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.

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

Ashes

Australia 273/8 (Haddin 78*, Harris 4*, Broad 5-65)

Hello one and all. The following is a report from me, your sleep-deprived man in London.I knew the series would be tough going when my laptop performed an impromptu restart timed exactly so I missed the first over.

The team news was much as expected, with Prior passed fit, Tremlett preferred to Finn and Rankin and Australia showing some rare common sense and selecting Nathan Lyon. Michael Clarke correctly predicted the eventual position of the inevitable specially-minted coin, and by electing to bat immediately went one better than Nasser Hussain. There was a sense that from England’s point of view this wasn’t a bad toss to lose, a sense that only grew stronger as the day wore on.

Teams
Australia:
Chris Rogers, David Warner, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (c), Steve Smith, George Bailey, Brad Haddin (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon

England:
Alastair Cook (c), Michael Carberry, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Matt Prior (wk), Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Chris Tremlett, James Anderson

Clarke: ‘Broad-Ban? If only’
The boos that rang around the Gabba to greet Stuart Broad’s entry into the attack were deafening but harmlessly pantomime in tone, and the theatrical atmosphere only deepened as the first ball was met with a thumping pull shot by Warner, playing Jack to Broad’s giant. Sadly, it is impossible to be so charitable about the desperate, pitiful attempt by the Courier Mail to turn Broad – sorry, ‘the 27-year old English medium pacer’ – into an un-person. Over the past few days they have acheived the seemingly impossible – they have lowered the world’s opinion of the Murdoch tabloids. Even putting Piers Morgan in his place on Twitter couldn’t stem the ridicule that was no more than this sorry excuse for sports reporting deserved. Congratulations, by the way, to whichever bright spark edited the paper’s Wikipedia page (since sadly restored) to make Broad its new editor.

Clarke will doubtless be hoping that the paper, though unsuccessful in its attempt to ‘get into Broad’s head’, has some kind of voodoo powers. Broad has now dismissed the Australian captain eight times in Tests (more good news for England: he is joint top with James Anderson, against whom Clarke’s record is decidely poor), and perhaps even more worryingly from an Australian perspective six of those dismissals have been in his last six Tests (including this one). Clarke’s superb 187 at Old Trafford [link] rather skews the figures. Leaving that knock aside his record against Broad this year is as follows: 79 runs at 15.8, highest score 28. If this trend continues, such is Clarke’s importance to his team (stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before) that Ian Botham’s McGrath-like pre-series prediction of 5-0 might not be too far from the truth.

Good ball, bad shot

Chris Rogers, c Bell b Broad 1, 12-1: A sharp delivery on the perfect line that moved away enough to square up the normall obdurate Rogers. Bell gratefully received the first of his day’s two dollies. Once Broad zeroed in on his ideal length he rarely let it slip for the rest of the day.

Shane Watson, c Swann b Broad 22, 71-2: Dreadful not-really-a-shot-at-all, like he was leading a slip catching drill. His inability to get off strike robbed Australia of whatever momentum Warner had tried to create at the other end, and his dismissal on the verge started the collapse. He was clearly still thinking, ‘As long as I don’t get out LBW it’ll be fine!”, which Broad recognised and exploited by steadily drawing Watson wider and wider. The only justification for starting in such a nervy way is if you go and to get a hundred, but Broad’s skill Watson’s poor judgement and Swann’s safe hands put paid to that idea. Sky managed to enliven a pretty dire dismissal by passively-aggressively assuring everyone that the entirely superfluous debut of the Real-Time Snicko graphic had nothing to do with them.

Michael Clarke, c Bell b Broad 1, 73-3: It must be lovely for Alastair Cook to know that whenever the opposition’s best batsman walks to the crease he has the answer. Clarke’s back is obviously causing him serious difficulty getting out of the way of well-directed bouncers, and here he was utterly immobile and ended up spooning it in the air almost off the back of the bat. By far the easiest catch Bell will ever take at short-leg.

David Warner, c Pietersen b Broad 49, 83-4: There were shades of Virender Sehwag throughout this innings. Hitting the first ball for four, an early jumping uppercut, murderously hard forward defensives and, finally, an indescribably horrendous shot off a long-hop. Opinion was split as to whether this was the right shot played badly or the wrong shot played even worse, but either way he was too early on it and the overall effect proved even uglier than his moustache (don’t get me wrong, Movember’s a fantastic initiative but it’s not a flattering month).

George Bailey, c Cook b Anderson 3, 100-5: A disappointing end to a disappointing first Test innings for a player of obvious character. Anderson, after a pre-lunch mistimed slide that brought back horrible memories of Simon Jones on the same ground in 2002, bowled well all day without ever quite hitting top gear, or indeed the edge of the bat, but this time was different. Bailey looked fidgety throughout his short stay, which epitomised the sense of panic engendered by Watson’s untimely dismissal, and this was an ugly fence at a pretty wide ball. Cook did well to snaffle this one low down.

Steve Smith, c Cook b Tremlett 31, 132-6: Smith had been his usual angular and busy self, and had begun to rebuild somewhat with the nuggety Brad Haddin when Tremlett finally hit his ideal length and produced his trademark disconcerting lift that, even at just over 80mph, proved too hot to handle. This one nearly cut Cook in half, but he summoned the spirit of Jacques Kallis and clung on.

Mitchell Johnson, b Broad 64, 246-7: Johnson had batted so well and so responsibly with Haddin, particularly given the lack of fight shown by most of the top six, that to criticise him too heavily for this booming air-drive seems a trifle harsh. Broad changed it up well here to claim his five-for, pitching it up and swinging it back through the gate that in the spirit of full disclosure I should point out was so wide as to warrant being measured in light-years. But this was a good knock full of solid defensive strokes as well as trademark crisp aerial biffing (Andrew Strauss wasted no time on commentary in pointing out as one sailed over the rope that Johnson has now hit as many Test sixes as the aforementioned Hussain, who must dread having to commentate at the Gabba).

After the umpires inexplicably checked the light with the late afternoon sun blazing and the floodlights merrily wasting electricity…

Peter Siddle, c Cook b Anderson 7, 265-8: Another good low catch from Cook as someone finally managed to play a good enough shot to edge an Anderson pearler. He’ll bowl far worse than this for more wickets. Fairly textbook, good length not allowing the batsman to commit, squared him up and moved away to take the edge.

Thanks to Haddin’s now traditional Gabba heroics, Australia aren’t completely out of this as long as the dogged if limited Harris and Lyon can stick around long enough for them to squeak to 320 or more. Australia have the bowlers to either limit the damage or even cause some of their own depending on the circumstances, assuming of course that the right Mitchell Johnson turns up. If not, it could be a long couple of days for them. Remember, Broad’s not the only Englishman the Courier Mail picked on…

TTFN.

PS – Farewell Sachin Tendulkar, and thank you for everything.

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).

Image

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.