Friday, July 10, 2015
Australia 5/264 struggle to match England's 430 as Moeen Ali finds form with bat and ball: T1D2
Australia 5/264 (70ov, Rogers 95/133b/1x6 11x4, Clarke 38, Smith 33, Voges 31) trail England 430 (102.1ov, Root 134, Ali 77/88b/1x6 11x4, Ballance 61, Stokes 52, Starc 24.1-4-114-5, Hazlewood 3/83) by 166 runs with 5 1st inns wkts in hand: T1/5 D2/5 at Cardiff.
England's last three wickets, with Moeen Ali in the lead, added a breezy 87 runs from 85 balls in the morning session before Australia began promisingly yet lost wickets in the quest to regain the initiative.
I'd never doubted Ali's ability with the bat, but questioned why he is now at no 8. His 77 was the knock of a top six Test player. He has already confirmed in ODIs that he has talent and in this innings showed how his skills now span both formats.
It has been his bowling which worried me. After watching him against the West Indies and New Zealand earlier this year I felt he was at best a batting allrounder, with his bowling not good enough for him to be considered one of the top 4 (or perhaps even 5) in England's Test eleven..
Australia seem to have shared my view of him...until now. Their plan to hit him out of the attack didn't work as he snared both Steve Smith, caught at short mid on, and Michael Clarke, a nifty c&b. That both players had looked well set but only contributed 31 and 38 respectively dented Australia's prospects of posting a good reply. Chris Rogers' 95 at least kept the scoreboard moving (and more rapidly than in the early phase of his career): he looks capable of scoring a ton...until he nears that mark.
Ali may have been the biggest surprise packet of the England attack, yet he was generally well supported by his quicker colleagues each of whom, Stuart Broad excepted, took a wicket. Broad still has a chance to remedy this, unlike Mitchell Johnson who went for 111 from 25 wicketless overs.
With Adam Voges falling late in the day for 31 England have the initiative. It is nevertheless too early to claim that they have the ascendancy, as Shane Watson, the last of Australia's top six is still there with 29*. In recent times the lower order (including the latterly out of form Brad Haddin) have often added handy runs, so without another solid contribution from them it will be next to impossible to gain a first innings lead, or even a small deficit.
Another late night- early morning watching TV and listening to the radio commentary beckons.
PS I have refrained from commenting upon the embarrassing injury to Alistair Cook which (together with the varied reactions of his teammates) were shown on TV and have been posted to YouTube.