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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.