10 August 2013

The Ashes 4th Test, day 2, Chester-le-Street

The Ashes 4th Test, day 2, Chester-le-Street:

England 1st innings:
238 all out from 91.6 overs
Nathan Lyon 4-42, Ryan Harris 2-70, Shane Watson 1-21, Peter Siddle 1-41, Jackson Bird 2-58
Alastair Cook 51, Jonathan Trott 49

Australia 1st innings:
5/222 after 74.4 overs
Chris Rogers 101*, Shane Watson 68, Brad Haddin 12*
Stuart Broad 4-48

Trent Bridge is one of the toughest grounds to bat at in international cricket. However, yesterday was definitely one of the toughest days for batting in this Ashes series at Chester-le-Street. There was also an element of this attributed to some impressive bowling from England throughout the first two sessions and it was survival games for two of our batsmen, after Stuart Broad sent down one of his blitz spells to rip through our top order. This was with the exception of one man not dismissed and this was Chris Rogers.

At last, a batsman other than Michael Clarke reached a century. The last century came from Matthew Wade in January against Sri Lanka. Rogers also becomes the second oldest Australian to score a century. He has done it in an Ashes series where he was selected upon his experience and current form. Chester-le-Street is a bit unknown to this team except Rogers, so this was a testament to the reason upon his selection. Really proud of him.

Early in the day I was concerned the English tail may drag them over 250, but Jackson Bird bowled James Anderson second over of the morning, meaning no runs were scored. Task set, get the lead!

We ended up seeing a similar pattern of disaster occur as a top order collapse hit and the fear set in. It could have quite easily ended in a disaster. David Warner was promoted to open with Rogers due to the lack of fire power from Shane Watson, despite Watson appearing in okay form. It was an odd turn of events. Warner was bowled for just 3 runs and Usman Khawaja was caught in no-mans land unsure whether to play or leave a delivery from Stuart Broad, giving Broad his second in quick succession.

Michael Clarke marched out to the wicket with a situation which must be the norm for him after the last two years. Yet when you'd have expected Clarke to grind them down, he played a wild drive that was too loose a shot and he was caught sharply by Alastair Cook in the slips. Broad had three, we'd lost our best batsman.

Steven Smith partnered Rogers to add another 27 runs onto the board and as it seemed they'd settled us down, Smith was out with a soft dismissal just not covering the line and tickling one through to Matt Prior. We were in the danger zone and England sensed an opportunity just like Lord's.

Enter Shane Watson, a man dropped from the top order spot to allow Warner a chance in his place. In an odd turn of events Watson ended up scoring 68 runs, which is also an important event as I believe Watson has to make something out of these last two Tests. Like Clarke, if Watson performs it can push us over the finish line. He needs to be converting and performing now and his innings yesterday was fought mighty hard.

Tough batting comes to mind after I watched Rogers and Watson last night/ early morning. Rogers was under pressure with the ball passing the edge of his bat many times and being beaten on a number of deliveries. He was only given a handful of bad balls to put away, which he was able to maximise on. It was still hard work though as he was continually being tested and never allowed to score with ease.

Stuart Broad worked him over particularly well when nearing his half-century. He was even dropped in the slips of 49, allowing him to run through to get his half-century. His celebration was deflated as he'd been given a lifeline. You need luck in this game! 

Click to enlarge image.

While the English attack came at him at their hardest, he was having to settle in with Watson at the other end who also went at a steady pace, taking some time before assessing how the wicket was playing. He finally found the confidence to play with freedom to whip the ball off his pads, finding boundaries and not playing victim as an LBW candidate. As Watson increased the scoring opportunities, Rogers began to play with a little more freedom in his own capacity, finding strength to target the on side, just using his wrists to perfection.

The two of them added 129 runs for the fifth wicket partnership. Having seen Watson play with greater confidence on the leg side, it was strange that he ended up trickling a poor leg side delivery to Prior behind the stumps. Odd end to what has been one of the hardest fought innings from Watson in a long time and he finally got beyond the half-century point.

With Rogers finally reaching his century, it was an emotional point in his cricketing journey. More than 20,000 first-class runs, switches between State teams, immense experience gained in overseas conditions and his one Test match came at the WACA against India in 2008 finally being so much more.

Similar to Ryan Harris he could have been a one-hit wonder, as Harris was in ODIs. It seemed thereafter it was over but he kept believing in himself, eying opportunities and scoring lots and lots of runs. On 10 August 2013 he finally scored a Test century, an Ashes century. It's his and in order to have stayed in this game we needed someone other than Clarke to score a century. After Clarke's dismissal we needed a centurion.

Well done Chris Rogers! I kept the belief in him with the announcement he'd be in our side. Even though we haven't won back the urn, we still need to draw this series 2-2 and his contributing.

Brad Haddin is at the crease with him, our last recognised batsman. We still trail by 16 runs and it will be interesting to see what this wicket brings about tomorrow.

Checking my Ashes venue analysis article I wrote a few months back, I wrote this about this relatively unknown ground, "
it does seem to be a track that is difficult to bat on at first, but the longer you bat and the further into the Test match the contest goes, the easier it is to negotiate what comes off the pitch."

Hopefully Brad Haddin can play with some aggression tomorrow and find the run scoring zones, while Rogers can play with the knowledge he has that century and can cash in. He will have an idea what the track should offer come tomorrow. First objective will be to get the lead and then, with our last 5 wickets, try and get that lead to a minimum of 100-150 runs as a starting point. Up to Clarke to play his tactics right from that point on.

Verdict: Day two goes to us. It was a worrying start to the days play after losing three top order wickets but Rogers and Watson ensured we went to stumps within a sniff of the lead and 5 wickets in tact. It was a very hard days play and a big step forward. Consistency now the key from here to win this match!

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