England vs. Australia, 3rd Test, Alive and Kicking?

Approximately 24 hours ago, the majority of people I know either personally or through social media were sat enthralled by the action on the 4th day at Headingley. There is no other sport that I know that can have four or five days of action which can then all come down to one session of enthralling action. I was sat on the edge of my seat watching despair turn to hope, then back to resignation finally ending up at disbelief at what I’d seen. I can’t picture the emotions that those in the crowd and even more pertinent, that those in the throes of the action must have felt. The unbelievable batting by Ben Stokes, the resolute defence from Leach, the missed stumping from Lyon and the DRS decision that never was, and this was only the culmination of an amazing Test Match. There is simply no sport that can ever match that type of drama in my opinion and I had tingles down my spine to the rest of the evening trying to recall what I’d seen.

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From some of the twitter reports, Sky Sports recorded over 2.1 million viewers who watched the cricket yesterday afternoon and Test Match Special also recorded over 1.25 million listeners at the same time which is not bad for a so-called second-tier sport. However just imagine how many viewers yesterday’s action would have got on free to air; now this is not meant to have a pop at Sky who have enhanced the viewing spectacle dramatically, more it’s a pop at the ECB who sold cricket to the government as a second-tier sport and thus not worthy of free to air access. That is one thing I will never forgive the ECB for and something that still makes me incredibly angry 14 years on. Who knows, we might have had 8 million viewers had the game been on free to air yesterday?

The headlines have rightly going to Ben Stokes, who whilst looking in great touch all summer, played an innings that probably won’t be bettered by him in his lifetime. Naturally the media have caught the ‘best everitis’ or ‘momentum’ as seems to be fashionable these days with the phrases being thrown around like a politician promises new policies. I’m not personally going to get into the debate about whether this was the best innings ever by an English batsmen but what I can agree is that it was one of the finest innings I’ve seen. Stokes though should not just be praised for his amazing batting performance but also a fine bowling spell on the afternoon of Day two and morning of Day three where he wrestled some initiative back to England, even if then a victory seemed more in hope than in reality. Root and Denly also deserve praise for finally laying a platform at the top of the order which allowed Stokes to play in the outrageous manner he did. Indeed I had a quick chat with a former England International batsman before the Test who bemoaned that the like of Stokes, Bairstow and Buttler were not getting a fair crack of the whip because they were always coming and facing a batting crisis.

Now comes the reality though and most who read this blog regularly absolutely know it was likely to come. England were incredibly fortunate to win this Test Match and still have a chance of winning The Ashes. The type of innings that Ben Stokes played yesterday is perhaps something you may see 10 times in your life if you are lucky; certainly it’s not something that England can rely on for the rest of the series. Let’s face it England, the ECB and Ed Smith lucked out big time, we let Australia get 60 runs too many through poor bowling on day one and the batting performance from England throughout this series has been nothing short of disastrous, if you remove the events of yesterday. England might be one all in the Ashes, but it could have easily been a dead series as we headed to Old Trafford and nothing but a damp squib to end the summer after a historic World Cup win. Therefore, it would be so stupidly foolhardy for England to rest on their laurels, in a series where they have been comprehensively outplayed by this Australian team. In reality, Australia should have the Ashes in the bag and would have done so, if it wasn’t for one player’s quite breath-taking batting performance.

Fundamentally Jason Roy looks nothing like a Test player let alone an opening batsman, Jos Buttler is still being picked on promise rather than results (he has one Test Match century in 34 Test games now), Chris Woakes looks out of touch with both the ball and bat and Johnny Bairstow’s wicket-keeping simply isn’t good enough for a Test wicketkeeper. If England really are going to retain the Ashes, then Ed Smith has got to leave his ego by the door and pick a team more suited to Test cricket. If we stay with the same team going into Old Trafford, then I very much doubt we’ll be lucky enough to find another saviour to save us from the abyss this time. I will leave the selection debate to another time and I’m sure many of the readers and commenters on this blog have their own views on who needs to be dropped and who needs to be selected; however doing nothing is simply not an option in my view.

As for Australia, no doubt they’ll be devastated by the result and will have woken up with the sick feeling in the pit of their stomach; however the return of Steve Smith combined with the emergence of Marnus Labuschagne should give them cause for optimism heading into the Fourth Test. There may be talk of momentum shift by the English press and the England captain; however in my view, Australia are still favourites to win the series and take the ashes back down to the southern hemisphere.

On one last note, there was a wonderfully magnanimous piece written by Greg Baum written in response to yesterday’s play. I often criticise the media on both sides as being slightly ‘one-eyed’ when it comes to their team; however this piece was a true celebration of what the author had seen, irrespective of the result.

https://www.theage.com.au/sport/cricket/we-can-all-die-happy-now-cricket-doesn-t-get-any-better-than-this-20190826-p52knk.html

As ever, feel free to leave comments and thoughts below.

41 thoughts on “England vs. Australia, 3rd Test, Alive and Kicking?

  1. metatone Aug 26, 2019 / 3:35 pm

    On Woakes, he simply isn’t being used for that many overs, even when other bowlers clearly need a rest – you have to wonder if he’s carrying an injury.

    Like

    • Sean Aug 26, 2019 / 3:39 pm

      Either that or Root just doesn’t trust him and he’s simply there to try and beef up the batting order. I genuinely don’t know.

      Liked by 1 person

      • metatone Aug 26, 2019 / 4:12 pm

        So many many question marks in this England side. Someone better get Stokes some more energy drinks I think he’s going to need to pull out another miracle.

        Like

        • Rooto Aug 26, 2019 / 5:03 pm

          Re: Metatone / Stokes fitness.
          I fear for him because Anderson is probably coming back for OT, therefore the bowling line-up will potentially be looking very thin about half an hour into the match, when his calf goes again!

          Like

      • growltiger Aug 26, 2019 / 4:12 pm

        It has looked for a while like a combination of nagging injury and lack of endorsement from Root. Remember how he didn’t bring Woakes on for a whole morning at Edgbaston, when already without Anderson. The assumption is that Anderson should be the replacement, after his two matches for Lancs 2nds, but there is a case for Curran

        Like

        • CowCorner Aug 27, 2019 / 8:13 am

          I’d agree, probably more on the nagging injury side than anything else. I can definitely see the logic in Curran being selected over Anderson, not least the strengthening of the batting line up but also his general fitness. That said, I’m sure they’ll go for Anderson and Woakes will miss out. I just hope they’re as sure as sure can be that he’s fit enough to play.

          Like

    • Quebecer Aug 27, 2019 / 1:49 pm

      Might it be that unless it’s an overcast day at Lords, Woakes’ bowling is often more at the cannon fodder than threatening end of the spectrum?

      Like

      • Sean Aug 27, 2019 / 2:08 pm

        That’s been my argument against Woakes for some time now.

        Like

        • Miami Dad's Six Aug 27, 2019 / 4:06 pm

          Actually Woakes’ record in England as a whole is very impressive. I think it’s 22 with the ball, 38 with the bat. There were rumours I think during the WC about a knee problem that the England medical team are “managing”, so expect him to have career ending long term damage at some point.

          Like

          • Sean Aug 27, 2019 / 4:17 pm

            I agree and perhaps I’m in the minority, but I do feel that Woakes divots from high class bowler to county trundler far too often…

            Like

          • dannycricket Aug 27, 2019 / 4:44 pm

            I think regular injury issues (which aren’t uncommon with England’s bowlers, for some reason) don’t help his cause. He rarely is in perfect health when playing for England, it seems.

            Like

        • Marek Aug 27, 2019 / 6:11 pm

          I agree, Sean.

          His record is also very considerably buffed up by his fantastic three months (out of a six-year career) in 2016 (or six out of his 30 tests). Without that, he averages 41 and has a strike rate of almost 78.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Marek Aug 26, 2019 / 5:29 pm

    I don’t really get the argument of the Test player you talked to, Sean. Surely if your top order fail you, that’s exactly when you get to play the longest innings and score the most? It’s much better than the situation Ravi Bopara was in in 2011, coming in twice at around 500-4. That’s lose-lose territory–if you fail then it looks bad because everyone else has succeeded, if you succeed there’s so little pressure that it proves next to nothing.

    I suspect that what s/he means is that it’s not conducive to the style of those players. I think that’s partly a mischaracterisation of them. Stokes has developed into probably England’s best defensive batsman in the last couple of years–his recent issue has been lack of form and ability until this summer to switch between attack and defence. Buttler too has played several innings where he’s either started or played generally in response to the situation rather than attacked at all costs–his issue is probably whether he’s good enough at all for Tests. Bairstow–well, see below, but he’s just in terrible red-ball form at the moment.

    I can’t help feeling that this sort of argument is rather excuse-making. If those players are on million-pound contracts to play red-ball cricket, then they should be able to adapt really. English pundits often talk as if it’s absolutely impossible to switch between one and the other, but there are plenty of players who do.

    They’re not only the best ones or ones with styles that “adapt” better to Tests, either. Look at Niroshan Dickwella over the last couple of weeks: an attacking, sometimes hot-headed no. 7 keeper-batsman and ultra-attacking opener in ODIs (ring any bells!) grinding it out with the best of them and helping the tail to add crucial runs. And his average is considerably lower than any of England’s middle-order.

    I wonder how much of this is a coaching and tactics issue too, especially when I read suggestions that Jason Roy, series average 10, is practising slogging wildly the day before the Test. And I also wonder how much of it is simply a mental block–of over-emphasising “it’s the way I play” as if you can’t do anything else. Stokes has proved time and again this summer that it’s possible to do both.

    Like

    • Sean Aug 26, 2019 / 5:35 pm

      I suspect the point he makes is that you’ve got natural stroke players in the side who aren’t best when they have to face the red ball when it’s only a few overs old. It’s the old fashioned build a platform at the top of the order and let the stroke players play when the ball is slightly softer and the bowlers have more miles in their legs.

      Personally this is something I agree with, which is another reason why I didn’t want Root to bat 3. His average is far higher at positions 4 and 5, when he can attack.

      I don’t doubt the middle order should be able to step up in these situations but it’s happening time and time again.

      Just my own personal opinion though.

      Like

      • jennyah46 Aug 27, 2019 / 5:45 am

        I’m with you Sean. A great post, by the way! 🙂

        Like

        • Sean Aug 27, 2019 / 11:09 am

          Thanks Jenny 😀

          Like

  3. nonoxcol Aug 26, 2019 / 7:07 pm

    Some commenters on the previous thread may be interested in Rob Smyth’s latest article for the Guardian (on mobile, can’t link, sorry).

    Also Selvey (a huge advocate of ball tracking) and at least two prominent Australians (Brydon Coverdale and Jim Maxwell) are saying that Joel Wilson’s decision was not a howler, due to the issue with the deflection off the front pad and the strangely exaggerated movement towards off in the projection.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sean Aug 26, 2019 / 7:12 pm

      I didn’t think it was a howler at all. I’ve watched the replay 4 or 5 times and still don’t think it’s a clear cut wicket.

      Liked by 1 person

      • nonoxcol Aug 26, 2019 / 7:25 pm

        Having only heard TMS (including McGrath!) before seeing it for myself, I was surprised how debatable it actually appeared in real time.

        I’m not trying to rehabilitate Joel Wilson, but this is one of those times I am in full agreement with Selvey: Lyon is more to blame than the umpire, for fluffing that run out. And Paine should probably take silver for that ludicrous review.

        I have always been a low key sceptic of ball tracking as well, particularly with spin.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sean Aug 26, 2019 / 8:14 pm

          I just don’t know how DRS can possibly track the pitch conditions, amount of spin or swing on a ball to make it foolproof. Tim Paine’s dismissal in the first innings at Lords also just didn’t look right.

          Until DRS and the makers of that technology can come out and show that it is 99% correct, then I personally wouldn’t have it in the game unless it’s showing where the ball pitched.

          Like

          • Grenville Aug 26, 2019 / 9:28 pm

            I am dubious about DRS. Publish your test results and your methodology or be damned. (I’m not so bothered about the code. It will have developed through machine learning. How it works will be mysterious even to the programmers). Having said all that, Hawk-eye claim to work from point of bounce to point of impact. They claim that they can track that extremely accurately and that it allows them to predict the path the ball would have taken with a very high degree of confidence. The pitch conditions and spin here are irrelevant. It has bounced and spun. Swing is more complex, we’ve all seen balls sing very late. They used to deviate behind the stumps at Lords. Still the issues are, can they track the ball from bounce to impact? Can that, often short track, accurately predict position at 0cm from the stumps?

            Like

          • Udpint Aug 26, 2019 / 9:56 pm

            For DRS to be useful it doesn’t have to be perfect. Just better on average than humans.

            I don’t know how good the predictions made by those systems actually are, but it’s something that would be very easy to test.
            Just track a delivery made with no batsman in the way. Feed the system the part of the tracking up until the point where the leg of an imaginary batsman would have been. And then compare the prediction to what actually happened. Repeat a few thousand times with different kinds of deliveries and conditions.

            So I’m assuming they must have done something like that and convinced the powers that be that it’s good enough. It would be nice if the predictions we’re shown also included some indication of the estimated margin of error, though.

            Liked by 1 person

          • dannycricket Aug 27, 2019 / 4:51 am

            The issue with that kind of test is that it wouldn’t account for this scenario, where it glances off one pad onto another. (If it glances off the bat, then the snicko check before going to Hawkeye should prevent the batsman being given out LBW entirely) If such a slight impact occurs, it appears to regard a minor deviation as swing.

            Like

          • thelegglance Aug 27, 2019 / 8:37 am

            It just doesn’t look right, and the silence (to date) about that doesn’t engender confidence. Two dimensional images can be misleading, but the freeze frame at the point it strikes Stokes’ front pad show the ball very much in front of leg stump – you can see both middle and off stumps clearly. For the ball tracking to then show it crashing into middle and leg is….surprising.

            As I said a few days ago, I was uneasy with the Tim Paine lbw in the first innings too, but that didn’t get such attention for obvious reasons.

            Liked by 2 people

          • Burly Aug 28, 2019 / 9:47 am

            DRS doesn’t have to predict spin. Spin has already happened.

            DRS should be predicting the path of a ball already in the air, which isn’t that difficult. What we don’t want is for it to magically try and predict late swing that hasn’t happened yet, because no umpire would do that and the tech shouldn’t do that either.

            The ball pitches middle and leg and hits in front of middle and leg, so it’s not really a surprise that the ball tracking decided it was going to hit middle and leg.

            It was a poor decision. I can understand why Wilson got it wrong, but it looked incredibly out to me at first glance. I am pretty peeved that people are using this as an excuse to slag off DRS, all because Stokes said DRS got it wrong because it hit his front pad first – which DRS actually took into account.

            The ball turned and hit him in front. It’s that simple.

            Like

  4. dannycricket Aug 27, 2019 / 5:45 am

    Agnew v Liew Round 2 has some shots fired. First, Liew wrote an article praising Leach’s contribution to the game with bat and ball, and his potential:

    And then, when someone on Twitter questioned why such an article would even be needed, suggesting it was a straw man argument, Liew explained:

    Which Agnew replies to (apparently out of nowhere). I’m not clear whether he’s insulting Leach’s batting or Liew’s knowledge of cricket here, to be honest:

    When one person replies to Agnew, apparently calling Liew a “C#NT”, Agnew agrees with him, twice.

    And then in reply to someone asking why he’s attacking Liew for a reasonable article, Agnew replies:

    And it genuinely surprises me that Agnew hasn’t muted Liew, to avoid any further provocations to stupid behaviour. Anyway, Liew replies with this bit of hearsay:

    At which point, Liew presumably goes to bed. Or leaves his phone. To be clear, that’s the last tweet he’s done up until now.

    That is not the case for Agnew, however. First, in reply to Liew’s last tweet:

    And then when other people reply, either siding with Agnew or suggesting that he should keep quiet, these are some of his responses:

    Agnew also retweeted this:

    And perhaps Agnew’s most intriguing reply:

    However much truth was behind Liew’s tweet suggesting Agnew had made a pretty unwise joke, which Liew himself couched with “Hearing that” to show that it was hearsay, it was incredibly foolish for the BBC’s head cricket correspondent to react like that. Agnew made 33 tweets in reply to Liew, whilst Liew only posted one in reply to Agnew.

    Like

    • thelegglance Aug 27, 2019 / 8:09 am

      It’s pretty unedifying.

      As a general thing, I always tend to think sending multiple replies to one message indicates a person feels completely out of their depth.

      Liked by 1 person

      • dannycricket Aug 27, 2019 / 8:16 am

        Also, if he got a grilling from his bosses over the DMs a few months back then I’m guessing he’s going to have a very serious meeting today after doing all of this in public. Repeatedly calling someone racist, and doubling down by saying you have evidence, seems a pretty unwise thing to do on Twitter. Liew was at least wise enough to hedge his tweet by saying that someone else had told him about Agnew’s alleged joke.

        Like

        • thelegglance Aug 27, 2019 / 8:25 am

          I’m not sure this has quite the potential to get into the newspapers. There isn’t the lascivious element of repeated four letter words that they love.

          But he’s sailing close to the wind. The genial Aggers mask slipped a long time ago.

          Like

          • dannycricket Aug 27, 2019 / 8:27 am

            He does reply twice to someone who does say it though, agreeing with them both times. It’s not subtle.

            Like

    • dannycricket Aug 27, 2019 / 9:33 am

      He’s deleted some of them now. They still show up fine here for me, not sure about everyone else though.

      Like

      • Sean Aug 27, 2019 / 11:09 am

        Calling someone racist on Twitter without strong evidence is undeniably stupid from Agnew.

        Like

        • dannycricket Aug 27, 2019 / 11:23 am

          They’re the ones he’s deleted. Either his or the BBC’s lawyers probably rang him up this morning to have a word.

          Like

          • Sean Aug 27, 2019 / 11:25 am

            I would guess that it’s still too late now. I guess most have been screen capped somewhere.

            Like

  5. CowCorner Aug 27, 2019 / 8:21 am

    This public spat is incredibly bizarre and unedifying. Surely it’s getting to the point where someone from the BBC asks JA to cease and desist on that front? I have no idea why Agnew is carrying it on at such length with all those replies, but equally I have no idea why Liew carries it on either. I I can see why JA was annoyed by Liew’s insinuations in the Jofra Archer article but this isn’t the way to air his grievance.

    I’ve not got a lot of time for either of them these days. Agnew is becoming increasingly pompous and has a Cook obsession. Liew on the other hand sometimes writes some great articles but also comes across as though he’s both smug and very much in love with himself.

    Like

  6. BobW Aug 27, 2019 / 9:00 am

    Unbelievable. Thanks for posting about the exchange. Beyond me why JA wants to have another argument. Clearly he’s still pissed of about the previous spat.

    Like

  7. Miami Dad's Six Aug 27, 2019 / 4:21 pm

    Agnew definitely has a nasty streak, far beyond the “tea and cake” TMS persona he portrays. I for one find it mildly amusing, mainly, although it does have other ramifications too – it certainly shines some light on some of the character references he’s previously given to people, for instance, former choirboy Alastair Cook.

    Liked by 1 person

    • man in a barrel Aug 27, 2019 / 5:23 pm

      I had the misfortune of hearing 2 of Agnew’s spells of commentary while driving from Plymouth back to home last Friday. It was dreadful, like listening to old codgers down the pub telling jokes and needling each other – his co – commentators were Boycott, McGrath and Vaughan. I kept asking my partner who was on strike, who was bowling, what the score was and she didn’t have a clue. It was not informative and not in the slightest entertaining.

      Agnew is doing his best to kill cricket. And as usual not doing it very well.

      Like

  8. Sean Aug 27, 2019 / 5:44 pm

    Just as a heads up, we have part 1 of an interview with the former Test player that I referenced above, going out tomorrow evening.

    Like

  9. Rooto Aug 27, 2019 / 6:42 pm

    I realise that the ECB is the perfect Napoleonic general. No bastard gets that much luck.

    Liked by 1 person

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