13 July 2013

The Ashes 1st Test, day 4, Trent Bridge

The Ashes 1st Test, day 4, Trent Bridge

England 1st innings: 215 all out after 59 overs
Peter Siddle 5-50, James Pattinson 3-69, Mitchell Starc 2-54
Jonathan Trott 48, Jonny Bairstow 37

Australia 1st innings: 280 all out after 64.5 overs
Ashton Agar 98, Phillip Hughes 81*, Steven Smith 53
James Anderson 5-85, Graeme Swann 2-60

England 2nd innings: 375 all out from 149.5 overs
Mitchell Starc 3-81, Peter Siddle 3-85, Ashton Agar 2-82
Ian Bell 109, Stuart Broad 65, Kevin Pietersen 64

Australia 2nd innings: 6/174 runs after 71 overs
Chris Rogers 52, Shane Watson 46
Stuart Broad 2-34, Graeme Swann 2-64

Match situation: Australia require 137 runs to win, while England require 4 wickets to win.

The day started off with heads hanging low, with a middle period of extreme optimism only for stumps to be called with mixed emotions.

An outside edge off James Pattinson’s first over of the day against Stuart Broad sailed between Shane Watson and Michael Clarke’s “weaker hands” (Watson’s left, Clarke’s right). It seemed to worryingly set the tone. Ian Bell brought up his second Test century against Australia and as England cheered their middle order batsman on, luck finally came our way as James Pattinson removed Broad, quite a few runs later than what should have been.

Peter Siddle was given the bowling duties after Mitchell Starc was wayward and unable to build any pressure from his bowling end. Starc may find himself making way for Jackson Bird come the Lord’s Test. Siddle was effective in no time with ferocious ambition as he picked up the final wickets of Swann and Anderson.

We’d taken England from 7/356 to 375 all out. Their lead though was intimidating at 311 runs. The highest chase was 284 runs, done so by the home side in 2004. It was a massive target set, but you can’t lose hope until the result is in.

The biggest thing on my mind before the run chase commenced revolved around two factors.
The first is we had time, the second was that although England’s bowlers have great new ball control and Swann for the deteriorating track, it’s not a messy track or a track with lots of life to fret about. Therefore it was all about check points for our run chase and not the overall total. If our top four could get to 150 runs, it would be game on with 8 wickets still in the shed.

James Anderson’s ability to operate under pressure is world class. His first ball was perfectly pitched as Shane Watson (46) lunged and it missed the edge. Watson wants to dominate and wants to attack, but as Chris Rogers (52) calmed him and guided him in the warm up games it seemed to settle the rhythm. After hitting a couple of fours off Anderson an over later he tried it again and nearly found the outside edge. He looked back to Chris Rogers, put his head down and tried to enforce his focus.

Watson and Rogers showcased something good out there. They complemented each other’s natural abilities and seemed to regularly encourage one another with calm composure. Watson struck crisp boundaries, showing off his natural stroke making skills, while Rogers plugged away with tenacity to find his runs. They reached 84 runs by the drinks break and hope was alive in our camp. Sadly, and I truly express the word “sadly”, Watto was dismissed LBW and despite reviewing it, it did look a good decision to me. He fell short of a half-century, which would have been a huge breakthrough for us in confidence. A strong opening stand was brought to an end and the check point of 100 slipped away.

Ed Cowan came to the crease and never looked settled, despite having an understanding of the Trent Bridge conditions. He reached 15 runs but it seemed inevitable he would fall victim to one of the English bowlers. Frustratingly it was to Joe Root, who claimed Cowan as his maiden Test wicket. Cowan is definitely in doubt for the next Test and I think the real issue is that he’s not a number three batsman – rather than his actual batting abilities being brought into question. With David Warner as an opener they were an average pair at best, despite having grafted together for some time with some notable performances.

Number three may be “just a number”, but your character as a player in this role is vital. I have always seen this role suited to an imposing batsman who can take the game by the scruff of the neck to call the game on his own terms. Cowan may have compromised his natural game to pursue this approach.

Ricky Ponting was a classic example. Hashim Amla and Jonathan Trott stand as the best modern day examples. Both have been playing a great deal longer than Cowan, but naturally their temperaments seem better suited. A number three is as good as an opener should one of the top two fall quickly, but it has a different mindset knowing there’s nine wickets in the shed and not ten.  Cowan may find himself being challenged to stay in the side.

Sadly after Cowan’s departure, Rogers logged in his maiden half-century but fell 13 runs into his partnership with Michael Clarke when an English game plan was executed. Rogers had a lapse in concentration and chipped a full delivery to Ian Bell at midwicket. He seemed to lose his composure when Watson departed.
A collapse commenced and it would be a familiar sight for us as Australian supporters to see more than five wickets down with the score below 200 runs, although luck has definitely not been on our side for this match. Reality check is this has been an issue for some time but hurt even more with the knowledge we had a good opening stand.

Michael Clarke’s had a forgettable Test match on a personal note. I do believe he will score plenty of runs this series but this was not his game. Beyond batting, he had a questionable game tactically, mostly regarding a change of ball on day three and a short sighted view in using our decision referrals. His innings brought 23 runs in an oddly conservative manner, and he was dismissed getting the faintest of edges to Matt Prior. Clarke reviewed this decision too and as a result we have lost all our referrals for the innings. It was a small victory to England with our referrals done, but a huge moment of play secured for them with Clarke dismissed.

Steven Smith (17) and Phillip Hughes (0) fell with 161 and 164 runs on the board. It was a nauseating sight seeing we’d lost six wickets for just 80 runs, whereas our openers had given us a foundation of 84 runs to pursue a historic run chase. Hughes was slightly unlucky in his departure. Again, that theme of luck comes up.

Hope is not lost, although history is showing England should win this, along with the obvious factor they won the days play.

Brad Haddin has 11* runs, while Ashton Agar is new to the crease having been moved ahead of Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson. Each and every one of these guys can bat and with 137 runs required, between the five of them that is a collection of roughly 28 runs each. It is definitely achievable and, as I wrote earlier, chasing down this target is about check points. It still applies for our final four wickets where there is no lack of batting ability, but Graeme Swann will be a handful.

I see the final day of play going one of two ways.

It will either be over quickly and England will take the win with a good margin. We have had an inability to put up a fight with the game on the line and if our team needs a moment of glory to embark on a new legacy, this is it. I reckon if it goes England’s way it will be wrapped up very quickly tomorrow.

The second result is that with some good application and an outlook that these runs are most definitely reachable, I tip our guys to chase down the runs. I still believe we can but the first two sessions will define this. It’s hard to be upbeat after the loss of our middle order yesterday but I have hope with our batting depth and that when broken down in chunks, this target can be achieved and victory can be seen. Optimism at its best, but what other choice do I have as a supporter?

Verdict: England won day four, securing the momentum in the final session of play.

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