It was a sad yet highly predictable ending to Day 3 at Lords, which after a slightly curtailed morning session in which England took 3 wickets, the weather once again set in and the rest of the day was a soggy disappointment for those fans who had a spare £150 to purchase a ticket. Though I have no sympathy for any of the members or anyone who turned up at Lords today with a bottle of champagne and then proceeded to pop the cork onto the outfield, there’s a special place in hell for the latter group!
The one session of cricket that we had was a somewhat strange affair in that despite England getting 3 crucial wickets (although not the most crucial wicket of them all), they bowled pretty poorly in my view. The first hour in particular was a lesson in how not to bowl at the opposition with helpful overhead conditions, although our learned friend always likes to disagree:
I’m genuinely not sure I could cope without Mr Selvey’s nuggets of wisdom, especially as from first view the England bowlers spent most of the first hour bowling back of length and wide of the stumps to the Australians, but I guess now it must have been some terrific act of subterfuge! Having seen a number of games like this with similar conditions at Lords, the absolute must at this venue is to be bowling a nagging line on 4thstump from a good length, this is why Tim Murtagh has been so successful at Lords over the past several years. Sure I get that you don’t want every delivery to be on a good length so the batsman can plonk his front leg down the pitch, but the law of averages dictates that you’re not going to get much change on this pitch or most other pitches in England, if you don’t make the batsman play. Sure Lord Selvey can point to his experience in bowling at Lords, but I also call what I saw for the first hour at Lords this morning and it was total dross.
When England did eventually get their plans and lines right, they suddenly looked like a different unit. Archer set up Bancroft perfectly with a couple of short balls and then swung one into his pads, Woakes after looking like he’d had 10 pints last night in his first couple of overs finally got Khawaja to nick one that should have been left alone and Broad got Travis Head LBW with one that had to be reviewed despite the fact that it was cannoning into middle stump. Perhaps Aleem Dar had been out on the sauce with Chris Woakes last night? So after a very poor start, England were back in the game before the heavens opened, though not before half of England’s fans nearly wet themselves with a 93MPH delivery to Steve Smith that was left well alone. I do get the excitement of having a bowler who can bowl really fast, but the main difference is that the Australian quicks (and they are sharp) have focused on hitting a line against each batsman, something that Archer will need to learn with time. It’s all good having someone who can chuck the ball down at 90MPH+, but that bowler also needs to make the batsman play or at least fend off, which is something Archer didn’t do nearly enough this morning; Otherwise you may as well pick Mark Footitt in the future. Now this isn’t a criticism of Archer at all, as I think the lad has a terrific future ahead of him in all formats of the game and no doubt it will have taken him time to adjust to the Lord’s slope, but it was just frustrating that one of the senior bowlers or captain didn’t have a quiet word with him about adjusting his lengths with such favourable overhead conditions.
As for Australia, their limpet like ex-Captain is still at the crease and doesn’t look like he plans to go anywhere anytime soon, which is most annoying for those who love watching the art of batting in its purest form and for those who would quite like an England win. There may be small opening should England get Smith out, but we’ve been saying that all summer and he still hasn’t taken the hint! As for the rest of Australia, there must be some real frustration with Usman Khawaja, who looks a class apart when he’s at the crease, but all too often has a brain fade and gives his wicket away. This was never more apparent than this morning, when after playing some wonderful shots square of the wicket, he nicked a ball from Woakes that he should have left alone. It’s almost like he is the James Vince of Australian cricket. Almost.
So we go onto day 4, with the draw looking like the most likely result, which is something that England probably would have grabbed with both hands before the start of this Test especially as their record at Lords against the Australians in dismal. That being said, there is a certain ability to collapse in a big heap by both batting teams, so perhaps we shouldn’t write off a result just yet.
Anyway, I’m off to campaign my local MP to see if I can get Steve Smith deported on the grounds of compassion, so I will leave this here as it made me laugh during a soggy and interrupted day’s play.
As ever, feel free to comment with any thoughts on the game or anything else cricket related….