What a day of cricket Day 2 was at Chester-le-Street: some brilliant bowling from Stuart Broad, an obdurate and defiant innings from Chris Rogers and a slightly misbehaving wicket all combined to leave fans on their edge of their seats as the day unfolded. Australia is now 16 runs behind England's first innings total with five wickets in hand. Australia is marginally on top in the context of the game but there is still much work to do from either side to secure a result.
Here are my keys to winning day 3 for each team:
- A lead of 150 plus: The pitch at Chester-le-Street is proving more and more difficult to bat on at the game progresses so every run Australia can get ahead of England will feel like they are actually 2 runs. If that lead gets up to 150 runs Australia will, rightly in my view, feel like they have batted England out of the game.
- Brad Haddin cameo: Haddin has the ability to tailor his batting style to either score quickly or to hold up one end. Day 3 beckons as a day for Haddin the attacker to take centre stage and push Australia's total to the magical 350 mark. No matter who is up the other end, the longer B Haddin is at the wicket the more positive the position Australia will be in at the end of the day.
- Bat long … Australia's bowlers depend on it: The longer Australia's batters stick with it on Day 3, the more time Ryan Harris, in particular, will have to recover and, therefore, be in a position to attack the Poms in the second innings. Harris looked tired at the end of day one and did not bowl at the start of day 2 when, ordinarily, he would have started the day for Australia.
- Early wickets = early batting: England are only 5 wickets away from batting again and to state the obvious the sooner they get those wicket the better for their position in the game. Australia's tail has been weakened by the replacement of Starc with Bird and the loss of Pattinson to injury. Whilst it is not a “6 down all out” scenario for Australia one senses that removing either of Rogers or Haddin in the first half hour could see Cook and Root batting by lunchtime.
- Get the tactics right: In the first innings with the willow, England looked at sea tactically with their batters looking, in equal parts, either too defensive or too attacking. No matter when they bat, Captain Cook and the trio of Pietersen, Trott and Bell will need to work out how they are going to attack any deficit they have and then work to set Australia a total. A too defensive a mindset will play right into Australia's hands.
- A little bit of luck: Any fair minded viewer of the first 3 test matches would concede that the English received the advantage in most “50/50” calls in those 3 games. The tide turned on that decisively on Day 2 and England suddenly found themselves up against a poor review and some dropped catches. Many in the English camp will be hoping for a return of their previous form luck wise on Day 3.
As I mentioned in the preamble: Australia is ahead but with the way the Chester-le-Street wicket is playing that could change very quickly. I know one thing for certain: I will again be positioned on the lounge at 8pm to watch the next instalment of the battle between these two teams.