Posted by: tootingtrumpet | September 13, 2019

Fifth Ashes Test Day One – The Final Over of the Day

Look Tim! Look!! Maybe he knew they were toothless

Ball One – Scoreboard? Pressure? Not us…

England batted the first hour as they always do – as if the scoreboard reads 250-2. Can positive intent mean watching and waiting, knowing that if it’s easy to score eight boundaries in the first hour of the day, it’ll be easier still in the fourth and fifth hours? Joe Denly had plenty of time to reflect on that having driven at a ball only just full of a length, the edge to second slip as predictable as Steven Smith getting into the game early.

Ball Two – Australia chances go up in flames after Ashes victory saps 1%

Test cricket is a hard school. Its unforgiving nature is one reason why we like it – love it, really. You can’t put Christians in with lions anymore – outside computer games I suppose – but any shortfall in concentration or execution is punished with a (metaphorical) mauling. On Monday morning, Australia’s players woke up as the first to have retained The Ashes in England in 18 years, some perhaps a little quicker to gather those thoughts than others, whose heads may have been a tad fuzzy. Thursday morning, they are bowling on a shirtfront and dropping Joe Root three times before he had posted 32. They’re professionals, they’re skilled, but they’re human too. Perhaps that’s what 99% looks like.

Ball Three – Paine’s painful progress

At Tea, having decided to bowl, Australia have delivered 52 overs against a scheduled 60. This column’s issue is not whether they will catch up in the extra half-hour nor even with the two or three overs that the public might lose without a concomitant refund – it’s with the sporting aspect of the dilatory over rate. Crudely put, fielding captains fail to deliver on expected over rates because it gives them an advantage – why else do it otherwise? Sometimes there is mitigation – extended DRS interludes, a clatter of wickets – not none such applies in the first two sessions today. If Australia weren’t intending to bowl their full quota of overs in six hours, they shouldn’t have chosen to field. With an extra 30 minutes taken, eight overs were left unbowled, disappearing from the match – not good enough.

Ball Four – Watch the birdy? Where?

Pigeons, to Henry Blofeld’s delight and our eventual tedium, were once a fixture at The Oval, but few (if any) blessed us with their presence today. That may be the result of of the late scheduling of the Test or even Spidercam, but one sees far fewer birds in London these days, possibly because there are far fewer insects too. No doubt there’s plenty more changes less visible in local and global ecosystems that will affect cricket as much as any other aspect of our lives. Maybe more, because cricket, with its roots in agricultural practices (still present in terms like “wickets” and “scoring runs”, the pitch 22 yards, or one chain in length). Tanya Aldred has written on this point and she is not wrong. Cricket could do a lot worse than developing a comprehensive plan to address its carbon footprint – that might take time, but the problem is not going to be solved any time soon, so get on with it.

Ball Five – Patrick Cummins is very good at bowling

Patrick Cummins bowled Joe Root with yet another jaffa, pitching off and hitting off, the McGrathian half-bat’s width doing its job again. Cummins has played all five Tests, the only seamer other than Stuart Broad to do so – and Cummins is 5mph quicker than Broad (at least). He is a captain’s dream, willing to charge in all day, new ball or old ball, bouncers or yorkers. If you could ask for the perfect pacer for today’s Test cricket, you might say. “Give me a Ryan Harris, but younger, fitter and a bit quicker.” And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Patrick Cummins to a tee. Lose the no balls though…

Ball Six – Same old, same old… but at least we – yawn – won the World Cup

After a pretty ordinary first session from the Australians, England capitulated again to bowling that was good, but hardly unplayable, on a pitch that has lots of runs in it for those prepared to graft. But England just aren’t prepared to graft, the top six scoring between 14 and 64*, getting starts and failing to go on. The best batsmen make big runs in the first innings, because that’s when Tests take their shape. Steven Smith averages nearly 82 in the first dig, Ricky Ponting almost 58, Steve Waugh nearly 61. England’s first innings totals in the series are 374, 258, 67, 301 and 271-8 now . You’re not going to win many Test series playing catch up like that.


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