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 ?