The Ashes: 5th Test, Day 4 Preview

After a slow day at the Oval yesterday, Day 4 beckons with England trailing Australia but some 245 runs with 6 wickets still in hand. There will be another packed house at the Oval desperate to see a contest and to see if England can go past the follow on and press towards a draw. I say draw because it seems like there is no other result open to England in this game. Australian fans in the ground and watching late into the night will obviously be hoping for a more fruitful day.

It is a big day for:

Nathan Lyon: I said yesterday in my preview that it would be a big day for Nathan Lyon on Day 3. Unfortunately he did not get as much bowling as many would have expected however his captain did not deign to bowl him much in the first 50 overs of the innings. He bowled exceptionally well on day 3 and will enjoy a further deteriorated wicket. In order for the pressure that is on him to retain his position that is seemingly on him from selectors, some further players and fans alike he will need to bowl Australia to a dominant position today otherwise that pressure will continue to rise.

Michael Clarke: I questioned some of the tactics of Michael Clarke on day 3 and he will need to show better acumen on the field today in order to lead his team to an improbable victory. Seemingly caught between attack and defence some of his fields were set strangely to say the least. He must show faith in his off spinner today and crowd the bat failing which any semblance of a chance Australia might to win this game will be gone by the lunch adjournment.

Chris Woakes: On debut and arguably batting for a place on upcoming summer tour to Australia Woakes will never have a better opportunity to solidify that spot than on Day 4. The pitch is benign and Australian bowlers are backing up after a long day in the field. Positive intent coupled with quality defence in support of the player of the series for mine, Ian Bell, will see him on the plane to Australia for mine.

What does winning the day look like?

Australia:

It is simple for Australia: they must have England out by lunch time if they are to be any chance of a victory in this game. Any other result on day 4 will constitute a loss for the baggy greens.

England:

Same as yesterday: bat, bat and then bat some more. Forget the “controversy” over the slow batting run rate of the English. There is nothing wrong with batting defensively and, indeed, batting for a draw and England proved on day 3 they can do that. A repeat on day 4 will see this game, in fact, end up a draw.

Talking Points:

All talk will again be around the pitch today. Even the players are getting on the bandwagon (see Joe Root’s interview at the end of yesterday’s play) about the pitch being slow and difficult to score on. No matter how the day pans out here there will still be much discussion around the preparation of the wicket.

Weather Report:

The BBC weather report states as follows:

A cloudy start with some locally heavy rain in places. Becoming brighter through the morning with some sunny intervals developing but also the risk of further showers or thunderstorms. Locally torrential downpours may lead to some localised flooding.

Needless to say it is looking likely that rain will play a part in the days play at some point.

Final Word:

This is the second last day of the first instalment of the Ashes for 2013/14. Both sides can gain much from a good day today. Australia can gain confidence whilst England can get back some momentum. Another interesting day beckons at the Oval.

The Ashes: 4th Test, Day 4 … Some thoughts on the morning session

In my preview I commented that Australia needed early wickets and England needed to bat as long as possible. Whilst Australia got the 5 wickets in the session they needed they came at a cost of nearly 100 runs. England are now in the box seat in this match.

The obvious highlight from the first session was the bowling of Ryan Harris. 7 for carrying this otherwise ordinary, in this game, pace attack was an effort of Herculean stature.

The other fast bowlers seemed innocuous and bereft of a plan to stop the runs scoring. Australia missed the bowling of S Watson desperately and Captain Clarke seemed to just let the game get away from him by being stagnant in the field when either attack or defence was called for.

Tim Bresnan’s cameo has turned the game to England’s favour. He is a quality cricketer Bresnan who runs in hard all day with the ball and is “sneaky” sharp whilst he has developed into a quality batter at number 8 in the order.

At lunch Australia is 0 for 11 and now need 288 runs in the five remaining sessions of the game.

The Ashes: 4th Test, Day 4 Preview

What a difference a day makes! Day 3 started with Australia on top and England searching for a way to get back into the game. Thanks to a collapse from Australia’s batters, a century from Ian Bell and an injury to Shane Watson Australia now finds itself on the back foot and searching for the final 5 wickets that will get them back into the game. The situation that presented before Day 3 has been completely reversed on Day 4 as it is now England who will be looking to post a total and Australia looking to get to the crease quickly.

Here are my keys to winning day 4:

Australia:

1. Be batting before lunch: Australia need wickets early on Day 4 to stay in the game just like England did on Day 3. Any score of over 270 will be very difficult to chase down on this wicket and if England are still batting deep into the second hour of the first session that is the likely target they will be setting Australia.

2. Shane Watson MUST bat: The injury to Shane Watson is not a good thing for Australia’s batting order and the prospects of winning the game if he is unable to bat in the second innings. The top six looked more solid with Watson in the six slot and when he came to the wicket at 4 for 70 odd on Day 2 of the test match his partnership with Chris Rogers put Australia back in the game. If Watson is unable to bat then the odds will be stacked heavily in England’s favour.

3. Runs from the Number 3: So far Australia has been unable to extract any runs of note of its number 3 batter and, one suspects, any run chase at Chester-le-Street will rely heavily on Usman Khawaja scoring some runs. Being one out and then two out will not be a good start to Australia’s run chase with the counter balance being that the longer he is in the more likely it will be that Australia chew a long way into any victory target.

England:

1. Bat, bat and then bat some more: Every run that pushes England’s lead over 250 will be a nail in the coffin of Australia’s aspirations in this test match and the longer they bat the less likely Australia is to win the game. So really there is one key to winning the day for England and that is to bat for as long as possible.

2. If England do bowl … go after the Myth: For better or worse, any run chase by Australia of any number of runs over 250 will hinge on the start that Australia gets. Davey “the Myth” Warner looked out of sorts in the first innings here and was found out by an inswinger from Stuart Broad. An early excision of Warner in Australia’s innings will put the remainder of the batting line up back on their respective heals.

3. Be patient:It is trite to say but there is more to lose for England in this test match than there is for Australia. That is because no one expected Australia to win the game and the Urn is to remain in England regardless of the result BUT a win for Australia will get it on a roll leading into the next round of matches starting in Australia in November. Patience from England will place pressure on the unexperienced members of the Australia side which could see them make mistakes in their keenness to push for a victory.

I feel I say this phrase every time I write a preview and, even though I undoubtedly do, I am going to say it again here: it will be another fascinating night of cricket tonight with both sides going hard to push for a victory. The first hour will be critical for both sides and will edge of the seat viewing for all fans.

The Ashes: 4th Test, Day 3 Talking Points

I am going to be sounding like a broken record soon but Day 3 was simply another fascinating day of test match cricket. It was England’s day to be sure and with 5 wickets remaining and a lead of 170 it is certainly arguable that they are in control of this game.

Here are my talking points from Day 3:

1. Opportunity missed by Australia

Day 3 dawned with the promise of a healthy lead for Australia so long as the batters in at the resumption stuck around. Both Rogers and Haddin fell though to seemingly innocuous balls from Graeme Swann early in proceedings and but for some lusty hitting from Ryan Harris Australia’s innings was done.

2. Ian Bell does it again

It is not that long ago that many cricket fans, particularly in opposition to England, would have breathed a sigh of relief seeing Ian Bell come to the crease in place of Cook or Trott but not anymore. Bell has been the glue that has held the English batting together in the face of rampant Australian bowling in this series and so it was again on Day 3 as he saved England with another fantastic hundred.

3. Where would Australia be without R Harris?

I know I have waxed lyrical about the form of Ryan Harris, both on this blog and on twitter, for some time and yet again last night he delivered for Australia. His opening salvo was up with anything bowled by an Australian bowler this series and when he came back for further spells he looked dangerous where others looked innocuous at best. Am I alone in having concerns already about his workload? Because Australia is simply a better team with him in it.

4. Another Watson injury

I am an unabashed fan of S Watson and to say I was gutted to see him limp off the field would be an understatement. It is a conundrum isn’t it: he is Australia’s best allrounder option but anytime his workload is extended from just being a change bowler he seems to end up injured. His tightness with the ball was missed by Australia late in the day on day 3 when pressure could have lead to more mistakes from the English batters. Fingers crossed this is only a niggle and one of the stress related injuries that have dogged his career.

5. From bad to worse for T Hill

Has there been a more overruled umpire in Test Cricket since the introduction of DRS than Tony Hill in this test match? More to the point, because I concede that human error is part of cricket, Tony Hill just seems bereft of confidence at the moment and it showed vividly on day 3. To not give out R Harris LBW when the ball was hitting the middle of middle stump is indicative of where he is at form wise at the moment.

Day 4 beckons with the equation similarly to that before day 3, only with the parties reversed, with England looking to press it’s advantage and expand its lead whilst Australia needs 5 quick wickets.

Can someone get me a six pack of red bull ASAFP? It is going to be another long night!