Saturday, 18 July 2015

Kangaroos In The Cricket House of Lords

Steve Smith
They say its best not to judge a wicket until both sides have batted and on a Lords pitch which had served up Australia five hundred plus in almost two days and then reduced England to 4-30 inside eleven overs, the judgment is in.

The pitch might be tending towards dead and slow but the Australians are alive and kicking.

After Steve Smith (215) finally broke the double century barrier after lunch and Peter Nevill (45) showed why he will stay in the Test side, England crashed in the manner of the early overs at Cardiff. Adam Lyth went second ball to Starc (1-29), giving Nevill his first Test catch. Garry Balance (23) hit four boundaries before the introduction of Mitch Johnson; Josh Hazlewood (1-22) cleaned out Ian Bell in the next over and then Johnson (2-16) got the prize wicket of Joe Root in the next and England had lost 3-2 in twelve deliveries.

Ben Stokes (38x) smashed five fours and a six in adding 55 with Alastair Cook (21x) before stumps. This lad is the real deal. He had fielded with great verve during the long, leather chasing overs of the first two days, refusing to believe the ball could ever beat him to any part of the Lords boundary and had been England's best bowler on the first day. In the face of a disaster, he offered his patient captain the best of what he had and spat in the eye of the Australians. Its on the likes of him England are rebuilding their side.

Early in the day, Chris Rogers (173) was finally removed when Stuart Broad (4-83) took an inside edge onto pads and stumps and Michael Clarke was unconvincing before meekly hooking straight to Balance near the umpire at square leg. The rest played cameos as England reigned in the brumby after it had made the safety of the hills.

Ian Bell bowled by Hazlewood
Broad, as in Cardiff, was England's best with the ball, finally given chances at the right time by Cook. He bowled a six over spell for just 11 at the start of the day which included the wicket of Rogers and returned after lunch to claim Adam Voges (25) and Mitch Marsh (12) and then again at the end to claim Johnson and bring on the declaration. Joe Root (2-55) claimed a couple with his wobblers, including the prize of Smith, when he let a shot from another game, in another context, invade the Test space and was out lbw reverse sweeping. Unlike David Warner, a double century will protect you from criticisms of a loss of judgment.

England face a mammoth task if they are to preserve their lead in the series but then, after Cardiff, Australia faced something similar to be considered any chance of retaining the Ashes. Its a long game, this summer obsession, which demands patience and reserved judgment, even on cold Australian winter nights and watched with bleary eyes and handy excuses for bosses and unreasonable spouses on the following morning.

Its the Ashes. What other excuse does one need?