Friday, 17 July 2015

Australia Back To Their Best At Lords

One for the good guys ... Rogers drives
Anderson to long on for his hundred
The turn around Michael Clarke called for at Lords has certainly been given a good start by all three Australian batsmen on the first day.

Chris Rogers (158x), so used to the conditions at Lords after the last four seasons with Middlesex, played the perfect openers role. With more than fifty percent of his runs coming in an arc from cover to third man, his lesson in waiting for the ball to come to him was one all the Australians could learn from. He gave one near impossible chance in his sixties, a gloved ball down the leg side of Moeen but it would have been sheer ill-luck if it had lodged in Jos Butler's gloves. He got off the mark with a edge high to Joe Root's right at third slip but you would be looking hard for faults to claim it a chance.

Steve Smith (129x) batted with great control and patience. His only inventiveness was the pulled four off Jimmy Anderson which raised his century. England had set an 8-1 off side field and the ball was delivered two feet outside off stump, so Smith walked across and took the ball through wide mid on. England's seamers kept the ball half a metre outside his off peg all day, in order to draw him across his stumps and convinced the plan would see him lose self-control and edge a drive to the slips or lose a leg stump to the variation ball. It never happened. Smith just waited and waited and eventually received enough balls to build an innings. His only hurry was moving through the eighties to his hundred and then he returned to building rather than tearing apart. It was yet another impressive display of first innings batting which takes him to the very top notch of batsmen's contributions during this vital part of any match. When Australia bats first, Smith averages 97.

Making hay ...
The 259 unbroken partnership was the best batting of the series by either side and launched of the opening stand of 78 between Rogers and David Warner (38). Much was said and will be made of Warner's impetuous lash at the end of Moeen first over which he deposited into the safe hands of Jimmy Anderson running back for a well judged catch at long off. He had, after all, already carved two boundaries in response to the off spinner's introduction. What do we want of Warner? If he smashes a hundred of 75 balls we gape and applaud his audacity and if he plays quietly and doesn't chip and chirp in the field we wonder what is wrong with Davey. Its the confusion in his own mind about expectations which is the only thing likely to hold him back. Best if he is left alone to bat and those on the sidelines simply accept what comes.

The other side of Alastair Cook's captaincy was on display on the first day, but to be fair, it was a dead track and his bowlers looked flat. Smith had a bit to say in the post match back patting about England's defensiveness but in truth, had Australia taken a more measured view on the first day at Cardiff, the first Test might not have been lost. This penchant for aggressive post match comment is an aspect of Smith that is still unkempt and yet to be manicured into true captaincy standard. If their was a question mark, it would be about the use of Stuart Broad. As well as Anderson bowled at Cardiff, Broad bowled better and yet he had only three spells on the day and the bulk of his overs were in the last session when the game had got away from England. Another oddity was giving Mark Wood the new ball late in the day when he was already three overs into a spell and Broad was fresh. In the main, on a slow but even batting pitch and against Australia's two best batsmen, there was little else that could be done. England had tough chances - Bell dropping Smith at fifty low at second slip and the chances from Rogers to Butler and Root - but they were few and very far between.

The Australians great achievement was to adhere to an Ian Chappell policy: when it goes your way, milk it for everything it is worth.