When all is said and done, team contests are ultimately decided by individuals. When the Gods looked down from their scoring table in the Durham sky and determined Chris Rogers, Australia’s troubadour, would score his maiden century, no matter how much good fortune and divine assistance required, it appeared he would drag Australia into an almost unbeatable position.
Such is Rogers’ pride in himself and respect for his craft, he barely celebrated upon reaching his hundred. Although this was his greatest moment in cricket, he knew this was far from his finest knock, so instead of hanging a Michael Slater lap of honour, Rogers carried an embarrassed smile. The Gods had looked after him, rewarding a dour Test innings and journeyman career. Australia’s batting order and other century makers on this tour should note Rogers’ class and grit.
Rogers and Haddin looked certain to cash in on the third morning and set Australia up with a big first innings lead. But England’s two best bowlers, Swann and Anderson, neither at their best the day before, rose when needed, keeping the deficit in check and England in the Test.
Next it was Harris’ turn to swing this Test. Once again, he ripped through England’s top order, leaving the hosts 3 down with their noses barely in front. Once this series is dusted, Captain Cook will retire to the manor for a spot of fox hunting, during which time he will ponder how to cope with that dastardly fast bowler when down in the colonies for the southern summer. Trott will mull over things on the veldt with a rhino gun.
But Bell did as he has all series and steadied things. He has been the difference between the two teams and should be allowed to carry the urn to Australia in his kit bag.
Australia were set 299 with five sessions to casually get them on a pitch that rewarded batsmen with patience. Two or three determined efforts by our top order would have landed the match and Rogers and Warner’s century opening partnership was a base Australia should have built on.
At Drinks, final session, Day 4, the chase was on track – 3-174 from 48 overs – until Broad, who, when he approaches the wicket, arms outstretched, looks like he’s diving off a cliff, decided things. Broad took 6 to go with 5 from the first innings and it was all done by the end of the day.
That Clarke took some positives from getting within 74 runs was a worry.
Another concern is Australia has led on the first innings in three of the four Tests, yet trails 3-0. The beauty and bear of Test cricket is the five day bit. Australia need to last the journey.
The two day game at Northampton proved nothing – but seriously, how could it? – so what Boof will decide for the number 3 spot at The oval is anyone’s guess. Like the spinner’s position it has become a Bermuda Triangle. Khawaja failed in Durham, so Hughes or Cowan may get another go simply because they’re there. I still think Clarke should bat at 3.
It appears Watto has recovered from his major groin injury. He and Shoaib Ahktar have much in common. When Watto left the field in Durham, he reminded me of the time the Pakistani bowler limped off sulking mid-over during a Perth Test because his ankle tape had come loose.
A win in the last Test will give Australia some hope for our summer. And it will allow organisers of this current series to get the long stuff out of the way and get on with the real game, T20. Interest from over here will drop right off.