09 August 2013

The Ashes 4th Test, day 1, Chester-le-Street:

The Ashes 4th Test, day 1, Chester-le-Street:

England 1st innings:
9/238 from 90 overs
Nathan Lyon 4-42, Ryan Harris 2-70, Shane Watson 1-21, Peter Siddle 1-41, Jackson Bird 1-58
Alastair Cook 51, Jonathan Trott 49

The only thing that didn't really go our way on day one of the fourth Test is the fact we didn't get 10 wickets to give ourselves a fresh start with the bat come day two. The bowlers will still need to show up for the second day of play to ensure they grab that last English wicket as quickly as possible. The tail has already dragged proceedings on by another 24 runs and recent history has shown that wrapping up the oppositions lower order isn't a quick procedure for us. Still, it was good to come out on top of day one after our misfortune at Old Trafford.

The two English batsmen we have been waiting on to fire looked as though it was their day on a wicket that had a fair bit of drag in it and no real sense of an immediate threat for our right-arm bowling attack - having not selected left-arm Mitchell Starc.

Starc can definitely feel unlucky and the only reason I could see him being left out of the team is his inability to bowl consistent spells and build sufficient pressure from his bowling end. Just seeing how the bowlers toiled for day one of this Test was a clear indication this element is what got us through what could have been a spanking from England's top order. Pressure and bowling in tandem did the trick, so despite his collections at Old Trafford as well as a half-century, this decision to leave him out was purely tactical.

Jonathan Trott and Alastair Cook added 73 runs for the second-wicket partnership. Trott tried to impose himself to get every chance to play to his strengths and regain his confidence, which has oddly enough been slightly dampened. Meanwhile, Cook went along with the patience and resistance he showed against us in the last Ashes series, but there was always this sense I had that we'd get him well before a century as he was seriously showing restraint against straight bat shots - or just shots for that matter. After doing the hard yards at a strike-rate of 31.09, he left a delivery from Jackson Bird which swung into him just enough to trap him LBW without offering a shot. Aleem Dar sent him on his way with no hesitation. His resistance ended being his downfall, rather than a switch to impatience.

The first wicket of the day needs to be briefly discussed as it once again involved umpire Tony Hill (New Zealand) who has had a torrid series, even worse off than the players who generally get more criticism than an umpire - even though it is a thankless job, sadly.

Hill seems to have lost whatever confidence he has in his abilities as an outside edge off the early bowling change of Shane Watson, while slightly faint, was as clear as day to everyone on the field but Hill. Even Joe Root looked sheepish. Yet, Hill didn't give it and a referral then changed our fortunes for the ultimate dismissal. It was frustratingly another worrying sign that DRS is far from our main issue with decisions this series. Had this been India, Hill would have been on his way ages ago with the threat of a series boycott.

Earlier in the day Ryan Harris, Bird and Peter Siddle had all taken a while to get into their routines but fortunately Shane Watson was on song and provided his economical input as always and really mounted the pressure, allowing our bowlers to ease into the game. Soon enough our fast men where definitely get something out of a nothing sort of a track. It still wasn't looking all that threatening.

Enter our bowler who has been left on the fringes despite having taken 81 Test wickets to date from 24 Tests. The dismissal of Jonathan Trott was brought about by our right-arm off spinner, Nathan Lyon.
Trott found the faintest of inside edges onto his pad which was well grasped by a diving Usman Khawaja at short-leg. It was a huge wicket but Lyon's ultimate victory came against Kevin Pietersen.

Pietersen has taken to Lyon's bowling and looked to attack him from the word "go". He did so at Old Trafford and again in this match. However, despite Pietersen's momentum and confidence to attack, Lyon had him just nudging at one which moved across him, bowling from around the wicket and Pietersen didn't cover the angle and outside edge carried to Brad Haddin, who has kept wicket excellently so far.

From that dismissal it was the Nathan Lyon show as he picked up another two wickets to take 4-42 from the day.

It was great to see reward go to Lyon as the best performer. He has had to graft really hard match in, match out with the fear he could be tossed into the junk yard of spin bowling rejects in the post-Warne era. Fortunately, the selectors have finally realised there will never be another great leg spinner and Shane Warne was one of a kind legend of the game. Therefore, we need a guy who can spin with subtle variation and bowls with both confidence and intelligence. This doesn't come from twenty Tests. This comes from perseverance, belief from the selectors and team mates, while most importantly being given the guidance and motivation to improve after every series he plays - not every game he plays.

Patience is the key and I have seen notable improvement in Nathan Lyon's performances after his outstanding debut against Sri Lanka back in 2011. Graeme Swann has become a world-class spinner because the English selectors have nurtured his development and kept him in the side. When other competitors have come about they've made him aware of this but he's only thrived off it and continued to find ways to be the best English spinner. Lyon can learn something from Swann and it seems our selectors are learning a lesson.

Lyon will have many, many more battles ahead but this innings was one where he took the initiative and helped the bowlers find a way forward on a track that looked like it would see day one at stumps with England in a dominant position. Well done Gaz!

All our bowlers chipped in and this evidently continues to be our strong point, especially having Bird come in at the expense of Starc to just boast our depth.

Come tomorrow we need to roll England before they reach 250. It will be a small victory in the context of this all important game. England have said they want to win 4-0 but it is not in their nature to be this aggressive. I anticipated them to become complacent knowing they have the urn and I hope this turns out to be the case so we can level this 2-2.

Hard cricket ahead as this seems to be a track where Swann will be used to bowl many overs and James Anderson has a killer average at this ground too, so watch out!

This Test is also important because someone other than Michael Clarke needs to step up. I get the feeling Shane Watson has two more Tests to show his value with the bat because recent years show he does not warrant a spot in the team, even though he is clearly having a mental barrier to his game as he is still playing brilliant shots. Bowling will only keep him in the side for so long, as hard as it is to accept this as a supporter. Chris Rogers needs to once again showcase his experience in English conditions as this ground is unfamiliar to this side. David Warner can play the villain and steal the glory from the hometown heroes, while Usman Khawaja and Steven Smith have another golden opportunity in the biggest, most historical Australian Test series to make their own history. Both have to do it soon as they can bat, no doubts there but are they strong willed enough?

All of these questions will be answered come tomorrow and it's going to be a massive test for the batsmen as should we get that last wicket soon enough, this is the moment where we need to finally bat as a top Test team. This is the moment!

Verdict: Day one goes to Australia, especially on the tactical front where we managed our reviews far better and Clarke used his bowlers effectively.

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: