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, 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.