23 November 2013

The Ashes: 1st Test, day 3

Australia 1st innings:
295 all out from 97.1 overs
Brad Haddin 94, David Warner 49
Stuart Broad 6-81

England 1st innings:
136 all out from 52.4 overs
Michael Carberry 40
Mitchell Johnson 4-61, Ryan Harris 3-28, Nathan Lyon 2-17

Australia 2nd innings: 7
/401 dec. from 94 overs
David Warner 124, Michael Clarke 113, Brad Haddin 53, Mitchell Johnson 39*
Chris Tremlett 3-69

England 2nd innings:
2/24 from 15 overs
Alastair Cook 11*, Kevin Pietersen 3*
Ryan Harris 1-7, Mitchell Johnson 1-7

Match status:
England require 537 runs to win with 8 wickets in hand, two days play in tact.

After losing Chris Rogers so soon to Stuart Broad for 16 runs, followed by Shane Watson in an attempt to aggressively push our lead forward, it looked like our advantage would be blown, but of course - as noted in the previous articles - David Warner looked in good nick first innings, following some cracking state cricket performances. He took it up a level by scoring the first century of the Ashes series, while Michael Clarke scored a century of his own to help us push the lead to a mammoth one. Ideally we needed two wickets before close of play and we did it. The day has gone to us, so it is England, Australia, Australia.

The day: It is understandable that many supporters will be fretting ever so slightly. It has been a long time since an Australian side was in such a dominating position so early in a Test series, an Ashes series for that matter. Throw in South Africa's run chase in 2008, followed by their defense at the Adelaide Oval last year, as well as this teams inability to secure key passages of play and it is understandable why many may have a restless night and some worries until those final 8 wickets get claimed.

My job as a supporter is to believe we couldn't be further ahead right now and back my boys to win. Seriously, we are in the most dominant position possible. We have two days play, a versatile bowling attack, and a team full of ambition and self-belief. There is little reason why we can't roll England tomorrow, but even I have those above mentioned ordeals in the back of my mind. To be honest it is more so the worry that these players have not experienced the "winning edge" for some time and will be haunted by the numerous moments they've been in these situations (not as good perhaps) and still blown it. This is the chance, this is the mental battle set out, this is the time to make it count and the opportunity to be seized. It will set in motion something sensational, but 8 wickets will require everything. We can do it and take note that England will need to bat for longer than any amount of overs in a fourth innings than any other match they have played.

The performances from Ryan Harris and Mitchell Johnson this evening were splendid but it's fair to say Michael Carberry's dismissal was filled with luck (something we haven't had much of for a long time too) and Jonathan Trott just lost his head completely with that shot! Kudos to Nathan Lyon on some brilliant fielding this evening. 

The key performances of the day were batting based as David Warner and Michael Clarke were the stars of the day with batting performances that imposed Australia upon the English bowling attack. Ultimately it announced the arrival of our team into this Ashes series, our key players at least. Sooner than later.

Davey was explosive with his straight and cross bat shots, with the most athletic effort with his running between the wickets. His attention to the game was outstanding and it was special to see him reach his century after a bloody tough time off the field over the last few months, while he's also had to change his personal approach to the game, noting one achievement being he has lost 8 kilograms.

It was a testament to a guy just stepping and showing us true supporters how much it means to him to play for Australia. It was tough work for him out there but he gunned it and did so in his natural manner. Well done champ! He's endured lots of flack in recent times and for me this it just made it so delightful to see him release his energy, jump as high as possible and fist pump the air with his helmet in hand.

Michael Clarke was bound to get a century this series and he's already done so. This was his 25th Test century, his sixth against England, his fifth at the Gabba, and the way he crafted that century was one which overshadowed the innings of Warner. Clarkey was onto the spinners in no time with elegant foot work and quick bat speed, while he had no fear attacking the English fast bowlers. His innings was one displaying all-round skills and his scoring rate resembled that of an Australian batsmen during the golden era. It was also filled with limited overs intent, but nevertheless one of Test quality from our ace batsman.

The platform was set come their departures and Brad Haddin wasted no time in playing some cheeky sweep shots and finding some thick outside edges to cash in on a second half-century in his 50th Test match.

Mitchell Johnson's confidence continued to ripple into his batting second time around as he blazed England's bowlers down the ground effortlessly, with shots that reminded me of his highest ODI batting effort against the West Indies in the Champions Trophy back in 2009. The damage was done by this stage and the two saviors of the 1st innings had another chance to entertain.

The call for a declaration dragged on but eventually Michael Clarke called his troops back to the pavilion after Peter Siddle decided he wanted to hit boundaries too. England started the day off well but walked off broken, with Stuart Broad being the only bowler to have shown any character or true fight, despite Chris Tremlett giving it some positive energy on his efforts later on. Perhaps Stuart Broad's "not walking" incident has just made him hungrier for competitive arenas? Either way he was on his own.

It will be a tense atmosphere at the Gabba tomorrow, with many of us just begging our bowlers, just hoping and believing we can get a Test victory back in our record books and for us to at long last take first blood in an Ashes series. We are so damn close and with two days to go, anything is possible, but it wouldn't be unrealistic to feel confident that we're close to wrapping this up if we maintain elite fielding standards and high intensity.

Come on Australia, it's so close for this one!

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