Sunday, August 4, 2013

Rain plays spoilt sport in gripping test

It has taken more than two and a half tests to make an impact, but the dreaded English rain finally made an appearance in this Ashes summer to the detriment of a test match that was bubbling along to an exciting conclusion. My thoughts on a shortened fourth day include:

  1. At the start of play England were still 33 runs short of avoiding the follow-on with just three wickets in hand. One expected the Australians to bowl with intensity and fury to have a sniff at enforcing the follow-on. Unfortunately for Michael Clarke, with the exception of one brilliant over by Ryan Harris that drew edges from Stuart Broad that flew through the slip cordon, the Australian bowlers simply didn't trouble the overnight pair enough and England escaped the follow-on to immediately make the match a race against time.
  2. There have been signs in recent innings that Stuart Broad is finally regaining some of his batting mojo. His crucial 32 served to further reaffirm that he is getting his confidence back with the willow in hand. Three crunching drives through the covers off the back foot in particular were a reminder of why there were genuine hopes of him becoming a leading all-rounder three years ago.
  3. Matt Prior is still to fire with the bat in this series. Prior is usually at his best when taking the attack to the opposition and changing the course of a game in England's favour. His 30 of 98 balls didn't highlight Prior's strengths, but was nonetheless crucial in helping England frustrate Australia, and his lengthy stay at the crease might just have helped secure the draw.
  4. Peter Siddle deservedly got a four-wicket haul for his efforts. Siddle might not be the most enthralling fast bowler to watch, but he guarantees consistency in effort and economy. Ryan Harris also deserved more wickets under his name as he was the most threatening bowler on display. It was a pity for Australia that neither Mitchell Starc or Nathan Lyon didn't really come to the party.
  5. David Warner was promoted to his more natural position at the top of the order to give Australia a fast start. Warner didn't disappoint, and his 41 albeit brief, highlights that despite the off field shenanigans there is a devastating opener who can be a real asset to Australia in the long term. His comfort on the back foot especially when dealing with width is highlighted in his confident square cuts and pulls. If Warner can iron out some chinks on the front foot, he might actually be a better bet to open than Shane Watson.
  6. The rest of the Australian batsmen all played their part in accelerating the scoring rate with small but quick contributions. Alastair Cook set defensive fields fairly early in the innings, denying the Australians the opportunity to score boundaries, unless they took the aerial route. In stead the Australians capitalized through quick running between the wickets, with plenty of two's stroked through the vast gaps in the field.
  7. I am sure plenty will be written about the rights and wrongs of bad light rules, so I will leave that debate for others. The immediate concern in this test match is that the last day is possibly going to have a fair amount of interruptions. Clarke should declare immediately, and he then has to inspire his bowlers to give it their best. The odds are against them, as England have plenty of batsmen who are extremely capable of dead-batting their way to a draw on what is still a fairly decent pitch. Nonetheless if Clarke calls upon the history of test cricket, there are plenty of examples of teams being bowled out within two sessions on the final day. At the risk of sounding repetitive, their best hope is to make the English batsmen play and then rely on subtle movement either through swing or spin. For the sake of this engrossing test match, let's hope that the weather at least allows for 75 overs of play to give the match the conclusion it deserves.

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