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Monday, July 22, 2013

England complete crushing of Australia to take 2-0 series lead: T2 D4

England 361 & 7/349 dec (114.1ov, Root 180/338b/2x6, 18x4, Bell 74, Siddle 3/65, Harris 2/31) def Australia 128 & 235 (90.3ov, Khawaja 54, Clarke 51, Swann 4/78, Root 2/9, Bresnan 2/30, Anderson 2/55) by 347 runs; T2/5 D4(/5) at Lord's, London. England lead series 2-0 with three Tests to play.
Player of the match: Joe Root.

What more is there to be said? England completed wiping the floor with Australia. It's hard to see them relinquishing the Ashes in this series, and perhaps in the return bout later this year.

Once again some toothless and some inept batting saw Australia crumble against some good though by no means as unplayable bowling as some made it appear. Only Usman Khawaja and Michael Clarke made 50s - just - with the only other small crumb of comfort coming from yet another substantial 10th wicket partnership: 43. 

How can Australia win without the top order contributing many more runs? As things stand now it can't. How can this situation be remedied? At the moment I don't know but will ponder the question over the coming days.

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

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Australia's situation hopeless, so what are its next steps? T2 D3

England 361 & 5/333 (110ov, Root 178*/334 b/ 2x6, 18x4, Bell 74/103b/11x4, Trott 74, Bresnan 38, Siddle 3/65) lead Australia 128 by 566 runs with 5 2nd inns wickets in hand; T2/5 D3/5 at Lord's, London.

England did to Australia what India did in the series earlier this year : batted watchfully for two sessions then cut loose in the last, adding 162 in 32overs out of  2 /303 from the 90 bowled in the day. They are in an impregnable position.

It was Joe Root 's day : his innings has set the foundation of a huge England win. Does .Australia  have anyone with a portion of his gritty perseverancel? Short answer - no.

So what can we do? First, the bowlers must regroup as best as they are able: not all of them have bowled poorly and in the first two sessions many of them restrained Root, albeit without troubling him too much .

Of course a declaration may - should -  be imminent, perhaps after Root has had an opportunity to reach 200, in which case it won't matter too much.

The batting? Follow Root's example: be positively defensive, and look to build innings and partnerships. How many of the top seven are capable of doing this? I won't make my private opinions public, but I'd
be pleased if four or more made at least 70, with two of them making big tons.

These won't win the Test, but they could be the next steps which Australia must take on the path back to competitiveness.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sun shines at Lord's on England as Australia fall under dark batting clouds of their own making: Ashes 2013 T2 D2

England 361(100.1ov, Bell 109, Bairstow 67, Trott 58, Harris 26-6-72-5, Smith 3/18)
 & 3/31 (20ov, Siddle 3/4) lead Australia 128 (53.30v, Watson 30, Swann 21.3-5-44-5) by 264 runs with seve 2nd inns wickets in hand; T2/5 D2/5 at Lord's, London.

Make no mistake about this: England may have lost 6 wickets on the day, but Australia lost ( or surrendered) 10 for a paltry response which has almost certainly left the Ashes in England's grasp.

The England last wicket wagged a bit - Stuart Broad 33/29b/1x6,5x4 and Graeme Swann 28*/26b/5x4, adding a handy 48 for the last wicket. 

When Australia batted Shane Watson and Chris Rogers initially held a feisty England attack at bay without troubling the scorers much. Then Watson played some exquisite off drives to move to 30 before he fell lbw (confirmed by review) to Tim Bresnan on the stroke of lunch. 

Australia 1/42 at lunch self-destructed to 7/96 at tea. 

It pains me to describe the dismal sequence of events, so I won't, except to draw attention to the bizarre lbw decision ( not reviewed) against Rogers: a loose, dropping full toss from Swann (which if bowled by a subcontinental bowler would surely have raised eyebrows among those concerned about spot betting). It wasn't out, but there was no review as Australia (no names mentioned here) frittered away its DRS opportunities.

Enough said...for now.

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

Friday, July 19, 2013

Bell's toll mounts before Smith tweaks Australia back into game: T1 D1

England 7/289 (89ov, Bell 109/211b/16x4, Bairstow 67/146b/7x4, Trott 58/87b/11x4, Smith 3/18, Harris 3/43) v Australia; T2/5 D1/5 at Lord's, London. England won toss and chose to bat.

On a hot London day Australia made early inroads into the England batting, from which point Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell and Jonny Bairstow regained the initiative. They took the total from 3/28 to 4/127 and 4/183 at tea, when I went to bed...and caught up with what happened subsequently on the Fox Sports highlights.

In the last part of the final session Steven Smith reminded us that he is now a batter who can bowl leg spin (not the reverse as was the case when he came intoTest cricket in the last Ashes series). First he induced Bell to edge a pitch perfect turning legbreak to slip, next c&bing Bairstow off a low full toss (the kind you some see in shorter forms of the game) and then having Matt Prior caught behind off a quicker straight ball.

5/271, 6/274, 7/283 pulled England up, but they wouldn't feel that they'd had a bad day. They had one piece of good fortune when Bairstow was bowled neck and crop by Siddle: a delivery which was adjudged by the third umpire to be a no ball ( after watching it for the umpteenth time I am beginning to see why  the official came to that conclusion). Yet he, Trott and,especially, the mature - in both temporal and stylistic senses of the word- Bell combatively responded to some high quality Australian bowling and took advantage of some of moderate quality.

Ryan Harris, restored to the eleven at the expense of Mitchell Starc, took early wickets and thereafter, bowling in short spells to keep his frail body fit for combat, kept England restrained, which he needed to do as neither James Pattinson nor Ashton Agar were able to bowl a consistent line and length. But without Smith's late intervention the Australians would not have slept so easily as I hope they did.

So who's in front? If I have to make a call I'd say England, but the First Test showed that the sides are evenly matched, and the first day's play confirmed this. The weather forecast is very good - more Australian than UKish- so there should be plenty of good cricket to look forward to. 

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


* Start of play was delayed by The Queen's visit 
* The Sky scorer pointed out that early in England's innings the 10,000th leg bye in Test cricket was nudged up. Think of it 
* Of the teams presented to Her Majesty only the two captains wore blazers: aren't the rank and file issued with them any more?

Monday, July 15, 2013

England scrape home thanks to Anderson, take 1-0 series lead T1D5

England 215 & 375 defeated Australia 280 & 296 (110.5ov, Haddin 71/147b/9x4, Rogers 52, Watson 46, Pattinson 25*/57b/1x6, 2x4, Anderson 31.5-11-73-5) by 14 runs; T1/5 D5/5 at Trent Bridge Nottingham. England lead Australia 1-0.

Well, the result was what I expected, but the tension-charged means by which it was achieved was not, as Brad Haddin and James Pattinson, during a 65 run last wicket partnership, came to look as if they could carry Australia home. But that was before Jimmy Anderson came back after a 13 ove pre lunch spell and, with the assistance of the DRS, had Haddin adjudged caught behind.

Anderson was deservedly the Player of the Match.

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

Sunday, July 14, 2013

England set for victory? T1D4

Australia 280 & 6/174 (71.0 ov, Rogers 52/121b/ 8x4, Watson 46/74b/8x4) need another 137 runs with 4 wkts in hand to beat England 215 & 375 (149.5 ov, Bell 109/267b/15x4 Broad 65/148b/7x4, Pietersen 64/150b/12x4, Cook 50/165b/6x4, Starc 3/81, Siddle 3/85); T1/5 D4/5 at Trent Bridge, Nottingham.

England gained the upper hand late on what a friend watching in Derbyshire confirmed to be a hot Nottingham day (which is not quite the same as a hot Adelaide day).

Despite taking the last 4 England wickets for 49 and embarking solidly upon the long fourth innings haul towards 311, Australia once again faltered with the bat, leaving it tenuously placed. On the last day they need something less (though maybe not much less) than a miracle, something more than a very good performance, to win.

It was another intriguing day, though at the end disappointing to Australian supporters.

Neither Ian Bell, who moved from 95 to 109, Stuart Broad, 47 to 65, nor the last three  - 9 runs between them- inflicted much more damage upon Australia, for whom Shane Watson started assertively and Chris Rogers solidly.

0/28 at lunch made it nobody's session. In the middle session both Watson and Ed Cowan fell, each of them just as it seemed that the visitors were coming back into contention. Cowan's dismissal, on the stroke of tea to  part timer Joe Root, was particularly galling. Fortunately Rogers was reprieved by the DRS which overturned a decision in the same class as Aleem Dar's yesterday, (for either lbw or caught behind) when it was clear to my unaided eye that the ball had passed nowhere near bat, body or stumps.

2/111 meant Australia were still in the game, if not on top. But  at 124 Rogers, who'd looked very solid in making 52, pulled Jimmy Anderson to midwicket. Michael Clarke, looking uncharacteristically scratchy, and Steven Smith, more restrained than in the first innings, looked to be regrouping, but at 161 Clarke fell to Broad, after another pause from Umpire Dar and subsequent DRS (the Cricinfo description of the dismissal must be one of the longest ever -click on the Scorecard to read it).

Then Graeme Swann, who hitherto had looked steady without looking dangerous, had both Steven Smith and Phil Hughes adjudged lbw - the latter subject a poor call by umpire Dharmasena and upheld by Hawkeye, which showed a slender majority of the ball just pitching in line.

So that left Brad Haddin and Ashton Agar - promoted to no 8, not sent in a nightwatchman I believe, to hold the fort until stumps.

They did this but it's asking a lot for them and the three to follow to get Australia over the line from here. Gideon Haigh, speaking on Offsiders today seemed optimistic about Australia's chamces. Much as I adnire his assessments I disagree with him on this one.

Last might I turned down the TV, turned in and listened on the radio until I fell asleep, waking at 3:14 by the bedside clock to the broad Yorkshire tones of Geoff Boycott.

I don't expect to be doing that again tonight, but will treat myself to a glass or two of red by the fire and wait resignedly to see what happens.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

England grind dulls Australia's edge T1D3

Somehow the text I intended to post was lost in transmission.

I expressed my opinion that England were on top after D3.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ricky Ponting scores ton in last first class innings

A cricketing event not entirely overshadowed by happenings at Trent Bridge:  Matt Fearon in The Independent
pays tribute to Ricky Ponting

who has just played his first class match, for Surrey. And, fittingly for the player I regard as the best Australian batsman since Bradman not that I've seen all the contenders, or even the Don himself in action, he scored a century Congratulations Ricky, and thanks for the pleasure watching you has given me.

Incredible Agar + solid Hughes pull Australia back from abyss T1D2

England 215 & 2/80 (43ov, Cook 37*, Pietersen 35*) lead Australia 280 (64.5ov, Agar 98, Hughes 81*, Smith 53, Anderson 5/85) by 15 runs with 8 2nd inns wkts in hand: T1/5 D2/5 at Trent Bridge Nottingham.

Well, I was wrong to suggest that Ashton Agar shouldn't have been in the team (even though I was thinking of him as the no1 spin bowler). Whatever his bowling abilities his 98/101b(2x6,12x4) on debut and at no11should guarantee him a place - higher up the order- for the next foreseeable future.

His innings was remarkable not just for its quantum but also its quality: especially of strokeplay (not always along the ground) and choice of ball to hit.

We shouldn't forget Phil Hughes who contributed 60 to the 163 world 10th wicket partnership Test record. At times he exasperated me by not appearing to follow conventional wisdom by trying to keep the strike (as  conventional wisdom prescribes), but it became clear that he knew Agar's capabilities much better than me. He toughed it out and became more fluent as he stroked his way to yet another career refreshing (saving?) innings. 81*/131b/9x4 was not like the Hughes(es) of old but displayed a grittiness that I doubted he was capable of.

Even so, Agar looked the more accomplished of the pair, which only reinforces how well the young man batted.

Several significant records were broken: click">here
to see Cricinfo's summary.

The partnership saved Australia who had crumbled before Jimmy Anderson and Graeme Swann after the former had Steven Smith caught behind  for 53/79b/1x6, 7x4.  From the other end Hughes watched 5/108 turn into a nightmarish 9/117  before the unexpected revival and retreat from an abyss of almost certain defeat to shape a pinch-yourself-to-make-sure-that -it's -true lead of 65.

A handy lead in a low scoring match and Mitchell Starc's capturing two cheap wickets( one of which stirred up some criticism of the DRS umpiring) made England's 2/11 at tea look almost as grim a position as Australia's had been earlier.

At that point I dozed off,  and only watched highlights of the last session later, when it looked as if Kevin Pietersen and Alistair Cook fought determinedly and succeeded in preserving their wickets on a wicket taking more spin. A lead of 15 doesn't seem a lot but the spectre of Anderson and Swann bowling in the 4th innings must be causing a few collywobbles in the Australian camp.

Can Agar take a wicket or three? Will the sunny weather of D2 continue or will it revert to the gloom of D1? Can the Australian attack restrict England to a gettable target (like c200)? All this and more awaits."> Scorecard

Thursday, July 11, 2013

England have slight edge after 14 wickets fall on hard fought day of uneven quality: Ashes 2013 T1 D1

Australia 4/75 (21ov, Smith 38*) trail England 215 (59 ov, Trott 48/80b,9x4, Bairstow 37, Root 30, Siddle 5/50, Pattinson 3/69) by 140 runs on 1st inns; T1/5 D1/5 at Trent Bridge Nottingham. England won toss and chose to bat.

Yesterday Sir Ian Botham predicted that this Test would be over in three and a half days, with England winning. I scoffed at what I took to be pre-series bluster, but after a hurly-burly first day's play in which 14 wickets fell it looks as if Sir Ian was, unusually for him, erring on the side of caution.

Australia surprised me (and many others) by preferring the 19 year old Ashton Agar to Nathan Lyon (who took 9 wickets in his last Test).  I couldn't see a good reason for this and the decision may well come back to bite them. He only bowled a few nothing-to-write-home-about overs but will almost certainly need to do more when England bat again, which will probably be on day two.

The first session gave little hint of what was to come. The Australian bowlers, Peter Siddle included because of his first few overs, were all over the place in what should have been helpful overcast conditions. The England batters took advantage of this and the fast outfield and at lunch were handily placed at 2/98 from 26 overs with Jonathan Trott looking good.

But early in the afternoon session  Kevin Pietersen swatted Siddle to cover and it was 3/102. At 124 Trott, who'd looked so on top of the situation, played on to Siddle for 48, which turned out to be the highest score of the day. Even so England's position didn't look to be beyond redemption, but none of the remaining upper order could keep Siddle 14-4-50-5 at bay, while James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc refocused and sliced through the tail.

215 looked decidedly below par. Yet when Australia collapsed to 3/22, including Michael Clarke bowled for a duck by a beautiful Jimmy Anderson nip backer (watch the replay if you can), it suddenly looked ample. Steve Smith, like Agar a late addition to the original squad, batted positively - his straight drive for 6 off Graeme Swann was the shot of the day - restore a measure of hope to the visitors.

 Talk about Australia batting down to no11 is all very well, but in the circumstances it sounds like Bothamesque bluster. The weather and the pitch, which is already starting to crumble, will play a big part in shaping the course of the match but on paper now England have an edge.

All this makes for mandatory viewing (the Sky Sports feed is available here on both free to air - Gem - and Foxtel)  for the next couple of days. I  shall try to keep awake as long as possible (unlike last night where I nodded off early in the afternoon session and had to catch the highlights this morning).


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Let the Ashes begin!

Posting just a few hours before the first  England v Australia Test  begins at Trent Bridge.

Like most observers of the current scene, I find it hard to predict an Australian win in the 5 match UK series. The best I'd hope for is perhaps one win and some resolute resistance by the visitors which might give them heart for the return bout here later this year.

England are a fairly settled team, strong in all departments: even their fielding is better than Australia's. But they are not infallible, as their recent struggles to avoid defeat to New Zealand show.

Australia have been in turmoil since (and perhaps before) the on and off field debacles in India earlier this year. The fast bowling seems to be its strongest suit as the batting is an unknown quantity, even it seems to the new coach Darren "Boof" Lehmann. As I post this the selectors have only named the opening pair: Chris Rogers is restored to the eleven after a single appearance some years ago and will be partnered by Shane Watson, whose wish to open has been granted.

Apart from Michael Clarke, head and shoulders above everyone else (despite his back problems) it's anyone's guess who will fill the other three top order positions; my choice would be Ed Cowan, Phil Hughes and Steven Smith. Not the most confidence inspiring group, but who else deserves to replace them? David Warner...not in my book (for the time being at least). I thought that Smith gutsed it out in India and was surprised that he wasn't named in the original squad. I don't share the same optimism about the other two, but if Australia are going to be competitive they're going to have to lift a notch or two.

We shall see...must start the fire so I'm ready for a long night - whoever gains the upper hand.