02 August 2013

The Ashes 3rd Test, day 2, Old Trafford

The Ashes 3rd Test, day 2, Old Trafford:

Australia 1st innings: 7/527 dec. from 146 overs
Michael Clarke 187, Steven Smith 89, Chris Rogers 84, Mitchell Starc 66*, Brad Haddin 65*.
Graeme Swann 5-159

England 1st innings:
2/52 from 30 overs
Alastair Cook 36*, Jonathan Trott 2*.
Peter Siddle 2-7 from 5 overs

Proud to say it, but we have secured the lead for the first two days of the third Test at Old Trafford. Many were possibly awaiting a collapse from Australia, as the pattern has indicated, but our batsmen had alternative plans even though some additional milestones were missed out on.

Michael Clarke and Steven Smith went steadily during the first session, with Smith getting things underway with the scoreboard ticking over with his immediate display of determination, while Clarke settled into the days play.

Smith has shown incredible application to his game when I think back to 2010/11 when he was plain and simply not ready for Test cricket. I was always frustrated with the selection of Smith as he was put into the Australian team well before he had sufficient first-class exposure.

This was made worse by the former selection panel not giving him a specific task. He was called in as a leg spinner, who was a part-time spinner at best. He was made to bat in a variety of positions but was impatient, fidgety and easy picking outside of off stump in the Test arena. Then he was just a specialist fielder, keeping out better players. It wasn't his fault but he took flack for it. The new selection panel kept him out the side until the time was right. He is now a better cricketer and is asserting himself as a batsman.

Despite his application and positive stroke play, there's no denying he had so much luck in his innings. I have often stated that this is something Michael Hussey noted on many an occasion. You need luck in Test cricket! In a way the lives Smith had was some justice for the lack of luck we've had until this Test. Given this reason and the scenarios that worked for Smith, it would make him even more livid to have missed out on a maiden Test century. He's come so close but just fell short after losing his patience and trying to put away a loose delivery from Graeme Swann - who took 5 wickets for his team.

With Smith gone, it was a third centurion we could have had for the innings after Chris Rogers' high class innings on day one.

Enter David Warner and what a negative reception it was. I wasn't certain if the crowd was simply booing him, or whether there were taunts of "Root, Root". Either way, he smiled and didn't seem rattled but I doubt this was the internal feeling. It didn't take long for England to have their man as Graeme Swann had Warner as his fourth victim. The dismissal had some comedy for England, mild frustration for us. Warner played hard at a ball from Swann which angled away from him. He bashed his pad in the process at the same time the ball found the edge of his Grey-Nicolls Kaboom bat.

It was out and looked gone in live time. However, Warner perhaps felt a sense of shock and was adamant he had not nicked the ball. Sure, it could have been a case of feeling the bat hit the pad at the same time, but truth is I think he was just totally gutted he couldn't dish something out to the sour crowd reception. He reviewed it, despite Michael Clarke knowing his batting partner had edged it. Think this was a small loss for Clarke as he needed to be far more assertive. Trust your players, but also have some courage to stand up to them when you know the ball isn't in their side of the court. Warner was gone and more boos emerged. Alastair Cook avoided giving Joe Root a bowl, possibly for the best.

Enter Brad Haddin! He was immediately positive and danced down the track to execute some lofted drives and play some cheeky shots just using the angle of the bat with a sharp technique. It was fantastic to see positive play from Haddin, who has not been in the series since his near match heroics at Trent Bridge.

Michael Clarke pushed on at the other end, gradually gaining momentum and finding the middle of the bat, basically from where he'd left off from the latter part of his innings on day one. Powerful shots emerged from Clarke, finding runs wherever he could, steering the ball with expertise, working his feet with confidence and getting on with the job. He had the right partner in Haddin to keep the first innings total ticking over, especially with the ever present threat of rain lurking about.

On 187, Clarke's innings came to an end. It was his highest score against England and just 13 short of another double century. Even more impressive is it came in the number four position, a promotion that has not worked all to well for him. Sadly it wasn't to be and the numbers 87 creep into the equation while we also had a third batsman fall in 80 zone (despite Clarke having a century to his name already, so the 180 zone) leaving another potential milestone unturned.

It was still a sensational innings nevertheless and I am really proud of Clarkey. It was only a matter of time until he reached triple figures. Just amusing that he was the first, partially expected to I guess. Rogers was close, Smith was right there, Agar was painfully close but Clarke was the man to do it and it's exactly what you'd expect from the skipper. Well done Clarkey, but knowing him he will be ensuring this wasn't in vain, as has been the case for him with a number of centuries.

Brad Haddin was joined by Peter Siddle who fell playing a slog sweep across the line to Graeme Swann, giving Swann his fifth wicket of the innings. Mitchell Starc then strode out and wasted little time in playing a top class heave for four down to long on. We were back in control as Haddin and Starc pushed us along to secure an opening innings stand of 527 runs, their partnership setting in at 97 runs. Starc played like a stable middle order batsman, in the end switching this into the type of aggressive role you'd have expected from Haddin alone. The circumstances were set though and the platform was ideal for some quick fire power.

A run-rate of 3.60 with a score well beyond 300 has put a smile on my face, even though we have a way to go this Test and the series.

England came out to bat with a huge task ahead. Their bowlers had been made to toil and it was a rapid reverse in roles following the Lord's Test. James Anderson picked up his worst bowling figures in a Test (0-116 from 33 overs), while England then had two wickets down by stumps on day two.

Alastair Cook is due for a big score and his patience, amidst the rapid fall of wickets when Peter Siddle roared on to produce a Merv Hughes like effort, was admirable. He will be the big scalp for tomorrow and is currently joined at the crease by Jonathan Trott, another man who can drop anchor to make bowlers feel the fatigue.

Siddle's done the burst spell now a few times this series and this is what will always make him a definite selection. He doesn't have all the tricks of the trade, but knows how to be the work horse and get on with the job. His ability to hit the deck with good pace and attack will always create a chance early on in an innings and he did so when we needed it. Despite Bresnan being another victim to the umpire's questionable calls (enhanced by technology for us in our living rooms), it was the perfect end to a dominant day. We haven't had many of these to talk about.

I must also make mention of Nathan Lyon. He is our best spinner and I stand by this opinion now as I did before this series.

He has 76 Test wickets for a reason and has gained experience in a variety of conditions. People forget he is also 25 years of age and still has to fine tune his craft. Our constant turnover of spin bowlers has done nothing for our team, so I am glad he's been given the job as front line spinner. His input in this Test has already been noted and despite Ashton Agar's fight at Trent Bridge, which will be spoken about for years to come, along with the unquestionable evidence he is a player for the future, his numbers don't stack up at all against Lyon's. He was also relatively ineffective in the first two Tests, even though this is simply inexperience. Lyon offers more and knowing how this wicket would play out, he was a must have for the side. Welcome back Gaz.

Simple game plans tomorrow in theory, but not so simple to execute. England will try build that lead on a track that should begin to favour the spinners and perhaps a skid seam worker like Ryan Harris. We will look for 8 wickets restricting England's scoring opportunities to as few runs as possible, which may take some serious patience and ultimate pressure bowling to the relevant field settings. Hard work for both sides but I am sure many cricket fans will be glad some competitiveness has returned.

Verdict: Day two goes to Australia. We lead by 475 runs.

Welcome to The Baggy Green Blog!
Thanks for reading this article written by Ian.
To comment on this article, click on the 'Comments' tag at the end of the article.


No comments: