29 December 2013

The Ashes, 4th Test, day 4

Reports for day 1, day 2, and day 3.

Result: Australia lead the Ashes 4-0 in dominant style. 

England 1st Innings: 255 all out from 100 overs overs
Kevin Pietersen 71, Michael Carberry 38
Ryan Harris 2-47, Mitchell Johnson 5-63, Shane Watson 1-11

Australia 1st innings: 204 all out from 82.2 overs
Brad Haddin 65, Chris Rogers 61,
Stuart Broad 3-45, James Anderson 4-67

England 2nd innings:
179 all out from 61 overs
Alastair Cook 51, Kevin Pietersen 49
Nathan Lyon 5-50, Mitchell Johnson 3-25

Australia 2nd innings: (Target 231) 2/231
Chris Rogers 116, Shane Watson 83*

Plays: England set us a challenge after taking the 1st innings lead. We accepted the challenge and we have conquered it in historic style to win by 8 wickets at the MCG. Rising up the rankings again with the win and now the whitewash of 5-0 is a reality. It's now about pushing our ICC points to the max to prepare for the South African tour.

Yesterday I wrote of a 2nd innings trend (Shane Watson especially), where we get solid runs from our specialist batsmen, after 1st innings woes which has seen Brad Haddin rescue us 1st innings in, 1st innings out, but we recovered in gigantic style. 

Live the moment, celebrate a brilliant Test victory. Feel the pride!

On a fun note, we were 2/222 at 2:22 pm. Just imagine if Richie Benaud had been in the commentary box? Classic. It was good to hear Bill Lawry back behind the mic.

Chris Rogers resumed the day with David Warner, who was dismissed after they'd past a stand of 64. That was England's only moment of joy as Shane Watson came on out to partner Bucky Rogers and they ensured we not only came within sight of victory, but pulled off a match winning effort to bring in 136 runs, leaving little work for Michael Clarke.

Rogers was not given Man of the Match, which is a bit unfortunate given his performances have been invaluable, but this is a team sport and Mitchell Johnson, who was awarded Man of the Match, acknowledged Rogers' efforts and stated he deserved it. It shows the good sportsmanship element of Mitchell's character. Well done.

Mitch took 8 wickets for the match (a series tally of 31 at 14.32), but I feel the majority of the fans wanted Chris to have his moment. The team stands united though and that is what matters. No one can take that century and what it means away from him.

The 2nd innings total is definitely a special one for Rogers after his 1st innings effort came undone with an uncharacteristic shot after a hell of a lot of hard work. While the wickets tumbled, he stayed true to his game of patience, caution and classy shot execution. He threw it away and this would have only burdened his mind after he has been vocal in the media that he has not felt settled in the opening spot.

Having made these comments, he used that pressure to step up and deliver a century I will remember for many, many years to come. We needed a centurion and he delivered, we needed an opener to build a solid foundation, he delivered. We needed experience in a challenging setting, and although he doesn't have the international experience - as such - he has immense experience in different scenarios across a First Class career raking in more than 20,000 runs.

That experience shone through and our man, who was scorned as being "too old" by clueless supporters, showed that a quality batsman is better than a flashy upcoming hipster. The result was a century at his now home ground (once the WACA), the MCG, and we went 4-0 up. He now has 333 runs at 41.62. He averages more than 40 for the calendar year.

He had some luck in his innings, but that is required in the game of Test cricket. Michael Hussey always noted it. It's how you cash in on that luck though.

Shane Watson will feel a bit on edge still given his runs keep coming in the 2nd innings, but having written this, his input has counted massively towards our current standing at 4-0. He was able to play aggressively and after David Warner departed, England still had a chance but Watto was able to do what Warner would have done. The result was an unbeaten half-century with little fuss.

Michael Clarke was able to pass 8,000 Test runs. An outstanding achievement and one I am proud to have followed from run number 1 in India.

Another player to pass 8,000 Test runs was England's skipper, Alastair Cook. On a note of Cook, I feel his pain and the pressure. It was there for Ricky Ponting, there for Michael Clarke not long ago (despite his individual performances being the best of the group), and I felt strong supporting them both through the criticism.

Cook will be taking a pounding from the media, verbal abuse from the blinker fanatics, and his achievements for England as a Test cricketer will be quickly forgotten. It is the unfair vulture like culture of the media. He has had a bleak series, and while he may not seem to inspire his troops he was given a chance, was involved as skipper in a winning Ashes campaign, and he was the man chosen for the job.

I am glad we have thumped England, but I will always have an empathetic outlook and Cook will take constructive criticism, but there will be harsh words too. The true supporters come to light in dark times.

For this reason I am super excited to be 4-0 up and having proudly supported my team through the lows. I brought out my critical views and I did vent my frustration, no doubts there, but I still saw the positives and believed we would not only win the Ashes but also find a sense on unity under better leadership and selection consistencies.

It was a remarkable Test match win after being down and now winning convincingly.
Again, we were better in the field, better in attitude, and hungry to win with confidence. England had nothing and it reflected. After yesterdays collapse it was all over for England. This is a special achievement, epic history for our side, so it's vital to embrace the emotions and enjoy the ride. More battles ahead but this must be celebrated.

My closing note is that Shane Watson and Ryan Harris may miss the Sydney Test with injury niggles. Doug Bollinger will likely come in for Ryano, where he made his debut against South Africa 2008, but the man to replace Shane Watson will be a tough decision. I will keep my view aside on this until the news is confirmed whether he will or won't play.

Verdict: After bringing down the axe on England yesterday, it was our game to win and a massive opportunity to cement our status as a team on the mend. These messages need to go out with a Test series against the current number one team around the corner, and this was the style to do it in.

In England we were unlucky as, besides the Lord's Test, there wasn't much between the sides, but we couldn't secure those key moments. This time around we have found ways to win those moments and claim the winning edge, we have a unified team, match winners performing with experience, and the results show.

Despite the great team effort, the standout players were Chris Rogers, Brad Haddin, Nathan Lyon, Shane Watson, and mighty Mitchell Johnson for this clash.

We lead 4-0. I love it. I love this team and I am really proud.

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