Now what was I saying about all those who piled in to complain about the pitch after one day? In the Australian press it was all about England doctoring the surface, which apparently means creating one that Australia rack up a huge score on, and then rip through the England top order. Indeed, it was wryly amusing to hear Stuart Broad imply that the surface very much aided Australia and not England. Spin on both sides.
Meantime, the English press went big on the idea that it was a nailed on draw, that the groundsman should be shot and that it was impossible to get wickets on. The old adage that you shouldn’t judge a pitch until both teams have batted on it is as true as it ever was. Australia have bowled superbly on it, and have put themselves in prime position to square the series.
There did seem to be a little bit more in it today, but it remains excellent for batting, as Australia demonstrated all too well in their innings. Steve Smith led the way with 215, and as fabulous as that innings was, it was curiously less assertive than normal, and slightly more sketchy than at his best. Which if anything should cause serious alarm in the England dressing room. For Chris Rogers, it’s quite possible that his 173 is his last innings at a ground where he has served Middlesex so well. If so, it’s quite a way to finish.
From there, the scorecard looks like Australia fell away somewhat, which is a good example of a scorecard not conveying a match situation. Australia were pushing on and trying to score quickly. Slow surfaces are often quite hard to score rapidly on, and the wickets fell at regular intervals.
England’s reply was a shambles. As has been pointed out England keep finding themselves three down for very little, and sooner or later Joe Root wasn’t going to bail them out. Adam Lyth’s poke at a wide ball was fairly typical of what often happens when a team has been in the field for the best part of two days, but it doesn’t make it any better a shot. Ballance was again undone by a full ball, and while it is good to keep faith with a player, it’s at the point now where he’s not going to get anything else, so transparent are his difficulties. He needs to work this out and fast.
Bell too was undone by a full ball, and once again this has become a notable weakness in his game. Any player can be beaten by a full swinging ball, but not time and again. As for Root, he failed today. It’s going to happen sometimes. From there, Cook and Stokes batted extremely well. Broad again made a rather telling slip in the post play interview saying that it looked much better when England batted in a more disciplined way. The implication of that was fairly clear.
There’s no reason whatever England can’t continue to bat that way, this remains a very easy paced, very flat surface. The trouble is that having lost four cheap wickets, they are 481 runs behind. It is a huge ask for them to even reach the follow on point, no matter how flat the pitch might be. About the only positive they have is that they have frontline batsmen down to number eight in the form of Moeen Ali. But to even get to within 200 runs, more than one player has to score a century. All hopes really rest on Cook going very big and batting through. It’s a big ask, but it’s what’s necessary.
England have got themselves in a horrible hole, and have been completely outplayed in the first two days. The reality of their plight is that they can’t afford to lose so much as a single session if they want to get out of this one. 1-1 seems almost inevitable given the time left. @