11 July 2013

The Ashes 1st Test, day 2, Trent Bridge

The Ashes 1st Test, day 2, Trent Bridge

England 1st innings: 215 all out after 59 overs
Peter Siddle 5-50, James Pattinson 3-69, Mitchell Starc 2-54

Australia 1st innings: 280 all out after 64.5 overs
Ashton Agar 98, Phillip Hughes 81*, Steven Smith 53

England 2nd innings: 2/80 from 43.0 overs
Mitchell Starc 2-54

Match situation: England lead by 15 runs with 8 wickets in hand with three days of play remaining.

We started the day on 4/75 with some hope. We crashed to 9/117 and it looked like the Test was over, hope all but lost. Then we witnessed history and something special as we took the lead. It's game on!

Steven Smith brought up the first half-century of this 2013 Ashes series and had looked settled in his middle order role, but fell soon afterwards, which lead to a shocking collapse of our lower order. We lost Haddin, Siddle, Pattinson and Starc for just 9 runs.

Phillip Hughes (81*) was on his own mission which deemed destined to fail. His good form continued and he found an incredible batting mate in Ashton Agar (98).

I saw Ashton bat for Western Australia during the Sheffield Shield and he looked solid then as he was unbeaten to give WA an unlikely win over South Australia. This was the Ashes though and the side was in turmoil with all hope resting on the 10th wicket partnership.

Fast forward 134 minutes later and the position we'd up in would be unimaginable under the circumstances.

A stand of 163 runs was a world-record 10th wicket stand, while Ashton's 98 was the highest score ever for a number 11 batsman. A century would have broken a few more. A more amusing stat is that the last time a number 11 batsman top scored was when Nathan Lyon scored 14 runs for us in the Newland's horror show in 2011. Agar replaced Lyon for this Test, but the way Agar batted you'd think he could stay in as a batsman, allowing Lyon a chance to return.

The wagon-wheel on the right (courtesy of ESPN Cricinfo) will highlight his versatile shot selection. It was a classy display given the circumstances and brought a variety of lofted drives, late cut shots, sweep shots and aggressive pull shots. It was a spectacle and Ashton made England realise he was no pushover.

Phillip Hughes deserves just as much praise for his efforts. He never looked short on confidence as wickets fell around him and he set the tone for his partnership with Agar when he began to powerfully execute cover drives and wild cut shots through the off side - a shot which brought him hundreds of runs so early on in his career.

An image to remember © Getty Images
Hughes' innings was a victory of his own. England bowled short to him, targeting his rib cage with a line down leg side as they did in 2009. He won and turned those nightmares into a thing of the past. It's still a long series to go but it was a big victory in the context of things.

It was sad to see Ashton fall just two runs short of what would have been an emotional maiden Test century. Sure, he could have avoided that pull shot, he did have time to see off the over, he had Hughes in good form at the other end as a senior batsman, and we were still in control that no aggressive tactics were needed.

However, there was no need for this analysis. He's a 19 year old man in his first Test match, his first match being an Ashes clash where he helped us come back from a situation that would have inevitably seen us stare down the barrel of defeat. That is what counted cause that is what happened!

With the lead in place, Mitchell Starc brought us two back-to-back wickets. The first was Joe Root, who tickled one down the leg side to Brad Haddin, and then Jonathan Trott who was out LBW for a golden duck. He was confident he got an inside edge onto the pad but zero evidence (with the loss of one hot spot camera) showed there was no edge. England were two down, eight to go and without the lead.

They since secured a lead of 15 runs with Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook at the crease. The wicket has flattened out ever so slightly with the sun baking down on the track to make it dry out even further, but England scored slowly but with comfort. Ashton nearly had Pietersen out but Haddin put down a tough chance. Reverse swing will be the obsession for day 3 and we will need to bowl incredibly well in the first session. It may decide the fate of this game.

It's anyone's game right now and although England have the lead, we have seen how this great game has so many twists and turns. Three days to go still.

Verdict: Australia took the day

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