The Ashes 2015 – First Test, Day 2: Man of the Match: The Weatherman

Blinding sunlight. Wales.
Those two statements are about as contrasting as can be, up there with Collingwood and Carlton, Mayweather and Pacquiao, Antarctica and the North Pole and of course, England and Australia.

Yet, if weather could ever be a messenger, then it told a telling tale from the northern land of Wales last night, as the Poms took control in what is turning out to be a high scoring yet stagnant game of Ashes cricket.

That contradiction was enough in itself to describe the play on day two, as the heroics and intensity from the first day was only partially represented on what was a day a lot more conductive to fiery and exciting cricket.

After Root’s defiance in the face of express pace, England enjoyed the fruits of Root’s hard labour by indulging in some late order swinging. If the blonde bombshell from Yorkshire was a firm rock in the face of a cyclone, then the bottom order of the English line up was the high tech submarine that embraced and revelled in the action that the cyclone provided.

The pleasant and cloudless sky beckoned long hours at the crease for batsmen, as Moeen Ali accepted the pleasantries gratefully, as he slammed his way to 77 before finally sending one of his many edges to a fielder. But the damage had already been done, with the total looking imposing in the context of the match and the series. If day one had been the metaphorical crashing back down to Earth for the Aussie bowlers, then the start of day two was the Earth opening up and swallowing them up gleefully.

That was, except for the defiant Mitchell Starc, who shone through the struggles of the previous day’s events to claim the last two wickets of the English innings in Ali and Anderson, as he ended up collecting five expensive yet satisfying wickets. But toiling away without too much recognition behind the scenes was Lyon, who snapped up Broad in what was the first wicket of the day.

The luck of Mitchell Johnson had all but run out, as the cricketing gods decided to toy with him by giving him the satisfaction of removing Broad with a nasty bouncer, only to overturn the decision with Voges’ bottom hand not stopping the Duke from touching the rock hard Sophia Gardens pitch. Hazlewood also worked up a huge sweat, only to finish the innings with the three wickets that he collected early on day one.

With Australia’s eleven wilting in what was a rare yet welcomed Cardiff sun, it was time for Warner and Rodgers to reply. With England reaching a grand total of 430, the Aussies knew they had some work to do, with the ancient and the exuberant youth having to combine in a pleasant way to produce a grand total of runs.

A shaky yet helpful start accompanied the Australian openers, as the crafty and accumulating Rodgers built up a total faster than the streaky yet thrilling Warner, with the latter seeming to take his time to get used to the awkward conditions that the flat Sophia Gardens track produced. Anderson kept up his steady mid-130km hoopers in a consistent way, as Broad took up the role of Johnson in the first innings, with some sharp and aggressive bowling resulting in nothing but unlucky runs against his name.

Finally the unsteady Warner looked to be removed, as Anderson’s sharp outswing to the left hander appearing to catch in dead in front of his stumps. Yet the eye of the hawk, as well as the cricketing gods, decided to finally cut the Aussies some slack, with the feisty opener being given a reprieve.

Not much was made of it though, as Anderson got him to slice a fizzer to Cook at first slip not long afterwards. Cook’s spectacular dive to smother the flying edge didn’t save his nether regions just minutes later, as a tumbling bounce made every man grimace and Joe Root chuckle like a 13 year old girl walking past her high school crush.

Warner’s removal with the score on 52 didn’t slow down the rise of the score, as the calculating and tactical Rogers ticked over the scoreboard at a pleasant rate, with Smith taking his time to adjust to the situation before firing like he consistently has. The steady batsman ship showed represented the entirety of the test series against India, until suddenly many glazed over eyes enjoying the scene were snapped awake when the impossible happened. Smith got out to spin.

The unlikeliness of the situation ranks up with pigs flying and Tony Abbott legalising gay marriage, as a disgusted Smith trudged off the miniscule field after getting his legs tangled in what was an awkward dance to Ali’s floated off spinners.

The removal of two partners didn’t seem to affect the old timer in Rogers, as the educated veteran ploughed on in a consistent and confident fashion. Lunch had arrived and departed like a Jetstar plane running late, with the score still ticking along nicely with the arrival of Captain Clarke. Expecting some searing bumpers from Broad and Wood, Clarke decided to play dress ups and arrive to the crease as the Michelin Man, with a protruding chest guard signalling his intentions to absorb the bouncers and keep his torso insulated.

It worked well up until the testing Ali came back on, as the plucky batsman and casual off spinner claimed a second scalp on what was a successful day for him. Not before Rogers was removed though, as he fell short of a century once again, with the slippery Wood picking up a well earnt wicket that could be credited to the pressure of Broad.

The task to score the runs was left to the ancient members, with Voges and Watson picking up the slack, as they both had doubters to prove wrong in what is all but a swansong for both of them. They had both settled well until the hyper and in-your-face Stokes removed Voges with the team total on 258. With only three overs left in the day, the red head had tipped the scales in the favour of the English, as they had managed to steadily remove five Australian top order wickets throughout the day.

Lyon came in to bat out the overs and did so with an air of ease and a cheeky smile, as Watson left his options open to score big on day three, if he can get past the dreadful thirties.

In the end, the vibrant Cardiff day full of cheering and horns, as well as some decent quality cricket, went slightly in the way of the English, with the wicket of Voges giving the Poms an advantage. Day three is going to be a telling day of test match cricket, as the Australians will have the option to either save the game and stamp their superiority or fall behind in what could be a series defining day.

But in the end, if it was sunny in Wales, who knows what could happen.

Stumps- Day 2

England 430 all out (102.1 overs)
Root 134
Ali 77
Ballance 61

Starc 5/114 (24.1)
Hazlewood 3/83 (23)

Australia 5/264 (70 overs)
Rogers 95
Clarke 38
Smith 33

Ali 2/67 (14)
Anderson 1/36 (16)

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