It was another gripping day of Test Match cricket overnight at Old Trafford (has there been a day this series that has not been entrhalling?). Unfortunately the intervention of weather that had looked inevitable since day 1 finally occured late in the afternoon on Day 4 just when Australia might have been thinking about a declaration. Still Australia leads by 331 runs with a day to play on a wearing 5th day pitch so the game is there for the winning for the baggy greens: if Manchester’s rain does not get in the way.
Here are my top 5 talking points from Day 4:
1. Maybe the bad light call was wrong … suck it up it is the law: I have read much condemnation of the decision of Umpires Hill and Erasmus to declare that the light was too poor to continue play about 30 minutes before the heavy rain started. Whether you like the decision or not (and I for one did not) the fact is that since the law of the game was changed some 3 years it is solely in the umpires discretion to make a call that they light is bad and the players have to go off. The old law, which was that the bad light was offered to the batsmen and they decided to continue, would have seen a different decision made BUT that is not the law at the moment so bleating about the decision gets no one anywhere.
2. Dissent … why bother really? There are a couple of incidents of what I would term dissent over night that makes one just sit back and wonder “why are you bothering?”. First, the English players’ reaction to their failed DRS review of a David Warner hook shot was unseemly to say the least and the “why bother” moment for me arises because they had had two appeals at the shot (the original appeal and the DRS) both of which were declined and the DRS was one of the more obviously easy decision for the 3rd umpire to make. Why have a go at the umpire after going through the review process? That makes no sense to me. Secondly, I do not understand what Michael Clarke has to gain by giving the umpires a bake after they decided to adjourn play for bad light. They have made their decision: arguing with them about it on the field is not going to make them immediately reverse said decision is it?
3. Walking … is it the new black all of a sudden? Much was made in the commentary I heard and on social media about Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann walking after they knicked balls through to the ‘keeper. There are two types of walking: walking when you know you are going to be given out and walking when the decision has already been made that you are not out. Can anyone argue that both of the acts of walking here were in the former category? One only needs to look at the replay to see Umpire Hill nodding his head so vociferiously in response to the Swann appeal that his neck was close to snapping to know that he was going to be given out. Credit where it is due: they both walked but lets not be too hasty with out kudos: it wasn’t like they had both been given not out and then walked.
4. Sticks in the throat to say … but S Broad is a quality player: Say what you like about his perceived personality, his perceived petulance at times and the fact that he knicked one to first slip and did not walk, there is no mistaking the fact that Stuart Broad is a quality allround cricketer. Test cricket is no charm school and to have nearly 2000 runs at an average of 25 and over 200 wickets at an average of 30 is indicative of that quality and, more to the point, his importance to the English team. He did not look troubled in compiling 32 runs in just over an hour to thwart Australian hopes of enforcing the follow on. I will pose this talking point another way and then leave it (I feel like I need a shower): J Kallis aside … is there a better medium fast bowling all rounder in the game at the moment than this bloke? Enough said really.
5. N Lyon: this is your time Nathan Lyon again seemed as penetrative as a plastic spoon in the early exchanges overnight. Readers of this blog will know that I firmly believe he has been harshly done by pundits and selectors alike in recent times but it must be said that he has been presented with the moment that many of his critics have been gasping for: a big lead and a 4th innings pitch to bowl on. If Australia is to win, and assuming they have enough overs to do so, Nathan Lyon will need to take 4 of the 10 wickets to fall as a minimum. It is his time to shine.
So here we are again: day 5, both teams capable of winning (England could score 331 in 90 overs if Australia do not bowl well) and the Urn well and truly at stake. Will this be a day akin to the last day at Trent Bridge or will the weather gods have the last laugh? Play starts in just under 12 hours time.