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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...

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