I Won’t Forget A Single Day, Believe Me

Whilst England were in the process of finishing the year on a high in Melbourne (#39’s words and not mine), something a lot more important for the fate of Test cricket was happening in South Africa. For the first time since 1973, there was a four-day Test match. Whilst Zimbabwe collapsed in an embarrassing heap and lost within two days, it gives us the clearest idea yet of what the future holds for cricket’s longest and oldest format.

In October, the ICC agreed to allow four-day Tests for a trial period until 2019. The main argument made at the time by ICC chief executive Dave Richardson was that it would help the smaller Test nations like Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Ireland to find gaps in the schedules to get them much-needed games. In reality, it’s obviously all about money. Many Test series are not particularly profitable, and cutting the length of the games also reduces the costs for the home board.

The game in Port Elizabeth, whilst massively one-sided, did give us a look at the playing conditions for the latest variation of Test cricket. The main highlights of these are that play is extended by half an hour with 8 extra overs, and the follow-on target is reduced from 200 to 150.

In all of the arguments which have been made in favour of shortening Test matches, none of them appear to even come close to suggesting that it will make Test cricket more satisfying for people to watch. Really the only compelling case I have seen is that it might make the difference between teams scheduling one Test match or none.

Win, Lose Or Draw. But Mainly Draw.

The most obvious downside of four-day Tests is that it would appear likely to increase the number of drawn matches. Drawn games, particularly when there seems no prospect of any other result, are arguably the worst thing about the format. You can just look at the reaction from journalists and fans to the lifeless pitch in Melbourne.

Nick Hoult’s article in the Telegraph says that roughly 58.25% of the 794 Test matches from 2000 onwards went into the fifth day, and during that period only 23.30% of games ended in a draw. This means that potentially as much as 34.95% of Test matches over the past 18 years, 277 games where a team won on the fifth day, would have instead been a draw if they had instead only had four days.

Of course things are not necessarily this clear-cut. It doesn’t factor in the 32 extra overs that could be bowled in days one to four, or the teams using more aggressive tactics whilst trying to achieve a result. Conversely, teams who are outmatched could perhaps be more likely to try to hold out for a draw than go for a win or collapse when all hope is lost.

There are things you can do to increase the likelihood of a result within four days, but it’s unclear whether the ICC has the will or ability to enforce them. The most obvious solution would be to play every game on a pitch which helps the bowlers, but for this to happen the various cricket boards around the world would have to cede some control of their home grounds and I just can’t see that happening.

One way of inducing results would be to copy the County Championship which already has four-day games, where the points system is used to motivate teams to play aggressively. A team which wins half of their games and loses the other half would get 42 more points than a team which had 14 draws. A team has to score at 3.64 runs per over in their first innings to collect the maximum number of batting bonus points, which may make batsmen more likely to play risky shots and therefore lose their wicket.

But for all of these measures, 24 out of the 56 games in Division 1 last year ended in a draw. There are some reasons why this would happen which wouldn’t relate to Test cricket. The majority of matches are played at the beginning and end of the season, when they are more likely to be interrupted by rain. They’re also more likely to be on used or sub-par pitches with the better ones being reserved for televised games. But the fact that over 42% of games in a competition with four-day games end in a draw is hardly a compelling reason to roll it out for international cricket.

I also have my doubts about whether the use of points would have much effect on international teams. Fans, players and administrators never seem to care about the current ICC Test rankings system unless their team is in first place. There is a new ICC World Test Championship being introduced in 2019, but in its first two years it will be restricted to five-day Tests only. Even if it did allow shorter games, I have my doubts whether anyone would risk losing to force a result within the allotted time. That simply isn’t how any Test team approaches the game.

All of which is to say that it’s a dumb idea. It makes Test matches cheaper, shorter, and almost undeniably worse. If Test cricket is to be made more popular and therefore more profitable, surely the emphasis has to be on making it better to watch. Otherwise, what’s the point? We might as well consign it to the dustbin of history and get used to a future of T10 cricket.

So on that cheery note, we at BOC wish you all a Happy New Year! Enjoy yourselves tonight, and we’ll hopefully all see you again in 2018.

UPDATE – Just to emphasise, and the last few days have not changed things, I am so grateful for all the support this year, and wish everyone all the best for 2018. I apologise for not doing my usual roll call of commenters, but I think you might understand why. I am looking forward and dreading 2018 in equal measures, but what matters most is the great community we have, the vibrant blog, the excellent writers, the new talent (see above) and the ethos carrying forward. All the very best to you and yours, from Honolulu to New Zealand, South Africa to Quebec, Kyoto to Santa Catarina.

Dmitri.

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If a Wicket Falls and Everyone is Asleep, Did it Really Happen?

So there we go, the pitch ultimately won, as always seemed likely, and Australia batted out the day comfortably in the end.  The only point at which it livened up was when David Warner played what must count as one of the worst shots of his entire career, and Shaun Marsh was unlucky enough to get a genuinely good ball.  At effectively 16-4, Australia were in some trouble.  But that was as rocky as it got, and while the play was as turgid as the pitch, it was also a masterclass in saving a Test match.

Probably the area where England do deserve some credit is how well they bowled on the second day, for Australia’s first innings total was ultimately some way below par.  England’s response was excellent, and of course Cook’s innings extremely fine, but the degree of comfort with which Australia batted out the day placed all before it in context.  Losing half a day to poor weather was unfortunate, but there were few indications that it made that much difference given England bowled 124 overs for just four wickets second time around.

On the plus side, England arrested a run of seven consecutive away defeats, although it’s still only their second draw in ten, and likewise a run of eight consecutive away defeats in Australia.  These are pretty small crumbs of comfort and the backdrop of that is hardly cause for much celebration.  Moeen Ali has been fundamentally poor this whole series, and while it’s not so surprising that he’s struggled with the ball, he’s also had problems with the bat.  He must be vulnerable for the final Test, and how responsible his finger injury may be is open to question.  It would hardly be the first time England have picked a player who is unfit and then been surprised they haven’t done well.  England’s batting problems have been presumably the reason for reluctance to pick Mason Crane, but the same old question arises – what is the point of him being on the tour if the primary spinner is struggling so badly that Root and Malan are the ones turned to on the final day.  To put it another way, had either Adil Rashid or Samit Patel been available – and never forget they were both discarded summarily, and it seems not for cricketing reasons – it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t have been brought in, if only because both can bat.

Other than that, Stuart Broad was much improved this time around, and while he remains as divisive a character as ever, he was admirably frank about his own shortcomings this series, only to see his words deliberately misinterpreted and used against him in yet another tiresome jab from the Australians.  George Dobell called out the “bullshit” in an unusually annoyed article that rightly mentioned all the times England have been equally guilty of it.

Melbourne usually provides a good Test, and a result.  Here they clearly got the surface preparation wrong, and it ended up the kind of wicket certain to kill any interest in the game and drive viewers to the Big Bash with batsmen unable to score freely and bowlers unable to take wickets.  They’ve had plenty of criticism for that, but c’est la vie, it’s not a normal state of affairs, and in truth England should be grateful for it, as on the showing so far, that was the only way they were going to avoid another pasting. 

Maybe that’s harsh, but with Starc back for Sydney, and a more responsive pitch, it is surely not unlikely normal service will resume.  How Cook performs will be intriguing, not in that it should be expected he repeats a double century, but if he looks as good at the crease as he did in Melbourne.  He’s a funny player in so many ways, when he’s technically off he looks truly dire, and it’s unusual to see a player so visibly battle his technique on such a regular basis.  The SCG will have more pace (not hard) and it may answer a few questions about how much he’s changed his game.  Here he appeared so much more upright in head position and balance.  Irrespective of series position of preposterous media response, that’s as good as he’s looked technically in three years.

After the game there were the usual platitudes from both sides, and the usual statements of regret at not winning, but above all else it was just dull, viewers drifting off to sleep in Australia, let alone England.  

Grateful as they may be for it, 3-0 down with one to play is no position of joy.  The torture tour is not over yet.

It Never Rains But it Pours

There wasn’t too much play at the MCG in the end, and what there was proved to be inconclusive.  England are now the only side that can realistically win the match, but a draw is now possibly the most likely outcome. Perhaps though the series to this point colours perceptions, were England in this position, doubtless the expectations would be different, given Australia will likely need to bat into tea to make the game reasonably safe.

In what play there was, England extended their innings by one ball -Anderson being dismissed – and then picked up a couple of wickets before Warner and Smith saw out the day on a surface that is slow and unresponsive.  England certainly tried to get as much out of it as possible, working furiously on the ball, and trying the age old trick of flinging it via the ground at every opportunity in the field in an attempt to create reverse swing.  There was a marvellously manufactured row from Australian television attempting to imply Anderson was digging a nail into the ball, which sadly foundered on the reality that if he was doing so, it was to the shiny side – i.e. the wrong one – meaning that Anderson would have to be the dimmest nefarious cricketer since Herschelle Gibbs.

Of course, Cook’s double century continued to cause debate and, let’s face it, abuse, particularly given the shortage of play and lack of decisive action.  So here’s a cut out and keep guide to the stupidity of the low quality “debate”:

You just can’t give Cook any credit whatever can you?

Um, well apart from saying repeatedly how well he batted and how good an innings it was.

Yes, but you said it’s irrelevant in a dead rubber, don’t deny it.

No, it’s not irrelevant.  Some fabulous innings have been made when a series is gone – Mark Butcher at Headingley, Brian Lara’s world record at St John’s.  In both cases, that series irrelevance was pointed out as a qualifier, mind, however unfair might have been.  And regret that it hadn’t come earlier in the series.  Oddly enough Cook himself said the same thing, he’s obviously frustrated as well as proud. This shouldn’t be too hard to work out, saying it’s meaningless is stupid, saying it’s the greatest and most vital innings ever is equally stupid.

There you go then, you don’t think it matters.

Of course it matters, England were heading for a whitewash.  His knock means that’s now not going to happen and England have shown some fight.  And every Test matters, so well done him, and goodness me, didn’t he bat well?  Irrespective of surface and Starc not playing, that’s the best he’s looked in years.

You just can’t give him any credit at all can you?

We keep saying we are, aren’t you listening?  The reaction from some quarters – knighthoods, pantheon of greats and all that – is a bit over the top though, surely?

See, there you go again, it’s all about Kevin Pietersen.

What?

It is, don’t deny it.

It’s you who keeps bringing him up.  You seem obsessed with this subject far more than anyone else.  

And that’s why you wanted Cook dropped.

Here’s a curious thing.  Nuance is no longer allowed it seems.  This place has been pointing out Cook’s struggles and declining returns for a couple of years, and expressing concern for this series that while England needed him badly to perform, the evidence suggested he probably wouldn’t. But after three Tests, those now screaming with delight were saying he was probably done and should retire.  Those great Cook haters at BOC kept saying this was absurd, he was still one of our two best openers by a distance, irrespective of his struggles.  Losing him weakens the side, why would that anyone who wants England to do well want that?

It’s just about you hating him.

Can’t you read? Has any of that gone in?

You never give him any credit for anything.

He’s been a terrific player, and England’s best opener in a long time, why is that not enough?

There you go, proof you loathe him, qualifying that statement.

Sorry?  What is wrong with that? It’s significant praise.

No it isn’t, it’s grudging.  No credit whatever.

Because we might not think he’s England’s best ever batsman ?  That’s what the problem is?

Clear hatred.

Let’s get this straight, saying he batted really well this Test is not enough, saying he’s a very fine opening batsman indeed is not enough?

You just can’t bear seeing him succeed.

No, what the problem is, is the endless hagiography, the use of Cook as a weapon to beat up everyone who points out double standards, the media treatment of him as an exceptional case and the sheer hypocrisy of it all.  Cook isn’t responsible for that, others are. Why on earth can’t you just be pleased?  Why is it an excuse to win on the internet?

There’s loads of hatred for him on Twitter.

Yes, there is.  Since when has Twitter ever been anything else?  You do realise there’s loads of hatred on Twitter for others too, right?

So what do you have to say about that?

You mean we’re responsible for the stupidity of others?  Blimey.  Is that all stupidity, or just where it applies to Cook?  You have seen the stick others get haven’t you?

It’s not the same.  Cook is one of England’s greatest ever.  

Isn’t this debatable?  Isn’t this something that is rather open to question given the records of others?  He’s been the best opener England have had in a fair while, that’s pretty clear.

Qualifying it again, that’s just like you.

Of course it needs qualification.  Doesn’t everything need qualification?  This is madness, an insistence at genuflecting at the altar of greatness without any context, either for this innings or a career.

I rest my case.  You’re furious he’s done well.

No, we’re furious at the over the top response to him doing well.  Can’t you see the difference?  What’s wrong with praising him for doing well and observing when he hasnt? 

It’s nothing more than abuse, you scumbag.

Sigh. Ok, you win.



Being a writer down might be considered unfortunate, being two is unquestionably careless.  Sean you utter idiot! But it did make us laugh.

Day five is a chance for England to register a win on a tour that has proved a disaster to date.  Should they do so, it doesn’t undo that, but nor is it an irrelevance. It does highlight what was said in the build up to the series, that for England to compete, they needed their main batting guns to fire.  Cook has done so here, and now they’re in a very strong position.  Of all the people thinking if only he’d done it earlier, no one will be feeling it more strongly than Alastair Cook himself.  And that’s kind of the point isn’t it?

Blog Stress

I’m sure many read what Peter wrote earlier, and to be absolutely honest I have nothing whatever to say about that specifically.  That’s not because I don’t care, just the opposite, but it’s because I have far too much respect for him to make any comment on it.  But I will talk about some things generally, and in terms of what we try to do and have tried to do.

Having several of us unquestionably helps.  There are times when you simply don’t feel anything, when you know that if you try and write something it’s going through the motions.  Oddly enough, this is where some sympathy has to rest with the professional journalist – no matter how good they are, there will be days when they effectively phone it in.  But they still need to do it, it’s their job, even if it’s one of those days.  It’s why personally I find it a bit hard to leap on one article from someone who is generally good.  They’ll have some days where they are better than others, and everyone in every role suffers from that, and sportsmen are always a good example, as when they have absolute stinkers it’s rather obvious to a huge number.

But with a blog we can always choose not to write.  Just as if we write drivel people can choose not to read.  But for all of us it’s an unusually stressful hobby some of the time.  Staying  permanently angry isn’t possible (or healthy), and weariness is much the enemy of posting up anything interesting.  

We all feel like it sometimes, and others we feel energised.  Sometimes it’s still terrible of course, and probably the only upside to that is that it really doesn’t matter all that much in the great scheme of things, because most of the time people silently say that to themselves and move on.

I hate writing about the blog itself, it feels dreadfully self indulgent.  But being something of a voice in the wilderness, whether us or the community who read and comment, can get us all down, especially those people who wear their heart on their sleeves.

There’s a game of cricket on, and there are people crowing at some kind of victory, not over Australia, but over fellow followers.  Now above all else, this really does make me scratch my head.  In what way can it be a good thing that people who care passionately about a sport are in despair about it, about the direction their national team has gone and about how the uniformity of reporting and lack of critical thinking have been pushed aside?  That is disastrous whichever side it happened to.

People who buy tickets, who go to games, who live and breathe the damn sport, but who now find it hard to care enough about it because of all that it entails.  The peripheral has become the central.  What kind of win would that be, in a sport that is in some trouble in England, that those closest adherents have had enough, that they can’t put up with the crap any more?   Funny kind of winning.

Many people disagree with many of the posts on here.  Fabulous.  It means they care.  Long live people who care.  Because however anyone feels on a particular subject, there have to be those who hold an alternate view, otherwise what’s the point?

Let’s see how England get on tonight.  And let’s ask how it can ever be that an England success causes English hearts to sink, not because of what happens on the field, but because of the reaction off it.  How on earth does it reach that point?

Comments on day four below

4th Ashes Test, Day 3 Review

I’ve missed virtually all of the cricket up until now in this game, having been staying with family over Christmas, so it’s been with great surprise that I’ve been following England’s progress every morning. Keeping Australia contained to 327 runs on a batting track and then posting 192/2 on the second day with Root and Cook still in, this game seemed to be fulfilling the Christmas wishes of quite a few England fans.

The day began how the last one ended, with Cook and Root making slow but steady progress against the Australian bowlers. That partnership ended just before the drinks break, with Pat Cummins making the breakthrough. To quote Dmitri from the live blog (I hadn’t woken up yet), “A pretty ordinary shot. Skies a pull shot and doesn’t convert again. Not really sure what you can say about that. Lyon takes a comfortable catch well in from the boundary.”

This brought in Dawid Malan, who should have been in confident form after his 194 runs in Perth. As it was, both Malan and Cook played somewhat nervously against Lyon and Mitchell Marsh. Why was Marsh bowling, I hear you ask. Because the new ball was due in a few over, and in only his second ball with the shiny Kookaburra Hazlewood dismissed Malan LBW.

Except, and this is almost unbelievable, he edged the ball onto his pad and yet failed to review it. If the replays and Hotspot are to believed, it was a huge edge. Colossal. Basically off the middle of the bat. For the second time in a single innings, England had failed to review a clearly false LBW call. If we were the kind of Cook-hating blog we are sometimes characterized as, I might take this moment to also point out that Cook was at the bowler’s end for both dismissals and could have told both batsmen to review it. Malan might even have been hit outside the line of off-stump. I’m not saying that both wickets were Cook’s fault, but…

Bairstow looked to play aggressively, with both boundaries and missed shots in equal measure. Eventually he top-edged a delivery from Nathan Lyon to the Australian wicketkeeper, and he had to go. Remarkably, this was only the third time Lyon has dismissed a right-hander in the whole series, having taken 17 wickets in total.

The loss of the fifth wicket has typically heralded the beginning of an EnglandTestCollapse, and Moeen Ali didn’t disappoint in that regard. Perhaps taking the view that his T20 batting form was better than his Test batting form, Moeen took the attack to the Australian bowlers. He scored 20 runs off his first three overs, but drove on the up from Nathan Lyon and Shaun Marsh caught it at short cover.

And from there, the promised collapse failed to appear. Chris Woakes mainly blocked the ball whenever possible whilst Cook progressed at his usual pace. Cook had a lifeline just before the midway point of the day, as he pulled a short ball from Cummins to the right of Steve Smith at square leg. The Aussie skipper got his hand to it but couldn’t keep it in his grasp, and for the second time in the innings he had dropped England’s opener. A few overs later England passed Australia’s score of 327, and the partnership progressed fairly smoothly though to Tea. Woakes was probably a little lucky to still be in though, after edging a ball between keeper and slip.

Cummins managed to get Woakes out shortly after the break, with the England allrounder gloving a bouncer from Pat Cummins to Tim Paine. This brought debutant Tom Curran to the pitch, but not for long as he got a fine edge. It was given not out by the umpire, but the Aussies reviewed and Hotspot showed a clear mark and he had to go. On a sidenote, Hotspot in this game has been much better than in the past few games. I seem to remember several instances where the thermal images showed nothing and the umpires had to rely on Snicko instead. Maybe they messed up the calibrations or something up until now?

This brought Broad to the crease, where he received his traditional welcome of bouncers. Lots of them. He looked nervous, wearing one on his shoulder and edging a few over the slips. He somehow survived though, and Cook’s steady accumulation carried on as he passed the double century with a drive down the ground for four. Broad was clearly waiting for his partner to pass the milestone, as he suddenly started swing at everything with at least some success including hitting Lyon for a six.

A few overs before the end of play, Broad got a top edge on a wild slash outside stump which just about reached Usman Khawaja running in from third man. The umpires gave it out, despite the Australian fielder indicating that he had bobbled it and that it should be reviewed. The soft signal appeared crucial, as the replays suggested that the ball had probably hit the ground at some point but there was no conclusive shot of it doing so. As with most reviews, the decision favoured the umpires’ original decision and Broad had to go.

Cook and Anderson both held on until close of play, with England’s opener hitting another milestone in the last over for a second day in a row. This time he overtook Brian Lara on the all-time Test runs leaderboard, taking him to 6th overall. England finished on 491/9, a first innings lead of 164 over the Aussies.

This is, remarkably, Cook’s second double century this year. It’s dragged his series average up to 54.50 (although that may fall if he loses his wicket tomorrow) and he’s now England’s top scorer. Looking at England’s batting statistics over the past year, you can see a marked difference between Root and Cook. In his 19 innings, Root has reached 50 ten times including 2 centuries, making a contribution in virtually every game he plays in. Conversely, Cook has only managed to pass 50 four times but on two of those occasions he went on to pass 200. The debate is like the one comparing Anderson and Broad. Anderson is reliably good in most games, whilst Broad is great in a few games but often innocuous.

On a personal note, whilst great for the England team and of course as fans we’re happy, Cook’s innings has meant that both Sean and I have lost our bets with cricket trader James Fenn. I bet that no England player would pass 160 in an innings, whilst Sean bet that Cook would average less than 25 in the series. Let this be a lesson to you all, never bet with a cricket trader!

As always, feel free to comment on the game or almost anything else below.

I Know I’m Not A Hopeless Case – Day 3 Live Blog

 

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Welcome to tonight’s live blog for as long as it goes for me. Having had a long afternoon sleep with this cold, I am not getting to proper sleep for a good while yet, and it’s always better to blog the England batting than the Australian. We start the day with England 135 in arrears with 8 second innings wickets standing, a twitterati who couldn’t wait to give it all that, a social media cadre too busy fighting four year old battles all too keen to give it back, and so on and so forth. Meanwhile there’s a perfectly good game going on, and a match to win.

England won a so-called dead rubber in 1998/9 (although that bought us back to 2-1 with 1 to play as the Ashes had gone) and it didn’t feel like it when Dean Headley had the spell of his life. England won a so-called dead rubber in 2003 in Sydney, when the Aussies were without Warne and McGrath and it didn’t feel like it. So it’s a bit cheeky to pick and choose that this is a dead rubber. That isn’t particularly fair. It’s a bit cheeky to pick the lack of Starc and a fit Cummins, and use it against Cook. But we have been a bit cheeky throughout the last few years, so why stop now? Or maybe that team we beat in those two “dead rubbers” had all time greats coming out of their ears. Cricket is never a perfect match, a like for like. And attitudes change too.

So join me, Dmitri, if you want for the first hour or two and see where we go. Suffer with me, the blogging antichrist! The only bleep test I’ll be doing is putting 10p in a jar each time I swear in the earshot of the beloved in the New Year! The only cult I’ll be joining is the Paddington Bear appreciation society. The only time I’ll be back to my best is when I’m fighting four year old battles. Love it.

23:00 I don’t know about you, but we’re all a little bit too cocky at the moment. Best exemplified by this Broad wibble…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/42491916

“I deserved criticism after the Perth defeat,” added the 31-year-old, who has 397 Test wickets and sits second on England’s all-time list.

“Since then, I’ve had one of those weeks where you get your tin hat on, duck down and don’t really see much. I’ve been very unaware of things been written or said.

“I’ve gone to that place where you have to go as a sportsman, where you find something within yourself, get support from people around you and build yourself back up again.”

Broad has been poor this tour and now he’s played well for a day or so. Now he’s got a bit of a spring in his step. Three games too late.

23:07 Interesting Cook interview. But I’ll keep my thoughts to myself.

23:23 Shiny Toy, who said 327 was a good score yesterday, is now saying we should bat the day out today. He’s winging it. Big time winging it.

23:25 In my opinion, with this start, and an Australia dealing with gastro issues, we should be looking at 400 minimum, 500 par. Bat out the day, at a half reasonable rate and it is game on. Let’s see.

23:30 Jackson Bird opens the bowling and Cook gets a single off the second ball of the day. Root is on 49 and has just one slip with some short fielders straight (ish). A dab to point off the last ball of the over gets Root to 50. 194 for 2.

23:34 Hazlewood on from the other end. Root clips him off the hip to midwicket for one off the first ball. 22 overs to the new ball. Hazlewood comes around the wicket for Cook. Probing line first up. Mitchell saying he (Cook) takes pride in coming out of the well, with no recognition that his place in the team is totally solid and has been for ages. Edges the last ball of the over into the ground and over finishes at 195 for 2.

23:39 Bird getting some shape. Conversion rate Klaxon from Mitchell. Bird’s 5th delivery is whipped off his legs by Root who hustles for 2. Over finishes at 197 for 2. Back in 2 minutes!

23:45 I suppose we have to put up with the eulogies for Cook. I’ve genuinely never heard the like of it for many a year. A bit of a streaky drive through backward point gets Cook 3 and it is 200 for 2. First betting advert is Ladbrokes tonight. The fishing celebration that if it happened in my day, someone would be getting lamped afterwards.

23:47 Bird carries on. Last ball was under 80 mph. The commentary is full Cook tribute at the moment, as the talismanic, well respected opener bats out a maiden.

23:50 Hazlewood gets Root to edge into the ground first ball of the 63rd over. The speedo says he’s at around 86mph at the moment. Appeal for a legside strangle after the third  ball, but not reviewed, but it smashed the thigh pad. 4th ball getting a bit of shape into the batsman (Root), as Hazlewood might be getting a little reverse? Another maiden keeps it at 200 for 2.

23:55 Shiny Toy on now. Cook starts with a lovely drive for no runs and a nice whip off his legs straight to the fielder. Another lovely shot into the V off the third, but again no runs. Warner was rotating the strike with shots like that. And again off the fourth ball. A leg whip to fine leg gets the first run for three overs. Cook 109, England 201 for 2.

00:00 Happy 28th December in the UK. Hazlewood continues, around the wicket to Cook. A drive slightly uppish through the covers gets Cook two runs. Actually wasn’t that uppish. Hazlewood getting a little bit of reverse again, bowling very tightly. Reminds me of my nephew, facially, if a bit older (my nephew is 7). 2 off the over, 203 for 2, Cook 111.

00:05 Root strokes Bird through the covers for 3 off his second ball of the over. Lovely shot. Cook gets a wide one and cuts it behind point for 4. 210 up. Off Nelson. Geoffrey isn’t going to recommend Bird signing for Yorkshire! Cook prods the last ball for 2 and it’s 212 for 2. Cook on 117. Up to his 23rd highest test score (early in his career he had a lot of low hundreds).

00:09 Here is Pat Cummins, a day after the illness.  First ball was 80.5 mph. Another really good hit day yesterday, we’ve been blessed in the last month. Thanks to you all. Cummins’ third ball (85 mph) whipped through the legside for a single by Root. Fourth ball, left alone, was a click under 84 mph. Cook knocks one behind point for a single, and moves on to 118. Root on 57. Last ball played back, and was nearly 87 mph. 214 for 2.

00:14 Here comes Nathan Lyon. England imploded to him on Day 3 last time out, if I recall. Cook whips one to midwicket, hitting it cleanly but no run off the second ball. Not leaving a lot, is Alastair. Bit “splicey” on the 5th ball, but no harm done. Maiden completed. 214 for 2. 22 runs in 46 minutes so far. But no wickets.

00:18 Cummins for his second over. Anyone at work tomorrow? Is it Thursday tomorrow? Root plays a gorgeous late dab through backward point for four off the second ball of the over. Root into the 60s. Third ball of the over slightly hurries Root with an 87 mph delivery. The next one is 87+ too. Is Shiny Toy following this blog – when I mention the speed, he does too?

WICKET – ROOT  Caught Lyon Bowled Cummins 61.  218 for 3

A pretty ordinary shot. Skies a pull shot and doesn’t convert again. Not really sure what you can say about that. Lyon takes a comfortable catch well in from the boundary. 218 for 3. In comes Malan.

00:24 Lyon back to bowl to Cook. Cook cuts for a single to go to 119, which I always remember as a Hilditch (he made it at Headingley in 1985). This wicket is as different as you get from Perth for Malan. Plays the rest of the over out. 219 for 3.

00:27 Root has made two hundreds in his first 11 test matches as captain. Cummins continues. Cook really wants to feel bat on ball, he’s leaving very little. Malan nicks through the slip into the ground for a lovely boundary to start his knock. Cummins now up to 88 mph. Bouncer off the fifth ball. End of the over, and it is drinks. So I can have a couple of minutes off. Enjoyed it so far. Cook looking really good, but Root has to be livid with that shot. Be back soon. 224 for 3. 32 for 1 in the first hour.

00:34 Lyon back to bowl to Cook who nurdles the second ball for a single. The irony of Swann saying Broad pulled up with an injury before Abu Dhabi. Malan dabs a single to leg to move on to 5. 2 off the over, 226 for 3. This is now Cook’s 18th highest score.

00:37 Optimistic appeal by Cummins against Malan which is ignored off his second ball. God Lovejoy is a prick. I can’t abide this clown. Volume down. Fed up with the dull bantz. Fifth ball and Malan hits one to a wide third man straight through gully / fifth slip in the air. Four for Malan, and then gets another boundary with a slightly more convincing prod to a finer third man. 8 off the over, and it is 234 for 3.

00:42 A sharp single for Cook off the first ball and he is on to 122. Malan uses his feet but pushes the ball back off the second ball. He’s keen to try that, but stays on his crease for the third. I make it 00:50 when Lovejoy leaves the box. End of the 74th and it is 235 for 3. And here comes Ray, missing nuffink.

00:45 Cummins carries on, as does Cook who nudges a single to backward square leg. Just passed the 122 he made in Mumbai in 2012 for his 17th best. Next target is 127 made at Old Trafford in 2006. Just realised it’s Mitchell Marsh bowling. Ooops. The future Surrey legend being used up until the new ball. Still managing 82 mph. Volume back up as Lovejoy is gone. One off the MM over and it is 236 for 3.

00:50 Cook pushes another slightly wide Lyon delivery through point for two. Some interest off the 4th ball, off an inside edge which did not go to hand. Cook puts that behind him with another single. Up to 126. 3 off the over. 239 for 3.

00:53 Come on Smith. I’m sick and I’m doing this. Get on with it. Terrific straight drive from Cook for 4. Up to 130. He’s been out on that number twice in tests. Goes past this after a load of twaddle from Marsh is helped down to long leg for a single. 133 against Sri Lanka at Cardiff is next. End of the over 244 for 3. And here comes the Paddy Power ad.

00:59 Maiden from Lyon. I missed it.

01:00 Marsh throws one wide in what is probably his last over for a while, and Malan goes at it. No harm done. Nondescript filth thus far including a short wide one. 244 for 3.

01:04 Lyon bowls the 80th over. Cook takes a single off the first ball. Malan dabs one onto the legside for his 14th run. End of the 80th and it is 246 for 3. New ball being taken.

01:06 Back comes Josh Hazlewood. Second ball with the new ball, and Malan is LBW without a review.

WICKET  MALAN LBW Hazlewood 14   246 for 4

And it looks like he has bloody well inside edged it. What the hell is going on? Bairstow off the mark with a lovely push for three. Cook no doubt ran each run more efficiently. End of the over 249 for 4. I’ll bet my house if there’s an LBW against Cook he’s reviewing it. See also, Stuart Broad.

01:14 Jackson Bird to YJB with the new ball. An innocuous over ends with a glorious extra cover drive by YJB and the score moves to 253 for 4. I really think I knew when I nicked balls, but I’m not going to go mad about it. My good friend Johnny Mitch still has the hump about one I thought  I didn’t hit..

01:19 Cook takes a single off the third ball of the over to move to 133. Crisp on drive by YJB for none off the fourth ball. Tucks the fifth ball for three to get Bairstow into double figures and it 257 for 4. Cook leaves the last ball well alone.

01:22 Bairstow tucks a couple off Bird’s first ball. Hello Q. Nonsense shot off the third ball and lucky not to drag it on. Then he nicks the fourth ball through the gap and gets a boundary. 263 for 4.  That is the end of over score.

01:27 Possibly the last over before lunch when I’ll be calling it a day. Keep the comments coming throughout the night if you want. It’s been fun. Hazlewood is the man with the ball for this over, the 85th of the innings. Cook leaves a ball on height and possibly width off the second. A lot resting on Cook now. Pulls the third ball to long leg for a single, and moves to 134. Bairstow leaves a couple quite close to him, but that is lunch.

Two wickets lost in the session, with England making 72 for 2. Cook added 30 to his total, and looked pretty solid. Hazlewood is the main threat, though Cummins is looking back to himself. Well poised. Good night everyone.

With My Undying, Death Defying, Love For You…. 4th Test, Day 2

Cook Love Letter

Alastair Cook made a test hundred. Against Australia. I’m not sure anything else is really needed, is it?

No. I’m not going to let you off that lightly. I have a bit of the old head cold at the moment so I didn’t watch last night. I’m watching the highlights now to see how it went. I’ve also got the whole of the day’s play on the hard drive so anyone who wants a copy of the hundred, please let me know!

I woke up this morning, having followed the action through broken sleep, to see Alastair Cook had completed a century, England are 192 for 2 chasing 327, and that Root is one more run from entering the conversion zone. I am sure there are many out there who think this has me clenching my fist in rage, anger that Cook has “proved me wrong” and that there is still life in the old opener yet. Anger that I can’t quote the no hundreds in 36 Ashes innings or whatever it is. That I’ve been shown up yet again by the master England batsman. I genuinely didn’t wake up feeling like that. I was genuinely pleased we’d bowled out the Australians for a wholly inadequate score, and that we have got a great base to take on a big first innings lead, put the Aussies under pressure and avoid a whitewash. For me, as it is for Alastair, it is all about the team position. England had a magnificent day.

It started with Tom Curran getting Smith to drag on for 76. That opened the floodgates a little. Marsh M, this winter’s Karun Nair, followed soon after, dragging on. Tim Paine went a bit later, dragging on. We can go on about bowling dry in a negative sense quite a lot but England applied a lot of pressure to a sporting team that have to attack, and the run rate was stagnant for long periods, so they can get impatient and wish to impose their will. It’s in their sporting psyche to do so. England stuck to their guns, took out the tail, kept Shaun from making a big one, and having not taken a wicket on a road yesterday before lunch, we took 10 for just over 200 in the intervening period (checks – 205 runs). That was an outstanding performance of discipline, persistence and a little bit of good fortune that we were probably due.

The good fortune extended to the afternoon and evening sessions. With Starc out and Bird replacing him, the Anderson jibe that the bowling strengths in depth in Australia weren’t all they are made up to be could be being proved right. That Pat Cummins wasn’t right was also a fair result too. No sympathy is given to England when this happens and this should certainly not be reciprocated. The point then is that with advantages like this, with a flat deck, with a lovely outfield, an ailing bowling attack is to cash in. Really good players do that. Alastair Cook, when he pulls his technique together, is a really good player. He cashed in. Joe Root is a really good player, and he’s off to a very decent start. England need them both to cash in for a really big one. As I write this, Cook has passed 50 on the highlights, and it is pointed out that it’s his first 50 of the series. More on this a little later.

Stoneman got a start again, looked decent against the opening bowlers, and then gave it away to Lyon. Vince got a decent start, and was then out LBW when it looked like he nicked it (and he didn’t review). Cook got a piece of fortune on 66 when Smith dropped him off Mitchell Marsh. Cricket is a game of fine lines and fate many times, and you grab this with both hands if you are good enough. Stoneman may be running out of chances, Vince is going to be the man who promises you the world, but will let you down, and Cook is the one who can make you really pay. He scored at a really fluent rate, he looked so much better, with so much more confidence and aura. Chris thinks he’s seen some major technical shift – he can explain – but this was a good, important hundred.

So tomorrow will start with England in a good position but with a lot of work to do. Can Cook make it another double, another big one? Can Root convert? Will Malan carry on his Perth form on a polar opposite wicket? How about YJB? Can Moeen save his tour with the bat. One thinks we might need three or four of these to happen. England need a lot more than a 100 run lead in my view.

So that’s the cricket. We should be pleased if we are England fans. We should relish the chance to stick one to the Australians at their biggest test match. While it is perfectly reasonable to point out the limitations of the attack, the possibility the Aussies have eased off the gas, that the series is a dead rubber, we must also recognise in previous incarnations we haven’t lifted ourselves, players deserted or were injured, and England got whitewashed. So while the article headlined “Nice of you to turn up at last” is harsh, it isn’t entirely fair. But I have to say when I see absolute rot like this tweet, you wonder why I (and others on here) get angry:

He scored the square root of nothing on this tour thus far. He hadn’t scored an Ashes ton since January 2011. So if you weren’t a doubter I would suggest that there’s something amiss in your statistical analysis. This came from nowhere. Instead of enjoying it, this lot, and others had to make a point.

For the haters and naysayers. That’s what we’ve become. You are either with him or against him. If you criticise his performance, his captaincy, his role in the debacle four years ago and its aftermath, may you be slapped down. May you be damned, you haters. May you never speak again, May your view never be aired again. He’s made a hundred now. Shut up.

That’s it. A few days ago Tom Harrison, in an interview covered in detail by George Dobell, basically said there was nothing to see here when it came to this Ashes. That winning in Australia is difficult because of home advantage. That because the money is now taken care of, and we aren’t a national embarrassment at white ball cricket any more, we are in a safe place, a nice place, a place to build upon and make hay when the sun shines. The complacency was immense, as teeth itching as Downton calling the 2013-14 series a “difficult winter”. The media fell asleep at this wheel. Nothing to bother their pretty little heads about, concerned more with what he didn’t say about Stokes than what he did say about how great Tom Harrison was while we lost the main test prize we seem to care about.

An Alastair Cook ton when the series has gone is the cricket pundit equivalent. It’s a wonderful moment for him, to end a barren run, to end a personal nightmare. It’s come in a cause for the team, and they’ll be delighted. It’s lifted the fans out there, who have paid good money to go there and have a great day. It’s been a super day. It doesn’t paper over the cracks. Today the media did what they always did. Always do. Team Alastair. Love letters. Personal feelings. If you have the temerity to disagree you are the haters. You are the naysayers. You have been proved wrong.

And you wonder why we find it hard to support England. Look at a day like today. I woke up feeling pretty pleased for Cook. Now I feel he’s the useful tool again. That’s the current England set up. You might want to come back inside? You aren’t allowed. This is Cook’s world and if you doubt him, you aren’t allowed in. Once again, he’s the lightning rod. Those who hate us, who feel we are disloyal will never understand. Just when you thought the schism was potentially going to be healed, it had to be spoiled. It’s just the way these days. Forget him, it is Cook who divides English cricket down the middle.

Comments on tonight’s play below. If I feel up to it, with this poxy head cold, I might live blog the early exchanges. I quite like watching England bat. Maybe we need to turn down the Twitter feed. Maybe someone should have a word with the person who put that GN tweet up.

4th Ashes Test, Day One

It’s perhaps a measure of the impressive awfulness of England’s tour that the Boxing Day Test, a clear highlight of the cricketing calendar, felt a low key affair.  In Australia it certainly wasn’t, for pummelling the Poms is always going to have a certain appeal.  But from the English perspective, finishing off Christmas Day with a bit of cricket into the early hours has always had a slightly magical quality to it.  Of course, the true highlight of that in recent years was the 2010 match where England skittled the hosts for under 100 and finished the day well ahead and with all ten wickets intact, described at the time as being arguably the most one sided day of Test cricket in history.  Hyperbole maybe, but a special day nonetheless.  

Indeed, it was sufficiently good as a memory that the ECB also thought it worth mentioning in their build up, a reminder of those times when a 5-0 battering was an exceptional event that could be explained by being up against a truly great side bent on revenge rather than normal service.

This time around, fatalism about the likely outcome was exacerbated by Tom Harrison happily proclaiming that all was generally well and the small matter of a likely series hammering was just one insignificant fly in the ointment of the ECB masterplan.  Seven consecutive away defeats are mere bagatelle in this reading of the game and while something is to be said for refusing to panic the clear suggestion that it doesn’t matter overly was astounding, both for what it said about the priorities of the ECB and also for the muted response from the media.  It doesn’t take too much imagination to feel that such a response only a few years ago would have been ridiculed.  And therein lies the biggest problem for English cricket: indifference.  

In terms of the team, suggestions in the press had made about which deckchairs needed to be rearranged but as it turned out, only Tom Curran came in, a replacement for the clearly injured (it often needs highlighting with England that a bowler needs to be missing a limb before they’re considered definitely unfit) Craig Overton.

That meant that Moeen would play, despite being injured and woefully out of form, plus Broad would play, despite being injured and woefully out of form.  To some extent a case can be made that throwing a young player to the lions in a series going dramatically wrong would be grossly unfair, but equally in the case of Mason Crane, it has to be wondered what the point of him being on the tour was.  Putting aside Moeen’s performances for a second, he clearly isn’t fully fit, but England daren’t leave him out because of worries over the batting, while Broad’s ineffectiveness in a place where he has done well even in heavy defeat previously, may be at least partly to do with his health given rumours about knee problems.

Losing the toss on a proper flattie at the MCG wasn’t the ideal outcome, but England had won the previous three tosses without making best use of conditions before, so they could hardly complain.  And in the first hour they were once again poor.  Overall too short (surprise!) they varied that by offering up half volleys and width, allowing Warner to finally get going this series.  It’s repeatedly said that the first ten overs with the Kookaburra ball are vital, and once again England wasted it.  Once again too, they pulled it back somewhat subsequently.  Broad in particular looked better than he has at any time this series, and offered up the rarity of beating the Warner bat.  

Perhaps it wouldn’t have made too much difference, for this surface went beyond being a road, it was more of Bonneville Salt Flats proportions.  England are rather good at drying teams up and restricting the scoring (without looking threatening) and from the second hour onwards for the rest of the day, that was their strategy, one that all bar Moeen seemed able to achieve. 

A century for Warner had seemed a certainty, but England genuinely frustrated him, and on 99 Curran struck for his first Test wicket.  Oh dear.  There are several conflicting issues with wickets overturned for a no ball, firstly that sympathy may be limited for a bowler who can’t keep his foot behind the line (and this was the third England bowler in four years denied a maiden wicket by this means), but also the reluctance of umpires to call a no ball in live play means that a bowler may not know they are overstepping until it gets called when they take a wicket.  It seems hard to believe that he hadn’t bowled one before and not been called because no wicket had been taken.  Curran himself said he had been checking with the umpire on his foot position the previous ball, and it was merely down to putting in extra effort.  Maybe so, but it is a general issue that could really do with being sorted out, it seems unfair on just about everyone, even if it is clearly still the primary responsibility of the bowler.

It didn’t overly cost England, for four runs later Warner was gone, caught behind off Anderson as England appeared to get just a little movement in the air and off the pitch.  Ten overs later, and Khawaja was gone too, the plumbest of lbws to a Stuart Broad in his best spell of the series by far.  It could have been even better too, Shaun Marsh being pinned on the crease first ball for one of those that the bowlers feel aggrieved when it isn’t given, while the batsmen believe they should get the benefit of the doubt. Handily, DRS backs up whichever call the umpire makes, but on such narrow margins can a day rest.

That was the end of England’s success.  They continued to keep it tight, but Steve Smith eased his way to a comfortable, controlled half century, while Marsh too looked in little difficulty.

Given the placid pitch, 244-3 wasn’t that bad a day for England.  They mostly bowled well enough, they certainly exerted reasonable control, and if they didn’t look especially penetrative, well, plus ca change.  A couple more wickets would have made it a very good day for them, but instead they’ll return in the morning to the ominous sight of a well set Smith.

It’s always possible England will grab a few years quick wickets early on, but that has been the case for so much of the series, and not happened.  Should Australia rack up the huge total that appears inevitable, England will be once again under extreme pressure.  Its becoming hard to see it going any other way.

England vs. Australia, 4th Test Preview and Live Blog

 

First of all, I want to echo the thoughts of Dmitri & TLG and take the opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas wherever you are in the world. Thank you once again to those that have read, contributed and commented on the blog in 2017, your support has once again been invaluable.

So, onto the cricket ahead of us and if you hadn’t watched any of the series so far, but had just listened to the thoughts of Empty Suit, then you’d have thought that England had just won the Ashes covincingly this year:

“The health of the game is more than just Ashes series overseas,” Harrison said. “We’ve had record-breaking attendances in domestic and international cricket, changed our governance structure, hosted two global events, won the women’s World Cup and launched a participation initiative for kids. We’ve had a successful entry into the broadcast rights market out of which we have secured the financial future of the game until 2024.

“It’s a shame this series hasn’t gone our way but there’s more to play for over the course of the winter. It’s also important to remember that in every one of the three games England have been in a position where things could have worked out differently.”

I think we can safely translate this as the ECB has plenty of money through our new TV deals and T20 competition, so stuff the fans and stuff the Ashes, as long as the mugs still turn up for the Lords Test next Summer. The lack of accountability and self-awareness, whilst not surprising is still absolutely breathtaking. Jobs for the boys and all that…

As for the next Test itself, there won’t be too many people betting on an England victory, not only as we’ve been consistently outplayed in the first 3 Tests, but also because England’s record in dead-rubber games is pretty appalling. It has been confirmed that Tom Curran will replace Craig Overton for England and Jackson Bird will replace Mitchell Starc for the Australians. Now, from the little I’ve seen of both Curran brothers, I do believe that they have something about them, but again if the MCG is a flat, quick pitch then I’m not sure that Tom Curran will have any more success than England’s other quick bowlers have had in the series so far. There has been some talk of Mason Crane playing, but surely that will only happen if Moeen, despite having a poor series, is injured. Certainly I think throwing Crane into one of the last 2 Tests, will be a form of hari-kari, as the Aussies smashed Yasir Shah to all parts of Australia last winter and Shah is a far better bowler than Crane.

We are going to try and live blog some of this Test and Dmitri will be in place to cover some of the first session, so if a whole day with the in-laws and eating far too much Turkey isn’t enough masochism for one day, then please do join us this evening to see if England can muster some fight in this Test and avoid the dreaded whitewash.

Thoughts and comments below as always…

LIVE BLOG TIME….

OK, Live blog time. Dmitri here for as long as I last. Yet again the media are setting the agenda and Joe Root is now defending himself as captain more than his predecessor had to on the incredible collapsing tour last time out in Australia.

australia-2006-sim-1-118-01.jpeg.jpg

I went to the MCG back in 2006. Victoria v Queensland in a one day cup match. A huge soulless bowl in my opinion. Of course, with a thousand or so in the ground it was always going to be so, but Brisbane gets stick where the “G” doesn’t.

22:58 Hello my hit person from Kyoto. Glad to see BT Sport have Michael Hussey in to replace Ricky Ponting. Hussey speaks far too fast but absolutely loves the game and he could be quite a decent replacement.

23:00 Australia bat first. Steve Smith wins the toss. At least I don’t have an England collapse to report on this evening. Just the one change – Curran in for Overton – and the point made by Shiny Toy in the preview isn’t quite the stupid one it appears. Again, we reward the failures to put it right. That said, we dropped Prior and Root at the tail end of 2013/14 so that worked!

23:08 Damien Fleming seems to think Joe Root won the toss?

23:14 The Voice being murdered again in the background. Absolutely slaughtered.

23:16 That Shiny Toy clip is in this tweet:

23:20 If I may be allowed to let my standards down, but this absolute prick repeatedly gets away with this bollocks. Usman Khawaja is in the Australian team.

He’s been brought up in England, educated in England, hasn’t been to his native country I would imagine for any length of time. It’s not a funny dig, it’s idiotic nativism. I think it’s great that Usman Khawaja, born of Pakistani parents in Islamabad is playing for Australia.

23:22 All good aboriginal stuff. She’s making the most of her two minutes of publicity. The anthems as dreadful as ever. Get on with it.

23:26 Michael Slater. Good luck everyone.

23:27 From James at TFT:

We’d have taken that today!

23:30 Loads of comments that Warner is going to get a ton today. We’ll see. Jimmy Anderson gets us underway with a wide one easily left by Bancroft. A rank ball second up is prodded through the covers for 3 second ball by Bancroft. Warner is a little fortunate off his second ball with a floaty one through gully for another three. 6/0 off the first over.

23:36 Broad gets booed before he bowls. Ah, remember those pious Aussies over Ponting? Never mind. Single for Warner off the third ball (as BT have a funky moment). 7/0 after 2 overs.

23:41 Took a comfort break for most of that over. 3 runs off it. Anderson looking up an down. 10 for no loss. Could be a long one peeps.

23:45 First boundary of the day as Warner punches one down the ground from a full Broad ball. It looks to me as if Broad is floating it up there. He’s made a couple of twos on either side of the boundary. A single off the last straight to mid off (he’s too deep if he’s taking a single to you) makes it 19 for no loss off 4 overs.

23:48 Interesting Tweet on Warner’s flat track bully status:

No matter. Warner punches another four through the covers. Then drops it and a single is taken. The lessons we can learn from this sort of batting go beyond the T20 label. Push it. Run. End of the 5th over and it is 26 for 0.

23:52 First play and miss. Warner beaten by Broad. Call the press. Warner has gone from looking nervous to firm body language in 20 minutes. The commentators are charlatans dealing in cliche. Broad bowls the best over by a mile, calming Warner down with a maiden.

23:55 Anderson hurries Bancroft with an 83 mph short ball. Odd. Second consecutive maiden, remaining 26 for 0.

00:02 Broad fields well to ensure another maiden. 26/0 off 8. Not particularly threatening, but stemmed some of the early bleeding.

00:05 Bancroft again uncomfortable against a shorter ball. Hussey on comms reckons we’ve been a bit short, but when we are full we appear to be a bit “floaty” in my opinion. Fourth maiden on the trot. 26/0 after 9 overs.

00:08 A ball on leg stump ends the 28 balls without a run, as Warner moves on to 22. The only run off the over as Bancroft continues to look edgy. 27/0 after 10.

00:14 Anderson bowls a jollop ball and lets the shackles off Warner.  Broad has been really disciplined this morning, but the genius has been off kilter. 31 for 0 after 11.

00:17 Good grief. Genuine nick, first morning, newish ball, doesn’t carry half way. Let’s hear none of best test wickets in the world from the Australians, eh? Broad bowled well, so far. Bancroft flaps at another short one. I’ve wanted a short leg from the first time that happened, but that’s me. Oh, and now we put one there! Broad goes full off the last ball and Bancroft gets a couple to get his score moving. 33 for no loss after 12 overs. Time for Anderson to have a rest? Looked pretty up and down this morning.

00:22 Woakes replaces Anderson. Sure, it’s a flat deck, but Anderson looked toothless. Broad has bowled and sat in well. Woakes bowls a wide on second up and Warner flaps it for two. Four runs in total from an innocuous opening over from Woakes.

00:27 At the moment I’m staying up only to watch Tom Curran. This is turgid stuff because England are bowling resourcefully with no reward. Broad continues a probing spell. 37 for 0 at the drinks break. Broad completes 7 overs for 13 runs. Sure, no wickets, but this is a flat deck and he kept the batsmen, including Warner when he started his flurry, honest. Outbowled Anderson. But it doesn’t matter when you don’t take wickets.

00:34 Woakes bowls a crap first ball after drinks which Warner wallops for a couple. An appeal off the 4th ball of the over, but too high. Bancroft looks horrific on strike. But he’s still there. 40 for 0.

00:39 Moeen Ali comes on. Tom Curran has to be feeling terrific already. Single off the third ball to Warner. Single milked by Bancroft off the fourth. Last ball is short filth and smashed for four through midwicket by Warner. 46 for 0.

00:42 Woakes bowling. BT sport miss the 4th ball of the over with a range shot (2nd ball they’ve missed today). 3 off the 5th ball as the 2 runs are added after the ball hits the stumps. 50 brought up as Woakes redefines unthreatening.

00:47 Warner pushes another couple through the offside off Moeen. 53 for 0, with Warner on 42. Get Curran on, Root, so I can go to bed.

00:51 Warner creams the second ball off Woakes for a boundary. Woakes going downhill quicker than Frank Klammer. Warner brings up a half-century with a disdainful smash through mid wicket to a ball just outside off stump but a little short. Woakes now gone for 21 in his first three (?) overs. 50 up off 64 balls.

00:55 Good luck Tom. 63 for 0. Flat deck. Warner in. Nice chance to perform. Bancroft a bit streaky off the third ball as he hits over the slips. Curran lucky to be bowling to Bancroft as he’s bowled a wide one, a half volley and got one nicked. With that, folks, I’m winding up the live blog for the evening and going to bed.

It’s a dreadfully flat wicket, England have been woeful on surfaces like this, and Australia are going to make a ton here. See you on the other side!