Test Match Review, Australia v England 2013/14, First Test, The Gabba – Day Three

Ashes

England 136 (Johnson 4-61) and 24/2 (Cook 11*, Pietersen 3*) need 537 runs to beat Australia 295 (Haddin 94, Johnson 64, Broad 6-81) and 401/7 declared (Warner 124, Clarke 113)

Trott the f…??

Warner and Clarke butcher England at the Gabbatoir
Michael Clarke loves the Gabba. He now has more runs here than anyone expect Ricky Ponting, more hundreds here than anyone expect Greg Chappell with whom he is tied, and assuming at least 5 innings (there’s a distinguished list of higher averaging one-hit-Gabba-wonders, which includes Aravinda de Silva, Sourav Ganguly and, erm, Dean Brownlie) a higher average here than anyone expect Chappell or one D.G. Bradman. In the process of securing his place on the honours board here once more, he became the highest run-scorer of 2013, although that will change if Ian Bell scores at least 68, Alastair Cook a further 153 (a big ask, but not beyond the realms of possibility) or Stuart Broad 586 – and wouldn’t we all love to be a fly on the wall of the Courier Mail newsroom if that happened?

During their partnership of 158 Warner and Clarke appeared to be playing on an entirely different pitch to the rest of the top order of both sides. Clarke insouciantly pulled his first Broad short ball in front of square, gave Chris Tremlett such a hiding that viewers were at times reminded of 2005-era Jason Gillespie (the stats don’t look too bad, but when a 6’ 8” fast bowler on the third day at the Gabba is driven on the up , and then to an almost identical ball pulled off the front foot in front of square, something is definitely wrong) and milked Graeme Swann to all parts of the increasingly scattered field. He hit 40 off as many balls against England’s newest member of the 250 wicket club, including only one four and one six.

v Bowler

0s

1s

2s

3s

4s

5s

6s

7+

Dismissal

Runs

Balls

SR

JM Anderson 10 6 1 1 0 0 0 0 11 18 61.11
SCJ Broad 13 3 0 0 5 0 0 0 23 21 109.52
CT Tremlett 18 3 2 0 2 0 0 0 15 25 60.00
GP Swann 18 12 6 2 1 0 1 0 bowled 40 40 100.00
JE Root 14 6 2 2 2 0 0 0 24 26 92.30

Warner at the other end merrily drove, pulled and cut his way to his first Ashes century, his fourth overall and his first for just over a year. He played well in the first innings before he gave it away and has laid down a marker for the rest of the series. If the pitches stay this true (which other than at Perth is far from guaranteed) England may be seeing rather a lot of him.

Good ball, bad shot

Chris Rogers, c Carberry b Broad 16, 67-1: A good opening stand, admittedly dominated by Warner, came to an end with an error in both judgement and execution, the second of the match from a player supposedly in the team by virtue of his even temperament and tight technique. Was it a cut? Was it a slash? No, it was just rubbish.

Shane Watson, c Broad b Tremlett 6, 75-2: Another poor performance with the bat for Watson, albeit one that no-one will remember in six days let alone the six weeks between now and the end of the series. Broad had just bowled him a rank long-hop which Watson had dispatched with typical arrogance, and this was even ranker and filthier and just generally cringe-inducing. He was done by the lack of pace, it went so high it would have caused any passing birds serious consternation and a visibly pumped-up Broad had time to draw his face on the cover of the Courier Mail before taking the catch. Watson was rightly livid with himself as he walked off, there were runs to be had here.

It rained! The Barmy Army went wild.

It stopped raining! The Barmy Army went to the bar. Off the first ball back, Broad was so busy trying to aggressively stare down Clarke he forgot to stop the defensive push and gave away a single.

David Warner, c Prior b Broad 124, 233/3: A magnificent innings composed of clean hitting and impeccable shot selection throughout. Broad kept running in all day long and was the only England bowler to look even vaguely like getting a wicket through good bowling (as opposed to Tremlett, who bowled his one decent ball of the day to get Smith early and was gifted two more wickets through slogs), and this was hung out tempting the mistimed drive which Warner did not fail to provide.

Steve Smith, c Prior b Tremlett 0, 242-4: ‘Two brings three!’ shouted one admirably chipper Barmy Army lance-corporal. Probably. The law of averages stated that Tremlett was bound to get one right eventually, and Smith was unfortunate that it was he who had to face it before he was set, thus missing out on a chance to boost his average from its current middling level.

66 overs and four balls in: overthrows. England to their credit managed not to completely fall apart, even though there it was obvious before tea that there was little they could do that would make any material difference. They only dropped one catch which was off the middle of the bat to short-leg, and thus something of a lottery in any circumstances. James Anderson even managed to mock-congratulate of Swann when a George Bailey single to mid-on brought up the jovial tweaker’s bowling century. It must be noted however that they opened both the afternoon and evening sessions with Joe Root. Still, at least it wasn’t Jonathan Trott.

Michael Clarke, b Swann 113, 294-5: Where Warner was belligerent, Clarke was serenity itself. He sailed chancelessly to his 25th Test hundred, going past Viv Richards, the aforementioned G. Chappell and Mohammad Yousuf in the process. It was the fastest of the six he has now scored against England, and his second fastest overall. I said on the first day that how Clarke handles his role as the batting fulcrum of the team will go a long way to deciding this series, and though this may not have been the most crucial knock of his life the manner in which he defused an admittedly knackered Broad should set him up well for the rest of the series.

George Bailey, b Swann 34, 305/6: The friendliest looking cricketer since Murali was bamboozled by the vicious lack of turn. He played down middle, it went on to hit off. It was Swann’s 250th Test wicket, a milestone which due to England’s year-round surfeit of Test cricket he has attained in less chronological time than any other bowler, but I doubt he will want to dwell for long on the circumstances in which it came.

The new ball came. Haddin threw the entirety of the Habitat 2013/14 kitchen range at it and it sailed over the slips for four. Cook decided to plug the gap at third-man. The over went for 15 anyway. Eight overs later, Swann was paddle-swept by Mitchell Johnson, which drew howls of laughter from the Australian balcony and howls of anguish from the Barmy Army.

Brad Haddin, c Anderson b Tremlett 53, 395-7: Haddin likes the Gabba too, and why not with three fifties, a hundred and an average over 60. This was declaration batting at its entertaining best: many of the shots he played don’t really have names. He became only the third wicket-keeper after Alan Knott and Ian Healy to score over 50 in both innings of an Ashes Test.

Tremlett finally bowled a proper bouncer in the 94th over. It barely registered 80mph on the speed gun. Peter Siddle hit two over the keeper off the back of the bat, Australia went past 400, Clarke decided he’d had enough and declared. England were set a wholly theoretical 561 to win. Although as was pointed out on Twitter, the required rate was only 2.88 runs per over!

Michael Carberry, b Harris 0, 1-1: Hideously unlucky. A perfect back-foot defensive block, but the ball went almost straight down, bounced off both his feet and hit the top of leg stump. Ryan Harris bowls a heavy ball, and this was certainly that. It also moved in a little which may have tucked Carberry up a touch.

Jonathan Trott, c Lyon b Johnson 9, 10-2: I have been watching and playing cricket for 15 years. I know and have read or listened to the words of many people who have been watching and/or playing far longer. I swear that by all that is good and right and pure in this or any other universe, none of us have ever seen a worse shot played. What was he thinking? Answer: he wasn’t. It looks like my worst fears from yesterday may have come true; he looks utterly lost both technically and mentally. This would have been a diabolical shot in an under-11s net session, but in the last innings of a Test match ‘chasing’ an entirely nominal target and batting purely for pride, on a fairly bouncy pitch against a fired up Aussie quick it was beyond indefensible. Nathan Lyon could hardly believe his luck and was smiling as he caught it. The kind of shot that ends careers.

There was still time for Kevin Pietersen to nearly run out Cook going for his traditional first-ball suicide single. If Bailey hadn’t knocked the bail off before gathering the ball Cook would probably have been out. We were also treated to the ludicrous and pathetic sight of a broken Tremlett padded up ready to be night-watchman.

I’m really hoping this match ends before tea tomorrow so I can get some sleep. Good-bye.

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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.

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

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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.