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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.

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