Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 5, 2019

First Ashes Test Day Four – The Final Over of the Day

England announce surprise replacement for Jimmy Anderson in Second Test squad

Ball One – Watch it, wait for it, hit it

There is so much that looks unique / clumsy / ugly about Steven Smith that one can lose sight of the one thing he does better than any other batsman in this match, well, maybe since the game was invented. Sometimes covered by proxies like “has a great eye” or “he favours the back foot”, it’s so plain that he plays the ball later than I’ve ever seen anyone play it. Sounds easy, but the mental discipline required to watch the ball all the way on to the bat, to move hands and feet to every ball’s line and length, to respect the good balls and hit the bad – well, it’s a near miraculous feat of concentration and forbearance in these days of white ball slogfests and 300 runs plus days in Test cricket. One wonders why nobody else has tried it – the answer is that it’s very, very hard to do.

Ball Two – Smith sends the crowd into… slumber

Maybe it was the soporific tinge to the atmosphere so soon after Sunday lunch; maybe it was the fact that one scoreboard was stuck and not everyone knew the precise state of the match; maybe it was the sheer inevitability of it. The crowd’s reaction to Steven Smith’s second century of the match was (at best) muted and (at worst) indifferent. Okay, they had been disappointed by a lacklustre couple of hours cricket from a flat England side, but one might have expected a little more recognition of something really very special indeed. Brits are still pretty good at creating sporting theatre – take almost any match at the recent World Cup – but a sullen sulk in the face of opposition brilliance does nobody any favours.

Ball Three – New ball, old problems

By mid-afternoon, England hadn’t quite given up, but the new ball was available and not taken. Since Stuart Broad had bowled just nine overs on the day and Chris Woakes five, a 15 minutes or so delay in reaching for the shiny cherry seemed negative, even if Root might have thinking about limiting the time to bat out the draw rather than dismissing Australia. The new ball instantly brought an LBW appeal answered in the affirmative but, somewhat inevitably, Joel Wilson was soon swinging his arms yet again, as DRS indicated that the ball was going over the top by a distance. What a match for the umpires!

Ball Four – Smith improves Australia’s chances even when he gets out

After a horrible, rusty wide from Woakes, his second ball induced a tired slash at a ball almost as badly directed and Jonny Bairstow took the catch in front of first slip – Smith out at last. The Australian lead was 241 with four and a bit sessions left in the match. The draw receded – weather permitting – and, counterintuitively, an Australian win probably became a little more likely, as a “safe” declaration on Monday looked less probable than an all out total on Sunday evening. Funny old game – but Root wasn’t laughing.

Ball Five – Batsman of the Day

Australia A, Australia Under-19s, Australian Centre of Excellence, Australian Institute of Sports, Tasmania Institute of Sport, Tasmania Second XI, Tasmania Under-17s, Tasmania Under-19s, Tasmania Under-19s – just some of the teams for whom Matthew Wade has turned out. Two years on from his last Test and nearly seven years since his last century, Wade reversed swept Joe Root to notch a third Test match ton and send the Australian lead towards 300. At 31 and with a wicketkeeper captain to get past, Wade might have thought his time had passed, but he seized his chance to ride on Steven Smith’s coat-tails and play a crucial innings for his country – and his career.

Ball Six – Bowler of the Day

It’s often said that nothing improves a player’s reputation like a spell on the sidelines. England got half a glimpse into a post-Jimmy Anderson future, as the ball was hit to various parts of the West Midlands, and it did not look very pleasant at all. Okay, there’ll be days when the first choice spinner bowls like a first choice spinner and when the other opening bowler can get through more work, but the promise of Jofra Archer, the pace of Olly Stone and the cunning of Sam Curran have a yawning ravine to bridge when the Lancashire man joins us in the Media Centre permanently. Which suddenly feels fairly imminent.

 


Responses

  1. Spot on – amongst the tics and twitches, he seems to have all the time in the world to be just incredibly still at the right moment to play the ball as late as anyone I’ve ever seen either. He’s truly the oddest top notch batsman I’ve seen.

  2. There’s an outside chance he might score more than the three tons you predicted.


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