03 August 2013

The Ashes 3rd Test, day 3, Old Trafford

The Ashes 3rd Test, day 3, 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:
7/294 from 120 overs
Kevin Pietersen 113, Alastair Cook 62, Ian Bell 60
Mitchell Starc 3-75, Ryan Harris 2-50, Peter Siddle 2-53

This Test will end in one of two ways. The first is that we will win, however with rain forecast for Sunday and Monday and the fact we need another 13 wickets to secure victory (possibly to be done in one day weather pending) makes the outcome a big challenge for the boys. A draw would mean we will be unable to regain the urn and would have to wait until the home Ashes series. It will leave a sour taste. Still a chance to win this Test though. That can't be ruled out!

Our score of 527 runs came from 146 overs (3.60 RPO). England have just snailed along to run time low at 2.45 RPO from 120 overs. Their ability to hold the fort has given them valuable time to play for the draw.

Resuming the day on 2/52 we bowled exceptionally well early on to both Trott and Cook. Ryan Harris had an immediate impact with a menacing line that kept England probing away until Trott's edge was found. Cook was caught flashing at one down leg side by an acrobatic Brad Haddin off the bowling of Mitchell Starc. While erratic at the best of times, Starc produces the goods in short bursts and although the delivery was loose, given Clarke's field setting for Cook you could almost take your hat off that it was some kind of tactic that came off to plan.

The bowlers all worked well in tandem until Kevin Pietersen (113) and Ian Bell (60) found a way to settle their side down.

Pietersen was due for a big innings but this will go down as a wasted opportunity for us to have not had him out sooner. Shane Watson had Pietersen trapped in line with the stumps LBW, however with the leg glance Pietersen was trying to put away - along with our lack of confidence now to make review decisions - Brad Haddin and Michael Clarke decided it was swaying down leg side as did the umpire. Despite Watson's firm belief it was out we didn't review it. Watson has been the most over eager reviewer to date so it was tough to finally see a correct call of his go by. The result was Pietersen was able to add another 50-odd runs to his total. Most frustrating indeed.

Pietersen played with aggression, a similar intent to Brad Haddin on day two. Nathan Lyon delivered a great spell during the early stages of England's innings on day two and was most unlucky to have not taken the wicket of Alastair Cook, but Michael Clarke fell off balance at first slip. It was another scenario that would have saved us a substantial amount of runs. However, Pietersen took on Lyon with confidence and an element of surprise in his quick assault, leaving Lyon in stranded in front of the headlights. Ian Bell then joined in and a small passage of play was secured for England as the two put on a partnership of 115 runs.

It took something special from Ryan Harris to find a way through the defences of Ian Bell, who still leads the run scoring list with 377 runs at 75.40.

Harris - who has 9 wickets at 17.00 so far in the series - had peppered Bell with the majority of his deliveries finding some away movement before nipping two deliveries into Bell with a lovely, fuller length and foxed him. It was one of the best deliveries of the series both tactically and technically for me. The ESPN Cricinfo hawk-eye graph of the build up to the wicket can be enlarged by clicking the above image.

Mitchell Starc then returned to grab another two quick wickets, as he did in the Trent Bridge match during England's second innings. This late breakthrough gave us the momentum for the day with England still trailing by 233 runs. I don't think the follow-on is all that important at this stage.

We need to try and wrap this innings up as quickly and economically possible. It has not been a strong point for us for some time and Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad are pretty good when it comes to flashing carelessly at pace bowling and finding outside edges that sail away to the boundary. It will be hard work to win this Test but with the weather aside we are in control right now.

Verdict: Day three also goes to us, despite a bit of misfortune which allowed Pietersen to make his mark this series.

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