There’s an issue when you run a blog and the action is taking place either overnight or during work hours – how do you write a day’s report? I think we’ve done this a few times before, but with four of us you’d think we’d have it covered.
The bigger problem is when thee play merges across sleep and work! All four of us are unable to really follow the action in any way other than via score updates on cricinfo. This leads to us providing you with a match report based on, well, our own imagination, and interpretation of the numbers and social media reactions. To put it mildly, this is not the most reliable of reporting sources. That said, we never pretended we were/are reporters.
So what that leads to is a discussion on the bald facts of the day. England have finished it on 305 for 4, which represents a fantastic recovery from 131 for 4, and also a magic moment for Dawid Malan. That England are in a very solid position is very nice. We might lose from here, but we really shouldn’t. The descriptions of the wicket are that it is very flat, has nice, but not electric, pace and is good for batting with a lightning outfield to give values for shots. There have been double the amount of boundaries today compared to the other first days at the Ashes tests this year.
What I have always loved about test cricket is a player’s first test ton. Is it a harbinger of success, of a career to be fulfilled and blossom, or the one cry of defiance in a pool of mediocrity. The hit and miss of our selections have seen several people make tons and disappear – Robson and Lyth come to mind, Compton made two, Ballance four – while Moeen, Stokes and YJB since the last Ashes have gone on to make their second hundred and stay the course. By all accounts it was a proper test match hundred. Watchful determination combined with good shot making. Malan is 30, so not a young pup, and his window is obviously narrow (Cook is only just coming up to 33 and people are saying he’s finished), but today he made the place his own at least until the end of the winter. There was a rule of thumb when I played Fantasy Cricket that if you made runs for Western Australia, I’d stick you in my team for the English season (yes, Michael Hussey!) and there’s a very limited number of players to have made three figures for England at the WACA recently. It bodes well.
But what Malan also needs to be aware of, and I’m pretty sure he is, is that 110 is not enough. Yes, he’s done his bit, but we need him to turn that into 150+ for this to be the telling innings. Yes, a lot of store, perhaps wrongly, is put on three figures, but the innings we remember, certainly in first innings, are the big ones. Dawid is key to our fortunes.
So is Jonny Bairstow, and his promotion up the order to alternate the left and right handers appears, on this small sample size, to have worked. He is 25 runs away from a maiden Ashes ton and again, by all accounts looked in good touch. Bairstow is a little bit of an enigma, and while he tantalises us with the bat there will always be talk of how good he could be if he were played as a pure batsman. Also there are mumblings about a batsman as good as him batting at 7. I remember Adam Gilchrist copping the same flak (no I didn’t). Again, Bairstow adding another 50 will be very handy.
I’m a bit of an oddball, in that I keep a lot of old cricket recorded off the TV, and for some reason I’ve decided to tape this series in its entirety. I think today’s recording will be really pleasant viewing. Will Australia start feeling the pressure? Well, it depends on how many England make, and if they get off to a Warner-assisted flyer. England should make 400+ and then we get to see how Aussie react to a reasonable score. That should be fun.
And so to Alastair Cook. You knew I’d have to mention him. I’m not going to comment on a dismissal I’ve not seen, but if every time Cook was out LBW to a opening bowler was cause to question his eyes, then I’m staggered. When Nasser put that only a fool would right Cook off, he’s using his heart over his head. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that. It’s sport. You have those you pull for and those you don’t. I’m not a Cook fan, but I actually think the way the media and some of the social media I see have turned on him is ridiculous. Yes, you read that right. He has not made an Ashes hundred since Sydney in January 2011. That is 34 innings of not getting to three figures. At the other opening end, off the top of my head, there’s been 1. The RootMaths hundred at Lord’s that spawned a meme so tiresome, it was boring by tea time. Alastair Cook’s “demise” is not a sudden one, as these people give the impression of it being, but one over time. I see mentions that we should now move on from Cook, which again, I think is a little premature. The main question to be asked is “Is Alastair Cook one of our best two openers?” If the answer, in the view of the selectors, is yes, then he should play. If Cook himself doesn’t want to, then that’s for him. But if you are awaiting a century from him, then the fact he hasn’t managed one against the Old Enemy or South Africa in around 50 tries now might give you a clue. Who knows, he might be due?
Anyone who has seen today, please feel free to carry on the comments below. Hopefully we’ll put up a lead in piece for tonight too. If not, you know what to do.