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.