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.

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

Ashes

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

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

 IAN! RONALD! BELL!

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

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

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

Broad returns to form with fighting 47/1

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

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

Turns out he can bowl too

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

Good ball, bad shot

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

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

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

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

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

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