Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 18, 2019

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

Patrick Cummins and Jofra Archer enjoy a quiet moment

Ball One – Hopping mad

Steven Smith went through his full repertoire of tics as he sought to muster the concentration and discipline required to re-establish his innings after the two rainy sessions yesterday. It really is quite extraordinary how his St Vitus Dance of movements resolve themselves into perfect balance and position at the moment bat intercepts ball. There are few comparators in cricket, and, more generally, few in all sport – I’m drawn to mathematics, specifically graphing The Mandelbrot Set, as the only illustration that works.

Ball Two – The Fast Show

Motorcycling is a pretty visceral experience – wind, rain, bumps in the road – you’re never in any doubt that the world hurtling towards you can be an unfriendly place. When that happens at 70mph, it’s one thing, but it’s quite another if you roll back the throttle for a swift overtaking – 85mph feels a whole lot more than 70mph! But it doesn’t feel much different to 90mph, from the saddle of bloody big Honda anyway. That is clearly not the case standing 20 yards away from the bowler, bat in hand. Jofra Archer’s ability to get up into the 90s, especially with the short ball, means that he hits batsmen more often than most, his roughing up of Matthew Wade worthy of an assist to Stuart Broad for the wicket.

Ball Three – Never mind the speedgun, watch the batsman

You can eat all the data you like, but when you see a true fast bowler, you know it. The second coming of Mitchell Johnson decided the 2013 / 14 Ashes within minutes and Jofra Archer had a similar impact on the crowd, if not the opposition, when he hit Steven Smith on the arm in the middle of what proved an epic afternoon session. Soft ball, long spell, great batsman – little matters when a man can crank it up well into the 90s. That’s given the Australians, even the great Steven Smith, something to think about today and for the rest of the series. But, and this is almost as important, England fans will know that they are in every Test if Jofra Archer is on the field, no matter what the scoreboard says.

Ball Four – Guha and Johnson putting together a fine partnership

Isa Guha, once it was clear that Steven Smith was okay having been hit on the neck by a very quick Jofra Archer bouncer, turned to Mitchell Johnson and asked, “What does it feel like when you hit a batsman like that?” It was the right question to the right man at the right time and, to his credit since he was at least as rattled as anyone looking on, Johnson answered unhesitatingly and honestly and with the decency that has marked his media work. While his answer wasn’t a surprise – you feel sick, but it’s part of the game (or words to that effect) – expressing it in that order possibly was. It was an excellent five minutes of broadcasting from two of the more interesting voices in the comm box.

Ball Five – Sanctimonious? On Twitter? Who knew…

I don’t know what Jofra Archer and Jos Buttler were doing when they were shown on TV laughing when Steven Smith was injured. I do know that I was commentating at Guerilla Cricket when Stuart Broad was pinged through the grille by Varon Aaron, the blood gushing. I witnessed it on television, but I was shaken up enough to know that I was babbling into the mic, not really knowing what I was saying,  slightly out of control. It would be wrong to say that I was suffering from shock, but my reaction was, at the very least, somewhat involuntary. When Smith went down, there was a real sense of dread around Lord’s for what felt like a long time – it must have felt longer on the field. One thing was on most minds. Those rushing to heap opprobrium on the England pair should reflect for a moment on how they might feel, up close and personal, in the midst of an incident like that and whether they, like me, might not have been quite so cool as they are when mashing the keyboard.

Ball Six – Bats out of Hell

Last month, after the Ireland Test, Joe Root publicly criticised the pitch served up by Lord’s new groundsman, Karl McDermott, describing it as “substandard” and “…not even close to being a fair contest between bat and ball.” If he’s tempted to make similar remarks after an extraordinary day of fast bowling, he’d be well advised to keep stumm. The bowling, especially from an electric Jofra Archer and a fired up Patrick Cummins, was as fast and furious as can have been seen on this grand old ground. But that’s only half the story. Too many batsmen, top order men not bunnies, fail to keep their eye on the ball, move too late to avoid an impact and rely too heavily on the protective equipment they have worn since childhood. The contribution of Mr McDermott to such technical problems is negligible.


  1. Two points. Well done for highlighting the importance of keeping one’s eye on the ball and the apparent assumption of protection wearing headgear brings. I’m amazed that former test batsmen on commentary do not mention this more often (if ever); regardless of foot movement, head position, bat swing or other batting vagaries, keeping an eye on the ball is the most fundamental skill in any sports which involve a round object and something to hit it. Any photograph of Roger Federer hitting the ball will demonstrate eyes on racket on impact.
    Second thing. No matter what Buttler and Archer were chuckling about how about the intensified boos greeting Smith’s re-entry onto the ground – and not just any ground. Disgraceful behaviour from so-called fans. The sport is better when the best players are playing, yet still this weird sanctimonious vilification continues. Pantomime it is not.

    • I don’t mind a bit of booing when Warner, Smith or Bancroft come in to bat – though I wouldn’t do it myself – but that’s enough.

      Graham Thorpe said that he knew he was in touch when he could see the ball hitting the bat. Now that’s watching it closely!

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