Save Your Apology, Mr. Vaughan

Jonathan  TrottJudging by his Twitter feed, Michael Vaughan suffers not only from selective amnesia but astonishing tone-deafness. Here was his unprompted, unasked-for reaction to Friday’s news that Jonathan Trott still feels playing cricket is harming his health:

Yes, Michael, it is very sad. It is very sad that you think you can use your position as a former England captain, newspaper columnist and broadcaster to get away with accusing a current professional of colluding with his employer to fake a mental illness.

It is very sad that you wilfully misinterpreted the ECB’s statements in the immediate wake of Trott’s return home to suit your own narrative – the board were very careful not to mention depression, or to be seen to be diagnosing their stricken employee in any way. Andrew McGlashan’s interview with Dr Brett Morrissey for ESPNCricinfo is worth reading and re-reading on this point.

Incidentally, on your secondary point: that Trott sought to wear his troubles lightly in his Sky Sports interview is understandable. To construe that as him having ‘completely disrespected anybody who has gone through depression and mental illness’, as you put it, is absurd.

It is very sad that you made these cowardly allegations not just in your own name but in that of the rest of the England team, and that not one of them has called you out on it. You are not in the England dressing room, and only Ian Bell remains from when you were. How dare you presume to speak for them on anything, still less something as serious as this?

In response to your disingenuous platitude, many have asked you in deservedly contemptuous tones whether you would apologise for your column. I will not be joining them. It’s very clear what you think of Jonathan Trott, and what you think we as cricket lovers want to hear. H.L. Mencken’s oft-misquoted line that ‘no one is this world…has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the…people’ was not supposed to be a columnists’ manual. We deserve better than callous appeals to our worse nature from our journalists, and journalism deserves better representatives than you. So save your apology, Mr. Vaughan; and in any case, who would believe it?

Why Jonathan Trott Matters More Than Cricket

Australia won at the Gabba, but we knew that was going to happen two days before they actually did. Mitchell Johnson, about whom I collected a lot of very interesting stats which suddenly seem irrelevant, bowled fast and mouthed off, but we knew that was going to happen two months two months before it actually did.

What no-one knew was going to happen was that Jonathan Trott would go home with what the England management described as a ‘stress-related illness’. While this phrase might seem like another piece of ECB management mumbo-jumbo, as Dr. Brett Morrissey explained in an interview on Cricinfo it is actually to protect Trott’s privacy. Mental illness, at least while someone is in the midst of it, is an intensely private and personal thing, and until Trott has made a full recovery and is ready to talk about it as the estimable Marcus Trescothick has to such good effect the public do not need to know what precisely has gone wrong in his head.

I have suffered from depression. There are days when I still suffer from it. It took me a year or more to reconcile myself to the idea that I was ill and seek help, a month or so of CBT to be able to function in any meaningful way and all of the 13 months since to pick up the pieces, a process which has still not finished and might never do so. Many of my friends still don’t know what happened, and most of those who do have no idea of the specifics of my illness. I don’t dare think about what might have happened to me if my every up, every down, every therapy session and every empty black rage had been splashed across the back pages, talked about, written about and dissected in minute detail.

I’ve had run-ins (thankfully not very many) with a few of the ‘man up’ brigade – those troglodytes who still see mental illness as a personal failing or lack of effort rather than a medical issue necessitating treatment. I don’t dare think about what might have happened to me if the effect of that ignorance had been multiplied by the ‘take one for the team’ ethos of professional sport, laudable and thrilling to watch as that normally is, and the burden of wrongly thinking I’d let my team-mates down.

I know you’ll probably never read this, Jonathan, and I know you’ll be told what I’m about to say many times by people you love and trust. But I’m going to say it anyway: you don’t owe anything to anyone. Your only obligation is to yourself, to fix your mind and get on with your life in whatever way you see fit. Those of us who love cricket will hope that’s with the England team, but if not, so be it. Just get well very, very soon.

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 Two

Ashes

Australia 295 (Haddin 94, Johnson 64, Broad 6-81) and 65/0 (Rogers 15*, Warner 45) lead England 136 all out (Johnson 4-61) by 224 runs

What the f…??

Are you Pakistan in disguise?
The last eight wickets fell for 54 runs. The middle 5 fell for 7 runs in less than 8 overs, the middle 6 for 9 in less than 10. England started batting before lunch, and when the last wicket fell there were still 25 overs left in the day.

There was an overwhelming smorgasbord of depressing statistics generated during England’s ludicrous collapse. I’m not going to try and provide any context, or indeed any further analysis at all, I’m simply going to list them in the order I scribbled them down before my brain imploded at about 8 am. Also there are far too many links to provide you with one for each stat, so you’ll have to trust me I’m afraid.

  • There hasn’t been an England opening partnership of more than 50 in the first innings of any of the last fourteen series, going back to January 2012.
  • They have only passed 300 twice in the first series of any of the last 9 series, both of which were at home in the summer of 2012. Of the remaining seven, only two even passed 200.
  • Given this paucity of runs, it will come as no surprise that they haven’t won the first Test of a series away from home since they toured Bangladesh way back in March 2010, which incidentally saw the debuts of Steven Finn and Michael Carberry and the captaincy debut of Alastair Cook.
  • Perhaps most alarmingly, they haven’t passed 400 in any innings at all since January 2012. In that time, against the best bowling attacks (those belonging to Australia, Pakistan and South Africa) Alastair Cook has averaged 28, Jonathan Trott 30 and Kevin Pietersen, despite two magnificent hundreds, 32. Their career averages are 47, 49.9 and 48 respectively.
  • Continuing on the Cook/Trott/Pietersen malaise theme, in the last five completed Tests and the first innings of this one Cook has averaged  26 with a highest score of 62, Trott 27 with a high of 59 and Pietersen 36, which without the aforementioned 113 would have been 27.5.

Basically, Ian Bell deserves a knighthood, the key to every city in England and his own weight in platinum.

Good ball, bad shot
Strap in, everyone, it’s going to be a long and ugly ride.

Ryan Harris, c Prior b Broad 9, 282-9: An attempted leave, but it was on him too quickly. A well-deserved sixth wicket for He Who Must Not Be Named (although the similarities between he and Ralph Fiennes very much end there).

Brad Haddin, run out (Carberry/Prior) 94, 245 all out: Michael Carberry might not get many twos run to him from now on, although Prior deserves a lot of credit for a super take. Haddin’s approach to batting with the tail was a little confused, alternately slogging wildly and taking singles seemingly at random, and in truth he never had a hope of making his ground.  Lyon’s defensive technique should probably have earned him more trust than Haddin showed him, but this was a fine knock which rescued Australia from embarrassment. Incidentally Haddin became only the third man in Ashes history to be run out in the 90s, after Tom Hayward at the turn of the 20th century and more recently a certain Sky employee and former Future England Captain.

Before the tour, England would have viewed bowling Australia out for less than 300 at the Gabba after losing the toss as a potential high point of the series. As it turned out, they were right, but not in the way they or anyone else expected.

Alastair Cook, c Haddin b Harris 13, 28-1: The only normal dismissal of the innings. Harris used the crease well throughout his first spell and eventually found the perfect line to Cook, and not for the first time – since his 148 at Adelaide in 2010, Cook’s record against Harris has been dire (73 runs at 14.6 to be precise). It may have just held its line a little which helped.

Jonathan Trott, c Haddin b Johnson 10, 55-2: Talk about jumpy. Much like Michael Clarke, he has to find a method to deal with the barrage of bouncers he is sure to receive or risk becoming an irrelevance for the rest of the series. And Trott doesn’t even have a dodgy back he can blame. It shouldn’t be possible to give the keeper a catch down leg from outside off, but Trott managed it. Just like yesterday, a wicket in the over before lunch proved pivotal.

Kevin Pietersen, c Bailey b Harris 18, 82-3: Pietersen got massive amounts of stick for this shot, and it certainly looked dreadful and will have made his defenders and detractors alike tear their hair out, but at least he got out trying to score runs, which is more than can be said for his colleagues. Most of the criticism aimed at him for ‘starting the collapse’ was a product of faulty hindsight. Bailey took the most Australian of low catches, which is more than Siddle managed when Pietersen chipped one back to him on 8. Not that it made a blind bit of difference.

Michael Carberry, c Watson b Johnson 40, 87-4: Mitchell Johnson is not readily associated with tactical masterstrokes, but this was close. As soon as he went round the wicket Carberry looked all at sea, and the end was mercifully quick. Carberry’s innings was England’s in microcosm: reasonably settled in the first session, utterly strokeless and bereft of ideas afterwards. His statistics were alarming: pre-lunch he scored 31 off 54, post-lunch a funereal 9 off 59. Come back Nick Compton, all is forgiven?

Ian Bell, c Smith b Lyon 5, 87-5: I am a big Nathan Lyon fan, but I doubt he’s been on a hat-trick since he was about 14. He had bowled pretty well since his somewhat delayed introduction, so much so that Clarke felt comfortable enough to put David Warner in at the silliest of silly points. What Bell tried to do with this one from round the wicket was a mystery, it wasn’t threatening the stumps and all he succeeded in doing was gift-wrap a catch for Smith.

Matt Prior, c Smith b Lyon 0, 87-6: Bell’s wicket was daft, this was utterly brainless. Lyon bowled the exact same ball, Prior played the exact same shot but even worse. It was a good catch from Smith, and a bizarre original not-out call by the umpire exacerbated by Lyon not appealing, but the prevailing feeling as Prior recorded his third golden duck of the year was of anger and bewilderment. And in the Channel 9 box, presumably hysterical laughter. Prior now averages 16 from his last 11 innnings.

Broad survived the hat-trick ball. This meant we didn’t have to dig out stats about batsmen being in multiple hat-tricks. This was about as good as it got for England.

Joe Root, c Smith b Johnson 2, 89-7: Seriously, what was he thinking? He has been officially barred from Yorkshire and Len Hutton spun so fast in his grave that he is now embedded in Earth’s core. This was the most leaden-footed of drives to a totally innocuous delivery, and Smith gleefully pouched his third catch in nine balls.

Graeme Swann, c Bailey b Johnson 0, 91-8: This was an even limper waft than Bell’s or Prior’s, Bailey could have caught it with his feet it was that easy, and then it turned out it was a no-ball. The final element of farce to augment this tragi-comedy of an innings.

England avoided the follow-on…8 wickets down in the 43rd over.

Chris Tremlett, c Lyon b Harris 9, 110-9: Tremlett had been thoroughly roughed up by Johnson, who was so fired up that he even managed to bounce one over his head – an event that should be physically impossible and has presumably caused a gaping rift in the fabric of space-time. He had nowhere to go in the face of this beauty from Harris, and got so little on it that Lyon had to fling himself forward and clutch it just above the ground. The Broad/Tremlett partnership, a mammoth 19 runs in 23 balls, was practically Sangakarra and Jayawardene by the shambolic standards of this display.

Stuart Broad, c Rogers b Siddle 32, 136 all out: Another short one, a top-edged pull, a good catch in the deep. He had to try something, because Anderson was not likely to survive long against the rampant Johnson, and as he was the only England batsmen to play any shots at all in the second or third sessions he is utterly blameless.

And then to finish off, Rogers and particularly Warner reminded everyone that this was a road at the Gabba in the bright sunshine. The incipiently hirsute bar-room pugilist took the handbrake off, ripped it from its moorings and threw it into a nearby hedge, braining a passing wombat in the process.

My fingers hurt. Frankly my brain hurts. Goodbye.

PS – I’m well aware you may well end up reading this after close of play on day 3. Sorry, but I do need to sleep at some point.

PPS – I’m well aware I should have written more about Mitchell Johnson, but this review is already approaching 1,500 words. So: well bowled, Mitch.

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 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.