England versus Australia

Monster Nights: Australia bite back at Lords

A net session, two monster nights watching Australia bite back and a dangerous lack of sleep combined with house painting. Frantic 36 hours in my life it has been. I even sound like Yoda now.

On Thursday I headed down my local cricket club for a net with a few clubmen. A great way to kick off the second Test. My mediocre batting was extremely rusty, the feet didn’t move an inch. I had a profound thought: ‘this is what Bruce Reid felt like’. I was swatting away looking for Louie. It will be a long pre-season!

I headed home to my lovely partner who also loves Test match cricket. We (she) made some nice food and celebrated the first win, the toss. Australia needed to win that, bat first and make a big impression. That they have done.

Steve Smith, the world’s number one batsman, justified the tag. His ungainly technique, best described as (a long way) back and across was questioned by punters who believed the English conditions would undo him. A pair of 33s at Cardiff showed promise. He then became the first Aussie to nail a double ton at Lords since 1938.

Most blokes would be happy if this was their season wagon wheel. Steve Smith's 215 at Lords went all around the ground.

Most blokes would be happy if this was their season wagon wheel. Steve Smith’s 215 at Lords went all around the ground.

Smith takes guard outside leg stump and in instances of LBW appeals he often gets struck outside the line of off stump, demonstrating how far he moves across. Superstar batsman and part-time spinner Joe Root eventually got him LBW. But it was deeply controversial. The on-field umpire gave it out, Smith reviewed.

We all know the first golden rule of LBW. If it pitches outside leg stump it cannot be out. It doesn’t matter if ball tracking shows that it will hit the middle of middle. The other golden rule of LBW is that you cannot be given out if you were struck on the pad outside the line of off-stump.

The on-field umpire gave this out. Smith reviewed and the 3rd umpire failed to overturn the decision. Allegedly there is 1mm of the ball hitting Smith in line here. I think this system or assumption requires a review.

The on-field umpire gave this out. Smith reviewed and the 3rd umpire failed to overturn the decision. Allegedly there is 1mm of the ball hitting Smith in line here. I think this system or assumption requires a review.

Australia’s 8/566 declared was set up by Chris Rogers’ 173. He presented one of the finest catalogues of stroke play anyone could hope to see. The 37 year-old county circuit stalwart showed his team mates how to play in swinging English conditions. Broad and Anderson, two of the best fast bowlers the world has seen in the last 15 years, were negated by Rogers’ gentle and deeply effective late-play technique. He hit 28 fours on a fast outfield at his home ground (Rogers is Middlesex Captain). He and Smith put on 284 and Peter Nevill posted a nice 46 on debut.

Australia will be concerned that others didn’t make use of the conditions to find form. Clarke, Warner, Voges and Marsh need runs. England bowled much better on the second day and did well to restrict Australia below 600.

But the best bowling of the match was on display when Australia declared 10 minutes after the Tea break. Clarke sent his big three fast-bowlers out with a mission to rip into England’s top order. They responded with the best wholesale display of fast-bowling seen in the series so far. The young Josh Hazlewood bowled 10 overs on the bounce with the new ball and returned figures of 1/22. He was full and straight and swinging. There was none of the short and wide nonsense that Australia served up in Wales.

Hazlewood clean bowled Ian Bell. It was a ripper delivery and this ball tracker image displays the unplayable nature of the swing Hazlewood extracted from the heavily lacquered English Duke ball.

Hazlewood clean bowled Ian Bell. It was a ripper delivery. Ball tracker shows the huge swing Hazlewood extracted from the heavily lacquered English Duke ball.

Both of Australia’s left-armers were in on the act. Starc took out Adam Lyth and Mitchell Johnson coming on at first change knocked over Gary Ballance and snicked up the highly prized wicket of Joe Root. England were lucky not to be further in the hole with several french cuts narrowly missing stumps, yorkers desperately dug out and one or two snicks flying through recently unplugged holes in the cordon.

England will be pleased at the efforts of Ben Stokes and Alistair Cook to resist the onslaught and take England from 4/30 to 4/85 at stumps. The hosts trail by 481 and there’s a huge pile of work awaiting them on day 3.

The follow-on in Test cricket is 200 runs. So England need to make at least 366 to force Australia to bat again.

This picture sums up Lords nicely. It's a beautiful ground the gentry among the crowd enjoy the action with plenty of flowing bubbles.

This picture sums up Lords nicely. It’s a beautiful ground the gentry among the crowd enjoy the action with plenty of flowing bubbles.

A funny thing happened at two o’clock this morning watching the cricket. I was with a couple of good mates – Ian and Brad – and we’d set up camp for the evening with plenty of beers, ribs and wings. The night wore on and it became quite cold by local tropical standards. Ian pulls out a ridiculous bright red 1980s sports jacket with twin yellow pin stripes down the arms. The thing wouldn’t look out of place among the bacon and egg ties and jackets of the Marlybone Cricket Club at Lords.

Legend has it the jacket is actually MCC issue: “you get one when you make it onto the MCC Members waiting list”. If the big fella gets anywhere near the MCC his wife will never get him out of the long room bar!

Enjoy the rest of the Test frothers. This one is not over yet.

No golf tees or driver were required – Day One at the Ashes in Australia

Hair was torn from Australian scalps today and a bright sunny day in Brisbane failed to deliver a predicted violent thunderstorm. Golf ball-sized hail did not materialise. Besieged by storms in recent weeks, it was feared that Brisbane would again be battered by inclement weather, hence disabling the critical opening exchanges of the Australian Ashes.

As I staggered up Vulture Street in south Brisbane this morning, alongside thousands of other frothing cricket fans, it was 50+ suncream you wanted. Not an umbrella or Titleist driver.

Describing the vibe leads me to reflect. Today was nothing like 2006. You know? The home series after we lost 2-1 in England in 2005. The one where everyone in the Asia-Pacific pawned their grandmother to secure a ticket to the follow up Ashes Series in Australia. Today didn’t have the frantic pre-game buzz of that series or the anxious dry retch inducing tension.

Fans today were a little more circumspect, perhaps understanding that all that really stands between England winning four Ashes Series in a row for the first time in over 100 years is an immensely unexpected performance from Australia. Winning the toss was nearly the best thing that happened to the green and gold all day. On a top-notch batting strip, Michael Clarke sent us in hoping our top order could cash in.

At six wickets for 130-odd Australian fans were facing an horrific reality – being bowled out for stuff all on Day One in Brisbane on a batsman’s paradise.

Townsville boy Mitchell Johnson and wicket-keeper Brad Haddin dug Australia out of a fairly deep pit.  8/273 at the close of play turns out to be acceptable. But, let’s not be too tactful here – we can leave diplomatic dialogue to the Australian Government and bid them well in their attempts to salvage the rapidly declining relationship with Indonesia. We need to face the facts.

England are on top and Stuart Broad has been ignited. The attempts of the parochial Brisbane crowd – including me and my friends – to unnerve Broad fell to the wayside as the Nottingham quick ripped into the Aussies with aplomb.

Strangely enough, earlier in the day Broad inquired about changing a misshapen ball. A mate of mine, Ian, a tall fast-bowler similar in stature to Chris ‘The Giant’ Tremlett, leaned across and described a bizarre dream from the evening before where he was forced to bowl with a ball so beaten out of shape by furious batsmen, it resembled a potato. The umpire obliged a request to change the potato; Ian was provided a hexagon. Well, at least you might get some decent seam movement, I thought.

Australia’s attack will need loads of that tomorrow as it is certain that they’ll be bowling at England before lunch on Day Two. Here’s hoping Brad Haddin (78 not-out) goes all the way and scores a tonne before that happens.

See you tomorrow at the GABBA.

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