Fourth Ashes Test
England v Australia at Durham
August 9 -12, 2013.
England 238 & 330 d Australia 270 & 224 by 75 runs
Momentum is such an elusive concept in sport. Teams may not even realize they have lost it until it is gone; conversely, a team may have grabbed the momentum baton without even knowing that it is in their possession. And so it was that Australia’s inability to find a way to put a stop to England’s spurts of momentum has cost them this fourth Ashes Test match. Indeed, this Test match proved to be a microcosm of what has continually transpired throughout the series.
It was only a subtle change of momentum on the morning of day 3, but so telling. Trailing by only 16 runs and with five wickets in the shed, it was reasonable to expect that Australia would go on to post a healthy first innings lead. Instead, England – snaffling 5/48 – were allowed to wrest back the advantage, and Australia never fully recovered. The superlative Ian Bell then drove the first nails into Australia’s coffin with his third ton of the series.
England went into day 4 with a 202 run lead. A lead which, as it turned out, was almost enough. It’s an indication of just how far Australia’s batting stocks have plummeted that, at that stage, I considered it most unlikely that our inconsistent batting line-up could chase down that many. Again, momentum hitched itself to the English bandwagon. And again, despite the efforts of Ryan Harris, Australia seemed powerless to regain that momentum. The Aussies were still in it when Harris dismissed Broad with the best bouncer of the series (around the wicket to the left-hander). But Australia was unable to winkle out Tim Bresnan (and to a lesser extent Graeme Swann) and boy did he make them pay, with 45 valuable runs. There was no doubt in my mind that the game was now gone.
It may be harsh to point the finger at Michael Clarke, but as skipper he must shoulder some of the blame for what transpired in this little session. His body language was poor and field placements questionable (has he never heard of 3rd Man?). Above all, his continued refusal to give the new ball to Peter Siddle – the senior fast bowler in the team – is unfathomable. When I saw Siddle marking out his run-up for the day’s first over, I knew instantly that he would not be given the second new pill which was about six overs away from being due. My heart sank a little. In the end, a target of 299 would not be impossible. But a huge challenge nonetheless.
Initially, the momentum was well and truly with Australia. David Warner and Chris Rogers survived a number of close calls, plays and misses, Tony Hill shockers, and DRS reviews. It was most unusual, but so welcome, to witness an Australian opening pair post a three-figure stand. At 2/168, Australia was – unbelievably – in with a real chance. But Chris Broad was having none of it. He ruthlessly grabbed the (you guessed it) momentum; in a devastating spell, he exposed the frailties of this batting order, and England cruised to a not insubstantial victory.
There are huge questions hanging over this Australian batting order. This display was a disgrace. And if Australia is to grab the sort of momentum which will allow it to make of fist of things this Australian summer, wholesale changes look to be required.