Australia 4/307 (SR Watson 176, SPD Smith 66*, JM Anderson 2/52) Stumps Day 1
Well here we are, the final Test of the series already. Both teams make two changes. Australia have lost patience (again) with Usman Khwaja and instead of replacing him with another batsman, he is replaced with bowling all-rounder James Faulkner who is selected to make his Test debut and will bat at 7, with keeper Haddin to come in at 6. It will be a long, hard road back into the Test team for Khawaja, Hughes and Cowan. Starc is brought back to replace Bird. The home team name two debutant’s, with all-rounder Chris Woakes coming in for Jon Bairstow, and 24 year old Lancashire left arm orthodox bowler Simon Kerrigan coming in for the injured Bresnan on a dry looking pitch. Kerrigan owes his selection as much to Monty Panesar mistaking a bouncer at a Sussex nightclub for a urinal as to any strong county form.
With beer in hand I watch the Australian openers struggle against the new ball. Drinking has become a pre-requisite when watching this Australian team, who the hell would want to watch this rabble completely sober? Warner, caught on the crease and playing away from his body, is caught behind off Anderson for 6. Watson, back at number 3, joins Rogers and after playing and missing several times early, Watson starts to bat beautifully, crisp straight drives and brutal on anything short. The pitch is slow and lifeless, more Lahore than London, just like the limited overs style of pitch that Watto loves. It’s a pale imitation of the fast, bouncy (by English standards) pitches seen at The Oval in the 1990′s where Devon Malcolm would take bags of wickets. Rogers is holding up his end and supporting Watson well. 1/112 at lunch, Watto is 80 off 77 balls.
Rogers doesn’t last long into the second session, continuing his struggle against Swann and edging the off-spinner to Trott at slip. His 23 is off 100 balls, Australia 2/118. The skipper comes to the crease and Broad starts to bend his back and troubles Clarke with a short ball that he takes his eyes off, then hits Watson on 91 with a sharp rising delivery that strikes our hero on the back of the head just under his helmet. Watson is down for several minutes, but after a few asprins continues on at the crease. In the commentary Beefy suggests Watto fill his water bottle with scotch to ease the pain, as he no doubt would have during his career. A completely out of sorts Clarke is bowled by Anderson for the worst 7 off 39 balls you are likely to see. Watson gets to a long overdue century, his third Test match ton and his first in 25 Tests since his 126 v India at Mohali in 2010.
Watson and Smith are largely untroubled by the Pommie attack in their 4th wicket partnership of 145. These conditions suit Smith just as much as they do his batting partner, he treats Swann with little respect and both players punish they wayward, innocuous spin of Kerrigan whose first 8 overs in Test cricket go for 53. Surely Monty will be brought back in for the Australian tour. Watto is given out LBW on 166 to give Woakes his first Test wicket, but yet again decides to review an LBW decision given against him. The cricketing gods smile on him as the ball is going over the top, much to the mirth of Clarke and his teammates on the balcony. Three overs before stumps his luck runs out and is brilliantly caught by a diving Pieterson at fine leg. 176 off 247 balls, he has batted well and while it would have been handy if he had done it at Trent Bridge or Old Trafford, at least next time we find ourselves 3-0 down in a five match series on a slow, lifeless pitch we know who we can count on. Nightwatchman Siddle joined Smith and quickly made 18 as the score ticked over 300. Smith has batted well for his 66, huge opportunity for him on Day 2 to go on and get a really big score instead of getting out after doing the hard work like he seems to do.