Friday, July 19, 2013

England ride on Australia's mediocrity to dominate at Lord's

England finally exposed the yawning chasm in quality between them and Australia on the second day of the second Ashes test at Lord’s. England’s tail wagged to ruffle the Australians to start the morning, before Australia’s batsmen embraced mediocrity in a variety of ways to hand the match on a platter to England. The talking points of a dominant day for England include:

  1. When Australia dismissed Tim Bresnan off the first ball of the day, it seemed like England’s first innings would be wrapped up in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately for Australia, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann had different plans batting at number 10 and 11. The duo put on 48 runs for the last wicket in 40 balls, and despite 361 being a below par total, there was a discernible momentum shift as England’s first innings concluded.
  2. Before getting into Australia’s pathetic batting effort, let’s take a moment to salute Ryan Harris’ five-wicket haul. Harris bounded in with energy and enthusiasm, and his spells were extremely difficult for the English batsmen to negotiate. Figures of 5 for 72 at an economy of 2.76 vindicated his selection ahead of Mitchell Starc for the second test.
  3. Booming cover drives. Check. A flurry of boundaries and scoring at a quick strike rate. Check. Front foot thrust down with a big gap between bat and pad. Check. Out LBW. Check. Selfish review when clearly out. Check. Thus is the story of Shane Watson’s recent test career. Jarrod Kimber explained the myth of Shane Watson perfectly on cricinfo.
  4. I believe Chris Rogers should have called for a review the moment he was errantly given out to Graeme Swann. The DRS was implemented for such howlers, and even if there is only one team review left, the batting team should ideally use a review for an lbw that would have missed an extra set of stumps. However, pressure plays all sorts of tricks, and it is in the dismissal of Rogers, that the fallacy of Watson’s selfish review is completely exposed.
  5. There is isn’t a better example of Australia’s fall from grace than their desperate attempts to make Phil Hughes and Usman Khawaja succeed and nail a place in the batting order. Hughes opted to play an audacious cover drive with no footwork after just eight balls at the crease and duly nicked one to the keeper. Khawaja decided the best way to rescue Australia was to try and hit Graeme Swann for six, and only succeeded in holing out meekly to mid-off. Is it too late for Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey to come out of retirement?
  6. It’s scant consolation to him, but amongst the raft of silly dismissals, Michael Clarke was out to a genuinely good delivery. One of the most endearing sights in test cricket is the bowler setting up the batsman’s downfall. Stuart Broad directed two very good bouncers, before delivering a perfect yorker to trap Clarke plumb when he was expecting another bouncer. The classic setup still remains great to watch when a bowler executes it perfectly.
  7. I wasn’t too impressed with Graeme Swann’s bowling in the first test. Swann’s greatest asset other than his beautiful drift is the pace at which he spins the ball, the extra revolutions often flummoxing the best of batsmen. In retrospect, the pitch at Trent Bridge negated Swann’s strength, as the faster the ball came, the easier it was to negotiate on a wicket where the ball was stopping consistently. At Lord’s, the pace of the wicket is truer, and Swann was on song. The arm ball was unplayable and the batsmen uncertain whether to play him on the front foot or from the crease. Swann had the Australians ruffled, and he deservedly got his first five-wicket haul of the series.
  8. After relying on James Anderson to win the first test, it was refreshing to see the rest of the English attack take some responsibility and be counted. Tim Bresnan also justified his selection ahead of Steven Finn, with two crucial top order wickets snared at an average of 14.
  9. Peter Siddle bowled an excellent spell to end the day, removing Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen. While Siddle bowled with genuine pace, I think England’s three batting lynchpins will look back at their dismissals and realize that they could have avoided getting out with better technical application. That none of the three have gone to make a big score is the main reason England have yet to reach 400 in the series so far. That England are still comfortably ahead despite none of them firing is a damning indictment on Australia’s batsmen.
  10. With the match as good as won, it might be the perfect platform for Joe Root to finally unleash himself. There is no pressure to accelerate, and there is no particular need for grafting either, as a lead of 264 is probably already too stiff a target for Australia. Root barely looked convincing scoring 18 from 60 balls, but a dropped catch might just give the youngster the belief that it is the time to announce himself in these Ashes. Here’s hoping Root survives the first hour tomorrow and goes on to play an innings for all cricket lovers to enjoy.

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