The Ashes 2019 – First Test, Day Four: Nerves dissipate into a sweet day of Aussie rearguard action

It’s easy to work out when you are witnessing good Test match cricket.

The nerves fill your body. Your stomach slowly drops when the opposition bat solidly, the bowlers performing brilliantly yet not capable of getting the breakthrough. Your stomach turns over like in a tumble dryer when the batsmen play and miss, or delicately prod at balls that are dangerous. On the fourth day of the first Ashes test, wonderful Test cricket reigned supreme over the doubt and tension.


Smith and Head walk to the crease, with the game on their bulky bats. Smith looked to continue his flowing innings from last night, while Head was batting ever-more impressively in his first Ashes outing. The champion in Smith was well-held early, with a loose chipped drive falling perfectly into the gap for a boundary. Ali was bowled from the start, but had lost his confidence. There was no rip, no pushing through the crease in a style that served his adversary in Lyon so well. He got one ball to turn prodigiously past Head’s back, but Bairstow’s poor movement encapsulated his lack of confidence too. Broad tried his heart out but couldn’t trap either in front after some initial shouts against Head. Ali’s best chance came with a beamer in the first over. Australia steadily consolidated and all of a sudden weren’t shaky anymore. Runs flowed. Both took charge.


The Aussies catapulted ahead, extending their lead. Just as the English crowd was silenced to a bubble of chatter, Stokes’ slower ball undid Head. His head thrust into the air, full of admonishment and disappointment. Suddenly, the door was ajar if the English could remove Smith and Wade quickly. But if this test match was certain on one thing, it was that Smith was nigh on impossible to send off. He drove with conviction, moved around the crease with knowledge and intelligence. His flicks were as deft as ever, and his hands dainty to run it down to the third man boundary.


In contrast, Wade was brutal. Instead of falling into his shell, he summed up the scenario and backed himself in to continue his rich run of form. Against the leg spin of Denly that fell into the rough, he reverse-swept his way out of danger and drove to the cover boundary when the ball was overpitched. He slowly improved his leg side play and looked imposing when leaning into an attacking stroke. Instead of opening the door for the Poms, the arrival of Wade and his partnership with Smith only took the game away from them.


Both reached their tons and the Aussies were sitting smugly up in the stands. All of a sudden, the Edgbaston hoodoo was gone, shattered for this game. The foreign element of the Ashes had been taken away by two guys in superb form. Paine, Pattinson and Cummins added salt to the wounds, backing up the momentum that founding fathers Smith and Wade blasted. Regardless of the result, the work of Head, Smith and Wade could be pivotal for the whole series, as well as the future of Australian cricket.


The late flurry pushed the lead up towards 400. Declaring and giving the bowlers a chance to ruin England’s chances of victory and survival, Lyon couldn’t extract the variety out of the pitch he needed. Roy and Burns held on grimly, setting up a tantalising day five. Australia have played their king, and Smith’s game out of heaven has established the tourists as the sudden heavyweights in this contest.


A remarkable day of test cricket, and now one to go. The fortunes of both teams have taken a complete flip, but what will the final day hold? If day four is anything to go by, then the result is still well and truly up in the air.


Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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