Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 6, 2019

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

Ball One – Time to bat time

Steven Smith has batted 11 hours in this Test match and is, to state the bleedin’ obvious, the difference between the sides. England can’t call up a once in a lifetime genius, but they can select (or, perhaps, instruct) batsmen to play the clock as much as the scoreboard. What looms for England today – and perhaps a couple of times more on August and September pitches – is the prospect of making 300+ twice at about 3 an over, and losing the match. Only Rory Burns faced more than 120 balls in the first innings (Smith faced 426) and he’s one of few with the record and mindset to grind it out. It’s going to be hard to win Tests against a bloody-minded Australia now bowled into form, without England regularly batting seven sessions (210 overs, 1260 balls) across two innings. So who’s going to do it?

Ball Two – Lyon to Roy (Six Balls In Search Of A Wicket)

For those who believe that selecting Jason Roy is the right way to go, shoulders are shrugged and that old favourite, “He has to play his natural game” is given another canter round the paddock. For those who do not believe that selecting Jason Roy is the right way to go, we also shrug our shoulders, but we say, “What did you expect?” The ineluctable truth is in the scorebook.

Ball Three – No alarms for Australia, no surprises from England

If one were to forecast how the morning would have gone back at 11 o’clock, one might have suggested that the new hard ball would pick up a wicket, Jason Roy would play an absurd shot and that Nathan Lyon would find a gap between bat and pad or an edge or two and that England would lunch three or four down. Rather like a Smith century, it’s one thing knowing that it’s coming, but quite another to find a way of avoiding it. The Roy problem is likely to be still an issue at Lord’s (but perhaps not long after that) but England need to find batsmen with the skill and patience to deal with Lyon’s side / over spin on the fourth and fifth day. Who is best equipped to do that? Surely Ed Smith has enough scouts in the shires to come up with some names.

Ball Four – Talent exploited and talent wasted

Looking down the two line-ups, a highly subjective game suggests itself – who makes the most of their talent? On the Australian side of that ledger, one has David Warner, Steven Smith, Patrick Cummins, Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon (with a few more bubblin’ under). On the English side, Ben Stokes (probably), Chris Woakes (at home), Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson (unfit in this match). Roll in the seemingly obvious conclusion that, in red ball cricket at least, Jason Roy, Jos Buttler and, these days, Jonny Bairstow appear too often to be complicit in squandering their potential and it hardly reads well for an extremely well-resourced England coaching set up.

Ball Five – Batsman of the Day

England were as abject with the bat as anyone suspected, but Chris Woakes posted a second 37 full of pleasing drives and controlled defence. Unlike many of his team-mates, he lines the ball up, moves his feet into orthodox positions and meets the ball with the full face of a straight bat. He averages 43 in home Tests and that kind of number looks an awful long way off for his more feted colleagues higher up the order. They, of course, play their natural games, where head, hands and feet seemingly have minds of their own.

Ball Six – Bowler of the Day

Four years ago, we were still calling him “The Groundsman” –  now he’s “The Goat”. It took Australia as long to find a successor to SK Warne as it took England to find a successor to IT Botham, but Nathan Lyon was no larger than life Freddie Flintoff type. Balding and a blocker with the bat, it took a while for his mix of overspin and sidespin to be fully appreciated after a diet of Beer and Hauritz. But canny judges noted how strong his action is, how consistent his line is and how competitive he is – spinners need to be, as they’ll be bad days in which they have to hang in the game. Given a helpful pitch and an England XI broken on the wheel of Steven Smith’s will, some might have felt the pressure to deliver. But Lyon has 352 Test wickets for a reason, and he landed ball after ball, spun hard, exactly where England’s didn’t want to see it. 6-44 was his reward and as comprehensive an outperforming of a direct opponent as one might fear to see in a team sport.

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