Tuesday, August 13, 2013

147 for one; nek minnit...

Having retained the Ashes when the rain fell in Manchester, England has wrapped up the series against Australia at Durham. On a pulsating final day which saw 15 wickets fall for 320 runs, England wrapped up the fourth test by 74 runs.

Australia had its chances. At 147 for one chasing 299 to win, the Australians were in the ascendancy after tea on the fourth afternoon. Then it all went south; Cricinfo reports:

To Headingley and Edgbaston 1981 may be added Durham 2013. As happened 32 years ago, Australia tossed away day upon day of diligent cricket with a crowded hour or so of batting calamity, against bowling of high quality from an England team that had looked momentarily bereft of inspiration.
Where in 1981 Bob Willis and Ian Botham had rained blows on their antipodean rivals, this time it was Stuart Broad, aided by a critical cameo from Tim Bresnan. Back then, England had been marshalled expertly by Mike Brearley; now it was Alastair Cook who pulled the right rein by replacing Graeme Swann with Bresnan when Australia were 167 for 2 and hurtling towards 299 to win.
What followed was a cavalcade of wickets that undid nine days' worth of hard graft from an Australia team straining to break a sequence of ineptitude. England would have hoped to stay in the match with four wickets after tea - they won it by claiming nine, six to a fearsome Broad. Slightly sheepish in their Ashes retention in Manchester, the hosts could now celebrate winning them in dramatic and damaging style.
For all their efforts at Old Trafford and Chester-le-Street the tourists are 3-0 down, confidence battered by the realisation of futility. Australia's belief that they can win Test matches will be extremely shaken. England's sense that they can defeat Australia come what may can never be stronger than it is now. Chris Rogers, Brad Haddin and Ryan Harris, all heroic at times in this match, will ponder whether the twilight of their careers will be lived without Ashes hope. Steven Smith and Usman Khawaja now bear the scars that once dogged England's 1990s generation.
Broad's impact on the match was profound, as a tally of 11 wickets attests. His away cutter to defeat Michael Clarke was among the balls of the series. But it was Bresnan's introduction that swung the contest, reaping the dismissal of a fluent and focused David Warner. With Rogers he had blunted England's bowlers in a stirring century stand and, though Swann had beaten Rogers with spin and Khawaja without it, Warner and Clarke were scoring freely.
Warner has seldom played better in Tests, repeatedly piercing the off-side field with back-foot punches, then advancing to loft Swann over wide long off for six. But as a modicum of cloud cover passed over Durham, Bresnan extracted bounce and movement from a perfect length to tickle Warner's outside edge and pull England back from the precipice.
Andy Flower's messages from the boundary had circulated freely as Australia swept closer to their target, and a drinks break brought about the plan that would do in Clarke. England set a field that foreshadowed a short ball, and Clarke could not help but notice. Instead he received a delivery that was full, fast and seaming away. The off stump tilted back as Joe Root's had on day three, and Broad roared his approval.
Smith has had a poor match, out cheaply on day two then dropping a catch on the fourth morning. He eluded one caught-behind appeal when the ball struck his hip rather than his bat, but when essaying the shot again could manage only to drag it off his body and on to the stumps.
Shane Watson's front pad again got in the way, plonked across the stumps to Bresnan. Leg stump was visible when he was struck in line, and though the angle was sharp, Aleem Dar's finger was raised. Watson's review showed the ball clipping the stumps, enough to keep him walking.
Broad's pace was pushing the Australians back in their crease, a dangerous position from which to play the seaming ball. Haddin would fall in this manner, struck in line and with feet in the air. As the only batsman left he had to review Tony Hill's decision, and like Watson would depart to a ball barely clipping the stumps. England celebrated like winners.
From there, all that remained was to mop up Australia's longest tail of the series. Harris ended a match he should be proud of by being pinned lbw, Nathan Lyon was far too late and crooked on a Broad delivery that made a mess of his stumps. In fading light, Cook claimed the extra half hour to clinch the match, and a final burst of sun allowed him to call on Broad again. Three balls later Peter Siddle lamely poked a catch to mid-off, a fitting end for Broad but also Australia. 

 We watched the final stages of the match this morning, after discovering that play was still in progress around 6am (NZ time). The English players had their foot on the Australians' throats, and they weren't going to ease up. Even when fading light forced Broad out of the English attack temporarily, there was a sense of inevitability.

Then the sun came out again, Broad bowled full to Peter Siddle who drove on the up, straight to James Anderson at mid-off. And then the English celebrated, and deservedly so. Outplayed for the first two days of this test, they finished far stronger than the Australians who looked literally defeated in the post-match formalities.

It's hard to see how Australia can recover from this latest setback before the fifth test starts at The Oval in London next week. They could and should have won this match. But the batting of Ian Bell yesterday and the bowling of Broad with 11 wickets in the match were the difference, and Australia had no answer when it mattered.

Can England carry this form on to the return series in Australia this summer? On present form, you wouldn't bet against it. Players like Cook, Trott, Prior and Anderson are too good to stay out of form for long, and the legendary depth of Australian cricketing stocks seems to have faded. The side currently in England is supposed to be the best available, but they are simply not as good as their English opponents; by some margin.

1 comment:

gravedodger said...

Yes Harris must be gutted.
He is very injury prone but he has made the two bowling attacks pretty evenly matched, by giving 110% for three weeks.
The gulf opens in the top order batting where the Poms have a higher value on their wickets, Cook, and Bell will both spend a session accumulating 20/25 runs without getting frustrated and playing the one rash shot. Sans Hussey or Katich the Aussies have no-one who will bat more than two overs before the rash shot is used. That is old time test cricket.
On that wicket Smith's out was just dumb, some balls were ankle high at the batter and some were throat off a similar length so straight was the only option unless width was clearly offered.

Btw I am of the opinion that the Umps are more likely to give LBs with the DRS as backup, particularly our guy Tony Hill, more on field outs especially flirting down leg are given and then it only needs a clip to be sustained wheras an onfield not given needs a more substantial ball on leg stump to overturn.
That facet makes a big change in the approach of a Watto's technique, Harris would have been very unlikely to have been given this morning on what the Ump sees prior to the DRS. Cripes it was only 1/5th of the ball on the top of leg stump but to have overturned the original out it needed to miss completely, and for any batsman that is harsh indeed.

IMHO the DRS is causing more problems as it is set up for the more scoring orientated Aus Batsmen than the more phlegmatic poms, however that said Clarke's men who were so widely written off at tours start have been closer than many thoughtlosing the first by, was it 14 then denied at Old trafford by rain and abysmally slow England tactics it could almost be 2 all going to the Oval.