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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.

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