The Ashes: First Test Day 2 Preview

It was a brilliant day of cricket yesterday and day 2 looms large as one of the most important in the series. Australia fought back in the final session on day 1 to almost return the game to parity and both sides will be looking to take a hold on the game on day 2.

Here are my keys to winning the day:

How long can Australia bat?

At 6/135 Australia’s innings was in absolute disarray but Brad Haddin, ably assisted by Mitchell Johnson, rested the rot and remains unbeaten on 75 runs. Australia is only 27 runs from 300 which will be their first target of the day. Given the position Australia was in every one over 300 will be a nail in the hearts of the Englishmen so the longer Australia bats into day 2 the more pressure the Englishmen will feel.

M Johnson: now to step up with the ball

Johnson’s effort with the bat on day one in concert with Brad Haddin was a stoic and solid display at just the right time for his team. He will be bowling at some point on day one and one expects him to take the new ball. It will be vital to Australia’s chances of winning this test match that Johnson performs well and, in particular, does so in his first spell before the ball gets older and pitch flattens out even more.

Trott factor

Jonathan Trott, by his own lofty standards, had an ordinary series in the 2013 Ashes. He returns to a happy hunting ground for him following his performances in Australia in 2010/11 and one again expects him to be a key roadblock to an Australian victory should he recapture that form. He seemed to find strange ways to get out in the last series and Australia clearly has a plan to test him out with the short ball. Expect a deep backward square leg to go out as soon as he walks to the crease. His wicket early will be a prized one for Australia.

Will the Bell toll again?

Ian Bell was the best batsman from either side in the 2013 Ashes and has gone from being one of the most maligned and underperforming players in the English side to the glue that holds the English batting order together. He historically has not enjoyed Australian conditions but the quality of his driving on the up in England would suggest he will enjoy the extra bounce here. He came in regularly when the English were in trouble in the last series and if they are in trouble again on day 2 he will be looked to to return the game to England’s favour.

As I mentioned at the outset this will be another great day’s play and could have a large bearing on the outcome of the test and the series. Play kicks off in 2 hours time. Enjoy!

The Ashes: 5th Test Day 2 Talking Points

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.

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: 4th Test, Day 2 Talking Points

The second day of 4th Ashes Test match from Chester-le-Street presented as probably the most important day of this test match and the action certainly did not disappoint. Here are my key talking points from the overnight action:

 

1. Rogers: just unforgettable

It is difficult not to be a fan of Chris Rogers. Snubbed for years by the Australian selectors but given a chance in this series because of his obvious expertise in English conditions, he has made the opening slot his own and that was even before this test innings. In the toughest of batting conditions, Rogers was unbowed by probably the best spell of bowling seen this series from Stuart Broad and ground his way to an epic hundred. Anyone privileged enough to watch it live or on TV from thousands of miles away in the early hours of the morning (like your correspondent) will never forget it.

 

2. Broad: love him or hate him … that was one hell of a spell

Australian fans love to hate Stuart Broad for reasons that are not the topic of this blog so I will not expand on them. Whether you love him or hate him you have to admit that his spell of bowling over night was special. He pitched the ball up and it zipped all over the place for him. Taking 4 wickets of the 5 to fall is a compelling stat but even more compelling is that by comparison to his other bowlers he made them look pedestrian and it become clear that Australia's strategy was to get through his overs and focus on scoring against those bowled by the others. Is there a higher compliment another team can give to a bowler?

 

3. DRS Controversy? Why: they got it right?

The Rogers DRS “incident” has been the course, it would seem, of much angst among commentators of the game and social media pundits. Even the English team did not know the rules and showed their displeasure to the umpire having celebrated what they thought was a wicket incorrectly. To me though, the bigger story should be that should be told by the pundits is that how the DRS rules actually worked! The umpires applied Rule 3.3(f) of Appendix 2 of the Standard Playing Conditions for Test Matches perfectly and got the decision right. I know the rule is going to be changed in October this year but this still does not mean the umpires should not be applauded for their work here.

 

4. Watson as an allrounder: a good start

Shane Watson has been moved down to number 6 in the batting order ostensibly for the balance of the batting order but seemingly also to focus his role as an allrounder rather than as an opening batter. If this was to be an audition for Watson to be Australia's allrounder going forward then it was a pretty good start. 13 economical overs with the ball as first change bowler and then a solid 68 when Australia needed him to step up is precisely what we would expect from any other allrounder. I would have loved him to push on for a hundred to get that monkey off his back but given the circumstances and conditions his knock overnight was precisely what Australia needed.

 

5. Anderson: tired or injured?

Jimmy Anderson is a quality fast bowler. After his performance at Trent Bridge he was lauded as the best in the world, even better than Dale Steyn. Is it just me though or since that epic performance in Trent Bridge has Anderson been the same bowler? To me he looks down on form or to be struggling to get through the crease and his returns have been diminishing. In this innings, with the ball moving around and Stuart Broad dominant, Anderson looked innocuous. That must be a worry for the English set up.

 

It was Australia's day at Durham off the back of the performances of Rogers and Watson. Australia is 16 runs behind with 5 wickets in hand and will be looking to press towards a lead of around 150 to take total control of this game. It will be another compelling day of cricket of that there can be no doubt.

 

Postscript: I was accused yesterday of copying the title of yesterday's post of the same type from another website. For the record: I have never read the article I am alleged to have copied I just like the title “Talking Points” and since no one has trademarked it I am going to continue to use it.

The Ashes: Day 2 reflections

What an amazing first two sessions of cricket overnight at Trent Bridge. I held on to watch the Starc hatrick ball and then shuffled my way to the land of nod. The remainder of the post tea session seems to have seen the way many expect this game return to type with England grinding Australia down. Still it was a day for fans of cricke to savior. Here are my 5 talking points:

Agar the Magnificent

What an effort from A Agar! OK so he is clearly not a number 11 batsman but under pressure in one’s first test that was a mighty display from this young man. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves though: he was picked to bowl for Australia and has a massive job to do now

Hughes: the effective crab

Phil Hughes produced the innings many of us have been waiting for: he was patient and assured when all around him was in the eye of a cyclone of indecision. When Agar came to the crease he assessed his ability and went with him. That said, Chanderpaul aside, is there a more bespoke method in the whole of cricket?

Finn: the great provider

I have followed many English cricket fans in my couple of years on twitter and blogging and the consensus regularly is that he will take wickets for you but he can be mightily expensive. Last night’s display was woeful and set the tone for Australia’s comeback. Absent a bag of wickets in the 4th inning that wretched 4 over spell may see him out for the next test.

DRS: again in the news

Whether the decisions (Agar’s stumping and Trott’s LBW) were right or wrong the system is flawed because it is still capable of 100% accuracy. You will never convince me that there is a better system than letter the umpires make the decisions on the field.

Australia’s other batting: what happened to leaving the ball?

Australia’s dismissals largely have a similarity about them that is concerning: we seem to have lost the ability to leave the ball outside off stump. This must be rectified because Jimmy Anderson is just going to destroy us with swing if we do not get this right!

All in all: another day replete with Ashes moments. What will day 3 bring?