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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.


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