After three days of largely attritional cricket, this match remains in the balance heading into the fourth day. Yet if England were fractionally ahead before yesterday, Australia are a little further in front today. Steve Smith’s patient century ground down England’s bowlers, before Josh Hazlewood bowled with more intent and hostility than anyone else has managed on this still placid surface to rip out a couple of wickets before England had wiped off the deficit.
England are effectively 7-2, and the third innings of a tight contest is the one where all the pressure is on the batting side – particularly as time begins to run out in the game. It is impossible to see England getting into a position where they could declare with any reasonable expectation of winning, and so their best chance is to be bowled out. But being bowled out will be forefront of their minds, which is why the third knock becomes so pressurised – score runs, don’t get becalmed, don’t take risks and don’t get out. England have got stuck on many an occasion when faced with that conundrum, reducing themselves to a strokeless defence that brings defeat anyway. Quite simply, they have to score runs.
The loss of Cook in the gloaming was probably more symbolic than anything else. He hasn’t looked in good form, and his record away from home over the last couple of years has been modest to say the least. Yet his wicket, along with Root’s, is still the most prized by opponents, and still the one that sends the most tremors through supporters in a position such as this one. The manner of his dismissal has been criticised by some, excused by others, but as ever the problem with Cook is not the cricket, it is the double standards applied. The hook shot was on, and there was absolutely nothing reckless about him playing it. He just played it poorly, and was caught. That happens to every player, where many get annoyed is that others doing the same thing receive bucketloads of opprobrium where Cook does not.
Even so, being out hooking is certainly no worse than the leaden footed push to which he was out in the first innings. He appears to once again be struggling with his technique – the familiar problem of his head going too far across, his front foot taking a step rather than a stride, and his back leg coming round to prevent himself toppling over. That’s why he ends up front on rather than side on and is so prone to being caught behind. He’s a player who spends his time battling his technique constantly, and has been here before, managing to put it right. The worry is that being in this place at the start of a series doesn’t bode well for the rest of it. He knows his game, and England will be praying he can make the adjustment, otherwise this is going to prove a very long tour.
That’s in the past as far as this game is concerned. The reality is that the ever critical first session here is one in which Australia can win the game. But last night’s hostility was with a new ball, one which will just be starting to lose its shine and hardness. The pitch remains slow, and the demons can only be in English minds. England are more than capable of getting a score here, and more than capable of putting Australia under real stress. The doubts surround England’s ability to withstand the pressure, rather than their ability to bat on this pitch. There is certainly the batting depth needed, and if Smith is an exceptional batsman, then so is Joe Root, and England badly need him to show it.
One fly in the ointment concerns the fitness of James Anderson – something that won’t remotely matter unless England bat well – given he was seen to be touching his side before taking a painkiller and seeming to limit his bowling the rest of the day. England insist he’s fine, but they do have a track record of not telling the whole truth (rightly so, in a match situation where there’s no need to give the opposition reason to cheer), and if Anderson really is struggling, it dramatically affects England’s chances, even if they do get a half reasonable total. Add to that the whispers about Moeen Ali’s fitness and if there’s anything in that, then a draw might represent the best England can hope for.
If England have a good day, then this game is well and truly on. But if they have so much as a bad hour, then it’s probably game over. There is some bad weather around, particularly tomorrow, which could also change the dynamic.
One last point about this game, just imagine for a moment that some of those who should know better had got their way and this was a four day Test.
As with yesterday, we’ll be live blogging the events for as long as we stay awake. The “we” refers to three of us, the other is showing worrying signs of being a vampire, and Danny will undoubtedly be the last one standing. As ever, come and join us for as long as you are able, and as long as we can keep our eyes open.
19:43 I don’t know about you lot, but I’m going to the pub…
19:58 Dmitri on his own as his beloved is going back to her homeland to meet her relatives. So, I look wistfully towards Brisbane for your now regular early evening snapshot from the Bureau of Meteorology:
21:11 While watching the Iron Bowl (look it up, and also check out the youtube clip of the Kick Six), let’s think back to some Day 4s at the Gabba. First up, and you are probably getting fed up with me going on about it, 2002. Matthew Hayden completed his second century of the match (it’s the picture in today’s header) and below. There’s a moment where Sir Peter is filming me for his tour video (no release) where I am reviewing the papers and you hear a huge crack of bat on ball. It’s Hayden hitting the first ball Craig White bowls for six. We left at lunchtime to meet Sir Peter’s mate down at the Gold Coast, and England collapsed. Our Day 5 tickets never mattered.
21:21 2006 and it’s a tale of missing it all. I was on a Singapore Airlines flight on the way to Adelaide to see the second test, and the first I heard of the day’s play came on the walkway at Changi. Four wickets lost at the end of play. 90 odd for Collingwood, KP in the 90s. Maybe the first three days were just a figment of our imagination or a rusty start. We might lose, but at least not without a fight. Good signs. Well, that’s what we thought.
21:31 Ah. Day 4 in 2010. One wicket lost all day, centuries for Strauss and Cook, the game made safe. I watched pretty much all of it that night. You actually never felt the Aussies were going to take a wicket. I have the whole of that day on DVD. Actually the whole series. It gets aired a bit.
21:37 It is pretty interesting to me that I have virtually no recollections of the early parts of the 2013/14 Ashes. None. So we may have taken the Brisbane test to the 4th day, but I just don’t remember. Now, if I were a member of some of the punditry that would be enough. But we don’t do that here. I have the highlights on my portable hard drive. We started at 24/2 with Cook and KP at the crease. They took it to 72/2 before KP holed out to long leg, so we’ll be looking up some of the match reports on that! England were bowled out for 179, Johnson took five wickets. We lost by a distance. You know the rest.
21:44 John Etheridge has noticed.
A “slow decline”. Well, it’s better for them to acknowledge it now, I suppose. And man alive, I smiled at this:
“Cook has three centuries in his last 54 Test innings spread across two years. If you want to look further, it is six hundreds in 105 innings stretching back to the summer of 2013.”
They don’t read us. Try the no centuries in 31 Ashes innings while you are at it, John.
21:52 Iron Bowl looks a great game – 7-7. #WarEagle . Back at the cricket, the fourth day in 1986 was one of attrition and at the end, worry for England. Having made Australia follow on, England took half of the wickets they needed, but at 243/5, the Aussies were in the lead and had an unbeaten centurion (Geoff Marsh) still there. Contrary to some people who said overseas cricket was never on terrestrial, Day 5 was covered live in the UK on BBC (introduced, if I recall correctly by David Icke).
22:22 Day 4 in 1982/3, and Graeme Fowler bats for just shy of six hours to make 83 and at least give England an opportunity to set the Aussies a meaningful target. 279 for 7, 208 runs in a day, Thomson taking five wickets. We may talk about Day 5 tomorrow.
22:50 The pre-match hour will be taken over by Sean, who has assured us his levels of light refreshment were not at last night’s level. That’s nice. Meanwhile there’s a Maxie sighting in the comments. He’s also been all over Twitter. Follow him. The Mentor.
22:53 Dmitri leaves you with memories of 1994. On the 4th day of Brisbane I woke up and England were 211 for 2. Thorpe and Hick with a really good partnership to give us a chance of saving the game. What we wouldn’t give for such resistance today. I’m pessimistic. Of course I am. Anyway, take it away Sean……
22:56 Good evening everyone (said in my best Richie Benaud accent). Apologies for my absence yesterday, I had one too many light refreshments at a leaving do and could only manage ‘pitch the fecking ball up you feckers’ by way of insight…
22:59 Not that i promise to that much more insightful this evening before you get your hopes up…
23:05 So what does everyone think we need? My own personal opinion is that a lead of 280 is the minimum requirement especially with fitness doubts over Jimmy and Moeen. If we lose a couple of wickets in the first hour, we could be cannon fodder.
23:18 Could be a bit of weather around today, wonder if that might juice up the pitch..
23:25 In other news, Danny should be just waking up now..
23:27:Really interesting comment from Maxie BTL re: BT Sport production. I think in general (from the small bits I’ve seen) is that it’s pretty slick; unfortunately it’s let down by poor personnel choices. I dare anyone to listen to Graeme Swann for half an hour and not feel slightly homicidal. It also shows how good Ian Ward is in my opinion.
23:37 I do have to concede having watched the highlights this afternoon that the Steve Smith innings was something special. With the technique he has honed, it really doesn’t seem logical that he can score runs, let alone be so consistently good but fair play to him, he was a class apart yesterday. Even if he has a tiny head..
23:49 I still randomly like Boycott’s commentary. There I’ve said it, it feels like a dirty secret…
23:58 Here we go then, can England get through the first session unscathed…
00:00 FIRST BALL and left alone
00:02 Alison Mitchell & Punter heading up the commentary. Perhaps Lovejoy has tonsillitis (says a little prayer)..
00:09 I’ve genuinely been amazed that Starc has been identified as the key Australian threat with the ball. For me Hazlewood is their gun bowler, despite his poor show in the first innings. His spell last night was unplayable at times.
00:13 This pitch doesn’t look like it has any demons in it, Root looks in decent touch too. I wonder how much spin might play a part later on. Lyon outbowled Moeen big time in the first innings.
00:18 Ricky Ponting is a very good commentator, no laddish jokes, just insightful opinion. He’ll never get a job on Channel 9 mind.
00:25 Australia’s attack looks a little toothless this morning. The pitch is still slow, but equally England have silenced the crowd in the first half hour. I wonder how long before Cummins is bought into the attack?
00:27 Oh feck, Swann is alive and well and joined by Shiny Toy. Might have to put the TV on mute…
00:32 An update on TLG, he’s just finished his Lambrini in the local park in Sussex and is off for a dirty donner. More on that later…
00:36 First over from Lyon, no real spin so far. Cummins at the other looks far more of a threat. If you’d have offered me this at the start of the day’s play, I’d have snapped your hand off
00:47 Some discontent about scoring rates BTL. I must admit that I’m delighted by this start. We all know that Kookaburra ball goes soft after 20 overs and there’s the option of increasing the scoring rate. I’d be very happy if England batted all day, but then i did worry we’d be blown away in the 3rd innings…
00:49 WICKET: Stoneman edges one off Lyon to slip. Australia’s bowling has looked innocuous all morning, but that was a decent delivery
00:52 TBF to Swann, he has got it spot on there. It was the arm ball at the end of the last over that led to some doubt in Stoneman’s mind. I just wish Swann would concentrate on commentating based on his own experience as a spinner. Rather than trying to be the funniest man in the world.
00:57 England looking nervous after that wicket. Cummins and Lyon both bowling well.
00:59, TLG is back from the park and is ready to take over. He has informed me that he wouldn’t feed Lambrini to his butler but the bottle of Blue Nun was lovely. Anyway, over to Chris…
01:00 Where I live we don’t have parks; we have countryside. Anyway…
Even with the loss of Stoneman, this has been a positive start from England today. They’re pushing for runs, being busy. The point about Root is that if he stays in, he will score. That’s probably the most striking thing about him. Lyon does look dangerous to the lefties though.
01:03 I need to ask a question. Who is reading the updates? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
01:12 Bueller’s taken a day off it seems. 70-3, a lead of 44. At what point will Australia start to get twitchy I wonder. If they put on 50 for this wicket, I suspect they’ll start getting concerned. In a compacted second half of the game like this, smaller numbers count for more.
01:15 Awww Trev….
01:18 WICKET! Malan goes to Lyon. One of those with loop and bounce and turn, that is so hard for the left hander. No blame, but England are 48 ahead and now four wickets down. Root is still there, but someone needs to stay with him.
01:21 Given how hard it is, I suspect Moeen might try and counter attack. Probably not the worst idea either. There are stories going around that he has a problem with his finger, hampering his bowling. The official line is that he was a blister.
01:29 England’s lead is now up to 57, but of course they’ve lost two wickets this morning. Not enough runs, clearly, but neither have they collapsed (yet) so far. Another 100 gives England a slight chance, another 150 and it’s game on. England are well in the game, but it would probably be an idea to build a partnership sooner rather than later.
01:42 Runs are flowing a touch. Both Root and Moeen are playing a few shots – not recklessly, but they’re looking to score. This partnership is 28 from 33 balls, and that has to be what England need to do. It might not come off, but it’s more than worth a go.
01:48 Watching the groundstaff smack down the bowlers’ footmarks reminds me of how we used to wind up the bowlers about their preference for one end. “Oh I can’t bat at that end, it just doesn’t feel right. No, no, I can only bat at the other end. You don’t understand, it’s totally different”.
01:51 I don’t want to tempt fate, but Moeen is starting to tick here….
01:52 50! WICKET! Joe Root out in similar fashion to the first innings, and it looked very, very out on first viewing.
02:01 And that’ll be lunch. 119-5 means a lead of 93, and frankly, it’s not remotely enough. Still two frontline batsmen in of course, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali, the latter of which is clearly itching to go after the Australians. But another 100 would be needed to really make the hosts sweat a little, and that seems a long way off yet. It’s possible mind, it really is possible. But it’s heading towards the outer edge of what’s possible. Hope is the last thing to die…
02:11 Truly joyous moment in the lunch break where Swann berated the England left handers for not formulating a plan against Nathan Lyon while Geoff Boycott adopted his ‘You’re talking total shit, Swann’ expression. “I’m not sure I agree with that….” he politely said.
Keep your eye on Boycott’s expression.
02:30 There’s something particularly endearing about hearing Australians describe the Gabba as the fairest cricket wicket in the world, given how it’s 30 years since they’ve lost a Test there. Irony deficiency is entertaining to watch.
02:38 Players coming back out. This next session is crucial. Crucial I tell you! Or maybe vital. Definitely crucial though.
02:43 Moeen isn’t going to die wondering. First he comes down the track and belts Lyon over long on for four, then he goes down on one knee and nails a sweep through square leg. And the lead goes over 100.
02:55 Interesting to see Australia move a little on the defensive after a flurry of runs after lunch. Fielders disappearing out to the boundary suggests that the hosts are a tiny bit nervous about chasing any kind of reasonable total. 112 ahead.
03:06 This is good stuff from these two. Rotating the strike, picking up the singles, and then Bairstow sashays down the track and plants Lyon over deep midwicket for six. The lead goes to 123, and if Australia aren’t getting nervous yet, there’s definitely a bit of a twitch going on.
03:15 This Test is just starting to get fascinating. These two have turned a disastrous position into one of, well not promise exactly, but possibilities certainly. I’m going to quit while I’m ahead, and leave you in Danny’s company…
0319 Danny here, taking you through the graveyard shift. Promising session so far from England, but years of supporting them has told me that it’s the hope that make it hurt more…
0322 WICKET I think we can all agree that this was thelegglance’s fault. Moeen Ali plays forwards to a Lyon delivery which goes past the bat, and Tim Paine removes the stumps. Australia appeal, and after several replays the 3rd umpire gives him out as his back foot was on but not behind the line.
0335 Woakes is in, but not looking confident so far. England’s lead is just 132 and I fear this game might be over tonight.
0407 Australia keeping England very quiet, but no more wickets have fallen. Smith comes on to bowl, the first time he’s done so in a Test since January this year, which is surprising because Australia have toured both India and Bangladesh since then.
0427 WICKET Woakes attempts to defend a short ball from Mitchell Starc, but it slides off the shoulder of his bat to Smith at second slip. England lead by 159 with 7 wickets down.
0438 WICKET You understand that when batting with the tail, perhaps you should be more attacking. There is such a thing as too attacking though, and a prime example is this shot by Bairstow. Apparently looking to guide a short, wide ball from Starc over the slips, he instead sends it straight to third man with a shot more reminiscent of catching practice than Test cricket. England lead by 168 with 2 wickets remaining.
0444 WICKET 4 balls later from Starc and he bowls a full one outside off stump to Stuart Broad. The batsman plays inside it, and gets the faintest of nicks to the wicketkeeper. The umpire gave it not out, but Australia used a DRS appeal and both there was both a sound and a faint mark on HotSpot so he had to go.
0449 WICKET A bouncer from Cummins to tailender Jake Ball, who gets a glove on it and the ball loops behind the wicketkeeper where Handscomb catches it. England lost their last 4 wickets for just 4 runs, and Australia have a target of 169 runs with a minimum of 32 left in the day.
0509 All that typing has tired me out, so here’s Dmitri to open the Australian 2nd innings.
0510 Cheers Danny. 90 minutes sleep woken up by an absolute turd cold calling my number. I tried to get back to sleep, but gave up and am now assisting our night owl. Anderson’s first over is a maiden.
0513 Mitchell on comms says Warner can make any small total look inadequate through aggressive batting. That’s because that attitude is encouraged. I’ve not seen YJB’s dismissal yet, but he’s being crucified on social media as Cook was last night and all through Saturday. Warner off the mark 1st ball. Bancroft follows him second ball. Warner takes a single third ball. All runs we should not be conceding. A boundary off the 5th ball and you can almost sense a slump in the shoulders. 7/0
0518 I remember the Gabba run chase in 1990. When they won by 10 wickets after we chucked away a decent position. The only time the team with a first innings lead has lost at Brisbane. A beauty fifth ball does not catch the edge. England need an early breakthrough, if that ain’t stating the bloody obvious. 8/0 after the third over.
0524 Better over so far, with a play and miss (and hopeful appeal) by Warner. They know they need to see off Broad and Anderson because the support bowling is a massive drop-off. Maiden for Broad. 8/0. As Mitchell just said.
0527 I’m not sure I can put up with KP’s commentary at this time of the morning. Bancroft squirts one through the gully for a four off the fourth ball. Anderson throws the ball at the opener the following ball but no fuss. End of the over and it is 12/0.
0531 Warner dinks one into the offside off the second ball of Broad’s third over for one. In Nagpur Virat Kohli has just gone through to his 19th test ton and you sense pulling away from Root (with Smith) at the top table of world batting. Broad’s over goes for 1, and it is 13/0. And I have to listen to Ray Winstone missing nuffink.
0535 and if that deep cover wasn’t there it would be 20/0. But anyway, no alarms so far. As i write that there is an LBW appeal fourth ball is too high and isn’t reviewed. One run from the over and it is 14/0.
0539 Bowling well without threatening, and some odd field placings so far, as Warner drops one into the leg side for a single off the second ball. One off that one, 15 for 0. Looks like, at this rate, we’ll be back tomorrow.
0545 Vaughan states the effing obvious that England need a wicket – we need 10 Shiny Toy. Warner takes a single off the third ball. He seems to have rumbled, Shiny, that is that the Aussies don’t rate our change bowlers and are just seeing off the openers. Bancroft takes a sharp single off the last ball to take Australia to 17/0.
0549 Another sharp single off the second ball of Broad’s over. This is annoying me more than anything, as it releases the pressure the bowlers are building, such as it is. A leg bye off the fifth with an appeal that was, sadly, nonsense. And the final ball of the over has another one of those bloody singles. 20/0, Anderson off and Moeen Ali on.
0553: Ali’s first ball is nudged for a single by Bancroft. Plus ca change. KP says Cook is the main concern. Another single off the third ball. Another bloody single off the 5th ball. KP is intimating Cook’s lost his mojo and his drive. Moeen’s first over ends, three runs from it. 23/0.
0557 PUJARA GONE FOR 143. Is that real?
0558 Woakes on for Broad. I don’t think it is a matter of Cook (who they are talking about) not caring, it’s that he is in decline. Appeal from behind the wicket off the fourth ball, but it’s not out. Maiden from Woakes. 23/0 from 12 overs. Minimum 22 to go. Sod off Kamara.
0602 Another bloody single off the third ball, again straight to a fielder. This is like the Old Jos, and no-one is mentioning it. After saying that Bancroft doesn’t know whether to stick or twist, Swann is made to look a little silly as the opener smacks a straight six. 30/0.
0606 Warner pulls the second ball of the over for a couple. He might not have hit a boundary but looks very comfortable to me. Nicks/glides the next one for four through third man. Actually probably a great shot. Cook “won’t say boo to a goose” says Lovejoy, which, I am sure, is why he should have remained captain for all those years. Warner has another single to point. I see it is the Buckethead Army this year as a promotion – it was Boony Army when I was out there. I love Aussie advertising. 37/0
0610 Excitement Machine Warner is tied down, but then cuffs a shot down the ground for four. I can sense the Moeen debate resurfacing. A single off the last ball and it is 41/0. And after my typing torrent, it is the more measured words of Danny for the rest of the day’s play. Get me a wicket Danny!
0615 I have to say that my last spell was terrible for England, so I wouldn’t expect anything.
0626 8 runs off the last Moeen Ali over, but it looks like Australia are happy to play steadily and come back tomorrow to finish things off.
0640 Nope, that’s all I can stand tonight, I’m off to bed.
1010 Dmitri back again with the end of play / chronic lack of sleep round-up. Danny will be producing a more full review of the day, so I thought I’d get in my twopenny worth.
This was stunningly predictable. I think something, a little bit, should be made about the lack of preparation on suitable playing surfaces and oppositions, because the team came in cold. That only goes so far. The players want shorter tours, they are on a treadmill and so on. The second, and much more important point, is that the team picked was so predictably going to pull up short. There’s not a lot that can be done about that either. The new intake are not as good as the old stagers, and it is showing. Stoneman, for instance, is getting praised to the hilt for basically giving us Michael Carberry returns. Vince makes 83, but that second innings dismissal didn’t look like a number 3 to me. Malan is going to tempt us, but fall short. We are greeting 50s like hundreds. And the world and his wife can see four right arm seamers is not the greatest variety. But let’s have the full inquest on another day.
Australia played really sensibly and not a lot could have changed the outcome once chasing a small total like this. What ground my gears is the way the two openers early in the innings were allowed to milk singles straight to fielders with no real chance of a run out. If we did that at schoolboy cricket we’d be told off. Come in a few paces. It’s just me, then.
Also, pace made the difference? I’m not totally buying that. The tail have taken to Starc and Hazlewood before so why worry now? One silly shot from YJB and everyone is in meltdown about the tail? Small sample size. Let us judge at the end of the tour.
So, in the words of Norwegian electronic music stars Royksopp, the Inevitable End will take place within an hour of the start of play and Australia will go 1-0 up. After the lack of sleep, was it all worth it. Of course it was, because for 3 and a half days it was a thoroughly absorbing test match. That’s the really important thing. There’s not a lot better in sport. The result is probably the cricket equivalent of the rugby international the week before. The better team won, the margin of victory could look a little flattering.
Wake up Danny (actually don’t, stay asleep). You review is awaited. I know I share my co-editors’ views that we owe our new man a lot for staying up through the night and producing the updates. Live blogging seems to have gone down well. We will see what we can do in the next tests.