The Ashes: 5th Test Day 3 Talking Points

It was moving day at the Oval in the 5th and final Ashes test. Unfortunately for Australia the only movement that occurred was backwards as England defied the Australia to end the day 4/247. Here are my talking points from the day:

1. Slow Scoring: Shocker or Tactically Brilliant

Much is being made in the press this morning and was being made on social media last night about the slowness of England’s scoring. Yes scoring at 2.19 runs per over and scoring just over 200 runs in a day constitutes slow scoring but is that approach as shocking as it seems? I say that England’s performance was a brilliant tactical response to the state of the game (they were well behind) and conditions (the forecast is a shocker tomorrow). They knew they could not win but have obviously dug their heels in to ensure that they will not lose. It is a shame that the art of batting for draw has not been seen for such a long time that people know only recognise it as a negative because this was acting for a draw that ought to have been hailed rather than maligned.

2. Captain Cook: all at sea?

Last Ashes series Cook was the dominant player for England with 766 runs in seven innings. This time around for the English captain he has failed to meet expectations and, after another failure on day 3, his return for this series of 243 runs at an average of 27 is as good a marker as any of his lack of form. His dismissal last night was mother one that pointed to a muddled mindset: a Cook in form would have left the ball he knicked and, more to the point, if he had have played it his feet would not have been plugged to the crease. If this form line for the captain of England continues into Australia on the bouncier, faster wickets his form may get worse before it gets better.

3. Captain Clarke: needs to trust his spinner more

I commented on social media, somewhat vociferously I concede, that Clarke’s failure to bowl Nathan Lyon more than 3 overs in the first 50 of England innings was strange tactically and I am sitting here now still scratching those few hairs left on the top of my head. I know this is an Australian line up stacked with fast bowlers however on a pitch clearly designed to take spin with foot marks already available for Lyon bowling to right handers I still think Clarke made a tactical blunder by not bowling his spinner earlier. Then when he did bowl I don’t believe the captain attacked enough with his fields. Given the state of the game, the field that needed to be set had to be based around 4 close fielded around the bat whilst trusting Lyon not to leak runs. At no point did Clarke attack the batters and they were able to play with too much pressure of fielders under their noses.

4. Ryan Harris: Ironman

Playing in his unprecedented 4th test in a row, Harris has again shown why he is in the top handful of bowlers in word cricket when he is fit. With a bustling approach and seeming to hit the bat harder than any other bowler in the game, he consistently hurried batters and bowled some spells of the utmost quality. It was obvious that the batters were more than happy to play him out and then focus on playing the other bowlers and that is the best compliment an opposition can give to a fast bowler.

5. Brad Haddin: the best gloveman in the squad

Brad Haddin’s selection caused some wrinkles on the brow of some fans, particularly those of Victorian origin, however it must be said he has repaid the faith with some excellent work behind the stumps (where his best work should be). He is now in the shadows of Rod Marsh’s long standing world record for dismissals in a test series and, off the back this performance, he would be a worthy holder of the record for mine. Wicketkeepers are to often judged by their work with the willow in the current game so it is good to see a wicketkeeper actually receiving plaudits for his work in his principal job behind the stumps.

It was a slow day of cricket but a day that fans to the test form of the game should recognise as being a tactically brilliant game for the English.

Day 4 will likely be a continuation of the same from England albeit a cursory examination of the weather forecast indicates that it is the weather that could play a bigger role in the outcome of the day.

The Ashes: 5th Test Day 3 Preview

It is day 3 of the 5th test at the Oval with Australia in complete command of the game. Here is my preview of the day to come:

It is a big day for:

Jonathan Trott

Trott has been in woeful form in this series and has found ways to get out that are bizarre, for him, to say the least including edging down the leg side and playing on. This pitch is made for his style of batting and he will need a big score here to get something, aside from being on an Ashes winning team, out of this series.

Nathan Lyon

This pitch has been set up so that it will take spin and, despite the rain yesterday, if certainly looks like it will start taking more and more spin from today. Nathan Lyon has the opportunity to prove many, including the Chairman of Selectors of Australia John Inverarity, wrong and play a leading role in pushing Australia towards victory and also secure his position in the team for the return bout of this series with a strong performance today.

What does winning the day look like?

Australia

A win on day 3 for Australia will hinge on dismissing England for less than the follow on target. If England breach the follow on that the game is going to meander to a draw one suspects.

England

Being still at the crease in their first innings no matter how many wickets are down will be a win for the English. One would expect that if they are still at the crease at the close of play they will have passed the follow on any thoughts of an Australian victory will have waned.

Talking Points:

1. Over rates will on the tip of many tongues today again after England’s go slow tactics yesterday. It is not to Australia’s favour to slow the game down but many eyes will how quickly they get through their overs.

2. There have been no real umpiring dramas as yet in this game so all eyes will be on the men in white and black today.

Weather report

The BBC Weather service gives the following outlook for the weather today in London:

Dry at first with bright or sunny spells. Becoming very warm or hot and feeling especially so in light winds. Into this evening some showery rain is likely and some of this could be on the heavy side.

By the look of it a full day of play will be in the offing for the teams.

The Ashes: 5th Test, Day 2 Preview

Australia won the first day of this final test of the English swing of the 2013/14 Ashes contest. In fact they won the day be a very long way off the back of Shane Watson’s rollicking 176 and the failure of the debutantes selected by the Poms.

Day 2 presents an opportunity for Australia to press their advantage in the game whilst for England they can regain their ascendancy with a strong showing. Here are my keys to Day 2:

1. Bat long Australia … bat very long

Australia’s position at 4/307 puts them in the box seat in this game but given the state of the pitch they will need to score many more runs today to secure their position in the game. One suspects that if Australia can bat till tea or, even better, stumps their position will be impregnable. Steve Smith and Brad Haddin, when he bats, hold the key to a big score for Australia. Smith is 34 runs away from a maiden hundred which will go a long way cementing his position in the team.

2. Early wickets … both for England and Australia, if they bowl

This wicket is at its best for bowling when the ball is new or newish so for England they need to collect early wickets in the first 30 minutes of day 2 whilst the new ball they took last night is newish. It seems likely that Australia will bowl at sometime on day 2 and given that they have only selected one spinner they will be looking to their new ball bowlers to get them off to a start which, if it does not arise, could see England very quickly on top.

3. Things can only get better for the debutantes … can’t it?

In order for England to regain the ascendancy in this game, if they are unsuccessful in the first 30 minutes of day 2 they will need their bowlers on debut to improve markedly on their day one performance. There are only so many overs that Graeme Swann can bowl so “Darryl” Kerrigan will be called to the crease at some point. If his stage fright remains from yesterday then he might be consigned to the ranks of Messrs Tahir and McGain in only 2 day of test cricket. That said, if he can return and take a couple of wickets he will not only help out his team but also regain some confidence.

4. Dusty, dusty, dusty … Is this the Oval or Madras?

This pitch took turn, albeit slow turn, within the first hour of play and, by that point, Graeme Swann was already at the crease bowling. The more turn the pitch takes the more England will be confident of resting Australia’s advantage in the game given the quality of Swann as a bowler and the lack of ability in the remaining batters for Australia in combating him.

5. Trott: he is due …. very due

I mentioned in my preview of the game that Jonathan Trott is a key man for England in this game and, noting his out of character and woeful form, he is certainly due for a big score. This is precisely the pitch that Trott thrives on batting on so him breaking his bad form line will be vital in England’s chase of whatever total Australia puts up.

Day 2 commences at 8pm Australian time (Eastern Standard) with Steve Smith chasing his maiden first class hundred.

The Ashes: 5th Test Day 1 Talking Points

It was Australia’s day in the final test of “part 1” of this year’s Ashes contest at the Oval. If you had have asked Michael Clarke whether he would be happy to accept 4/307 at the toss I am sure he would have gleefully accepted.

Here are my talking points from Day 1 at the Oval:

1. Watto Rises

I commented in my preview of this test match that S Watson was possibly the most maligned sportsman to play any sport for Australia currently and that he was the key player for Australia in this test match. What a fantastic response from a player under pressure. Troubled early by Broad and Anderson, Watson took advantage of some loose debutant bowling and suddenly was 80 not out at lunch. He himself admits (to Jim Maxwell on TMS / ABC) that the knock to the head from Broad gave him something to wrong other than getting to 100 but the courage to stay out there after such a knock can not be underestimated nad ought never be forgotten. The usual phalanx of Watson “haters” will cry that it was bad bowling and a dead rubber but at the end of the day this was a wonderful hundred and hopefully the first of many.

2. Pup Struggles

At the other end of the spectrum have you ever seen Michael Clarke play a more out of form innings for 7 runs in your life? He looked like a rabbit in the headlights facing Stuart Broad and could not seem to even pick up his bouncer let alone play it. It is troubling that he is getting bowled so often at the moment but it is even more troubling when you see him struggling so much to play a delivery that used to be his bread and butter and the source of one his signature scoring shots.

3. Kerrigan: In company with McGain and Ahmed?

Perhaps that is an unfair comparison after the first day of the test match but this was a debut to be forgotten as the left arm spinner nicknamed “Darryl” by Australians of the 90s lost his length, his line and his confidence. Either too full or too short he was taken apart by a rampant Shane Watson in the first session and his day did not really improve from there. Must improve on day 2 to avoid being consigned to the same scrap heap that is occupied by McGain and Ahmed after their less than stellar debuts.

4. Where are we playing? Mumbai?

I made this comment on twitter and will make it again here: what is going on with the Oval wicket? I remember it as being a fast and hard surface where the likes of Devon Malcolm scared the life out of opposition batters. The wicket for this test match is so dry and worn and that spin was in use from the 11th over and by the day’s end 38 overs of this form had been bowled. To be fair I am certain that number would have been more if “Darryl” Kerrigan could have found a line and length. Australia need 500 as a minimum to ensure they are not spun out by the Graeme Swann in the third innings here.

5. Boof: give yourself an uppercut!

Whilst not exactly related to the game, the comments of Darren Lehmann on an Adelaide radio station regarding Stuart Broad were out of line and inappropriate. I am all for the larrikan streak that Lehmann brings to the role of Australia coach but he is still a representative of this country when a speaks and needs to be mindful that comments like those made are inappropriate to say the least. An apology must be forthcoming.

It was a wonderful day for Australia but it will be all for nothing if by lunch tomorrow England are batting. It is obvious to say, but I will say it again yesterday, Australia’s target for day 2 has to be to bat for time. If they do the runs will come. If they do not and England are in after lunch then England will be in the box seat and Watson’s ton wasted.