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, 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.