13 December 2013

The Ashes: 3rd Test, day 1

The Ashes, 3rd Test, day 1, Perth

Australia won the toss and elected to bat.

AUS 1st innings: 6/326 from 87 overs.

Steven Smith 103*, David Warner 60, Brad Haddin 55, Mitchell Johnson 39*.
Graeme Swann 2-71

Verdict: I had a work function to attend this evening and fortunately there was TV showing the game, so I was able to watch Steven Smith lead one hell of a solid fightback as he brought up a century, which will define his career and ultimately his coming of age.

It was hard to contain myself as not only was it a defining moment in his career, but it gave us the momentum coming to the close of play and essentially the day was taken from England on the back of Stevo's Test century, and the invaluable support offered by both Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson. Partnerships!

Play: Firstly congrats to Michael Clarke on reaching his 100th Test for Australia. Despite the outstanding achievement, this Test is about trying to win it to secure the urn and go 3-0 up. He only managed 24 runs in the first innings, but his middle order men stepped up and may have delivered something massive in the context of this game, which just happens to be his 100th Test.

We were in a bit of trouble after gifting away some of our wickets (Chris Rogers being run-out, a waste of a solid batsman in Test cricket) and then to lose Shane Watson (dashing at one he could have left by WACA standards), Michael Clarke for 24 (attacking Swann) and then David Warner (60) - who managed to bag another half-century continuing his good run as a Test batsman - was just tragic.

The score was 4-129 after Warner departed and George Bailey didn't last too long but Brad Haddin and Smithy had plans of a rescue mission, quite possibly an epic one depending how the rest of the play pans out.

The two put on a 124 run-partnership and Brad Haddin has continued his sublime run this Ashes series as "the go to guy". He's delivered and has looked so unbelievably eager this Ashes series. He's scored 320 runs at 80.00 with three half-centuries and his Adelaide century of 118. He wants to experience a victory and he's doing his utmost best to help! Proud of him and to top it off his shot selection and execution was mesmerising to watch. Always written that I view him as one of the best stroke makers in the business. It was on show again today.

It was about Steven Smith's century though which saw him roar in triumph to see his team through to stumps. A man given his Baggy Green too soon with an undefined role, has stepped back and crafted his own game over time. He is now becoming a Test batsman.

Well done youngster, well done!

The innings, from what I have analysed, was a mature one, seeing him leave many deliveries that needn't be played or were simply too tempting to nudge, and then picking the right ones to blaze away with no complacency. He didn't deliver in a dull moment, he did so when we seriously needed it. His pitch map tells a tale too, how many deliveries on a good length were simply dot balls. Patience folks, patience.

This was a massive moment, alive and fuming, demanding Smith to be the master and control it. He needed to secure it and he did so. This is about winning back the Ashes and in the past these small victories in these passages of play have not been present - or have come too late. This is day 1 against an English team low on confidence. This century could prove to be something very significant.

We managed to put ourselves on top for the day with that stand between Smith and Haddin, and then mighty Mitchell Johnson coming on out to deliver something with the bat in hand. Mitch has 39*. Confidence is everything.

The fact we got to 300 after that slightly worrying position was massive, but 400 is definitely on the cards.

England will feel they let it slip a bit today, just another dent to the self belief one would hope from an Aussie perspective.

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