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