What awaits ?

242 runs scored, 5 wickets taken, an uncharacteristic Kevin Pietersen century, a pretty good Ian Bell knock and some fine Australian bowling on display. That pretty much sums up day 3 of the third Ashes test.

My post last night ended with stating that Australian pretty much had to do all the running since they are the one’s chasing the win needed to keep the series alive. Would be fair to say they gave it a good shot at it today. It needed some hard grind from Pietersen and for Bell to continue his good form to keep the Australian bowlers from having a near perfect day. Getting rid of Trott and then Cook in the first session was big, since they were the two who generally bat time, and one which Australia don’t have lots to play with. Add to it the fact that only 242 runs were conceeded made it a pretty good day for the bowlers, even though ideally an additional wicket would have capped off the day well.

England need another 34 runs to avoid the follow on, but that frankly isn’t an issue. Whether England get there or not,  the best way for Australia to win, is to bat for a session, session and half, and then put England back in. Already the Australian bowlers have racked up 120 overs and the pitch is showing some signs of turning and that you think will only get more prominent. Under these simple circumstances as it stands today, it doesn’t make sense for Australia to think of the follow on. Now when you consider there is still the matter of 3 more wickets to take, it quite simply won’t make sense. True, the weather forecast for the last two days isn’t the best, but it’s not that dire to think ” if no follow on enforced, the test is doomed as a draw” 

The first hour tomorrow is absolutely crucial. If Prior and Broad can survive it, Australia’s task will get that much more harder. Not only will time be lost but you’d think runs will also be scored at a decent clip considering how they both bat. Runs which Australia’s batsmen will have to then score again at an even more faster clip when their time comes to bat. Equally it could be that Prior and Broad just decide to bat time thereby eschewing their natural instincts. It might or might not work. If England are batting close to lunch or even beyond it, and it’s not exactly beyond them with Prior/Broad and Swann, Australia might as well be kissing a win good bye, and with it the Urn as well.

Even if Clarke dangles a target in front of England, I don’t expect England to bite. They simply aren’t that kind of a team. Safety first, dour approach has served them well for a few years, and not even the temptation of a whitewash will work. It’s not how England play. So for Clarke it’s simply a case of get the remaining three wickets quickly, bat for about 3 hours to give his bowlers some rest, and then ask them to bowl out England again.

What awaits, and how much of a spoil sport (or not depending on where the support is ) will the weather play in all of this ?

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Even Steven Smith day ? Not quite

A sign of a good team is that they are never completely out of a match and for a team that’s trying to climb back up the rankings they can’t afford their strongest suit to slip up. That, I would guess, is how most folks see England and Australia. I certainly do.

At the end of the first day’s play in the Lord’s test on reflection I’m tempted to say that England have narrowly shaded it. Even given for that three wicket burst by, of all folks, Steve Smith. 289/7 in 89 overs after winning the toss and electing to bat in perfect conditions would seem like advantage lost. In normal circumstances, yes that holds true. However England have got the runs on the board and they have some batting left to go past 350 tomorrow, unless Harris get’s some much needed assistance from Pattinson and Siddle and mop up the remaining three wickets quickly.

Which brings me to my second point. Australia’s strongest suit is their bowling.Thanks to how the main batsmen have been performing lately, their bowlers have always had to perform. If they didn’t, the match was as good as gone. At 28/3 in the morning session, the bowlers had England under the cosh. They simply had to press home that advantage and they didn’t. Credit is due to both Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell who ensured that didn’t happen. Didn’t need the Cricinfo ball – by – ball to see that James Pattinson had a shocker. Every so often that I checked it, the commentary would either be talking of a ball down the leg side or a boundary that was scored of his bowling. He does need a bit of a leeway though, given that it’s his first proper game at Lords with it’s unique slope. When Trott played a careless shot and gave his wicket away after crossing fifty, there was another chance for Australia to press home the advantage.

They didn’t again, although they came within a millimeter of possibly doing it. Siddle’s no ball in which he had bowled Bairstow would prove costly. Bairstow was on 21 when it happened and England would have been 171 /5. Instead he survived, and his partnership with Bell progressed for another 100 runs, before the Steven Smith effect at the end.

Bell by then had moved serenely past his second successive century (and third if we go by Ashes tests), and then got out to to a pretty decent leg break from Steven Smith. The previous ball was a rank full toss which was duly despatched to the boundary. So much wiles in Steve Smith, that even Warne would look on and admire ! Not enough with that, Smith then got Bairstow out of a full toss and got Prior through some sharp wicket keeping by Haddin. This late burst pulled things back for Australia.

So what lies in store for day 2 ? It’s crucial, extremely crucial for Australia that they wrap up the last three wickets fairly quickly. Allow England to get to around 375 or beyond and things get’s that much more harder for them.

In an ideal scenario, Australia bowls out England for addition of another 50 runs, and then the batsmen turn up and they bat and bat well. Batting until an hour after tea on third day should be the target, anything beyond, even better. So that’s about 5 sessions as a target. Going by some of the turn Steve Smith got today, batting on days 4 and 5 against Swann will not be easy. So Australia simply have to get that much ahead of England that, their batting last should be the bare minimum.

The batsmen have to deliver in this innings. It’s as simple as that. If they don’t, while not quite curtains with their series win chances, it comes pretty close to it. To make this statement at the end of day one of the second test would seem preposterous, but those 15 runs that weren’t scored in Trent Bridge has made this innings that much more crucial. As I mentioned in my post at the end of that test match, there were some positives from that match on the batting front.

That glimmer has to turn into a bright light. Nothing short will do.