It was a rainy day in London which cost players and fans of 3 and half hours of play to start the day. Under gloomy and bowler friendly conditions to start Australia re-exerted their control on the game through first solid defence and then, using the foundation laid, through blistering attack. Australia are well on top in this game having declared at 492 but with a menacing forecast to come day 3 will be moving day if there is to be victor from this fixture.
Here are my talking points from day 2:
1. Steve Smith: Not just a cartoon character anymore!
Smith resumed on 66 not out having been made wait a long time because of the weather and upon resumption focused on survival whilst the conditions favoured the seam up bowlers. After seeing off the dual threats of Anderson and Broad and as the sun started to break through and dry the pitch Smith flourished and pressed on to a maiden test hundred brought up with an audacious straight six of Jonathan Trott. Since Smith returned to the test team in India he has been one of Australia’s best players and, if there was any doubt before this innings, he has not locked down his place in the team for a long time to come.
2. Captain Cook … Captain Conservative?
Is it just me or has Alistair Cook waved the white flag a bit early in this game? For a captain of some note some of his decisions on day two were strange to say the least. Can anyone give me a cogent reason why J Trott was bowling his military mediums to a batter in the nervous 90s? Graeme Swann only getting 3 overs on his specifically designed pitch is also a strange one and not bowling “Darryl” Kerrigan again smacks of a captain with the cue already in the rack. 32 overs of medium pace bowling for limited returns cost England 137 runs and yet when Swann came on he was immediately successful. If nothing else it certainly was a strange day for the England captain.
3. Time wasting: tactics or a ruination?
Slowing the play down has been part of the game since its inception. There is no use whinging about it: umpires are powerless (or more pointedly too spineless) to do anything about it. To say that England are the best in the business at the moment would be an understatement. From Broad fixing his shoe in the first test through to the first hour after tea on day 2 they are winning the delay game. Their post tea performance was up with their best: 11 overs (including Swanns 3) in an hour is up there with the rate of the great West Indian quartets of the 80s. Let’s be honest though: none of the bowlers from England are in that class and the delays seemed to be borne of a need to dry / whinge about the ball more than anything else. The problem is: the fans hate the delay no matter which side they are on. Maybe it is time for the ICC to empower the umpires to take more forceful steps to stop these shenanigans.
4. Faulkner: finally a good debut!
In a game where the debutantes have been less than stellar to date, James Faulkner looked comfortable and self-assured with both the willow and the ball as he had his first on field involvement in a test match on day 2. To be fair, with the bat he entered the fray in a position that he is used to from his one day experiences and immediately went to the task of chasing quick runs. With the ball he was accurate without being menacing but still he did not suffer from the stage fright that befalled his follow English debutantes.
Day 3 beckons as moving day for one team to press for a victory. Australia can do so with early wickets whilst for England it is looking more and more like a draw is the only option for them.