Australia vs England: 2nd Test, Day Four

Let’s be clear here, Australia should still win this match, and comfortably so.  But England played with skill, tenacity and demonstrated considerable bottle for the first time this series, and gave cause for some small degree of hope that they could pull of the remarkable.  As has been said on so many occasions, it’s never the despair, it’s the hope that gets you.

England needed everything to go right with the ball, and it more or less did.  Anderson post play admitted that England had bowled too short in the first innings – which more than anything else is the reason why England have been in trouble in this match – and both he and Woakes in particular probed away, swung the ball and got their rewards.  Praise for their efforts will of course be tempered with frustration that they didn’t do it first time around, as the position of this game could have been entirely different.  C’est la vie.

So 354 was the target, which would be the tenth highest run chase in Test history.  It was indicative of England’s position that the 85 added by Australia for their last six wickets from their overnight position was both an outstanding performance from England, and still about 50 more runs than they realistically could afford in order to have a decent shot at winning the game.  Still, given where they were, this represented a huge improvement from having no chance at all, to a slim one.

That slim chance improved fractionally further with a decent opening stand between Cook and Stoneman, passing 50 with relatively few alarms and doing the vital work of seeing off the new Kookaburra ball.  Cook got away with an lbw that wasn’t referred by Steve Smith – the beginning of his tribulations with the system today – before falling to Lyon again, playing round one and once more getting too far across to the offside and falling over somewhat.

The dismissal on review did cause a fair few people to query the predictive ball tracking.  The most important point is that if the system is being used, then you go with it.  DRS showed Cook to be out, and that’s the end of that.  However, it doesn’t mean a specific instance can’t raise eyebrows.

Before the ball tracking overlay, the ball looked to be heading far more to the legside than was then shown.  Probably showing it hitting, but on the inside of the leg stump looked like a far greater degree of turn than appeared the case.  Now, the eye can be fooled very easily, and it is certainly possible, even likely, that it was an optical illusion, and some didn’t see it that way at all anyway.  However, acknowledging that doesn’t mean DRS was unquestionably right either, and it certainly doesn’t mean it can’t be queried – not on the basis of some kind of objection to the wicket, but more the reliance on the technology as being somehow infallible.

The problems here aren’t necessarily with the technology, but it should to be noted that “odd” ball tracking decisions are much more prevalent in Australia and New Zealand than in England.  In England Hawkeye is used; it’s a purpose built ball tracking technology designed specifically for this purpose, and a lot more expensive.  In Australia, Virtual Eye is used instead.  That has its origins in a graphical representation software suite, and the designer has said it wasn’t designed for predictive tracking, while the creator of Hawkeye (who would say this wouldn’t he?) has called it up to nine times less accurate.  Now, this was a few years ago, and technology must be expected to have moved on and be better, but it is important to note that all systems are not created equal.

Of course, whenever something questionable arises, the responses tend to be along the lines of pointing out that umpires are more fallible, and that is probably true, but headscratching over one particular decision isn’t to decry the entire system, or wish it scrapped, but it always invites things like this:

Except that it wasn’t designed for this specific purpose at all.  Hawkeye was though, perhaps why there are far fewer occasions when there is cause for a debate using that system.

Ball tracking is right because it says so, and because it says so, it’s right.  There’s no reason to doubt its general accuracy, albeit with the proviso that some systems will inevitably be more accurate than others, but it’s also absolutely the case that as far as cricket goes and the predictive element of DRS, there’s little information available.  There has been a formal test of its accuracy done, by the ICC, but unfortunately they’ve never seen fit to release the results and we simply do not know the outcome.  It’s entirely reasonable to assume that they wouldn’t have gone with it had it been unsatisfactory, but not knowing the detail is always going to leave scope for doubt.

The most vital points of all are that it’s not for a second suggesting the system is wrong, and not suggesting human umpires are better; but assuming all systems are right all the time given the enormous variables in both outcome and in sampling size is as dogmatic as assuming it gets it wrong on a frequent basis, for which there’s no reason to make such a case.  Being puzzled over a single piece of ball tracking doesn’t for a second mean either that the questioner is right, nor that there’s anything inherently wrong with DRS but responses on that basis are simply an exercise in trying to shut down discussion.  Maybe it was entirely correct in its prediction, and it’s most definitely not about Cook’s dismissal per se, not least because anyone objecting to it on partisan grounds would have to note Root being rescued by the same system.  It just looked slightly peculiar.

In terms of Cook himself, he had battled away, but still looks out of sorts, to the point where some of the journalists are now querying whether this might be his last tour.  It is somewhat ironic that he appears to have gone from genius to liability in the eyes of some within two Tests – it surely has to be more nuanced than that.

Shortly after Cook, Stoneman followed, having made another bright start.  For England to be confident of victory, two wickets down was probably about the limit of what they could afford to lose but Vince soon followed, again caught behind as he has been in 10 of his last 12 innings.  It was a poor shot, and not for the first time.

Joe Root at least was batting well, if not without lbw related alarms.  He padded up to one far too close to leave and was given out on the field, only to be reprieved by the ball tracking showing it going over the top.  Thereafter, Australia’s determination to get him out led them to burn both their reviews on highly speculative appeals, much to the delight of the Barmy Army who gestured for a review each time subsequent lbws were turned down.  He received valuable support from Dawid Malan, who batted maturely for a 29 that in other circumstances would have been perceived as infinitely more valuable than it will probably be.  His late dismissal to a superb ball from Cummins was a blow England could not afford.

Four days down, and a superb fifth day in prospect.  As ever in these circumstances, it’s worth highlighting that there are some who would wish to make Tests a four day game.

Only one captain in history has lost a Test after failing to enforce a follow on, South Africa’s Dudley Nourse in this game and it remains highly unlikely England will add to that very short list.  But they have at least properly competed at last, and if it requires Joe Root to make a big century, and for everyone else to support him, then that’s still a situation England would have taken before play started today.   Unlikely is not impossible, a slight chance is vastly better than no chance.

It is most likely that waking tomorrow will see the last rites of the Test being performed.  England need to get through the first session without loss, and then, well just maybe.  And sometimes that’s enough.


36 thoughts on “Australia vs England: 2nd Test, Day Four

    • Mark Dec 5, 2017 / 1:42 pm


      Maybe because you don’t work there anymore!

      Liked by 1 person

    • oreston Dec 5, 2017 / 1:55 pm

      Even a broken clock is right twice a day (even if in his case he’s probably right for all the wrong reasons).


  1. Mark Dec 5, 2017 / 1:41 pm

    Alex Hales cleared to play in the ODIs for England in Aus after Christmas.


      • BobW Dec 5, 2017 / 7:10 pm

        Totally agree Bogfather. It’s a bit one dimensional to think batsmen can only play in one position.


  2. Sri.Grins Dec 5, 2017 / 1:52 pm

    I think too much emphasis ie being placed on DRS and its variants. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if it is Hawkeye or Virtualeye. Root may have been out if that same logic is applied of using hawkeye instead of virtualeye.

    it does not look as weird as the crucial sachin reprieval against Pak in the WC semis which looked out but was not given.



      • Mark Dec 5, 2017 / 2:24 pm

        I have kept out of the DRS squabble below mainly because I have always been a supporter of technology in sport. I have never understood how the umpire is held up as a gold standard of perfection?

        Truth is…..150 years ago…. two old blokes in white coats with six stones in their pockets to count the balls bowled were regarded as “cutting edge, high tech.” The idea they were infalable is laughable. In fact I wonder if the whole……” you must not question the umpire” was nothing more than a glorified plan to hide the numerous human error mistakes that they would inevitably make?

        As technology came into sport the bouts of pearl clutching, and vapours that came from the traditionalists were baffling. “DRS IS NOT PERFECT” they would scream. “ITS NOT 100% ACCURATE.”

        Hello, is that standard ever held to human umpires? No, of course not. If an umpire gets let’s say 80% correct, and DRS gets 95% correct that is an improvement.

        I also think the human interpretation has also been a problem. Sometimes DRS says one thing, but the umpire is given veto because we know what he was trying to do. In other words, he got it wrong, but we will excuse his error.

        As to India we all know what that was about. Big gun players didn’t fancy being given out LBW by machine. They would rather umpires who might be intimidated be left to make the decsion.


        • Sri.Grins Dec 5, 2017 / 2:40 pm


          You represent tperfectly how media influences thinking. 😀

          To think that big players could intimidate umpires into giving them not out requires specific data points from various tests home and away not guesses 😀


          • man in a barrel Dec 5, 2017 / 6:24 pm

            Sri – if you read the biography of former umpire John Holder, he was widely liked and respected by UK county players. He acted as neutral umpire together with John Hampshire in an India v Pakistan series in the 1980s or 90s and was widely respected – there wasn’t even a flair up or riot during those matches because of biased upiring and got good reports from both captains. But he only umpired 2 tests in England. No one knows quite why but he suspects that it was because in one match he gave the England skipper out and later apologised to, I think it was Atherton, for making an error. But Atherton’s report went in and might have influenced things. The other time, he spotted what looked like ball tampering and called over the skipper – Gooch – to explain the condition of the ball. There is also a lot of circumstantial evidence – Illingworth always refers to the total lack of lbw decisions against Australia in the 1970-71 Ashes for example. And some of the decisions in the 60s and 70s in the sub-continent looked a little dubious.Pakistan are still convinced that David Constant and Roy Palmer were determined not to give them lbw decisions in the 80s


          • Sri. Grins Dec 6, 2017 / 1:21 am

            @miab, my contention is not that umpires may not be biased or that players may not be biased against certain umpires.

            It is that mark’s claim on bcci and Sachin needs data points not guesses based on an article from a journalist.


        • KidVicious Dec 5, 2017 / 3:22 pm

          My view on technology is – if the technology is going to be available in the studio for pundits to point out mistakes, if it doesn’t take too long to implement in real time and if it doesn’t rely too much on subjective interpretation of the outcome, then it would be madness not to use it. As long as the appropriate caveats re rules and guidelines of use are there. For DRS this is true.

          As I said on the other thread, any bowler, batsman or captain that relies on DRS to win them the game, probably hasn’t done enough to win the game anyway.


        • BoredInAustria Dec 5, 2017 / 3:49 pm

          I would like to hear D’Arthez on the reliability of the umpires and specifically Ravi..


      • Sri.Grins Dec 5, 2017 / 2:42 pm

        I was trying to politely say that there is too much on cook’s decision and frankly I thought it did not merit such detail 🙂


        • thelegglance Dec 5, 2017 / 2:43 pm

          No need to be!

          You’re probably right, I draft up bits and pieces as I go, but then I had to go and do some work too!


          • man in a barrel Dec 5, 2017 / 4:20 pm

            I disagree with Sri. It suggests that the onfield umpires are not doing a very good job. If Cook was really out and if the earlier not-reviewed lbw was really out then maybe, I think it was Gaffaney, needs replacing


          • man in a barrel Dec 5, 2017 / 4:22 pm

            To expand, those were not marginal decisions, one was hitting the full width of the leg stump while the other was hitting leg and middle. If DRS is supposed to improve decisions its operation is too uncertain


        • Benny Dec 5, 2017 / 7:11 pm

          I still think, if the batsman fails to use the lump of wood in his hands for its intended purpose, he can’t complain if he’s back in the pavilion. He gets enough advantages anyway – completely missed the ball, would have hit middle if the pad didn’t get in the way but, oh dear, it pitched a centimetre down the legside. Yes, I used to be a bowler.

          Liked by 2 people

          • thelegglance Dec 5, 2017 / 7:25 pm

            I note that when you as a bowler make a right Horlicks of things, you get another five attempts to get it right. 😉

            Although actually, as a batsman the one thing I’ve never had sympathy for is being given out not playing a shot. Root’s today was near enough to be deemed out in my view!

            Liked by 1 person

    • Miami Dad's Six Dec 5, 2017 / 4:53 pm

      I think it was Scrim who put a screenshot of the Lyon – Cook delivery up earlier. I watched the Hazlewood – Cook ball live (given not out, not reviewed by Smith even though it would have been overturned on DRS) – could you do the same screenshot for that? I couldn’t understand how, given the angle, it could have been out. It didn’t look to have deviated or even straightened as Lyon’s did, plus he was bowling around the wicket – just for interest sake, is it available?


  3. Silk Dec 5, 2017 / 2:22 pm

    I’m saying nothing until the end of the game. Nothing. Not even this.


    • Deep Purple Fred Dec 5, 2017 / 3:11 pm

      Hey, SIlk. Root’s batting really well, isn’t he?
      You’d have to think Ali was due a big one, too, right?

      Liked by 1 person

    • Sri.Grins Dec 5, 2017 / 2:44 pm

      MSD has been suspended at least twice in my memory. He missed a test in Oz i think because of the ban.


      • SimonH Dec 5, 2017 / 3:14 pm

        Fair point that Dhoni was banned back in 2012. That was before the B3 as we now know it existed and India were 3-0 down in Australia at the time so it wasn’t exactly a tough match to miss. I can’t find any reference to a second ban in Tests although he has been banned in ODIs.

        India aren’t the main issue – they’ve played a lot at home in the last 18 months and shouldn’t have had any over rate problems. But all England followers know that they’ve seen the team’s over rate be appalling in recent years and yet nothing has happened.


  4. BobW Dec 5, 2017 / 3:22 pm

    Wow, what a day’s cricket. Times like these you really cannot beat the tension. Test match cricket at its best.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. thebogfather Dec 5, 2017 / 6:48 pm

    Bollocks to technology, just bowl to and hit the stumps!


  6. man in a barrel Dec 5, 2017 / 6:50 pm

    That Aus v S Africa match looks interesting: it is an irritation that there are no attached reports on cricinfo. I suspect there must have been a massive rainstorm that created a sticky wicket just after the S Africa first innings closed. If that is the case, it would be a bit like that Ashes test in, was it 1896(?), where England followed on and won the match because rain fell and they bowled Australia out in the final innings despite seeming to be doomed to lose.


  7. Scrim Dec 5, 2017 / 7:46 pm

    Adelaide has been producing memorable matches every year of late:

    2010: Stunning innings win for England
    Jan 2012: Twin double centuries for Ponting & Clarke
    2012: Faf on debut & AB with an epic blockathon to save the test
    2013: Mitch Johnson
    2014: Kohli & Vijay almost pull off stunning 4th innings chase, Lyon wins it late with 7 wickets
    2015: First ever D/N test, nailbiting 3 wicket win for Australia
    2016: Australia breaks a 5 match losing streak with upset win over South Africa. du Plessis sets record for lowest score & earliest first innings declaration
    2017: I think we’re all enjoying this, however it ends


    • thelegglance Dec 5, 2017 / 7:48 pm

      England’s fightback means the Test probably deserves a close finish, irrespective of our allegiances. Going down to the last few runs 8 down would be fun, wouldn’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Veturi Sarma Dec 6, 2017 / 2:54 am

    Gosh, are you guys bleak or what..I mean in your outlook? It was a great day of Cricket and most likely England will win this but reading this blog, I get a feeling that all they could do was nothing but collapse. The first test matches in 2011-12 for India against England and Australia, I was hoping we would win them both when in reality we were no where close, yet I watched those matches with a lot of hope.

    I don’t say this as a criticism, but for all the great writing and learned comments this blog provides on almost daily basis, the opinions come across as negative. Again this could just be me. You don’t have to satisfy me, and continue the way this is run, but could you please be more cheerful and optimistic on days like these, may be get another writer to add a different perspective, to hell with nuance and do some chest-thumping and the works.

    PS: I’m not serious about the chest-thumping.

    PPS: Ignore everything I said and don’t change anything.


    • Silk Dec 6, 2017 / 9:09 am

      Bitter experience, old chap/chapess. Bitter experience.

      We can’t live in hope. It hurts too much.


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