The Ashes: 4th Test, Day 4 Talking Points

Day 4 of the 4th test of this Ashes series dawned with much hope for Australia fans but by the end of the day Australian fans, and I hope cricketers too, have been left numb by England’s charge to victory by 74 runs.

With a heavy heart, here are my day 4 talking points:

1. R Harris = just brilliant

It can be said simply this way: without Ryan Harris in this test match Australia would have lost by a lot more! In the first session of the day Harris kept Australia in the game with 3 wickets in short order to make it 7 for the innings and 9 for the match. An epic effort by someone not deigned good enough to be in the top team at the start of the series.

2. T Bresnan = quality player

Bresnan’s innings here took the game away from Australia after Bell had done all the hard work on Day 3. Best described as a “bustling” cricketer Bresnan repaid the faith of the selectors with the willow has he attacked Australia’s bowling and went a long way to setting up England’s victory here. 2 big wickets in Australia’s chase in Warner and Watson only enhance the importance of his role in this victory.

3. S Broad = one of the best Ashes performances of our time

If you thought Broad’s 5 wicket burst in the first innings was good, his effort here in reducing the Australian chase to rubble and at the same collecting 6 wickets was nothing short of exceptional. 11 wickets in any test is a special effort but this effort stands out because Broad stood up when England’s main striker in Jimmy Anderson was down on form and given the stakes. Broad is much maligned by Australian fans but boy if he was playing in a baggy green cap he would probably be our most loved player and that is saying a lot!

4. When the acid was on Australia again lacked fight

That is a harsh statement but listening to the coverage throughout the night and early hours of the morning left me with the impression, unfortunately again, that Australia, in particular the middle order, lacked the fight or will to win this game when things got a bit difficult. I concede the bowling was excellent but to go from 0-109 chasing 299 to all out 224 in the space of 40 overs in the biggest series many of these players will ever play just smacks of a line up lacking conviction in their purpose. In the aftermath of that performance one can only conclude either that the middle order is woefully inept or lacking fight and I do not think they are inept!

5. Battle of the Captains: Cook by a knockout

Michael Clarke was out captained today again as he has been for much of this series. The contrast between Clarke and Cook is at its starkest when one considers how each respond to their bowlers taking patches (2 or mode in the space of 5 overs) of wickets. Cook’s approach seems to be to take advantage of a new batter at the crease and set attacking fields whilst Clarke seems to maintain the status quo and stands stagnant at second slip. I am not saying that this difference would have made a difference to the ultimate result but is shows that the Australian captain has little confidence in his team.

So England have now not only retained the Urn but have won the series. I could say that this was another day of fascinating cricket (and it was) but as an Australian fan I am sick to death of losing these fascinating days.

Congratulations to England: it kills me to say it but the better team won.

Look out for my player scorecard for Australia later in the morning.

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!

The Ashes: 4th Test, Day 3 … Keys to winning the day

What a day of cricket Day 2 was at Chester-le-Street: some brilliant bowling from Stuart Broad, an obdurate and defiant innings from Chris Rogers and a slightly misbehaving wicket all combined to leave fans on their edge of their seats as the day unfolded. Australia is now 16 runs behind England's first innings total with five wickets in hand. Australia is marginally on top in the context of the game but there is still much work to do from either side to secure a result.

 

Here are my keys to winning day 3 for each team:

 

Australia:


  1. A lead of 150 plus: The pitch at Chester-le-Street is proving more and more difficult to bat on at the game progresses so every run Australia can get ahead of England will feel like they are actually 2 runs. If that lead gets up to 150 runs Australia will, rightly in my view, feel like they have batted England out of the game.
  2. Brad Haddin cameo: Haddin has the ability to tailor his batting style to either score quickly or to hold up one end. Day 3 beckons as a day for Haddin the attacker to take centre stage and push Australia's total to the magical 350 mark. No matter who is up the other end, the longer B Haddin is at the wicket the more positive the position Australia will be in at the end of the day.
  3. Bat long … Australia's bowlers depend on it: The longer Australia's batters stick with it on Day 3, the more time Ryan Harris, in particular, will have to recover and, therefore, be in a position to attack the Poms in the second innings. Harris looked tired at the end of day one and did not bowl at the start of day 2 when, ordinarily, he would have started the day for Australia.

England:


  1. Early wickets = early batting: England are only 5 wickets away from batting again and to state the obvious the sooner they get those wicket the better for their position in the game. Australia's tail has been weakened by the replacement of Starc with Bird and the loss of Pattinson to injury. Whilst it is not a “6 down all out” scenario for Australia one senses that removing either of Rogers or Haddin in the first half hour could see Cook and Root batting by lunchtime.
  2. Get the tactics right: In the first innings with the willow, England looked at sea tactically with their batters looking, in equal parts, either too defensive or too attacking. No matter when they bat, Captain Cook and the trio of Pietersen, Trott and Bell will need to work out how they are going to attack any deficit they have and then work to set Australia a total. A too defensive a mindset will play right into Australia's hands.
  3. A little bit of luck: Any fair minded viewer of the first 3 test matches would concede that the English received the advantage in most “50/50” calls in those 3 games. The tide turned on that decisively on Day 2 and England suddenly found themselves up against a poor review and some dropped catches. Many in the English camp will be hoping for a return of their previous form luck wise on Day 3.

As I mentioned in the preamble: Australia is ahead but with the way the Chester-le-Street wicket is playing that could change very quickly. I know one thing for certain: I will again be positioned on the lounge at 8pm to watch the next instalment of the battle between these two teams.

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.