To the surprise of no one, England posted a modest total having been put into bat by Australia. In itself, being inserted might have been a slight surprise, in that both teams said they would have bowled first, and perhaps reflects more on the fragility of both batting orders than the conditions in which this match is being played, for there appears nothing wrong with the pitch.
Bowling a side out on day one having put them in is always the hope, if not the expectation, and even if the surface offered some movement, it wasn’t one to cause palpatations in a decent Test batting line up. The trouble is that England don’t have a decent batting line up, and haven’t done for some years.
Sure, there were some mildly promising knocks – Burns looks at home in Test cricket now, with the mental aptitude for the scrap. His innings of 53 wasn’t without luck, being dropped twice before a superb catch from Bancroft at short leg sent him on his way, but he did at least look prepared to bat multiple sessions. At this stage in his career it would be overly harsh to expect him to be the bedrock of the England batting order, but the reality is that if it’s not him, who else would it be? Roy went in the first over, another poor shot from a player being asked to do a job to which he isn’t suited. Roy has talent in abundance, but he’s not a Test opener – it’s not just that his technique isn’t particularly tight against the new ball, it’s that his mentality at the crease is that of a one day opener. There’s nothing particularly outrageous in having someone who looks to attack at the top of the order, Warner and Sehwag made successful careers out of it, but while their own techniques have been questioned at times, their shot selection tended to be far better than Roy’s at this stage of his career. He’s been given a poisoned chalice, made particularly acute by having him opening while Denly bats at four. Whether Denly is worth his place in the team is a separate question, but he’s surely better equipped to see off the new ball than Roy is. It’s a confused batting line up that doesn’t get the most from the talent at its disposal.
Root came and went, and with him disappeared England’s chance of a significant total. Root attracts much comment because he is so far and away England’s best batsman, but he’s shown little sign that he’s more comfortable at number three this time than he was the last attempt at pushing him there. It’s easy enough to say that anyone who can bat at four can bat at three, but they are slightly different roles, and some players are simply more comfortable in one position than they are the other. Compromising the best player to compensate for the shortcomings elsewhere is a strange way of getting the most out of the batting order.
Buttler and Stokes didn’t last too long, and while the latter has plenty in the bank and looks the most technically adept player in the side, Buttler is struggling. Again, this is only partly a matter about him, for Buttler coming in at 250-3 – or even 180-3 in this side – is a slightly different prospect to him coming in at 92-3 with the pressure on. It’s just not really his game, and highlights the confused thinking concerning what is being attempted. It’s not to say that he shouldn’t be able to adapt, but it is to point out that England are hardly likely to see the best of him when he’s permanently coming in in a crisis.
At 138-6 the writing was on the wall – that Australia recovered from an even worse position in the first Test is neither here nor there – but England did recover to some extent. Bairstow often looks freed by having to bat with the tail, compiling a well made fifty thanks to sterling support (again) from Woakes in particular. Australia reverted to the short bowling tactic, which worked well enough, for England do seem peculiarly vulnerable to short pitched bowling. Bairstow was the last man out, trying to get some runs against Lyon with just Leach for company. He got some criticism for his dismissal, but trying to hit fours in those circumstances is surely what he’s meant to do – fiddling around with a single at the end of the over won’t take anyone very far. Execution certainly can be questioned, but runs were needed, he was trying to get them. Blaming him for being the tenth wicket to fall seems harsh, irrespective of Leach’s last innings at Lord’s.
Hazlewood and Cummins were the pick of the Australian attack, bowling with pace and accuracy, but again England didn’t make them work overly hard for their wickets. Siddle had two straightforward catches dropped off him – enough to drive him to a burger this evening – while Lyon extracted significant spin considering it is a first day pitch.
If 258 doesn’t remotely look a par score, it does look a par score for this England team. They simply don’t have the batting currently to expect much more, and tend to be reliant on the lower order even to get them to that kind of total. And scores in the 200s don’t win many Test matches, unless the bowlers do something special.
Broad did his best to do exactly that, removing Warner for the third time in three innings. Warner looks somewhat all over the place with his batting presently, head falling over and bat coming down at an angle. Smith’s preposterous return to Test cricket has made it look as though a year out shouldn’t have an effect, but both he and Bancroft look rather out of sorts, and it’s understandable.
Archer opened the bowling with Broad, and certainly showed pace, regularly clocking over 90mph. He had the crowd with him too, for little in cricket is quite so box office as a genuinely quick bowler in a Test match. Whether that is converted into wickets is, naturally, the big question, but he does have all the attributes. It is to be hoped he is used in short spells as a strike bowler rather than ground into the dirt as a stock performer.
The last hour of play England did look dangerous, suggesting that they are by no means out of this match. But they are once again reliant on their bowlers dragging them out of the mire, something they do reasonably often, but cannot do all the time. It remains to be seen if they can perform the miracle tomorrow, but with this England batting order, a lead of 100 is needed before even a modicum of confidence is there that England can press for a win.
As the saying goes, the first session tomorrow is crucial. Because it is.
Finally, the day finished five overs short. This is a constant factor, but if the authorities care little normally, to do nothing about it when an entire day has already been lost to the weather is nothing other than abrogation of responsibility both to the spectator and the game itself. We’ve lost 58 overs already this Test match. Losing five more through tardiness is beyond careless.
Burns is looking increasingly OK. Stood up well to the short stuff (even wore one on the arm without making a fuss about it). Looks as if Denly. Roy, and possibly Buttler will end their Test careers with averages in the twenties, and relatively soon.
If we lose 5 overs each day to slow bowling, that’s 20 on top of the 58 already lost.
Good to see Bairstow getting himself together. I wasn’t watching, but hitting out when you are 9 down is what the senior batsman should do. Sometimes it goes wrong, but as you say, grinding out a couple of single and then watching Leach get bounced out likely wouldn’t have been any better. And let’s not pretend that Leach’s performance against Ireland means he’s a cert to survive long against better bowling.
It’d be lovely if the English bowlers could keep us in the match, all the more so if Archer could get some wickets on debut. Yet it’s unlikely, the pitch isn’t helping much and so I think we need to accept that this is going to be a match where England struggle. Tomorrow’s weather should slow Aus down in the afternoon, but by then they will already have a small lead.
As for the series, that’s going to depend on some better selectorial thinking… so I don’t have much hope for that either.
Got home in time for Bairstow to plonk one to deep square leg. I was listening to the radio and do agree that we needed to score more runs, but disagree sixes were the thing to attempt. There were plenty of 2s with the boundary riders out there. If it’s the right ball, he’s powerful enough to drill it for 4 too. Attempting a six just seemed low percentage cricket, playing into Australia’s hands.
Archer took the new ball. Woakes could be miffed as he was great in the first innings at Edgbaston and we kept getting told his record at Lords was amazeballs. Actually I thought neither bowled full enough, unlike Broad who was pretty on the money. Both probably aren’t fully fit.
Burns seems happy to take up deliveries so even though he didn’t push on, I’m pretty ok with his efforts. Otherwise, Denly, Stokes, Buttler, Root at 3, Roy. The only thing missing from the usual story is Ali. Weirdly we’re in the game with 250 and the forecast might help up tomorrow too. Who knows.
I agree with the comment on Bairstow. Leach is a solid defensive bat who looked comfortable in his time out there. By all means look to score, but a wild slog attempt at a six was just pointless.
Had it gone for six, would you have said “great shot” ?
A better scenario for comparison is if he’d gone down the ground and been caught at long on, – I’d have had fewer issues with it. I know it’s sometimes fashionable to slag off the top scorer, but here I think it was a lazy, ill-conceived slog.
Well, we can differ. I just think it’s rather hard with 8 or 9 on the boundary to do much else than go aerial and try and hit it for six. No biggie.
So far in the series, Lyon has 12 for 229 making an average of 19.1 over 3 innings. He’s bowled 83 overs of the 265.3 that England have batted, 31.2% of them in fact, an economy of 2.76.
At 355 wickets in his career he’s now tied with Dennis Lillee; his career average is 31.79. His average over the last 4 years however, in which he’s taken 197 wickets, is 29.73. Over the last 2, 108 wickets at 28.13.
Now keeping in mind that a large part of his job is to bowl a lot of overs in any conditions – he’s been adding a lot more than this lately.
Our top order still don’t respect those stats..
I’m not sure if this has ever happened before but given the way modern players hit the ball, it may well happen again. I wonder if helmets for umpires (+/- bowlers) will become a thing in the not to distant future
I once hit my batting partner (no helmet) on the head with a straight drive I absolutely nailed. Never been so terrified in my life.
The problem with the umpires is that they’re older usually, and their reflexes aren’t as good.
Unfortunately, this is just part of the risk of the game, it’s played with a hard ball and can be dangerous. We can’t cover all circumstances or make the game perfectly safe, there’s an inherent risk in everything, and everyone who steps on the field knows it.
The poor batsman who hit that. I feel for him so much.
Undoubtedly it has happened before (the same way as boxer can die hours after a fight, due to trauma inflicted – symptoms are not necessarily apparent on the spot). But in this case it is obvious what the cause is.
Horrific for everyone involved in that game.
It would actually be sensible for umpires to wear helmets / protective gear. Yes, you can’t rule out every unforeseen circumstance, but that does not mean you should be tempting fate either. And as an older person, reflexes are not great, and every split second matters.
Is it even allowed for umpires to choose to wear protective gear?
One of the Australian umpires (Paul “Blocker” Wilson?) wears a plastic shield on his left arm. I think there have also been attempts to make a helmet that bowlers can wear.
You can say it about almost everything in life – protective gear crossing the street as you get older might be sensible. Ultimately it’s a choice, there’s no way of mitigating all risk in any part of life. There’s nothing to stop umpires wearing a helmet, but they won’t be able to hear edges.
Tragedies happen, and sure you can always say they could be avoided with protection. But walking out on a cricket field, or any sporting arena involves some risk.
I’m hardly opposed to it, but bad things do happen to people.
True. And obviously going full helmet defeats the purpose of umpiring (edges), but you would think something might be possible to protect umpires.
Freak accidents happen, and you can’t rule them out in their entirety. Phil Hughes’ death was also a freak accident (and one would hardly argue that he did not know what he was doing on the field). If the ball had been a bit quicker / slower he might well have ended up being alright. Likewise if he had been quicker / slower to play the ball. In such cases, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.
I certainly would not insist on making wearing protection mandatory, it should be left to the umpires themselves to decide. I also certainly would not mind if a governing body did some basic research on the issue (also since it is done for players, and umpires obviously can be hit too).
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There should be a rule that you can’t review a guy’s first test wicket
It’s good to see the quality of some of the umpiring decisions from the 1st Test are being continued into this match, albeit a lesser quantity so far but with even more of a WTF quotient…
p.s. I don’t expect Eng to get Smith out today… (it’s not a matter of when or whether but the spit-splash-splatter of the weather)
…and that’s lunch
I thought the one from Aleem Dar was understandable – there were two noises. The Wade lbw was an awful, Sunday 2nd XI level decision.
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Wade got a shocker and a ton at Edgbaston. I did hear rumours that being able to concentrate fully on batting had paid dividends for his game, but wasn’t sure if I believed them. I think he’s a real asset at 6.
I think that’s play over for today.
England will have about an hour tomorrow to press the advantage before everything dries out and batting gets easier again. So if they don’t get at least a couple more wickets in that time, advantage Aus.
Curious. I just happen to be in London now – treating the wife to a hotel and going to see Wicked at the Victoria Palace. The weather is OK. No rain. Can’t the ECB get anything right?
Shame there’s no game in Aberdeen today to compare…:-)