03 January 2014

The Ashes: 5th Test, day 2

The McGrath Foundation Pink Test.
England won the toss and elected to field first. We lead by 311 runs with 6 wickets in tact, three days play to go.

Australia 1st innings:
326 all out from 76 overs
Steven Smith 115, Brad Haddin 75, Shane Watson 43
Ben Stoked 6-99

England 1st innings:
155 all out from 58.5 overs
Ben Stokes 47
Peter Siddle 3-23, Mitchell Johnson 3-33, Ryan Harris 3-36

Australia 2nd innings:
4/140 off 30.0
Chris Rogers 73*, George Bailey 20*
James Anderson 2-36

: With a lead of 311 and England probably fortunate to have not been bowled out for substantially less, it's looking like the gates are open for us to go in for the kill and finish this Ashes series 5-0.

It took only two deliveries into the morning session to have our second wicket, the big one of Alastair Cook to Ryan Harris, misjudging an attempted LBW. 2-8.

Then James Anderson, who offered some resistance as the night watchman, flashed at a wider delivery and the catch was pouched by Michael Clarke off the bowling of Mitchell Johnson. 3-14.
Mighty Mitch also needs just 1 wicket to level the highest number of wickets taken by an Australian fast bowler in a 5-match Ashes series.

Three runs later England lost Kevin Pietersen, taken down by Ryan Harris with Shane Watson taking a catch from a length ball which jumped a bit on KP. 4-17.

Six runs later Ian Bell - England's real dangerman - was dismissed with a ball that did nip away a touch but with no footwork Bell looked cramped in the shot and England lost their fifth wicket. 5-23.

Some resistance came after the collapse briefly summarised above. It was fortunate for England that Ben Stokes was able to keep going for the sake of them not being bowled out for less than one hundred runs, as he found support from Bairstow and debutant Gary Ballance. Ballance took a ferocious bouncer from Mitchell Johnson into the helmet and didn't seem to fully compose himself thereafter. A tough initiation.

We perhaps played the game a bit too fast paced as Stuart Broad had a bit of a hit out, deciding to go down with a fight this Ashes contest. I would have liked to have seen Michael Clarke just pull the game back a bit and slow down the action, which would have hopefully snuffed England's late innings momentum.
Fortunately, we had them all out for 155 runs and the lead was secured. A healthy lead at that.

England's average 1st innings total this Ashes series has been 194 runs. It tells a tale.

We've also had a pattern throughout this series. If you have been following this Ashes series on the site you will now know of it.

This time around, our top order failed in 2nd innings circumstances where they have prevailed. This final innings of the Ashes series, it went as follows.

David Warner was dismissed for 16 runs, giving him 32 runs for the match.
His Ashes tally though comes in at 523 runs, an average of 58.11. HS 124, x2 50s and x2 100s.

Shane Watson scored 52 runs for the Test, only adding 9 to the scoreboard before edging behind.
He has not finished this Ashes series with enough to make him our definite, nor long term, number 3 solution heading to South Africa. There were glimpses of the talent on display we know Watson possesses. He ends our Ashes campaign with 345 runs at 38.33. HS 103.

Michael Clarke had a quiet SCG Test. He's still piled on the runs this Ashes series, but by his standards of the last 24 months this was very, very reserved on his part. He only scored 16 runs this Test, but brought in a collection of 363 runs, at 40.33. He went beyond a half-century twice and, on both these occasions, advanced to a century. He top scored for us (at present) with 148 runs.

Steven Smith was a centurion in the 1st innings, a wonderful innings to watch which I reported on yesterday. He did his job then for us then and there, helping Brad Haddin initiate a rescue mission. Today he only scored 7 runs. He ends his Ashes series on a high with the bat scoring 327 runs, at 40.87. This includes x2 centuries, a similar trend to Michael Clarke.

Chris Rogers
is still at the crease and played with plenty of positive intent towards stumps, instead of going into a sort of lock down mode. He just embraced the moment with a big lead in the bag. I would love to see Bucky score a century in this Test, to just crush any remaining personal doubts he may still harbor.

George Bailey, possibly playing his last Test innings, evidently enjoying himself just found the gaps, worked the ball away, lived on the edge but survived to stumps. He has 20* runs and tomorrow could be a memorable one for him if he just gives hit his best. He has little to lose. He is in our ODI team as a regular member, has now been a member of a winning Ashes campaign, and did manage a half-century in Adelaide.

Sure, he hasn't delivered enough in his personal capacity, but he was involved in the teams win, and here he has a chance to help us advance the lead, ease the pressure off our bowlers, and also maybe give himself a lifeline before the South African tour.

Our bowlers were the victorious ones today and the collection of three wickets to each of our fast bowlers, and a wicket to our spin bowler Nathan Lyon, who really did a fantastic job, just summed up their confidence and ability to work in partnerships.

Verdict: The assessment of our depth is very hard to tell at present looking to the future. Our batting has been frail in the top order, but this cannot overcloud the fact every one in our top order has scored a century and has made an impact on this Ashes series. Consistency is the key. We've seen it with our bowlers, but not with our batsmen. However, when the batsmen have delivered it's been bloody fantastic.

Against South Africa we will need more out of them on the basis of consistency, but the signs are there and fortunately we also have younger men, such as Steven Smith, David Warner and Nathan Lyon, bringing the goods to the level of Test cricket.

The challenges are ahead to not only get back the number 1 spot, but also knowing that inevitably this current line-up is not a long term fixture. It may be enough though to push for this objective of number one status and just help the selectors line up the correct recruitment's going forward. I am staying positive, while embracing the now. We've waited a long time for a performance like this.

Three days to go still, a lead over 300 runs in place, and 6 wickets in tact for us. Plenty to smile about right now and 5-0 definitely awaits us with the right discipline and tactical execution. England have probably checked out. Come on Australia!

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