regroup with help from weather & umpire pedantry: T3 D4

Australia 7/527dec & 7/172 (36ov, Warner 41/57b/5x4) lead England 368 (139.3ov, Pietersen 113, Cook 62, Bell 60, Siddle 4/63, Starc 3/79) by 331runs with 3 2nd inns wickets in hand: T3/5 D4/5 at Manchester.

England avoided the follow on more comfortably than the Australians would have wished (why did Ryan Harris bowl for so long?). They then batted on in the knowledge that time and the weather would minimise Australia's chances of winning. Australia batted in a kind of limited overs mode until the umpires decided in the final session that, floodlights notwithstanding, in their opinion it was unsafe for play to continue everyone trooped off the ground half an hour before the rain came down.

On paper England clawed back a bit but their cockiness, exemplified by Stuart Broad & Graeme Swann walking before the umpire gave them out, was underpinned by their meteorological foreknowledge.

Of the Australian batters David Warner, promoted to open, looked more at home than in the first innings until one of his biffs (this time willow on leather) was intercepted by Joe Root. Despite the celebrations this prompted among England supporters, it didn't IMO remove Broad  and Swann's walking from joint winners of the play of the day award. 

If this doesn't sound like Test cricket, you're probably right.  But as the day progressed and the weather moved in England became more secure from defeat. The umpires' decision to stop play in the floodlit gloom (oxymoron anyone?) was the last act of a ragged day's play and probably, if the forecast of 60% chance of "precipitation" is anywhere near the mark, the prelude to a dull and interrupted day, a face saving draw for England and disappointment for Australia.

So the Ashes will remain in England, but the series is still open. And if Australia is savvy enough to play the long game, in the remaining two Tests it will have chances to remind England that the gap between the teams may not be as great as many believed until very recently.

<ahref="">Scorecard </a>

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Australia still on top despite Pietersen ton but need England follow on to maximise chances T3 D3

England 7/294 (120ov, Pietersen 113/216b/3x6 12x4, Cook 62/177b/7x4, Bell 60/112b/1x6 10x4, Starc 3/75) trail Australia by 233 runs with 3 1st inns wickets in hand: T3/5 D3/5 at Old Trafford Manchester.

Almost every media report of Day 3's play that I've read suggests that Australia are still on top in the match, despite a defensive fight back by several England batters coupled with an aggressive innings by Kevin Pietersen.

 While this view is supported by the facts of the scorecard, the fact that there are only two days of play  (subject to fine weather) left for Australia to secure a victory in a must win - for the Ashes and to a lesser degree the series - match.

Its chances will be much increased if  England follow on. That is, if the Australlian attack can take 3 wickets for no more than 33 runs. 

While this is by no means out of the question, I think it unlikely given that Matt Prior and Stuart Broad are still at the crease and Graeme Swann next in, not exactly a duffer with the bat (no comment about Jimmy Anderson's ability). The Australian quick bowlers have been consistently steady and occasionally, eg Ryan Harris bowling  a well set Ian Bell  with a corker, excellent. A mention too of Brad Haddiin, who I'd thought had been below his best in the series so far: his diving leg side catch of captain Cook was top notch. 

If Australia will has to bat again this will take up more time and leave Michael Clarke to decide how large (or small) a target to set England. While the pitch seems to be holding up reasonably well there is no need for England to go hell for leather for a win. 

A draw looks the likeliest result from here, but this is subject to change by what happens in the first hour or so of play on D4.


Saturday, August 03, 2013

Clarke's emphatic 187 leads Australia to second consecutive day on top: T3D2

England 2/52 (30ov) trail Australia 7/527 dec (146ov, Clarke 187/314b/23x4), Smith 89/199b/8x4, Rogers 84/114b/14x4, Starc 66*/71b/ 9x4, Haddin 65*/99b/6x4, Swann 43-2-159-5) by 475 runs with 8 1st inns wkts in hand: T3/5 D2/5 at Old Trafford,Manchester.

Another good day for Australia, making it two on the trot for the Test (and series). We shall see whether Is this an aberration or a return to the halcyon days of the 1990s and 2000s, or something else. 

After Michael Clarke, in his classic and Steven Smith in his less orthodox style had added 214 for the 4th wicket Australia were comfortably placed.  The loss of David Warner (and the wasting of a DRS review) without, despite Warnie's urging this from the commentary box in his forthright way - "I fancy a root", the involvement of his recent adversary slowed things down a tad but Clarke continued to forge ahead until he chopped a ball onto his stumps, giving  Stuart Broad his 200th Test wicket.

This made three England bowlers in the team in the 200 Test wickets club. By the end of the innings, after some acceleration by Mitchell Starc and Brad Haddin, all three, and Tim Bresnan, had conceded more than 100 runs apiece. Graeme Swann laboured diligently for another 5 wickets, though for many runs,while Jimmy Anderson, Australia's nemesis hitherto in the series, failed to take a wicket. While the pitch didn't give much assistance to the quick bowlers, Swann spun a few, suggesting that there will be further deterioration over the coming days,

And when England batted Nathan Lyon showed that he too was capable of extracting some turn. While Peter Siddle took the two wickets which fell, if Australian are to take 18 more and win, all the frontline bowlers will need to chip in, the fielding to be sharp ( even sharper than Warner's near miss runout attempt on Alistair Cook), the rub of the green to go their way and, it being Manchester, the weather to hold fair.

A tall order- maybe too tall - but Australia have these past two days shown that they are nowhere near as bad as they've been depicted by both supporters (including me), opponents and less
 partisan observers. Of course Clarke, with his masterly innings, has resumed his rightful place at the apex of the batting ( not sure who if anyone was there before) and laid to rest the bogey that he's a dud batting at no 4 .

A draw will see England retain the Ashes but, with the return series here following hard on the heels of this one, and if Australia can continue to improve,  England's recent hubristic tendencies will be muted.
Gideon Haigh, writing in The Australian & The Times, has put, much more pithily than I can, the consolations of a moral victory. But a real one is not yet out of the question.

<a href=""> Scorecard </a> 

Friday, August 02, 2013

At last, a top order Australian batting fight (in the face of an appalling umpiring blunder) T3 D1

Australia 3/303 (90ov, Clarke 125*/208b/17x4, Rogers 84/114b/14x4, Smith 70*/150b/7x4) v England: T3/5 D1/5 at Old Trafford, Manchester. Australia won toss and chose to bat.

I turned in just after tea, expecting Australia, 3/180 at the interval with Michael Clarke and Steven Smith rebuilding a fragile 3/129, to wobble a bit more and leave the first day more or less evenly poised. Had this happened I'd still have been satisfied 

As it was they batted through the session, adding 123 from 37 tightly contested overs. I was pleasantly surprised, and a little relieved.

Smith toughed it out, as he did at times in India earlier this year. Clarke played himself into form, at first cautiously, tentatively, then reminding watchers how stylish he is, especially against spin. I only watched the second part of his innings via the highlights, but these included a wonderful slow motion replay of him dancing down the pitch to Graeme Swann which was reminiscent of the famous 
photo of Victor Trumper.

Earlier in the day Chris Rogers had played an innings which I thought was beyond him - confidently aggressive, in a manner which vindicated the selectors' choice.

And then there was the Usman Khawaja dismissal, an initial error by onfield umpire Hill confirmed by TV umpire  Dharmasena. As Warnie said from the commentary box "a shocker..a ridiculous decision". Australia may subsequently have had some good fortune in the matter of umpiring decisions, but nothing as  Palpably bad as Khawaja's. Is Dharmasena a Test (or international) standard umpire?

Well as England bowled at times the scorecard reflects a strong Australian fight back which lasted, unlike 
many recent Tests, a full day. David Warner, not Phil Hughes - along with Ashton Agar, dropped - is next in in a 
situation which should allow him to play his natural game even if no6 isn't his customary position.

Runs, but not enough, on the board. The Test is nicely poised. I hope this opinion doesn't come back to bite me.
<a href="">Scorecard </a>.

Point of interest

Old Trafford Cricket Ground has undergone a  90 degree reorientation, with the wicket now on a north- south axis. 
From above it looks odd, but it helps to bear in mind that the straight boundaries are now short and the square 
ones long: the reverse of what the Adelaide Oval used to look like.