Test Match Review, England v Australia 2013, Second Test, Lord’s – Day Two

Ashes

England 361 and 31/3 lead Australia 128 (Swann 5-44) by 264 runs

Hello from the North London Riviera. And before we begin, congratulations to Shane Warne on his induction into the ICC Hall of Fame. And congratulations to the Lord’s crowd for ironically cheering Liz Hurley.

This was probably the type of scorecard most would have expected going into the series, particularly after Australia’s horror show in India. But don’t let that detract from how unprecedentedly weird today has been. It was like something dreamt up by Salvador Dalí after snacking on an over-ripe pre-bedtime camembert. There can be little doubt: surrealist Test cricket is here to stay. Australia found increasingly stupid ways of getting out on a pitch that, the odd big turner out of the footmarks apart, was probably as good to bat on as it’s going to be for the whole game. Time and again, they dug their own graves, and then beat themselves over the head with the spade.

Clarke or bust

Michael Clarke may not have fired in this series so far, but don’t let that fool you. He is by far Australia’s most important player. He was even before the retirement of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey, and now the over-reliance has become almost total. Since becoming captain at the start of 2011 he has scored 2,584 runs at 64.60, the highest tally of anyone from any country and the third-highest average (assuming a minimum 15 innings). Of the Australians playing in this game, the next highest is Phil Hughes with a somewhat less imposing 822 at 29.35. Even more damningly, in the same period he has scored 18.65% percentage of Australia’s total runs, a scoring burden matched only by Brian Lara in recent times (for a list of most relied upon batsmen over a career, look no further). A telling contribution from Clarke is Australia’s only chance of a decent score, and even then it might not be enough.

Reviewballs

photo(3)
I know Australia were 9 down, but what the hell were they thinking?

How did he drop that???

Trott drops Khawaja off Swann

Swann drops Harris off...Swann

Swann drops Harris off…Swann

Clarke and Haddin don't even manage to drop Root off Watson

Clarke and Haddin don’t even manage to drop Root off Watson

Good ball, bad shot

Tim Bresnan, c Haddin b Harris 7, 289-8: Good ball, Bresnan had to play. On the ideal length, slap bang in the middle of Geoffrey Boycott’s Corridor of Uncertainty™, and as with the one that got Pietersen yesterday moved away up the hill.

James Anderson, c Haddin b Harris 12, 313-9: Good ball, but a pretty loose shot from the most inexplicable night-watchman in Test history. Harris used the slope well throughout and got this one to jag away alarmingly down it. Top work, and a well deserved place on the honours board.

Stuart Broad, c Haddin b Pattinson 33, 361 all out: It was a waft, but I think we can excuse a waft in the circumstances. This partnership was exactly what England wanted from Broad and Swann, although let us be clear – it did not, repeat not, justify using Anderson as a night-watchman. All involved with that decision should be fined, and David Warner should be allowed a free swing at their testicles.

All of which entertaining biffing brought us to Australia’s omnishambles of an innings:

Shane Watson, lbw b Bresnan 30, 42-1: The most typical of typical Shane Watson dismissals. He’d played like a dream, murdering a few through the off-side and looking almost unfairly fluent. Then Bresnan bowled one straight. Watson planted his front foot, swung the bat hopefully in the vague direction of the ball, and was absolutely plumb. The combination of the shot and the absurd review put this one firmly in the ‘bad shot’ category.

Chris Rogers, lbw b Swann 15, 50-2: Jus…wha…um…I don’t know. Box before wicket off a full toss just isn’t supposed to happen, ever. I said yesterday Steve Smith nicked the one he got Ian Bell with from a proper bowler, and clearly that bowler was Swann and this was revenge. And it was missing leg. And he didn’t review it, probably because of Watson’s stupid review. An all-round cricketing abomination that made me ashamed the sport was ever invented.

Phil Hughes, c Prior b Bresnan 1, 53-3: Terrible shot. Feet nowhere, bat at an ugly angle. The kind of shot that drives under-12s coaches mad the world over. Again DRS involved, although given how faint the nick was Hughes was probably just about within his rights to ask…but from then on Australia had no reviews. WATSON [shakes fist]!

Usman Khawaja, c Pietersen b Swann 14, 69-4: Doubleplusungood shot. Batting by numbers: block, block, block, slog. He came out of his crease like he was being pushed down against his will, and even though it went straight into the sun, as Pietersen made sure everyone knew, there was no chance England were going to drop him again – only much better players get that kind of luck.

Steve Smith, c Bell b Swann 2, 86-5: Good ball, good captaincy, really good catch. Bell had just been moved in front of square by Cook, and when this one reared off a length he was just close enough to it to get both hands around it despite the fact he was moving the other way.

Well snaffled.

Well snaffled.

Michael Clarke, lbw Broad 28, 91-6: Good ball, speared in on middle and leg. Clarke ended up in an almighty tangle with bat and front pad getting snarled up together. Clarke seems to be attracting very good deliveries in this series, which England will not mind one little bit. A quick mention for Broad would not go amiss either, this was a very good spell which will garner few headlines.

Ashton Agar, run out (Prior/Anderson) 2, 96-7: And to top it all off, a ridiculous run-out. Agar had been carrying an injury since the very start of the game, and after setting off like a startled rabbit and then being sold down the river by Haddin he had very little chance of beating Prior’s accurate throw. This is the sort of run out that only happens to struggling teams.

Peter Siddle, c Swann b Anderson 2, 104-8: Good probing line and length, but a pretty feeble prod. Anderson bowled a beautiful spell in the morning session with no luck at all, so all in all was probably due a bit of a gift.

Brad Haddin, c Trott b Swann 7, 104-9: Haddin had little option but to swing from the hip by this stage. Swann dangled the carrot, Haddin tried to hit the cover off it and Trott was able to make amends for shelling Khawaja with not too much damage done. Or at least, not to England.

Ryan Harris, c Pietersen b Swann 10, 128 all out: Swann’s drop didn’t count for much either in the end. Harris decided he didn’t trust his defence, got the 9 iron out and tried and failed to chip it over Pietersen, who took a very good catch over his shoulder. One of the stranger five-fors Swann will get, but maybe this makes up for the one he didn’t get a chance at against New Zealand.

Unsurprisingly given the dryness of the pitch, England decided to bat again. And almost instantly regretted it.

Alastair Cook, b Siddle 8, 22/1: Bowled with a bit of venom, and Cook became the latest to fall victim to the Angled Bat of Doom. Not quite a bad shot, but distinctly sub-optimal.

Jonathan Trott, b Siddle 0, 22/2: Good length, tight line, a little bit of nip back in. A drag-on never looks good, but Trott shouldn’t get too much flak for this one.

Kevin Pietersen, c Rogers b Siddle 5, 30/3: More Bizarro World cricket. A wide not-quite-half-volley that swung a bit and really should have been left, and Pietersen thrashed it straight to cover point. Then with England 263 ahead, out walks…Tim Bresnan. The mind boggles.

What tomorrow will bring us is anyone’s guess. A pitch invasion led by penguins escaped from London Zoo seems like a distinct possibility on present form. Farewell, and may you be in heaven half an hour before Darrell Hair knows you’re dead.

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Test Match Review, England v Australia 2013, Second Test, Lord’s – Day One

England 289 for 7 (Bell 109, Bairstow 67, Smith 3-18)

Hail and well met from Lord’s. Or near Lord’s, anyway. The Queen may have made her excuses before lunch, but for those who did not follow the royal example there was no shortage of intrigue on a sweltering day that surely tested the enforcement of the stringent MCC members’ dress code to its fullest.

Teams
England:
Alastair Cook (c), Joe Root, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Jonny Bairstow, Matt Prior (wk), Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson

Australia:
Shane Watson, Chris Rogers, Usman Khawaja, Michael Clarke (c), Steve Smith, Phil Hughes, Brad Haddin (wk), Ashton Agar, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris, James Pattinson

Skywatch

The Sky box was made a brighter place by the arrival of Shane Warne, fresh from the poker table. His voice is always music to my ears, as his cricket brain is among the sharpest of any player in the last twenty years and, along with Michael Holding, he thinks about the game in a markedly different way to the barrage of former England captains (and Ian Ward) who make up the rest of the Sky team. Unfortunately he was subjected to what seems to have become something of an initiation for new boys in the box: enduring five minutes of being patronised by iWardy and his giant screen. He dealt with it considerably better than Andrew Strauss had at Trent Bridge.

David Gower seized adroitly his chance to run us through the protocols of the Royal Visit (and at certain points today when the cameras panned to the topless short-wearing sunbathers on the Nursery, the MCC members looked like they would have relished the chance to declare themselves an independent Commonwealth nation, and enforce their dress code with the full power of the law and preferably a well-equipped military). Once the cricket started, the main diversion was Messrs Strauss and Hussain reminiscing about one of the most tragi-comically inept run-outs of all time, involving two fools by the names of…Strauss and Hussain.

Incidentally, whoever came up with the wheeze of putting cameras in the Long Room deserves some form of lordship. We’ve heard the walk down the steps, through the Long Room and out through the gate eulogised by generations of players, not least those now working for Sky and the BBC, and to see it for ourselves was truly a treat.

It’s still all about Ian Bell

The day started with Ryan Harris showing us just what Australia have been missing with his constant enforced absences, and ended with Steve Smith giving hope to all village leg-spinners, but it mostly belonged to the man whose Wikipedia page continues to be a magnet for gently ironic grandiose nicknames. He continued to occupy his own impregnably serene bubble, rotating the strike and gently admonishing – punishing is altogether too violent a verb for Bell – the loose balls that started as a trickle and threatened to turn into a flood after lunch. Trott came, looked imperious and went, as he did at Trent Bridge. Bairstow played all around a no-ball that in future years may well be looked back upon as the moment that made his career. But until Smith stole a delivery from a proper bowler and flung it Bell’s way before anyone could raise the alarm, Bell simply went on his merry way.

Bell actually had a rather indifferent recent record at Lord’s before today (another statistical albatross gently removed from around his neck; if Bell is going to make a habit of this he could not have chosen a better time to do so than a year with two Ashes series). He started well enough, with three hundreds and an average of 62.56 in his first seven Tests, but after the last of those against South Africa just over five years ago his record took somewhat of a nosedive: a high score of 63 and an average of 32.83 from six games is no record for any kind of top order batsman. You can find Bell’s full Lord’s stats here.

I refuse to bring myself to do more than mention England’s farcical use of Anderson as a night-watchman. And I’m only doing that under duress.

Good ball, bad shot

And now for something completely different: actual analysis.

Alastair Cook, lbw b Watson 12, 18-1: Good ball. Watson found the right line from which to swing the ball back down the slope, Cook’s head was still on the original line, and Clarke’s snap decision was vindicated. It took a while, mind; Marais Erasmus clearly misses Steve ‘Slow Death’ Bucknor as much as the rest of us too.

Joe Root, lbw b Harris 6, 26-2: Good ball. The use of the review by Root was fair enough, especially given the one Cook denied him in the second innings in Nottingham, but it was just about pad first. More credit to the umpire too, Kumar Dharmasena this time; it’s nice to see an ‘outer’ at the top level.

Kevin Pietersen, c Haddin b Harris 2, 28-3: Again, a very good ball, especially to Pietersen early on – what a change from Trent Bridge. Harris obviously listened intently to Glenn McGrath when he chatted to the bowlers yesterday, as this number bang on length straightening against the slope was one of Pigeon’s most dangerous weapons at Lord’s.

Jonathan Trott, c Khawaja b Harris 58, 127-4: Bad shot. Michael Atherton had commented with some surprise on how rarely Trott has been tested in his Test career against the short ball, and Trott blundered straight into the not-very-cunningly disguised heffalump tramp Clarke had set. The stroke he played has no name in any known language, and was an underwhelming end to an innings that had hitherto seemed destined to put him on the honours board. The disdainful flick for four he played first ball brought back memories of Hashim Amla’s treatment of Graeme Swann last year.

Ian Bell, c Clarke b Smith 109, 271-5: Good ball, but when spinners talk of setting up a batsman this is generally not what they mean. The ball before was the rankest of rank full tosses and got what it deserved, but this was a copybook leg-break: he tossed it up, it drifted, dipped and ripped across Bell, catching the edge almost incidentally on its way through to slip.

Jonny Bairstow, c&b Smith 67, 274-6: Awful ball, and given where it ended up I think we have to say awful shot. You could bowl this to Bairstow a hundred times and every single time you’d be fetching it from some way beyond the boundary. It was a smart catch, but that was this dismissal’s only redeeming feature. He will be disappointed not to have made more use of the life Siddle gave him, but it was a good, enterprising knock.

Matt Prior, c Haddin b Smith 6, 283-7: Cricinfo described this as an ‘attempted flipper’. It wasn’t. It was slightly fuller than a long-hop, and Prior misjudged the line.  Three wickets for Smith off a jaffa, a full bunger and a short one: standard fare for a part-time leggie.

Let’s hope tomorrow is a worthy addition to what is already shaping up to be a fine series. Good night, and praise be unto V.V.S. Laxman.

Test Match Review: England v Australia 2013, First Test, Trent Bridge – Day Three

Ashes

England 215 and 326 for 6 (Bell 95*, Broad 47*) lead Australia 280 by 261 runs

Welcome to the third instalment of Test Match Review. It was a fascinating day of Test cricket, with the balance of power shifting throughout until Ian Bell and Stuart Broad made their most telling contributions with the bat for some time to leave England with a lead that even if Alastair Cook were to declare after one ball, which admittedly is about as likely as him waking up in Garfield Sobers’ body (the cricketing remake of ‘Freaky Friday’ the world has most assuredly not been waiting for), would probably be enough to secure victory. As it is, England are now in a position where if they bat for long enough they could all but guarantee that Australia will be reduced to digging in to try and save the game.

 IAN! RONALD! BELL!

The Duke of Bellington (not his most ridiculous nickname, thanks to some amusing Wikipedia vandalism) has a reputation as a flat-track bully whose mid-40s average belies his tendency to crumble like a biscuit dipped once too often into a particularly hot cup of tea. I’ll leave that debate to others, but this innings showed for the second time this year that Bell has augmented his crisp strokeplay and at times exquisite timing with plentiful reserves of mental fortitude (newfound or otherwise). Matt Prior rightly got the plaudits for England’s Dunkirk re-enactment in Auckland, but Bell’s 75 off 271 should not be overlooked.

However, should England win, this Test match will represent new ground. Bell has registered eleven 50-plus scores at a slower strike rate than this one, and none of them have resulted in an England win. There have been seven defeats and four draws: the aforementioned game in Auckland; the snooze-fest in Nagpur last winter; the first innings in the drawn Old Trafford Test of 2005 which was a rare if scratchy high point in a tortuous series for him; and the great escape in Cape Town that is widely regarded as his finest hour in an England shirt. There is no doubt that if England do head to Lord’s 1-0 up, there will be a new contender for that honour.

An interesting statistical sidenote: Bell has only faced more balls than his close of play 228 eight times in his career. Apart from the anomalous trench-digging effort in Auckland, all of the others have been hundreds, and big ones: the lowest score of the lot is 115. We’ll see how tomorrow pans out, but don’t be surprised if Bell ends up with a big, big score.

Broad returns to form with fighting 47/1

First things first. Yes, we all know he nicked Agar to slip. He hit the bloody cover off it. Aleem Dar clearly wasn’t watching the same sport, let alone the same game, and in an ideal world will be lucky to retain his place on the Elite Panel for any length of time. But there has been and will continue to be more than enough written and said about that, as well as the tedious ‘walk or no walk’ debate. The only thing I want to throw in is that James Pattinson has not attracted nearly enough criticism for pressuring a now desperate Michael Clarke into wasting Australia’s last review on a frivolous LBW appeal.

But let’s concentrate on Broad. The last eighteen months have been frankly dire as far as his batting is concerned; he hasn’t scored a fifty since scoring an unbeaten 58 against Pakistan in January 2012, and since that innings he has averaged a mediocre 16.45 compared to his career figure of 25.13. Perhaps more pertinently, in the matches up to and including that one in the UAE he had demonstrated serious all-rounder credentials with an impressive batting average of 28.93. Broad too came out of Auckland with credit, and England fans will be hoping that this more aggressive effort will be the rebirth of Stuart Broad the bowling all-rounder.

Turns out he can bowl too

Before we run through the dismissals, a quick word on Australia’s bowlers. The pitch got slower and slower as the day went on, as Kevin Pietersen alluded to in his post-match interview in front of Ian Ward’s giant mounted iPad, and while there was some uneven bounce and occasional turn for Ashton Agar, who showed that his inclusion hadn’t been just a roundabout way of strengthening Australia’s batting, and the old ball did reverse before it basically fell apart, this was not the sort of pitch where you could expect to rip through an opposition batting line-up if they showed any kind of application. Having said that, it was not the pitch for extravagant strokeplay either, which Pietersen also evidenced with his dismissal. Australia kept it tight and at no point apart from when Matt Prior was in full flow did England threaten to get away from them. Shane Watson’s figures of 15-11-11-0, while ludicrous, demonstrated the deck’s two-faced nature. In short, it was a Test match in the truest sense of the term. Groundsmen of the world, take note.

Good ball, bad shot

This is more the kind of day I was expecting when I decided I’d evaluate every wicket.

Kevin Pietersen, b Pattinson 64, 121-3: Bad shot. Bad choice of shot, badly executed. The diagonal bat is always a danger even to well-set players on a slow pitch. He had made a concerted effort throughout to present the full face of the bat either horizontally or vertically, and this dismissal showed that was the right way to go.

Alastair Cook, c Clarke b Agar 50, 131-4: Not a bad first Test scalp (and not half important: the last six times Cook had reached 50 he had made a century each time at an average of 141.5). And a good ball to get it with, bowled with a lot of overspin to get the dip and bounce that caused Cook to turn his wrists a little early and send it high towards the acrobatic Clarke who took a fine catch. Obviously that dodgy back is alright for now.

Jonny Bairstow, c Haddin b Agar 15, 174-5: A very nice delivery indeed. Agar’s slowest of the day, Bairstow was always reaching for it and it turned just enough to take the edge. Bairstow had played solidly and had looked in little trouble (despite what the volley of abuse he was getting on Twitter might suggest) and shouldn’t dwell on this dismissal too much.

Matt Prior, c Cowan b Siddle 31, 218-6: Spanking a long-hop (Siddle will tell you it was an attempted bouncer but on this pitch every short ball is a long-hop) to the fielder never looks good. Unlike with Pietersen this was the right shot, he was just very early on it and it was just within reach of the spring-heeled Cowan – that was not the jump of a man who had been on and off the field with a stomach complaint. An important breakthrough; Prior had looked in ominous form as he dined on the surfeit of wide filth Australia had bizarrely decided was the best way of getting him out.

That’s your lot for day 3. I’m away for the weekend chasing a frisbee round a field near Cardiff (don’t ask), so if I do manage to do anything for the last two days it’ll be brief and might just be a summary of the wickets that fall. If I don’t manage to put anything out, I look forward to writing at you for the second Test at Lord’s. Goodbye, and may Adrian Shankar never darken your door.

Test Match Review: England v Australia 2013, First Test, Trent Bridge – Day Two

Image

England 215 and 80 for 2 (Cook 37*, Pietersen 35*) lead Australia 280 (Agar 98, Hughes 81*, Anderson 5-85) by 15 runs

Hello, reader. I have no idea what’s just happened.

Good luck making sense of this one

We saw three matches in one today. First, England’s ever-reliable portmanteau demon bowler Grammy Anderswann ripped through the Australian lower-middle order, and then at the end Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen steadied the ship after Mitchell Starc (in combination, allegedly, with Marais Erasmus) took two in two for the second time in about 24 hours on the stroke of tea.

Cook and Pietersen were both described as becalmed, but in truth Pietersen simply looked too bored to bother playing an attacking shot. Other than an outside edge off Ashton Agar (of whom a lot more later) that would have broken Brad Haddin’s leg had he not been wearing pads, and the contemptuous cover drive for four he played next ball as though he were an old-school headmaster caning a pupil for ‘answering back’, there were few signs that Pietersen had any intention of leaving his bubble. The evening session was little more than a two-hour outdoor net against some disciplined but unthreatening bowling.

In between…

Phil Hughes and Ashton Agar came together at 117/9 after Australia had lost 5 wickets for 9 runs in 5.1 overs to Anderson, who produced a superb spell of controlled reverse swing that was wasted on this batting line-up, and Swann, who made a mockery of his previous struggles at Trent Bridge, turning one square to bowl Haddin and then trapping Swann with one that had just as much work on it (as Sky’s rev-counter revealed) but went straight on. Agar changed everything. While Hughes looked like he had learned nothing from his torrid winter against India, his partner’s uncluttered approach took all the pressure off him. Steve Smith had had a similar effect before his needless dismissal, hitting Swann for 16 off 19, but it was Agar’s sustained agression that meant Hughes didn’t have to worry about scoring runs and could just concentrate on trying to get down the other end to face the quicks, against whom he looked infinitely more comfortable.

Just as well, really: before the carnage began in the 29th over, Smith had contrived to face 11 of the 16 balls sent down by Swann and had scored at a good rate (16 runs including 2 fours and a big six in Swann’s first over), but with his partners giving the impression that Trent Bridge had fitted a revolving door to their pavilion during the ground’s remodelling before the remarkable final wicket partnership, Hughes was stuck groping around against Swann for 9 of the 11 balls he faced in this period of play, which garnered the grand total of 1 leg bye, and that ball drew a close but unsuccessful lbw appeal.

Then came the new boy. The bare facts are remarkable enough: 98 off  101 balls (the spirit of Virender Sehwag is alive and well), highest score by a number 11 (just), highest ever 10th wicket partnership, the statistical avalanche kept coming (so much so that Cricinfo’s stats search engine, friend of scorers everywhere, crashed midway through the afternoon session).

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Agar was delighted to receive the coveted ‘Sehwag Thumb of Approval’.

Not only did Agar take the pressure off Hughes by stroking the spinner around at a run a ball (yes, I know he was probably out stumped on 6 but the third umpire would have been better off flipping a coin) but he joined in his newly liberated senior partner’s the attack on the suddenly loose England pace attack. Broad and Finn were far too short throughout and were rightly punished, but even the hitherto metronomic Anderson did not come out unscathed. The contrast between his pre- and post-Agar bowling figures tell the story: 16-2-41-5 as against 8-0-44-0 is as much a ‘spell of two halves’ as you could wish to see. Cook’s bizarre field placings and insistence on providing Agar with easy singles like he was his wingman in a provinical nightclub on a Saturday night did not help.

When Agar looped another Broad long-hop down Graeme Swann’s throat the crowd barely knew how to react. Swann tried to encourage them with a double-fist pump and roar of encouragement, but the groan was unignorable. The standing ovation as he walked off the field, a sheepish grin on his face, will join Clarke b Anderson 0 in the pantheon of great Ashes moments produced this extraordinary Test series. And we’ve only had two days of the first match. Phew.

What’s that? Oh yes, England batted, Starc got Root and Trott in successive balls, Jonathan Agnew moaned about the technology on Twitter, and then Cook and Pietersen had a practice session until close of play. It felt like the cricket universe needed a breather, and it wasn’t alone.


Good ball, bad shot

Here we go again! First up, Australia:

Steve Smith, c Haddin b Anderson 53, 108-5: Bad shot. Not just on its own merits, but for the timing. As we discussed earlier he was looking comfortable, particularly against Swann, and until Agar’s explosive entry onto the world stage the Smith-Hughes partnership was the only time Australia seemed to have anything approaching a plan. The ball did reverse away, but it wasn’t there to hit.

Brad Haddin, b Swann 1, 113-6: Good ball, but a loose shot. It turned square and caught Haddin by surprise, but the bat came down at an angle that was asking for trouble.

Peter Siddle, c Prior b Anderson 1, 114-7: Bad, bad shot. A good diving catch from Prior but this was not a shot you’d readily associate with a man of Siddle’s proven fighting qualities.

Mitchell Starc, c Prior b Anderson 0, 114-8: Good ball, indifferent shot from someone with a Test high score of 99. Anderson showed his skill with the old ball, reversing it away from the left-hander, but Starc allowed himself to be suckered into this one.

James Pattinson, lbw Swann 2, 117-9: Good ball, bad review. Pattinson didn’t even fool himself when he reviewed this, it was absolutely stone dead. Great areas from Swann though, if it had spun it would have troubled the outside edge but as it was it thudded into the pad.

Ashton Agar, c Swann b Broad, 98: I’m not going to criticise a ‘tailender’ (he’s clearly a hell of a lot better than that) for trying to go to his hundred in a blaze of glory, particularly bearing in mind the earlier Sehwag comparison (Sehwag is the only man ever to go to 300 with a six). It was definitely a bad ball, another half-tracker from Broad, and deserved to end up about 30 rows back. Instead, Swann pouched it at midwicket (and was subsequently inundated with sarcastic suggestions that he should have dropped it in sympathy with his fellow spinner, much to his chagrin).

In mitigation, Anderson and Swann bowled beautifully in the early part of the morning, and what bad shots there were were induced by their precision and sheer skill. So let’s wrap this up with a look at the two English wickets to fall today:

Joe Root, c Haddin b Starc 5, 11-1: The leg-side strangle is pretty much of a giveaway that this wasn’t a great ball. It did swing but from far too straight, and Root will be annoyed that he didn’t clip this away for four. It’s possible he didn’t hit it at all, but Cook seemed to decide it wasn’t worth the review, so we’ll never really know.

Jonathan Trott, lbw Starc 0, 11-2: A fantastic delivery to a set batsman let alone one facing his first ball. This too swung in late but this time the line was perfect and it would have knocked middle out of the ground. The lack of side-on Hawkeye due to badly designed hardware drew complaints, but there was no clear evidence that he hit this.

That’s all from me for today, it’s been an enthralling and at times exhausting day of Test cricket and leaves the game on a knife-edge going into the third day. See you tomorrow, and may Hashim Amla guide your steps.

Test Match Review: England v Australia 2013, First Test, Trent Bridge – Day One

Ashes

Australia 75 for 4 (Smith 38*, Hughes 7*) trail England 215 (Trott 48, Bairstow 37, Siddle 5-50, Pattinson 3-69) by 140 runs

Hello, fellow cricket tragics, and welcome to what will hopefully be the first of many of my Test Match Reviews. There will be stats. There will be facts. There may be attempts to prove that everything that’s wrong with cricket, and indeed everything else, can be blamed on Jonathan Trott.

Teams
England:
Alastair Cook (c), Joe Root, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Jonny Bairstow, Matt Prior (wk), Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, James Anderson

Australia:
Shane Watson, Chris Rogers, Ed Cowan, Michael Clarke (c), Steve Smith, Phil Hughes Brad Haddin (wk), Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson, Ashton Agar

First day madness

The word ‘frenetic’ was much favoured by the experts to describe this first day of the series, particularly by Sky’s Michael Atherton, and I would tend to agree. Australia’s three pacemen (plus a rather token 11 overs from Shane Watson and the debutant Ashton Agar, whose fluent action was rightly praised but was never likely to produce dramatic results on a first-day pitch at Trent Bridge) were creating chances and dishing up boundary balls in almost equal measure. Indeed England’s Baldy Brigade (Slaphead Squadron?) Trott and Prior got out to deliveries that were both at the same time, as did an uncharacteristically tentative Graeme Swann. This impression is backed up by the stats: England scored at 3.64/over and hit a boundary approximately every 9 balls, but lost wickets at a rate of one every 6 overs.

And when Australia’s turn came, far from things calming down as Darren Lehmann would have wished the pace became if anything a little more frantic. Australia’s run rate may have been fractionally lower at 3.57, partly due to the ducks recorded by Cowan and the bewildered Clarke, but England averaged a wicket almost once every 5 overs. The teams combined racked up an unlikely close-of-play total of 290/14 in 80 overs (overall run rate 3.63, a wicket roughly every 5.4 overs).

The explanation offered up by Sky’s collection of luminaries (and Ian Ward, mercifully confined to stat-screen duty alongside first Andrew Strauss and then the newest addition to the Sky team, Smart Casual Nasser) was the supercharged nature of Ashes series, and in particular first days of Ashes series. While certain first balls stick in the memory – we remember Michael Slater demolishing poor Phil deFreitas, and Steve Harmison rattling Justin Langer’s cage and then warming Andrew Flintoff’s hands 18 months or so later – since 2005 the first day has indeed tended to be a drama magnet.

Strauss: 'How many Test hundreds did you score again?'

Strauss: ‘How many Test hundreds did you score again?’

That year, a packed Lord’s saw 287 runs and 17 wickets in 77.2 overs (3.71/over, a wicket very nearly every 4.3 balls). While the subsequent ‘Greenwash’ tour was an anomaly in terms of wickets as England toiled in the heat for a mere 3 scalps, Australia did score 346 runs at 3.84/over on that first day at Brisbane and smacked a boundary every 14.2 balls (which if anything puts into sharp relief how generous Australia were at times today). Even on the most sedate Brisbane pitch many can remember, the opening salvos of the most recent series produced 285 runs and 10 English wickets in 83.5 overs. That’s 3.4 runs/over and a dismissal roughly every 8.2 overs, which even though comparatively lower still translates to a strike bettered only by Fred Trueman, Colin Croft, Alan Donald, Malcolm Marshall, Shoaib Akhtar, Johnny Briggs (the only spinner to make the cut), Waqar Younis, the statistical freak S.F. Barnes and Dale Steyn (assuming a minimum 25 Tests played). I’ve conveniently glossed over the only ‘normal’, although still run-heavy, first day of recent series where England racked up 336/7 at Cardiff.

Ashes fever? I’ll say.


Good ball, bad shot

*Recurring Feature Alert!*

Throughout the series, I’ll be going through the day’s dismissals and deciding whether we should be showering the bowler with praise or the batsman with bricks. Or at least Boycott-esque unfavourable comparisons with elderly relatives. So, here we go. First up, England:

  • Alastair Cook, c Haddin b Pattinson 13, 27-1: Bad shot. Pattinson was spraying it around all over the place, there was no need for England’s skipper to go after this one.
  • Joe Root, b Siddle 30, 78-2: Good ball. Great ball, in fact, a fast yorker with a late hint of outswing  would be right up there on any batsman’s list of ‘balls I would give up my firstborn not to have to face ever again.’
  • Kevin Pietersen, c Clarke b Siddle 14, 102-3: Good ball, bad shot.  Siddle jumped wide on the crease which was probably what drew Pietersen into the loose drive, but it still wasn’t one he’ll want to see again. Unless it’s in the second innings and he spanks it over extra cover, in which case he’ll probably take his chances.
  • Jonathan Trott, b Siddle 48, 124-4: Bad shot. Really, really bad shot, and he knew it. He was timing the ball as well as he ever has in an England shirt, and the wall-of-stat-wielding Hussain in fact attributed the fact that he went anywhere near this in the first place to precisely that. Still, an atrocious way to get out given the start he’d made, he was easily the most culpable of all the English batsmen (see, told you it’s generally always Trott’s fault).
  • Ian Bell, c Watson b Siddle 25, 178-5: Good ball. For once, Bell didn’t really get himself out, this was similar to Pietersen’s in that it swung late from a wide angle but Bell was fairly compact.
  • Matt Prior, c Hughes b Siddle 1, 180-6: Bad ball, worse shot. Spanked a long hop straight to point. Cricket was the loser.
  • Stuart Broad, c&b Pattinson 24, 213-7: Bad shot. He’d shown more fluency than most of the top order, but this was just lamely swatted in a gentle parabola into the bowler’s hands. Slightly mitigated by the later revelation that he had a hurty shoulder on his top hand.
  • Jonny Bairstow, b Starc 37, 213-8: Good ball, indifferent shot. It was full, fast and swinging back in, but as the analysis highlighted Bairstow fell victim to his over-active bottom hand after struggling to keep the bat straight throughout what was a promising Ashes debut innings.
  • Steven Finn, c Haddin b Starc 0, 213-9: Good ball, awful review. This couldn’t even be excused as a tactical review, Finn is hardly a prize wicket and the whole world and his dog could see he’d nicked off first ball. Would have been a bad shot if he’d been a real batsman.
  • Graeme Swann, c Hughes b Pattinson 1, 215 all out: Bad shot. The softest of soft dismissals, especially from someone who’s normally so positive. A fitting end to an ill-disciplined batting display.

A decidedly mixed bag from England. So how did Australia fare?

  • Shane Watson, c Root b Finn 13, 19-1: Bad shot. Or rather, Watson shot. He’d monstered Finn for a few boundaries earlier on, but this was a typically leaden-footed flail which flew to Root who took a smart catch.
  • Ed Cowan, c Swann b Finn 0, 19-1: Bad shot. An airy-fairy push which would have had Darren Lehmann tearing his…um…scalp out. Cowan is in this team to provide solidity and to grind the bowlers down, so what he was doing playing at this first ball is anyone’s guess.
  • Michael Clarke, b Anderson 0, 22-3: Good ball doesn’t even come close. This was reminiscent of Dale Steyn or Wasim Akram at their finest: initially angling in towards middle, bending away past the edge and neatly displacing the off bail. It was unplayable, and it’s a measure of Anderson’s skill that he produced it to the one batsman Australia have who’s worthy of getting out to a ball this good. Clarke looked shocked, and frankly who can blame him?

    Anderson to Clarke

    See the shock!

  • Chris Rogers, lbw b Anderson 16, 53-4: Good ball, slightly unlucky review. Anderson had been probing at Rogers’ off stump all evening, and this one zeroing in on leg-stump and straightening late was too good for him. Dharmasena made a refreshingly bold ‘out’ call which meant that the slight hint of swing was enough to have Rogers ‘umpire’s call-ed’ out on review.

Half and half, and no surprise that it was the more technically assured Clarke and Rogers who come out better than Watson, although it might well be best for him in the long run to bat in this aggressive manner, and the surprisingly and needlessly expansive Cowan.

I’m aware this is getting overlong, so we’ll wrap it up here. I’ll be endeavouring to write one of these for every day of the series, although I’m away for the fourth and fifth days of this Test so those reviews may well be a) late and b) very, very patchy. Goodnight, and may Ravindra Jadeja go with you.