The Ashes 2015 – Second Test, Day 4: Mi-jo finds his mojo

Australia 8(dec)/566 & 2(dec)/254 def England 312 & 103 by 405 runs.

In the end, Australia made it all look like simplicity itself.

The formula which the team followed is as tried and trusted as a CWA recipe: a) win toss; b) bat first and bat big; c) dismiss your opponent for an underwhelming total; d) send your opponent back out into the field for more pain (although this is a more recent addition to the mix); e) set an improbably large fourth innings total; f) give yourself enough time to bowl out your opponent, knowing that history and the large total will almost certainly conspire against their survival. Stick to that formula and it is improbably difficult to stuff it up.

From the moment the skipper called the coin-toss correctly, Australia dominated the first three days of this match. The fourth and final day was no different. Resuming with a lead of 362 runs, and with all second innings wickets in the bank, the Aussies set about destroying whatever confidence the Englishmen had gained from their win in Cardiff. Chris Rogers’ dizziness-enforced retirement was about the only hiccup in the first session. I would not want to write off a battler like Rogers, particularly after his platform-building first innings ton, but there must be some doubts about his immediate playing future.

Dave Warner and Steve Smith did the team thing, searching for any opportunity to turn over the strike and score boundaries in the quest for a pre-lunch declaration. Sure, Warner has not been at his brutal best in this series, but a total of 190 runs in his four hits is not too shabby. What Adam Lyth would give for those figures! Smith was imperious, improvising wildly in his search for quick runs. His ability to turn Stuart Broad into the vacant leg-side from a metre outside off-stump was to witness a batsman at the peak of his powers. Smith’s 58 off 67 balls was as entertaining a half-century as I have witnessed. Who was it that said his technique would not stand up to English conditions?

Michael Clarke (32 off 47) spent some invaluable time in the middle, freeing his arms on occasion, and then the declaration came just prior to lunch, immediately after two brutal Mitch Marsh sixes. England successfully negotiated this brief, tricky three-over session. But one could sense that the Australians, after strangely being so flat in Cardiff, were “up and about” and sensing that Monday could be useful for an extra day of London sightseeing.

Mitchell Starc struck immediately after lunch with a shortish ball which did just enough to get the nick from Lyth. Remember, this was a Day 4 pitch which had, up until this point, resembled a road. Suddenly, Starc is looking like the bowler which Australia had hoped he would be.

Alistair Cook batted well in the first innings, but to me never looks quite “in”. He was next to go, wafting a Johnson wide one. It was during this initial period that “Mi-jo” suddenly regained much of the psychological hold over the Englishman for which he had hitherto merely been searching. Mitch was back. And his subsequent working-over of Ian Bell and Gary Ballance (and later Stuart Broad) was to a joy to behold. Such was his confidence that, for a party trick from mid-on, Johnson threw down the stumps at the batsman’s end, only to find that the unfortunate Ben Stokes had not grounded his bat! By this stage, the game was well and truly up for England. Lyon and Hazlewood chimed in for a couple each to ensure that the bowling group had all had a part to play.

What had happened on the road from Cardiff to London? For me, the changes to the Australian team cannot be underestimated. Haddin’s unavailability was unfortunate, but the peppy Peter Nevill’s inclusion was a breath of fresh air. Mitchell Marsh’s very youth itself reinvigorated the line-up, and the job he did with the ball would have been beyond his captain’s expectations. Suddenly, the Australian line-up is looking less like “Dad’s Army”.

Also, Mitch Johnson, now back bowling at a consistent pace above 140kph, will now have a big say in proceedings in the final three Tests. And Steve Smith obviously had a point to prove, which he did in spades.

England would do well to take Australia’s experience into account. I am unsure who is next cab off the rank in county cricket, but Bell is hopelessly out of touch, Lyth does not look up to it, and Ballance does not have a technique which will withstand the rigours of a Johnson-Starc examination. A change or two will be mandatory to revive their fortunes.

Sitting back in the pavilion after play, I suspect that the Australians might have thought that Day 4 was all just a little bit too easy. But, after all, they did follow that tried and tested formula.

About Darren Dawson

Always North.

Comments

  1. Dave Brown says:

    Thanks Smokie. Yes, Ballance is an interesting one. If you showed me a video of his technique without knowing who he was I would say ‘handy tail ender’. His record (test avg 48, 1st class 53) is consistently surprising for a person who bats so far from their body. The Stokes dismissal was just plain embarrassing. If he doesn’t ground his bat for Mitch J who does he ground his bat for?

  2. So Australia has gone from getting belted by ten goals to delivering a 100 point thrashing.

    What will happen in the next Test?

    I hope Rogers gets to finish the series, and his career as he’s done a fine job.

    Thanks Smokie.

  3. E.regnans says:

    Beauty Smokie.
    We can only wonder what would have happened if MJ Clarke had called incorrectly.
    As has been expressed before, cricket loses its interest if the match depends too greatly on the toss.
    Was this a fair contest?
    Maybe.

    As for this 4th innings: once AN Cook wafted the game looked up.
    The English showed no real intent for occupation there.
    Dis-spirited?
    Probably they had already lost the mind game.

  4. Luke Reynolds says:

    Great wrap up Smokie.
    Mitch Marsh now has 3 wickets in 1 Test on British soil.
    Watto 2 wickets in 11 Tests on the same pitches.

Leave a Comment

*