The Ashes 2015 – Second Test, Day 1: Asterix in Britain

Australia 1/337

CJL Rogers 158*, SPD Smith 129*

 

All is calm in the Roman fortified camp of Londinium…

 

There’s something of “Asterix in Britain” about this Test match, this venue, this scene. An overwhelmed band of travellers setting foot in civilised Establishment and bringing about widespread mayhem. It could so easily have been different, but for the toss of a coin. Environmental variables again excessively dominate a cricket match.

 

In perhaps seeking to nullify the strength of Australian fast bowling, the pitch prepared at Lord’s became a player itself. The story of the pitch can be likened to vocal range of Stephen Kernahan. The Roman Army constructed and maintained 2,000 mi (3,200 km) paved trunk roads (i.e. surfaced highways) throughout nearly four centuries of occupation (43 – 410 AD) of England, yet none matched the flatness of this Lord’s pitch.

 

The story of the toss is a happy one for Australia.

This game takes place at Lord’s, of course, while I’m watching from the other Home of Cricket here on Merri Creek mud, Melbourne.

RT Ponting rings the bell. Gives a knowing smirk as if to say “howabout the places you find yourself?” How I’d love to see him and his forearms carried on quickly stepping bandy-legs to the middle today, squinting, looking up to the sky, and then reaching with hard hands for the first half a dozen.

Yellow and red striped blazers adorn the Member’s. People so highly elevated in their rarefied social network that dress sense becomes an exercise in high parody.

 

Just two years ago, the batting line-ups for these two countries at Lord’s was this:

For England: AN Cook, JE Root, IJL Trott, KP Pietersen, IR Bell, JM Bairstow, MJ Prior, TT Bresnan, SCJ Broad, GP Swann, JM Anderson.

Australia: SR Watson, CJL Rogers, UT Khawaja, PJ Hughes, MJ Clarke, SPD Smith, BJ Haddin, AC Agar, PM Siddle, JL Pattinson, RJ Harris.

Today less than half of these players remain, with SR Watson and BJ Haddin omitted from the Cardiff team; replaced by PM Nevill (on debut) and MR Marsh.

 

The story of English pre-lunch bowling gets its momentum from the contrasting syncopation of JM Anderson (extreme) and the others. All stop, start, wide, short, good, poor, poor, wide. Crocodile puppet DA Warner, at 0/78 from 14.5 overs, having taken 10 from the over already, charges MM Ali, fails to middle a lofted off drive, and is rapturously caught by JM Anderson moving effortlessly and slightly to his right.

This is the story of the first session. Is DA Warner an over-coached puppet or an instinctive crocodile?

 

Overcoached? We are all victims of the talking points of politicians. “Stop the boats,” “the real Julia,” “great big tax.” Hollowmen strategists are paid to scan the daily papers. They meet over early morning coffee. In virtual meetings. In each other’s hotel rooms. All mobile devices illuminated. Swiping, logging in, running analytics software, deciding upon messages. Key messages with which to saturate the day’s media coverage. Called talking points, they are designed to keep politicians, a disparate group of intelligent individuals, well herded. Keeping them ‘on message.’

 

It’s easy to imagine such ‘talking points’ emerging from an enormous panel of coaches. Why else would so many meetings be held? ‘Be positive,’ ‘dominate Moeen Ali,’ ‘turn over the strike.’ In such a construct, battalions of coaches justify their salaries; and players are lifted of the burdens of independent or analytical thought. Members of the herd have control taken from them. They are expected to act as instructed. And there’s comfort in that. “I was only following instructions,” the departed batsman may justifiably argue.

 

And yet over-coached, over-managed, helicopter-parented people the world over are left floundering when left to their own devices. A proverb concerning fish has grown from the first reference to such a sentiment in Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie’s novel Mrs. Dymond from 1885: “…if you give a man a fish he is hungry again in an hour. If you teach him to catch a fish you do him a good turn”.

 

Crocodilian? The call of “that’s the way he plays;” all care no responsibility. In this paradigm there is no obligation to engage a brain. This works for the instinctive (a.k.a. stupid) cricketer, given free reign to “do his thing.” Like the crocodile, no one doubts the next move of the instinctive, or compulsive cricketer. Steve Irwin could dangle his toddler with impunity in front of a croc; he knew that the crocodile’s behaviour is predictable; instinctive.

 

So unfortunately DA Warner is cast here as either a thoughtless puppet, or a thoughtless crocodile. Perhaps he’s both. Which is Bronwyn Bishop? Can a crocodile be over-coached?

 

Lunch: Australia 1/104

CJL Rogers 43, SPD Smith 16

 

After lunch CJL Rogers and SPD Smith, warm-blooded independent thinkers, hitch their chariots and set forth to occupy this Roman road. Attrition cricket. England bowling for containment. Bowlers setting to SPD Smith’s 6th stump line; anything on the stumps shufflingly (and hazardously, if not for an eye like a dead fish) worked to leg. Bowlers setting silly mid-off to CJL Rogers, who continues to accumulate runs; now collecting his eighth half century in nine innings.

 

Clip-clop.

 

JM Anderson and SCJ Broad swing. Clip-clop, clip-clop. This is now a day of a long journey. Milestones are to be passed. Clip-clop. JE Root is introduced and seen off. Clip-clop, clip-clop. Deep point is set. Clip-clop. A patience game. A Test. Clip-clop. SPD Smith passes 50 now. Clip-clop. AN Cook sets a bounce-out field to CJL Rogers.

At 1/168 England’s defensive line to SPD Smith frustrates him into driving one too far from him. The low chance is dropped by IR Bell.

How many does the bloke get when he averages 55 and you drop him on 50?

 

Tea: Australia 1/191

CJL Rogers 81, SPD Smith 62

 

After tea our two travellers take a swig of the magic potion. This Roman road holds no fears. CJL Rogers stands erect, moving his bat late to the in-swingers, chopping to mid-on. He squats a little, facing ever side-on to the bowlers’ approach. So many times before (74, I think) he has constructed a First Class century. Many of them right here at this ground, as a Middlesex player. CJL Rogers, more than anyone else, is the embodiment of patience and application, accumulation and craft, of what is required. At the other end, young SPD Smith, all waddle and movement, shuffle and lunge, carries on his homespun thwarting of the world’s bowling attacks. Together they bat. They bat.

 

When JM Anderson and SCJ Broad take the new ball, swinging London is briefly revived. But the watchful CJL Rogers, playing ever-so late, and the talented Mr SPD Smith seeing the ball like Neo, pick and leave and glide and guide their band of travellers safely to stumps. Triumphantly to stumps.

 

Now the fortified Roman camp of Londinium is subdued. The toss of the coin could have altered everything. And yet, first innings runs do not make themselves.

 

This is no time to feast. But from here the English will be chasing the game. No significant rain is on the horizon. And Australia’s main concerns now, will be to bat past tea tomorrow and the taking of 20 wickets. Twenty wickets were hearteningly taken in Cardiff. And MA Starc now has a day and half to rest his ankle. Two years ago SPD Smith took 3/18 from 6 overs in England’s first innings. His wrist-spin could be called upon again. Why wouldn’t you throw the ball to Asterix?

 

 

England: A Lyth, AN Cook, GS Ballance, IR Bell, JE Root, BA Stokes, JC Buttler, MM Ali, SCJ Broad, MA Wood, JM Anderson

Australia: CJL Rogers, DA Warner, SPD Smith, MJ Clarke, AC Voges, MR Marsh, PM Nevill, MG Johnson, MA Starc, JR Hazlewood, NM Lyon

About David Wilson

Hit for a towering 6 by Mike Gatting at the Banyule Cricket Club, December 2002, theatrically attempting to reproduce the SK Warne delivery. The ball is yet to land. @e_regnans

Comments

  1. Peter_B says:

    Clip clop. The Roman Road. You capture the day perfectly ER. I actually watched the first session, but was not tempted back later in the evening.
    I reckon there is a fair bit of “rope a dope” about the Poms. I can’t see this pitch deteriorating or NLyon spinning us to victory. Much ado about nothing? A thing of sound and fury, signifying nothing? (Or is that the crocodile’s epitaph?)
    JDay v JSpieth v DJohnson v Linksman PLawrie with a howling gale to flood in from the North Sea for Day 2. Now that’s compelling sport.
    Or the TDF with the Pyrenees starting at 35 degrees and finishing in a blizzard? If you want to talk about the influence of the climate on elite sport that’s your go.
    We are conditioned to cricket like Pavlov’s dog. The magician snaps us to attention, but the real tricks are being played behind his back.

  2. Something has to be done about these dry, lifeless, boring roads that the Poms are calling cricket pitches. Australian pitches are becoming the same – flat and tedious; dumbed down, standardised, characterless, brown, dead. Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed seeing the Aussies get to 1 for 300 odd, but this game is a huge chance to droop into a lazy draw. The Poms have their win, they probably want to win the Ashes 1-0.

  3. ER

    Love it, so much great name checking.

    Was a big Asterix fan as a kid, so great to see that bought back. Like the reference to Sticks’s singing too, clever.

    Thought the line was “give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach him how to fish and he’ll sit in a tinny all day drinking cans.

    ….

    Sorry for the interruption, read the reference to Bronwyn Bishop and had to be ill. Where was I?

    Wonder if Bell’s dropped catch gets the same scrutiny on age and so forth as Haddin’s did.

    Toss so important on a pitch like this, pity.

    Big Rogers fan, really pleased for him to do this on his ‘home deck’

    Great morning read

    sean

  4. John Butler says:

    Great work E Reg.

    In cricket there’s always the toss, which can undo best laid plans. How different it would be if Australia were looking at a big England first day total? You’re right – first innings runs don’t make themselves. That’s the pressure England now face, no matter how benign the pitch.

    You spoke last test about seizing the moment. How important was that 3rd ball of the day moment when Joe Root second-guessed that Rogers edge?

  5. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Thanks OBP remarkable that only,Rogers and Cook are batting in the same spots as last time they clashed at LordsTotally agree with Dips shocking flat tracks are really hurting cricket but JB is correct the 3rd ball of the test could have changed every thing basically now we wait to see if the aussies can take 20 wickets surely the pomms will fight harder for a draw than we did in Cardiff

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    I’m sure that if Rogers had gone 3rd ball, Warner would have assessed the situation and knuckled down and been there at stumps in his stead. Then again…

  7. E.regnans says:

    Ahh, the toss of the coin, Tim Winton’s Sam Pickles, the shifty shadow… where does it run?
    Too much, far too much influence on a sporting contest.
    But the layers, the skill, the strategy, the armchair psychology, the tactics, are all there to be enjoyed. (What else are they for?)

    Thanks all. Dips – I think you’re spot on. And they’ll fight, OBP, no doubt.
    AN Cook a big part to play.
    And JR Hazlewood.

  8. I thought that Clarrie Grimmet was coming back when you were ‘clip-clopping’ after lunch.

    After watching the early part of the innings, I went to bed thinking that Rogers and Warner looked a little fortunate at times. Incongruously, Rogers looking the more dominant. Woke and watched from about 1am our time to see both Smith and Rogers get to 3 figures and thought they looked pretty solid. They should be fairly fresh, seeing as you only had to run on the odd occasion. 600 plus declaration anyone?

  9. Mulcaster says:

    337 for 1 …you’d take that any day.

  10. The Philby says:

    Darren “Obelix” Lehmann has a nice ring to it, now I think about it. Especially after the wine/potion testing.

Leave a Comment

*