England 238 & 234/5 (74.0 ov)
As our antipodean world of sheep dip and shark alarms faced the grim reality of a month-long election campaign and Fremantle finishing on the top of the ladder, in sunny conditions in Durham Chris Rogers and Brad Haddin strode to the crease. Rogers had 101 gritty runs to his name; runs won by a combination of technique and good fortune in an innings which landed a blow to the cricket philistines with something a little firmer than a lettuce leaf (perhaps the firm, ribbed leaf of a young cabbage).
On this third morning Rogers was in a position to make the Test Australia’s. He had with him Brad Haddin, the court jester of batsmen.
The test – of character, skill and the application thereof – continued.
That test applied equally to the Englishmen who, these days, relish it. Swann came around the wicket in the hope he’d straighten down the line, which he did. Haddin played across one and was absolutely plumb. Not that he thought so. He appealed and the verdict was returned.
Rogers went bat pad to , and Siddle nicked to Cook which brought Lyon to the crease, his elevation to ten piquing the crowd’s interest in the batting prowess of Jackson Bird. Lyon was gunned LBW to one that was obviously missing, even from a lounge-room in the People’s Republic of Northcote.
Harris clouted with some hulking drives at half-volleys which hadn’t moved in the air and then got one of those LBWs where he walked. However, the umpire, spooked by the present state of affairs, gave it not out: the English automatically reviewed it and there was a moment which showed where the whole adjudication situation is, when there was actually no-one on the ground when the finger was raised.
Australia led by 32, a modest figure, although not necessarily inconsequential on this wicket. They needed to start well and keep the pressure on, making full use of the new ball. Harris bowled magnificently. He was lively, bouncy, and really, really dangerous, bowling fine length and moving the ball, especially off the seam. The delivery that got Root was as near to perfection as the Polly Waffle.
Trott looked a little out of sorts early. His skipper, who had started well, struck the doldrums. Harris worked on the one coming back at the left-hander, until he pushed a fuller surprise across Cook’s bow enticing a flamboyant drive and nick to the `keeper.
And even more so when Trott gloved an awkward hook to Haddin.
England needed something from Pietersen and Bell. And they got it. A period of classic Test cricket followed: a session when the game in the balance and the skill of bowler is pitted against the skill of batsmen.
Both Poms played intelligently as the Australians probed. Scoring slowed but the batsmen had a series of little victories which included inside edges that just missed. Fortune is definitely part of the equation.
They both looked settled enough for the commentators to tell the tale of the previous evening’s big barbecue at Beefy Botham’s Durham abode; an event which claimed a few casualties. The stories were told in that quintessentail post-piss-up good-old-boy sort of way which appeals to the undergraduate in all of us. Apparently Darren Lehmann was best-on.
Meanwhile Nathan Lyon was concentrating intently, and giving his all. Lyon wants to win cricket matches and he is working out how. There is humility in his cricket, which is admirable, but a little less may serve him well.
He tried to push the straight one across the right-handers from around the wicket. Despite his excellent control, the Englishmen accumulated patiently, and from the quiet of the relatively subdued crowd came a duet of travellers strangling Waltzing Matilda. (Could it have been Adam and Goodwin worse for the northern ale?) The English trumpeter took this as his cue let rip with a Yellow Submarine which was probably accompanied by new lyrics outlining the sexual preferences of Shane Warne and other species.
The crowd was building into Sunday party mode and looked very relaxed. One bloke was so relaxed he held up his artificial leg complete with sports shoe, although in this day and age he may have been a plant from Nike. At the moment I so wished Bumble was in the booth.
Lyon was encouraged by a ball that turned and caught the inside edge of an advancing Pietersen giving Haddin (or Tallon) no chance at all. He was also encouraged by Pietersen’s preference to turn everything to mid-wicket.
However, Pietersen belted the last couple of balls before Tea to the boundary off Siddle, which took some of the jam off the iced vo-vos.
The desiccated coconut went some time after Tea when Jackson Bird, Brad Haddin and Michael Clarke asked for a review of a Pietersen LBW which struck him outside the line by a considerable margin and would have missed by a couple of ball-widths anyway.
The contest continued.
Watson tied up and end until he Watto-ed. Watto-ed? If Beckwithed can be the verb ‘to find the boundary line’ and ‘Doyled’ can gain currency insofar as commenting on sportswriting, political philosophy and buffoons are concerned, then ‘to Watto’ must be mightily evocative.
Watto: verb, to leave the ground at the earliest sign of injury (often mid-over), with no apparent concern for anything on the planet other than the few fibres of the groin muscle that have been placed under duress. (Other definitions of ‘Watto’ welcome).
Just minutes later Lyon found the leading edge of Pietersen’s bat and Rogers raced forward from cover to accept the chance.
It was still anyone’s game but Bell was looking like a seriously good player: compact and with the capacity to concentrate. He drove the ball beautifully through cover and mid-off while Bairstow hung around.
Then the umpire’s intervened, again, and the players went off for bad light.
At that point it was very hard to remina awake even though the cameras were catching areas of blue sky not far away.
Lyon claimed Bairstow caught behind, bringing night watchman Bresnan to the crease to see Bell to his hundred and his country to stumps.
This was another wonderful days Test cricket on a wicket which offers something to all. Ian Bell, surely the man of the series to date, was the difference.
Even if Australia bowl England out quickly tonight, the chase will be very difficult. It will be a nice way to spend a Monday evening.