Day 4 of the 1st Test – Hush My Darling, Don’t Fear My Darling

I’ve been watching this game long enough to know when people are talking in hyperbolic tones. Nathan Lyon is a really, really decent test spin bowler. He has 343 test wickets at an average of 32. He has 14 five wicket hauls in 86 tests. None of them have come in England. None of them have come against England. A wicket has a little bit of turn, and suddenly this is akin to Murali at Galle. Nathan Lyon is a fine bowler who could well be the key tomorrow, but the way some press/media/TV are talking about him, you’d think this is Warne on a viper’s nest tomorrow.

The fact is that this is a pretty normal, old school fifth day wicket coming up, and England should bat out a draw. Australia showed there were few demons in the wicket. Moeen Ali was set up to take a ton of wickets, and he didn’t. Given he’s the whipping boy at the moment, the failure to do so is reason to pick someone else. Remember back in 2009, when on Day 4 Swann spun one through Ricky Ponting and knocked him over? The hyperbole went out, our great offie only had to turn up next day to make it 2-0, and yet, and yet. I don’t think he even took one on Day 5. There’s too much made in the media of having to be in front of the game, make a statement, build them up.

That little rant over with, and it’s the first and possibly last time the great Tight Fit will be lyric-checked in a title, let’s take the day’s play in context. Australia started effectively at 34 for 3. Smith, as I have called him in the pre-amble to Day 5 (to be posted at 9am tomorrow), is the Keyser Soze of batting. He has persuaded everyone that his unorthodox technique, his snake-like eye, his miraculous hand-eye co-ordination, has made him invincible. The bowlers believe it. They talk and act as though they can’t get him out. Smith makes them fear bowling to him – not in the way the Laras, Kohlis, Richards of this world did and getting pasted – but that there is no way through his armour. Commentators talk as if this is a superhuman at the other end. Sport is played largely in the head, and Smith is living rent-free in ours. He’s an amazing player, no doubt, but people are speaking as if we should just give up.

His interview at the end of play was fascinating. Ward was trying to get all technical, and trying to get Smith to admit how he views batting is a little complex, but he said “I know where the field is, and then I watch the ball”. It was genius and yet so simple. So Ward tried again. Smith shrugged. “Where do you think they want to bowl to you with this field” asked Ward. ” I don’t know…. I just watch the ball”. All that technical shit, and Smith was having none of it.

Smith had just become the fifth Australian to make a century in each innings of an Ashes test. The last was Matthew Hayden in 2002 – I was there – and the previous one in England was Steve Waugh at Old Trafford in 1997. Smith had burnished his legend. England looked scared from moment one. Smith would rotate the strike (Ward asked him if this was a key to his batting, and Smith basically said it didn’t really matter), never really tied down. This was exemplified by his attitude on 99. England gave all indications they were going to throw it out wide of off stump and hope Smith wore out of patience. After the first ball, Nasser, I think, said “they are going to make him wait.” Next ball, a wide ball outside off, and Smith just smacked it through the offside field. As easy as ABC. Rent free? England are paying him to stay in their heads.

I was out and about for large parts of today but I saw that. I saw Head look quite solid, and he is not to be underestimated. I missed most of Wade’s century, which looks the bargain bucket variety, but it’s one more Ashes hundred in England than Alastair Cook made (I know, I know…petty). The wheels fell off at the end, with Pattinson smacking England to all parts. England saw out the last 7 overs with few alarms – well Jim Maxwell did his best off the last ball to shit the life out of me while I was driving home – and go into tomorrow with 10 wickets in hand and a match to save. The last time England batted out a full day to save a test was Auckland 2013. It was that long ago. We used to be good at this, but not so much these days. I guess we might need rain.

The Ashes are special, and so the reactions are always augmented, but there are some really strange things going on. The strangest for me, honestly, is what is Joe Denly doing in this team. Is he really our best middle-order batsman who is not called Joe Root? I had an exchange with a journo today to say this dates back to Ed Smith being his team-mate and thinking him to have special qualities. He’s batting in our prime spot – number 4 – and yet no-one seems to care. He’s like the party guest who you think you all know, but can’t quite place, and you’re not sure who invited him. He bowls filthy spin, plays an occasional drive, and I don’t see anyone questioning his place. Not like they are people with track record, like Moeen, or complete rookies in test cricket like Roy. In fact there’s a case to say those two (Roy and Denly) should swap places and it would make more sense. But what must batsmen like Hildreth and Northeast be thinking? If only we bowled filthy legspin?

Today the commenters focused on Joe Root’s captaincy. Again, it’s noticeable that the rumblings aren’t against him. Woakes did not bowl before lunch, and we were told after play that he wasn’t injured. If that is the case, what the hell was he thinking? There wasn’t much in the way of positivity, up and at ’em body language, and instead there’s a hang-dog look and a resignation to fate. It’s one game, but this does not hold out hope.

So, we have a batsman inside our heads, are told to be frightened of a spinner who has taken four wickets in an innings twice in England, and lost both those matches, and with a batting line-up that gives the definition of disjointed, and just looks plain odd. Following England is rarely boring, often odd. It’s even more strange that this will be the sixth successive Ashes test to go to the fifth day. England face a really important day. It was said before today that only one side could afford an indifferent session. They didn’t mean England. In Steve Smith, the force is strong. Whether it’s strong enough to get a result tomorrow, then the Ashes are halfway back to Aussie (It has been pointed out that the Ashes already are with Australia – so let me correct. If England lose tomorrow, the outcome of the series is likely to be seriously skewed in favour of the visitors, who only need to draw the series to return home with the “Ashes”). England face a massively important test.

See you tomorrow.


40 thoughts on “Day 4 of the 1st Test – Hush My Darling, Don’t Fear My Darling

  1. riverman21 Aug 4, 2019 / 7:19 pm

    Looking at the positives at least you didn’t go with Fantasy Island.


  2. Alan Aug 4, 2019 / 7:40 pm

    It’s nitpicking grumpy old man time Dmitri. Never mind Tight Fit, what about the Tokens circa 1961 when I started listening to Radio Luxembourg and that song embeded itself in my mind. I was 12 at the time mind you!


      • Alan Aug 4, 2019 / 8:01 pm

        No apologies necessary. It was before you were born after all!


        • LordCanisLupus Aug 4, 2019 / 8:04 pm

          No, but when I got the lyrics up, it was The Tokens’ version that came up on Google.


  3. Nicholas Aug 4, 2019 / 7:55 pm

    TBH I’m just delighted that we’re getting a proper 5 day-er, going into Day 4 with all three options open and going into Day 5 with England needing to bat out a day to save a match. We’ve seen four centuries. After the Ireland match, I was worried that this Ashes would be full of sub-200 team scores and weakest batting line-up loses. It’s not quite been that way this match (although I dare say, quality-wise, it is all substantially lower than a decade ago) – and for that I am profoundly grateful.

    It might sound a bit mad, but I’d rather this than five matches à la Trent Bridge 2015.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Mark Aug 4, 2019 / 8:08 pm

    England will need Burns, Root, & Stokes to bat long if they are going to save this game. Roy is an ODI dasher who one can only imagine will play his natural game. Like you Denly is a mystery. Reminds me of James Vince. Didn’t Ed Smith write a few pieces on Barcelona? Perhaps he likes the beautiful game?

    Butler, Bairstow and Moeen? Do you want them to bat for your life?

    This is rapidly turning sour for England, and some questions will need to be asked. My hunch ( based on nothing) is Woakes is carrying a minor niggle, and England went into a test match with two front line bowlers with issues. They will never admit it of course, but one broke down, and the other had to be protected carefully. Perhaps England should have played two spinners as cover just in case?

    Our Antipodean friends have had the last laugh regards the booing. Smith has answered the boos in the best way possible by scoring two hundreds. England fans will have to decide if they want to continue, as it obviously has no effect on him. I suspect Birmingham was always going to be the worst of it anyway.

    Still believe it’s the paying fans choice mind, and not freeloading pundits who should decide. But Smith has answered them in the best possible manner. Is he the new Bradman? I have no idea, but the redemption essays and back-pedalling will be priceless.

    If England do lose tomorrow will it really be a shock? Look at their away record in recent years. When it doesn’t swing and seam England look toothless.


    • LordCanisLupus Aug 4, 2019 / 8:29 pm

      Joe Denly is a mystery. A true mystery. Plucked from second division runs which weren’t considered good enough for Sam Northeast, for example, and now sitting at number four, for no real discernible reason. I am absolutely flabbergasted by the lack of attention this gets. Lawrence Booth said he’s searching for his identity. I think he’s right where I thought it would be. The identity is what the hell is he doing there? Is he the best number four in England? Do we need his filthy leg spin that much?

      If he plays his part tomorrow, well done. But in the words of Toyah Wilcox, “It’s a Mystery”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mark Aug 4, 2019 / 8:45 pm

        I remember when a certain number four batsman (who can’t be named) made 300 not very long ago, and the pundocracy screamed….”ITS ONLY SECOND DIVISION RUNS.”


        • LordCanisLupus Aug 4, 2019 / 8:48 pm

          Dominic Cork, I do believe, said “it was only Leicestershire”. It was pointed out that the next highest scorer in that innings, with 38, I believe, was that no good, effing waste of space, Kumar Sangakkara.

          I had Denly described to me today as an ego pick. By Ed Smith. And there’s a man with no ego.


  5. jomesy Aug 4, 2019 / 8:11 pm

    Nicholas – I tried (but somehow failed) to like your comment. I, too, am delighted. Not least because Gower was describing it as extremely rare.

    Whilst I’m doing this, I’m with Mark. The numbers on the back of the shirt are dog shit of its test cricket.


    • Mark Aug 4, 2019 / 8:21 pm

      Thanks Jomesy!! Someone actually agreed with me for once!

      Seeing as they also have the players names on their shirts I just don’t understand what the point of numbers is. Perhaps certain mothers & kids can’t read? (That’s a 16.4 joke before anyone gets offended)


  6. Rob Aug 4, 2019 / 8:13 pm

    Pedantic I know, but change it to 1997 for Waugh


    • LordCanisLupus Aug 4, 2019 / 8:14 pm

      Being correct, when I make an error, isn’t pendantry. Thanks for noticing and I’ve corrected it. The Day 4 of the 1993 Old Trafford test had some hallmarks of today…

      Meanwhile, these believe that Roy is the answer!


  7. LordCanisLupus Aug 4, 2019 / 8:21 pm

    Meanwhile, 2013/14 playing out again…

    I have seen just the first episode. I don’t have Sky, so the on demand function doesn’t work. Nice.

    KP liked the tweet above Lovejoy’s.


    • Quebecer Aug 4, 2019 / 8:27 pm

      Christ, Swanny. Protest too much?


      • LordCanisLupus Aug 4, 2019 / 8:30 pm

        Charles Sale once said that when Swann retired mid-tour, KP let him stay at his place in Dubai to get away from the press/media etc. If true, place this tweet in that context.


    • Mark Aug 4, 2019 / 9:42 pm

      “shattering the dressing room.“

      Really? Was the dressing room that brittle then?

      Didn’t he top score in his last series? Wtf were the rest doing?


  8. LordCanisLupus Aug 4, 2019 / 8:25 pm

    This one didn’t make the Shiny Toy cut for tomorrow.

    It’s slack-jawed nonsense masquerading as insight. It’s screaming wibble imitating analysis. It’s desperate drivel pretending to be educated comment.

    It’s Shiny Toy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nonoxcol Aug 4, 2019 / 8:37 pm

      Christ alive, it’s a good job he didn’t adopt that attitude after losing the first Test by 239 runs in 2005. When his star player did eff all, his spinner was castigated for being a waste of space, the only bloke to pass 50 was a debutant, he’d controversially omitted a 100-Test veteran who’d made himself unavailable, his side were catching like they’d been to a Last Tango In Paris theme party and the only thing operating properly was (most of) his fast bowling unit.

      I sometimes wonder how this can be the same person that captained my favourite England team ever.

      Liked by 1 person

      • LordCanisLupus Aug 4, 2019 / 8:41 pm

        We’ll know when there is “real trouble at mill” when he starts having a go at Joe Root’s captaincy.

        The first thing I heard him say on the radio today was that Smith was the greatest test batsman he’d ever seen. Maybe this is true, but he’d not really, to my knowledge, mentioned this before this test match. I could rake through old pieces and tweets, but then that would be sad. See tomorrow! Has he just come to the conclusion that a bloke averaging more than 60 might be crash hot? Reminds me of people ignoring Jacques Kallis and his 57 average in favour of Sachin and his slightly inferior numbers (let alone around 200 wickets fewer and a decidedly less capable fielder).

        But this passes for analysis these days.


        • Mark Aug 4, 2019 / 9:18 pm

          Shinny toy talking about holidays….


          • LordCanisLupus Aug 5, 2019 / 6:18 am

            Adam knows.

            Shiny Toy?


  9. growltiger Aug 4, 2019 / 8:34 pm

    Obviously Woakes was injured. I would guess that the Australian quicks, of whom there are still three, as opposed to England’s two today, will not find it easy to roll over lots of wickets on this now very dead track. So Lyon will have to do a lot of bowling. If memory serves, when he came on in the World Cup, Roy drove his first ball over long on for 6 and didn’t look back. I don’t imagine Roy will do that tomorrow, sadly. But while looking much more in working order than Moeen, Lyon has still not looked terribly threatening thus far, so there must be a decent chance of a draw (probably better than evens, given the weather).


  10. Deep Purple Fred Aug 4, 2019 / 8:54 pm

    “Whether it’s strong enough to get a result tomorrow, then the Ashes are halfway back to Aussie.”

    They’re already in Australia.


    • LordCanisLupus Aug 4, 2019 / 8:56 pm

      They’re in Lord’s, if we’re being really pedantic, DPF. 🙂


    • Deep Purple Fred Aug 4, 2019 / 9:12 pm

      Well yes, I was going to point that out, along with a cutting comment about imperial privelage, but decided not to be so snarky. Was also wondering if maybe they’d been transferred to Dubai, or if they were “too fragile” to even go that far.


      • LordCanisLupus Aug 4, 2019 / 9:15 pm

        C’mon Fred. I do these pieces in one take…. cut me some slack!!!!


      • Deep Purple Fred Aug 4, 2019 / 9:33 pm

        Dmitri maate, I’ll cut you all the slack in the world, ’cause you run a great blog 🙂

        It’s just a habit to keep an eye on you lot, and your assumptions 🙂


  11. Deep Purple Fred Aug 4, 2019 / 9:07 pm

    I take the point regarding Smith that batsmen can get in your head, but I think in this case it’s just his runs that are doing the damage. There are no mind games, he’s just too good. The best bowlers in the world have failed to contain him; it’s not psychology or mind games, it’s just that they can’t get through to his wicket.

    I like this comment: “Ward was trying to get all technical, and trying to get Smith to admit how he views batting is a little complex, but he said “I know where the field is, and then I watch the ball”.
    I didn’t see much today but when I did he sort of reminded me of the Terminator, those scenes where he scans and computes everything. Between every ball he looks at every fieldsman (along with the other ten things he does), logs their placement in his brain and decides where his options are. He knows where the field is.

    I’ve taken great note of Nonoxcol’s comment earlier, we are in the presence of genius. It’s a shame it didn’t come in a prettier package, but it’s getting pretty hard to deny it’s anything other than that.

    All that’s missing now is longevity. We’ll see.


    • Mark Aug 4, 2019 / 9:36 pm

      Yes, but is he the new Bradman. I’ve been watching Test cricket for over fifty years, and no one has been compared to the Don. Because of averages I guess.

      A lot of very, vey good players have been and gone. Many great, and who had to face far better bowling attacks than are now in operation. He has a great eye, and immense concentration levels.

      As Mike Atherton said….you wouldnt coach this style, yet if it produces these results why not? I would like to have seen him bat against the Pakistan operners from twenty five years ago who could bowl inswinging yorkers to order.


    • quebecer Aug 4, 2019 / 9:58 pm

      “…and then I watch the ball.” and that really is it, in a nutshell. Everything Smith does is to get all that is unnecessary or subtractive out of the way of doing this, and everything else streamlined so he can do it best. Both eyes squarely over the ball all the way on to the bat, hands under his eyes.

      He’s not thinking, ‘keep the hands high’, ‘quick feet’, ‘high elbow’, ‘foot to the ball’ or anything. There’s nothing else apart from watch the ball and put the bat on it.

      So much that we were ever told about technique is bollocks.


      • LordCanisLupus Aug 4, 2019 / 10:02 pm

        Later on, when questioned how he got out for low scores in 2015 he did mention about late preliminary movements, but then also mentioned good bowling. That was as technical as he got.


  12. metatone Aug 4, 2019 / 9:08 pm

    I think it’s hard to bet that England won’t collapse in a heap, after all, we do it fairly regularly.

    What infuriates me more than whatever the situation is with Woakes is that none of the commentators saw fit to really inquire about it.

    Re: Smith, you can’t ignore his average, but I do think a lot of this game and how his success changed the match hinged on England losing a frontline bowler. Option 1 when a batsmen in blistering form gets settled and is looking pretty impregnable is to contain and focus on taking wickets at the other end. You don’t have to buy all the guff about Jimmy that people like Selvey peddle to say that losing a bowler who is good enough to be given the new ball is a loss to your wicket taking options.

    Re: Lyon – I’ve always said he’s been a prime beneficiary of the DRS era, his record looks a lot like Harbhajan Singh, but no-one outside India lavished quite such praise on Singh, despite him managing similar figures mostly without DRS – but England’s record against even ordinary spin is well, ordinary… so I can understand a lot of commentary.

    As for Mo, I’m a fan, but at least in the periods of the match I saw today he really didn’t bowl well. Conditions weren’t great, the captaincy was worse and some of the fielding even worse still. But with all that, he didn’t look right. Does that mean he should be dropped? Well, if you’ve been selecting him in part for his batting, maybe. Or someone could work with him on his bowling, but wait, didn’t we try once again to skimp by putting the spin coach on some kind of weird contract? I give up.


    • LordCanisLupus Aug 4, 2019 / 9:23 pm

      Nathan Lyon’s top 8 bowling performances in tests.

      Top two in India.
      Two in Chattogram (is that the local name for Chittagong)
      One in Dhaka
      One in Galle
      Two in Adelaide.

      Only ever taken 5 wickets in a 4th innings once. 7 for 152 v India in Adelaide in 34 overs. And all on the final day’s play.

      He’s done what he needs to do tomorrow, once in his test career. One more than many.


      • Metatone Aug 5, 2019 / 7:25 am

        Yes Chattogram is the official name for Chittagong now.


    • Deep Purple Fred Aug 4, 2019 / 9:39 pm

      Australia doesn’t need an exceptional performance from Lyon tomorrow to win. It’s not all about Lyon. It’s just as likely the fast bowlers will settle the game.
      The press will always build up a dramatic narrative, and the spinner on the fifth day is an obvious one, but it’s not the only way.


      • Mark Aug 4, 2019 / 10:19 pm

        This is true. The spinner may only need to remove one two wickets and the pace bowlers can do the rest. If he only knocks over Root it may significant.


      • metatone Aug 5, 2019 / 7:26 am

        Fair enough, should be muggy and overcast, good for some swing.


  13. dlpthomas Aug 5, 2019 / 5:33 am

    Woakes has a chronic knee injury and Anderson, unlike the much younger Archer, did not have to prove he was match fit. I understand why the selectors picked both but it was a huge gamble and we lost.

    I don’t have much faith that was can bat out the day but if they do it will be a terrific effort.


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