The Ashes – Second Test, Day 2: Shaun’s Big Day Out

 

 

 

Australia 8 (dec) – 442
England 1-29

 

Most estimations of the tactics required for pink ball test cricket have been based on the events of the very first Adelaide match two seasons ago. This overlooks the fact that the conditions of that first game have not been replicated in either of its successors. With doubts over the durability of the pink ball, that first night wicket was a luxuriously grassed affair. The game itself played out in warm temperatures more customarily associated with an Adelaide summer. This combination saw the ball swing prodigiously during most of those inaugural night sessions. First impressions have been hard to shake.

 

The wicket for this match looks much like that provided for the South Africa test last season. It is very much what we have come to expect from the drop-in wickets that now feature at several Australian test grounds – a healthy cover of dead grass producing a spongy response on the opening day, quickening slightly as it hardens on days two and three. Crucially, the weather has proved to be as uncharacteristically chilly as last year. Whether the ball be red or pink, cooler air is usually less conducive to swing.

 

Hindsight may well clarify such thoughts in the mind of Joe Root, but it’s quite likely his decision to send Australia in yesterday was persuaded by a realisation the attack at his disposal needed to find any edge it could get. On the evidence of the three Australian innings thus far, the English bowling has been revealed as steady, diligent, at times strategically focused, but ultimately lacking a cutting edge in Australian conditions.  With Australia’s batsmen showing a general reluctance to contribute to their own demise, the visitors’ hopes for day two were heavily invested in what the second new ball could produce.

 

Those hopes were buoyed by the LBW dismissal of Peter Handscomb in the day’s opening over. Stuart Broad celebrated the breakthrough in the now commonly excessive style. Though there was swing on offer, it would prove to be close to the last yelp England could muster.

 

Tim Paine’s response to his team’s potentially precarious 5-209 was to accentuate the positive. He was aided by England’s inability to bowl in partnerships for more than a few overs. Just as Broad threatened, James Anderson began with two lacklustre overs. When Anderson swapped ends he had both Paine and Marsh given LBW, only to see both decisions overturned by DRS. Just as Anderson tightened the screws, Woakes and Ali released them with innocuous spells. All the while Marsh and Paine grew in confidence.

 

The only real disturbance Paine suffered was a blow to his troubled right hand from a rising Overton delivery. Otherwise, he remained unperturbed by the occasional play and miss and produced an innings that reclaimed the momentum of the game for his team. Planting a pedestrian Ali into the crowd, he soon enough brought up a deserved comeback 50. It was a significant surprise when he obliged England by holing out to long leg for 57.

 

At the tea break Australia were beyond 300 and looking increasingly in control. Though Starc holed out upon resumption, Cummins joined Marsh and exhibited the same batting resolve he had in Brisbane. A period ensued where England probed desperately, but only occasionally beat the bat. Cummins took more than 30 deliveries to get off the mark, but remained unflustered by the fact.

 

Through all of this Marsh had played in a serene manner. To call his career an enigma is to highlight the deficiencies in what that word can convey. His talent has often been evident, but in his many comings and goings from the test side he has been unable to harness it for long enough. Today his footwork was crisp and his eye unerring. Like Steve Smith in Brisbane, he proved a significant bridge too far for the England attack. The selectors will feel well vindicated.

 

At a certain point in the middle session England just appeared to run out of ideas. Thereafter, Marsh and Cummins took significant plunder of a faltering attack. By tea Australia were beyond 400 and in complete control. Cummins only sacrificed his wicket in pursuit of quick runs. England tried to rough Lyon up in the manner their tail had received in Brisbane, but only served to highlight that a bouncer delivered at 130 kph is a very different matter from one delivered at 145 kph.

 

Marsh planted Broad over the straight boundary as if to deliver a final grace note before Australia settled on 442 as their declaration. Marsh’s unbeaten 126 stands as his most telling contribution on home soil.

 

England now faced a nervous session under lights. Australia immediately maintained a fuller length and looked much more hostile. It was no surprise when Stoneman was LBW to a Starc swinger. Given England’s luck with the DRS, it was also no surprise he challenged the decision unsuccessfully. Cook had barely survived Cummins’ opening delivery when rain brought a premature end to proceedings. England would have sighed in relief, but it may prove a short respite.

 

Seven playing days into this series, Australia would seem successful in sucking England into playing largely on the home side’s terms. England have huffed and puffed in this game, but blown no one’s house down. In the process, their attack has been revealed as lacking the penetration to provide the last word in any sustained argument. They face a difficult task to survive in this match. Should they fail to do so, the Ashes would seem inevitably Australia bound.

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has been a Carlton member for more than 30 years.

Comments

  1. Very true on observations re Adelaide conditions.

    The main difference between the two attacks is how much quicker and more hostile the Australian quicks are.

    Having said that the Englishmen are having one of those cricket matches where they can’t get the nick and tight decisions are not going their way.

    In the over of the DRS reviews, should the Englishmen have reviewed the third one. We did not get the benefit of tracking at the ground?

  2. John Butler says:

    JTH, it’s uncanny how often the DRS fortunes favour the dominant side. When you see the two LBW’s that Anderson had knocked back, you wonder how many past batsmen have been stiff. Providing, of course, you have faith in the DRS judgement of height.

    Very few military medium pacers have found much joy in Australia. Both Anderson and Broad have tried hard, but look past their prime. Trash talk is no substitute for execution.

    On the matter of sledging, the side with the quicker bowlers usually has the last say.

    I hope you took a warm jacket. :)

  3. E.regnans says:

    Fine work, J Butler
    Thanks very much.

    I understand that the selectors would feel vindicated, but isn’t it false logic to say that the selectors were right in choosing SE Marsh on the basis of his century?
    To my mind, the logic says: if SE Marsh was able to score a century given his lead-in scores and formline, then GJ Bailey and GJ Maxwell would have each been able to score triple centuries.
    Selection is about providing the opportunity at the right time.

    Even with the hindsight of that innings, old mate Marsh didn’t deserve that opportunity at that time.
    Others should be rightly miffed.
    And we’ll never know what they may have been able to do.

  4. John Butler says:

    No argument from me on that score, E Reg.

    I think Maxwell is particularly unlucky. Given Marsh’s talent, if they kept picking him often enough he was bound to make runs eventually. But what would others have done if given equal opportunity? And at age 34, what is the longer term significance of Marsh establishing himself? Some will fear Marsh is now assured a spot until he turns 50, considering past selector indulgence. Given his past erratic career, he could just as likely be in peril again by series’ end.

    I think Australia’s selections reflected the stakes at play this summer. After the pay negotiation debacle, many CA jobs probably depended on reclaiming the Ashes. There will be much relief that the punts on Marsh and Paine have paid off in the short term. Beyond that, who knows?

  5. An excellent report, JB.

    I am with Harmsy – the Australian bowers were much quicker and that was just so obvious even from where I was sitting. They were seriously quick.

    Ali is unthreatening and won’t be a factor, Woakes and Overton were trundling.

  6. John Butler says:

    Smokie, you could tell the difference even sitting on the couch at home. I think England are in for a tough day.

    What’s the weather looking like?

  7. It’s cool again, Jb but no sign of rain at the minute

  8. Good stuff JB.

    I was disappointed Paine got out in the manner he did. I just can’t work out how he managed to hit a 128k bouncer down the fielder’s throat. That aside, a game-changing knock.

    England just don’t look like bowling the Australians out at the moment. Psychologically, there’s surely some significance in the fact they haven’t taken to full ten wickets since the first dig in Brisbane. They look out of ideas often, bowled far too short, and as you said, the difference between 130k and 145k is huge.

    A big day for A.Cook today…

  9. I surmise the weather here is a tad better than in Delhi. The Sri Lankan’s are playing the hosts there.

    Play was forced to stop twice yesterday due to the smog. The pollution levels were deemed five times higher than ‘normal’. A number of Sri Lankan players vomited, such was their discomfort.

    The Indian coaching staff were not a tad concerned about this urging their opponents to “get on with the game”, and the Sri Lankans ” have to keep their bowlers fit.”

    Do the players associations have scope for OH&S reps amongst their teams?

    Glen!

  10. Marsh’s six off Broad was magnificent. If some of the Australian players are loud mouth tools, then Broad is too. His send off of Handscomb was very ordinary.

    The Aussie batting was a masterclass (mostly) in application, something that has been lacking in recent times. Marsh in particular. He grabbed his chances, though Anderson did have him pretty well plumb LBW.

    How good could Pat Cummins be? An Aussie Botham?

    Poms are in strife. Looking forward to seeing if and how they might dig themselves out of this.

  11. John Butler says:

    Jack, taking opportunities when they come can be crucial to a career. I remember Brad Haddin having a rough start with the bat in his early tests. Then, again at Adelaide, he looked to be lucky to survive a caught behind appeal. He took the chance to go on and make his first ton. His career was away.

    Paine will be hoping another such opportunity will present.

    Glen, I noticed the reports of that game. Concerning on more than just one level. Some problems are much bigger than cricket.

    Cheers all.

  12. John Butler says:

    Dips, I think England’s best laid plans have come a cropper because of the discipline Australia have shown with the bat. Smith set the tone in Brisbane by just refusing to be flustered when the scoring dried up.

    With the Aussies largely refusing to get themselves out, England have lacked the oomph to blast them out.

    I reckon if you had Broad in your team you’d love him. He’s not afraid to be the bad guy when the situation demands. Though often he appears to relish the role rather too much. And he appears to finding it harder to back the talk up.

  13. Peter Warrington says:

    yes i am in the camp that says Maxwell would have made 300. and am being assaulted on the Guardian. i will stand my ground

    Woakes is from the Greg Campbell school of pretty bowling. no place for it. much prefer a wobbler like Steve Waugh or a leggie. is he better than Derek Pringle. how would you know?

    agree with JB re Paine. chucked a ton away. Dirk Nannes was scathing. he usually is!

  14. Earl O'Neill says:

    Neat summation, John, thanks.

  15. Gee I’m loving the state of play at the moment!

  16. John Butler says:

    Yep. Looking very much like those with tickets for day 5 should start making other plans.

  17. Luke Reynolds says:

    Top report JB.
    Great point about pitch perceptions being hard to shake. It like the suggestions that 4 quicks should be picked at the Gabba and the WACA, when they have not been fast bowling paradises for many years.
    A real samesness to England’s attack. In desperate need of a genuine quick, while Moeen Ali’s bowling has really been shown up for the first time in quite a while.

  18. John Butler says:

    Luke, imagine how silly it would have been not to play Lyon in Brisbane?

    Very poor effort from England’s top order today. None of the discipline they showed day 1 in Brisbane.

    But I think Australia have got a little carried away with their own publicity bowling to the tail. They’ve completely stopped pitching it up. They’ve rather played Woakes and Overton in here.

  19. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Excellent JB a enjoyable summary of the events taking place

  20. All the guff about not playing Lyon in Brisbane was burley for media, which they greedily accepted.
    1. As Luke opined, the Gabba wicket is no longer a raging seamer,
    2. Nathan Lyon has been our best-performed bowler all year,
    3. Something which many of the prognosticators seem to ignore – the small matter of over-rates. Smith would never want to play 4 quicks because he would end up facing a suspension as a result of the subsequent slow over-rates.

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