Aggrieved with a tinge of pride, that’s the feeling portrayed by Australian cricket fans after day one of the fifth test. Why couldn’t we bat as sensibly as this in tests three and four?
The Ashes: Fifth Test, Day Two Review
Day one began in ominous fashion for those supporting the baggy green’s when Alistair Cook won the final coin toss and elected to bowl in an effort repeat the dismantling of the Aussie batting line up. Yet the day ended with Australia only three wickets down after a days play with openers Rogers and Warner proving solid at the top of the line up with Smith and Voges also getting themselves in by leaving any wide deliveries and defending without going too hard at the ball, an issue the middle order have struggled with all series. Only captain Clarke failed to capitalise on what could be his last innings for Australia.
Day two began as day one had ended with Smith starting on 78 and Voges on 47 with the latter adding a brisk 29 runs before falling to Ben Stokes – LBW. After being criticised for his position in the team after a very quiet series, he has now managed two consecutive 50 plus scores. At 35 years old it is unlikely that he will continue to feature in this new dawn of Australian cricket.
Mitchell Marsh entered the fold with Australia now 332-4 after a partnership of 146 with future captain Smith. Mitchell and his brother Shaun Marsh have both struggled to nail a place in the team and the pattern continued as M Marsh was dismissed for three runs from 21 deliveries as Bell caught him in the slips off a Steven Finn delivery, his first wicket of the match.
Peter Nevill joined Smith at the crease and looked nervy against the pumped up Finn. Steve Smith then pinched a quick single off Moeen Ali to bring up his second century of the Ashes series, both in London. Again evidencing his ability to bat on flatter, less green wickets with ease. He smashed Moeen for six as he began to up the run rate to move Australia into a commanding position.
Nevill looked shaky for his 18 before being caught behind, down the leg side off Moeen Ali’s bowling, gloving to Jos Buttler – not for the first time in this series. Mitchell Johnson heckled by the crowd lasted only two deliveries as a fine delivery from Ali took out his off stump, as he played all around a straight delivery.
Steve Smith opened up the afternoon session with a gentle pull shot against a lifeless short ball from Wood as he and Starc frustrated the wayward England attack with plenty of boundaries, as opening bowler Starc brought up a brisk 50 from 45 deliveries including a big six over long off.
Soon after, Steven Smith dragged on a Steven Finn delivery, who has the habit of taking wickets in his first over of a spell. The number three falling for a solid 143 runs for his country.
Mitchell Starc then fell LBW to a Ben Stokes in swinger from around the wicket, although that decision came about from a review from Captain Cook. Only the second overturned decision of the series summarising brilliant performances from the on-field umpires. Siddle lasted nine deliveries for his single before Lyth took a Stokes styled catch, diving to his right after a delivery from Finn took the outside edge of Siddle’s bat. Australia bowled out for 481 – a great fight back after some calamitous batting in the last two tests. Finn, Stokes & Wood taking 3 wickets a piece.
Lyth and Cook both had points to prove with the bat, namely the former who is just starting his international career coming under fire for his inability to leave balls outside of his off stump, albeit – he has received some ‘jaffa’s’ this series from Starc in particular. Cook has also been culpable for getting in and falling in the 20’s or 30’s without making that big contribution needed at the top of the order.
Things began well with both players hitting boundaries off the errant left arm seamers, whilst a few good deliveries did go past their outside edges. Cook looked in great touch hitting 22 from 21 deliveries, before his nemesis in this series; Nathan Lyon bowled him with a beauty in the last over before tea. The ball pitched on leg stump, turned, went past the outside edge and hit the top of off stump. A site all off-spinners love seeing to a left-hander.
A couple of false shots from Lyth, showed his inexperience at international level. His ability to score runs with ease in the County Championship has not been seen in this series after falling to a terribly looped pull shot to mid on off Peter Sidles’ second ball of the series. Questions over his defensive inability will surely see his place in the side questioned. England, not for the first time in the series have seen both openers fall before the score hit 50.
That dismissal brought Joe Root, the world’s number one test batsman to the crease and he showed his intent flashing the first delivery he faced, a short and wide ball from Siddle, over backward point for four. Bell and Root looked to steady the ship once again seeing out five consecutive maidens. Scoring just 10 runs in half an hour.
Bell then fell for ten, missing a straight delivery from stump to stump bowler Siddle as the ball clipped the bails on its way over the top. England again finding themselves three wickets down for under 70 runs – an issue that needs resolving regardless of the ashes victory as it shows how much pressure has been put on Joe Root to score the runs, along with Moeen Ali batting at eight.
Root fell soon after to a ball that looked as though it missed the bat by a distance, but a thorough review from the third umpire overturned the decision of not out, despite their not being ‘clear’ evidence that Root had nicked Mitchell Marsh’s delivery through to Nevill. Although RTS showed a slight spike, it wasn’t compounding evidence as hot spot showed nothing, further debate regarding the DRS system.
Stokes showed his attacking intent before Bairstow fell cheaply against a short ball from Johnson, looping it to Lyon on the square leg boundary. Calamitous batting again from England, despite being 3-1 in the series and already confirmed that the ashes have been regained.
The school boy batting continued as Jos Buttler who’s place is surely under threat from the in form Sam Billings, or even Jonny Bairstow in the team already, was bowled through the gate by Nathan Lyon for one, trying to drive hard at a turning delivery. Stokes soon after, pulling a ball from Marsh but top edging it high into the sky, giving a simple catch to Nevill for 15. Broad followed with a duck nicking Marsh to Voges at slip. Another no ball wicket as Wood edged Marsh to Voges, but the no ball only called after a check from the umpire.
England will have a lot of work to do on day three, after a lot of sloppy dismissals once again, closing the day on 107-8 on a good batting pitch, still trailing the rejuvenated Australia by 374 runs and aiming to avoid an innings defeat. The dream of winning four ashes home tests has surely been extinguished, with just a faint glimmer of hope of reaching a further 175 to avoid the follow on.