Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 19, 2019

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

Ball One – Let’s get it on

Underway for Day Five of a compelling, if truncated, Test match after a 70 minutes delay that felt 30 minutes longer than strictly necessary. From what I could see, the umpires were making time for the players to go through their warm-up routines. They appear to comprise largely bowling and fielding drills, which I am content to concede are important in these days in which stretching is next to Godliness. But if a side have batted all day and declared with half an hour to go, the bowlers and fielders just come out and get on with it. I’d like to see that same urgency at 11.30am as one sees at 5.30pm.

Ball Two – Somnolent cricket and Somme inspired metaphors

Far too many war metaphors are used about sport, but they seemed apposite on Day Four, as Jofra Archer bombed Steven Smith as Joe Root reached for the nuclear option etc etc etc, yadda yadda yadda. Day Five’s morning session also invited a metaphor from the the war lexicon. Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, playing against type, enjoyed a session deep behind the lines, the big guns audible only on the horizon, as they performed the equivalent of completing requisition forms and auditing supplies. A little low heart rate cricket was what the match needed, what anyone in the sellout crowd still stunned after yesterday needed and what Jos Buttler’s career needed. Some might say England’s two best biffers should have biffed a bit more, bringing froward a declaration, but pushing back the start of any Australian chase seemed a wise decision from Root’s two colonels, their general hors de combat in the pavilion, after a sniper took him out first ball on Saturday.

Ball Three – Stokes stoked

In the traditional sense, Ben Stokes is an all-rounder. He bowls fast, he bats in the top six and he catches pigeons in the cordon. But he’s a particular kind of all-rounder – the Impact All-Rounder. Whether it’s making Stuart Broad do that face with an impossible catch, snaring a set Virat Kohli to turn a Test or getting the foot on to the throat and then pressing very hard indeed, he makes things happen. It’s why he’s worth more than his somewhat modest figures suggest (batting average less than 35, bowling average above 32). Having painstakingly batted through the “calm before the storm” morning with a careful Jos Buttler, when his partner was suckered into the leg trap, Stokes hit the ball into areas of the field untenanted by Australians. His 115* came off 165 balls, but the split was 54 (118) before Buttler was dismissed and 61 (47) after.

Ball Four – Root’s Goldilocks declaration

What makes a good declaration is usually bleedin’ obvious in hindsight, but rather trickier to discern in the moment. 267 in something between 47 and 53 overs (the fielding captain can slow things down if the batting side are prospering) with no restrictions on boundary fielders, is a more distant prospect than it looks in an age of commonplace 350+ ODI innings. The best indicator of the merits of a declaration before time piles up the evidence on one side or the other, is probably the volume of informed judges who think it too early or too late. I venture that Root has about a third saying he should have pulled out earlier, a third saying he should have got a few more and another third opining that he got it just right. Not bad so far.

Jofra Archer – sort of

Ball Five – Trigger warning: Archer on

Disbelief all round the ground as Steven Smith’s concussion replacement, Manus Labuschagne, is hit in the grill second ball by an electric Jofra Archer, two wickets already in his bag. Andrew Flintoff once said that Brett Lee was fast, but didn’t feel threatening, because you saw the ball all the way through his action. Archer hits batsmen because he’s fast, but there must be more to it than that. His run up is unusually tight to the stumps and a fast arm delivers the ball from the edge of the umpire’s hat’s rim, very straight, the delivery coming and coming and coming at you. Perhaps more than anything else – and this is remarkable for a man on debut – he expects to hit the batsman and they expect to be hit by him. And when thoughts like that intrude, it’s hard to wish them away.

Ball Six – Draw brings Australia closer to retaining The Ashes… believe it or not

In truth, England were never really close to the win and Australia never in danger of surrendering their opportunity to go to Headingley requiring England to win at least two out of three to wrest away The Ashes. But it doesn’t feel like that. Jofra Archer first scrambled Steven Smith’s technique and then scrambled his senses, Ben Stokes flayed the highly rated attack to all parts of St John’s Wood and Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood were toothless throughout England’s second dig. Edgbaston had been a chastening experience for England fans, the Baggy Greens evoking memories of 1989 with Steven Smith as Stephen Waugh and the fear of a McGrathish 5-0 hanging in the air. BIzzarely, the pendulum has swung so far that expectations of Archer’s potency will require media management and Ben Stokes masks will be the most popular item in Leeds markets. What a difference there is between 83 mph and 93mph.

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Responses

  1. Well England got a bit closer than I expected

  2. I’ve read that it’s the snap of the wrist as well as the fast arm that makes Jofra Archer so quick and hard to pick up from the hand. At the Headingley World Cup game v. Sri Lanka, the sheer visible effort that Mark Wood was putting in, falling over in his follow-through a couple of times per over, was such a contrast to Archer.

    I’m going to continue going on about YJB, because in his book he says that Mitchell Johnson’s hand appearing late from behind his back gave the batter that little bit less time, compared to Dale Steyn’s more classical action, with the ball visible at the start of the delivery stride. I imagine Thommo was a handful for the same reason.

  3. Ball Three bears re-reading.

    • Yes. It shouldn’t have been so much of a surprise at Headingley – but maybe it wasn’t.


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