12 August 2013

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

The Ashes 4th Test, day 4, 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:
270 all out after 89.3 overs
Chris Rogers 110, Shane Watson 68
Stuart Broad 5-71

England 2nd innings:
330 all out from 95.1 overs
Ian Bell 105*, Tim Bresnan 45, Kevin Pietersen 44,
Ryan Harris 7-117, Nathan Lyon 3-55

Australia 2nd innings:
224 all out from 68.3 overs
David Warner 71, Chris Rogers 49
Stuart Broad 6-50 (11 wickets for the match)

Match status:
England won by 74 runs and have won the series 3-0.

This is not an easy article to write. Not only because we have now lost the Ashes series along with the urn. Not only because our side has found a way to lose a Test from a winnable position. Not only because players who have needed to step up to secure their own piece of Ashes history have failed to do so. I am actually struggling to write this mostly because I have the deepest sadness for one Australian cricketer in particular and that is Ryan Harris.
It's a mixture of emotions actually. Harris charged in with us effectively needing to reduce England's lead to 250 minimum, more for a psychological advantage. With their lead at 202 with 5 wickets in hand it could have gone the same way it went for us trailing by just 16 runs at 5 wicket in hand. Instead having England under this lead with only 3 wickets to grab, the plan went south.

Harris will feel his unbelievable effort to claim 7 wickets (9 for the Test) was in vain as was his also impressive spells sent down at Lord's. He has been let down by our batsmen. Harris is a man who may not have a great deal of time left in his career and he is without a doubt our best bowler. I said it before coming into this series and I have been proven right. However, our batting was also our obvious weakness coming in and once again when this side had a chance to step up on the batting front, back the amazing performance of Harris and create some history, they folded and we were left short by 74 runs. A thrashing in my opinion.

We dominated the first two days of play. It was a win or draw situation but our side found a way to lose the match. This is nothing new. It would be harsh to dismiss this side as the worst side, because they aren't a terrible side. They are an unfortunate side who just don't have the winning edge and have lost great players at inconvenient times and therefore left to find this edge on their own. This "edge" only comes with time together as a unit, with men knowing their role and performing so accordingly. This team can beat the best of the best but not when they cannot secure vital often small passages of play.

Throughout this series it's been the case. An English partnership dragged on, tactically we blew a decision, batsmen fell to stupid shots etc. Even in recent history it goes back to Cardiff 2009 where we just needed 1 wicket to win the first Test. We didn't get it and since then the winning edge, the ability to have that winning edge, just faded out and England faded in. Things changed from that moment.

Shortly before in 2008 we had South Africa at the MCG against the wall, but a partnership between Dale Steyn and JP Duminy - enhanced by a Michael Hussey drop catch - went on to be match winning. In 2011 at Cape Town we had a generous lead and found a way to get bowled out for a humiliating total of 47. The next day we put down catches and South Africa strolled home. In 2012, also against South Africa, we couldn't get a handful of wickets on the last day at the Adelaide Oval after dominating the Gabba Test before. We lost the winning edge and South Africa won at the WACA.

Most recently of all these incidents was right here, this Test. Ian Bell just played a gem of an innings as he finds himself in the form of his life. However, while Harris did his work he had no support from the other bowlers, allowing pressure to fall on the wayside. A complete contradiction to our first innings effort. Nathan Lyon came on too late to give Harris that bit of support needed. Harris leaked runs but only because England had been psychologically released. They took the lead to 300 runs. It could have been less had this team had the winning edge to secure that passage of play.

There's numerous incidents scattered about, moments on the field I could recite but why bother?

The bottom line is this side I see so much potential within, a side I continue to support and show belief in just doesn't have the winning edge and if they can't find it now it will be hard work for them to find it. It's a reason certain players of old school experience were brought into this side. The home Ashes series is a realistic battle and I am still glad Darren Lehmann will be coach. We haven't played badly here. England just know how to up their performance in those small moments of the game and can flip it all right around. And for that I must salute them. It's why they haven't been beaten for a while.

Cricket Australia will probably pull away from the unnecessary marketing hype before the home Ashes series. The Big Bash will be priority there. If anything, let's just keep it on the low down and see if we - now as the true underdogs - can surprise England on our home soil in what will probably be the last stand for Chris Rogers and Ryan Harris, assuming they want to be a part of it all.

Here's some stats. The reason for frustration lies with the fact we were 2-147. We needed 152 runs to win, one day and a bit of play remaining and 8 wickets. We ended up losing by 74 runs, losing 8 wickets for 78 runs. It's humiliating and Ryan Harris will be the man of all Australian players, of all Australian supporters who will be feeling this loss the most.

7 wickets and 9 for the game and your side loses. A stack of wickets at Lord's and the batsmen get slaughtered. Our bowlers have carried this side for too long and Michael Clarke carried a batting unit single handedly.

Chris Rogers scored 110 runs in the first innings and without the support of Shane Watson, he would have played an innings in vain as Michael Clarke has done so. In fact it appears this way. Rogers scored 49 runs in the second innings. A failure in his eyes but he got runs on the board. David Warner scored 71 runs, a half-century. We needed a centurion bu he put runs on the board and got us 71 runs closer to victory. We fell short by 74. We needed more from numbers three to seven. Our top duo scored 109 runs and collectively 120 runs. Three to seven brought 50 runs, one run more than the effort of Chris Rogers.

We lost this series due to our batting and the reality of when Michael Clarke is not in sublime form is when the lights go on. This side will need to look at ending it all off at 3-1, as it was so in the 2010/11 Ashes series. They still need our support and will do so.

It was hard to find the words for this loss but it's harder to describe what emotions I am feeling. I believed we could win this series, as did Michael Clarke. Sadly it is clear that we have lost the winning edge and how we regain that spark can only be done through winning Test matches and all of this will start by winning small passages of play. As they say, it's the small things that count, the small moments that matter most. This is so true in Test cricket and so true to this Australia team.

The Oval Test is all that remains. If anything this is now purely for pride. Nothing more than that. The home Ashes series is a fresh start removed from this series.

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