Australia 9d/492 (SR Watson 176, SPD Smith 138*, JM Anderson 4/95)
Overnight SPD Smith (66*) and PM Siddle (18*) would have been relishing the resumption of glorious conditions in which to bat. But, due to local drizzle, the first session and beyond look like being lost. It’s Day 2 of the Fifth Test and BBC Test match special brings London into my lounge room and it’s raining at the Oval and consequently I’ve a chance to dream and I’m dreaming of Test cricket and thinking of colonial ways and of the convict settlement of Australia where “this coast was to witness a new colonial experiment, never tried before, not repeated since. An unexplored continent would become a jail. The space around it, the very air and sea, the whole transparent labyrinth of the South Pacific, would become a wall 14,000 miles thick… For its first forty years everything that happened in the thief colony was English. In the whole period of convict transportation, the Crown shipped more than 160,000 men, women and children in bondage to Australia. This was the largest forced exile of citizens at the behest of a European government in pre-modern history” (Robert Hughes, The Fatal Shore, 1987) and I’m dreaming of Tom Wills and the indigenous Australian cricket team he took to England in the late 1800s and I’m thinking of Pip “we Britons had at that time particularly settled that it was treasonable to doubt our having and our being the best of everything: otherwise, while I was scared by the immensity of London, I think I might have had some faint doubts whether it was not rather ugly, crooked, narrow, and dirty” (Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, 1861) and I’m dreaming of “that momentous day at the Oval in 1882 when England twice seemed to have the solitary Test match of that season won, only for Massie, and then Spofforth, to snatch it away – in the face of all cricket probability and eleven great English cricketers” (John Arlott, Australianism, 1949) and dreaming of the Australia and of the England of that time and of the character and values of the peoples of those lands and that how that given their common ancestry that environment is very important in shaping one’s values and I’m dreaming that:
“The London lights are far abeam
Behind a bank of cloud,
Along the shore the gaslights gleam,
The gale is piping loud;
And down the Channel, groping blind,
We drive her through the haze
Towards the land we left behind –
The good old land of ‘never mind’,
And old Australian ways.
The narrow ways of English folk
Are not for such as we;
They bear the long-accustomed yoke
Of staid conservancy;
But all our roads are new and strange
And through our blood there runs
The vagabonding love of change
That drove us westward of the range
And westward of the suns…. (Banjo Paterson, The Old Australian ways, 1902).
And I’m thinking that despite working alongside and loving the company of some fine English people presently, I would dearly love to see the smirks rubbed off the faces of these English players.
ABC radio people are saying that an early lunch has been taken at the Oval in the hope of play commencing thereafter. At 11:30pm Australian Eastern Standard Time we’re on. The complexion of the game has changed astoundingly with the weather. JM Anderson is bringing the term ‘swinging London’ back to Austin Powers-style relevance. He’s moving it both ways. His little mate though has suffered through the workload of bowling half a dozen balls, and so now SCJ Broad has left the field. He’s changing his socks. And receiving tips from another little mate. Or something. Poor little petal. JM Anderson gets on with it and swings it well. He’s a fine bowler.
After 20 minutes of play, PM Siddle (23) looks to work JM Anderson to mid-wicket. But it’s pitched on middle and the superb outswinger clatters into the top of off stump. Now 5/320 at 11:50pm (2.50pm). Ominous bowling. Excellent.
As BJ Haddin waddles to the crease, JM Anderson and CR Woakes on debut both look much more threatening today than yesterday. The ball is zinging around through the air. SPD Smith, admirably treating each ball as it comes, channels Richie Richardson with a blazing square drive from SCJ Broad taking him to 83.
With the beginning of JM Anderson’s second spell, BJ Haddin inexplicably starts throwing the bat. It’s the middle of the afternoon, Day 2. Australia’s best hope of winning this Test match is surely to make an overwhelmingly huge score in the first innings to place scoreboard pressure on the Poms. Perhaps BJ Haddin has been more seriously inconvenienced by an almighty recent blow to the “groin” than first appeared the case. Perhaps this is documentary evidence of a man indeed having his brain in his trousers.
IJL Trott is given the ball (1.10am, 4.10pm), despite England playing five specialist bowlers and his name not being amongst them. Is this declaration bowling? SPD Smith on 93*. Neither GP Swann nor SC Kerrigan has bowled today. BJ Haddin is batting with intent, yet perhaps without patience.
On 94, SPD Smith clocks IJL Trott straight back over his head for SIX to bring up his maiden Test century. The young fella, left out of the original touring party, has batted in every game now and has now made for himself a place in this team. Almost before the applause has died, BJ Haddin (30), in trying to slice IJL Trott to third man, plays it on. 6/385.
6/397 at tea. SPD Smith (112*), JP Faulkner (1*).
The post-tea session sees the Australians open the shoulders and England turn ragged. The field is scattering. JP Faulkner on debut is playing a team-oriented innings, giving himself room and carving SCJ Broad through the off side for boundaries. The Australians seem to be accelerating towards a declaration. England gamesmanship occurs repeatedly with many conferences between bowler, captain, fieldsmen. Slowing the over rate. They are not keen to face too many today.
JP Faulkner clubs a hook shot to deep square leg where IJL Trott takes a well-judged catch to give CR Woakes his first Test wicket. A selfless cameo innings from JP Faulkner ends with 23 from 21 balls. It’s 7/422.
SPD Smith and MA Starc are after quick runs. Ungainly but effective hoicks are dispersing the field. At 7/444 GP Swann bowls his first over of the day.
MA Starc throws his bat at the second ball and is bowled for 13 from 8 balls, gifting GP Swann a wicket. 8/446.
RJ Harris comes in. The game enters a circus phase now with all nine fielders on the fence. All are waiting for the Australian declaration. England continue to waste time so as to reduce the number of overs they will later have to face today. RJ Harris clocks a couple of 6s. The crowd are restless with the time-wasting. Booing. This is a cynical way to play. “”It’s a pity really,” says Tuffers. “This is not what people want.” 11 overs in an hour.
RJ Harris skies one to extra cover with all fielders on the fence. JM Anderson makes terrific ground to take a bizarre caught and bowled. 33 from 27 balls. 9/491.
Mysteriously, MJ Clarke declares one run later. It’s 9/492. NM Lyon 0* hasn’t faced a ball. SPD Smith finishes with a heroic and breakthrough 138* from 241 balls. JM Anderson 4/95 from 29.5, Swann 2/95 from 33. Not a great Test thus far for young SC Kerrigan, who was not even asked to bowl on Day 2.
England under real pressure now. MA Starc is given the first over and RJ Harris the second. AN Cook and JE Root are playing and missing when asked to play, but far too many balls are hopelessly wide. The bowlers are quite rightly replaced after only 3 overs each by JP Faulkner and PM Siddle in a double change. PM Siddle looks the most likely. Again. Though the ball isn’t moving much.
The story of the innings, I’m afraid, is the wasting by Australia of the new ball. Seventeen overs and three balls are sent down before England are offered the light and are off like rats up a drainpipe. Peculiar ending given that the floodlights are on. Nevermind, England finish the day, relieved, at a circumspect 0/32. AN Cook 17* and JE Root 13*.
It’s been a strong day’s cricket from Australia. Playing with intent to win. Three days ahead and twenty wickets remain to be taken.