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Monday August 12 2013

I’m watching and listening to the England v Australia test match at Chester-le-Street, and the first hour of the fourth day has been a cracker.  Stumps flying, a bouncer fended into the gully, and a flurry of boundaries from England as they try to set Australia a decent target.  As of now, England are 277 ahead.

There has been much discussion from the TMS commentators about how lots of wickets have fallen in the morning, this morning being no exception.  But, that being the case, tomorrow morning could be very important, which they have not been discussing.  If England can just stick around for another few overs, Australia won’t be able to chase down all these runs today, and will have to bat tomorrow morning.  That could be decisive.  The prospect of them having to bat tomorrow morning may cause them to hurry today, or at least be in two minds about whether they should hurry.

All that said, this series has an air of insignificance about it.  This is because there is an imbalance built into these two series, in England and then this winter in Australia.  Whoever wins in England has to do it again in Australia to keep the bragging rights for a decent length of time.  Whoever wins in Australia gets those bragging rights.  If England win in England but Australia then win in Australia, Australia end up the winners.

The only big deal about this series, following that Lord’s slaughter, was: could England make it 5-0 and avenge that earlier 5-0 thrashing that Flintoff’s team got handed in Australia a few years back?  Bragging rights from a 5-0 thrashing last for ever.  That’s the rule.  But England couldn’t win at Old Trafford, in fact only the weather stopped England losing.  So, no permanent bragging rights.

Bresnan out for a crucial 45, England 285 ahead with just one wicket left.  But hello.  A dropped catch in the deep.  Steve Smith.  He doesn’t usually drop anything.

Anderson now prodding away defensively.  It’s like England have worked out what I said about tomorrow morning even if the commentators haven’t twigged that.  That flurry of fours was great.  But dot balls are now very good too.  But, another four from Swann!  He now has 22.  And another!  A real one day four, where he stepped back to square leg and bashed it through the covers.  It’s the kind of game where every ball feels like a tiny change of balance in the match.  “That dropped chance has already cost nine runs.” Make that thirteen because there goes another four.  England 298 ahead.  Anderson caught behind!  Spin!  Good for Swann!  Australia need 299.  “A morning of fluctuating fortunes.” I’ll say.

Finally, they’re talking about the tomorrow morning effect, and the fact that Australia will be pushed to get all these runs without England having a second new ball.  Mornings have brought wickets in this game.  So have new balls.  What we need now is a couple of Aussie wickets in the twenty minutes between now and lunch.  There’s every chance of that.

No.  Australia 11-0 at lunch.

LATER: According to Simon Hughes, Keith Miller slept with Princess Margaret.

Minor point, but winning (indeed, not losing) this series is a little helpful in terms of securing the bragging rights, because it would come into play if the winter series ends level. I wouldn’t bet against that outcome right now.

Posted by Darren on 13 August 2013

Yes, good point.

Trouble is, I find myself unpersuaded by this whole “retaining” the Ashes with a drawn series thing.  The mood after the Old Trafford Test, when England supposedly retained the Ashes by escaping with a draw and in a way which suggested that Australia were an outside bet to win the next two games and draw the series, was very downbeat.  The mood after this game, which England won by 74 runs after an amazing Australian fourth innings century opening stand followed by an even more amazing middle order collapse, was hugely celebratory.  Such is the difference between retaining the Ashes with a series that will at worst be drawn, and actually winning the series, with no retaining about it.

As far as I am concerned, when an Ashes series is drawn, the Ashes are in Limboland, owned by neither side.  Officially, I am wrong.  To hell with that.  That’s how it feels to me.  And now, it feels like we just won them, today.

Which gives us bragging rights for a few months, which is not long, see my posting.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 13 August 2013

I couldn’t agree more about Limboland. But when it comes to Ashes bragging rights, I’ll take anything I can get.

On a separate note, I only saw the daily highlights of the 4th test, but it looked like Broad bowled superbly to me. So many times he seemed to have the Australian top order in trouble. And taking 10 wickets in an attack containing Anderson and Swann can’t be easy.

Posted by Darren on 13 August 2013

Yes Broad bowled very well.  The one he got Clarke with was a peach.  That ball, together with the one Bresnan earlier got Warner with, turned the game.  From then on, Broad was irresistible.  But, until he got Clarke, he had no wickets.  The first three went to Swann, Swann and Bresnan (Warner).  Something to do with reverse swing, i.e. shining the ball on one side.  That takes quite a few overs to make happen.  Hence the delay in Broad becoming dangerous.

Broad’s next after Clarke, Smith, was a bit of a fluke.  Warner is now an lbw waiting to happen.  It’s like he has a target painted on his left pad every time he bats.  In Australia, Australia’s batting will surely be stronger.

It also mattered that the Australian tail was weaker than in earlier games.  No Agar, and this time around, no Starc either.

But then again, I predict that Cook and Trott will do better in Australia.  Last time Cook went, he was coming off bad scores in England, and some people were even saying maybe he wasn’t good enough.  He was good enough, and then some.  He seems to do better in Australia.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 13 August 2013

And by the way, Broad blew all that “most of the wickets in this game fall before lunch” thing right out of the water.  At tea, Australia were 120-1.  By supper they were completely roasted.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 13 August 2013

I don’t get this.  Every time a factette on this series has fluttered by it has come with the opinion that “Australia are winning”.  And yet I now discover that England are 3-0 up. 

Is this some sneaky Antipodean trick: build them up so you can knock them down in the winter?  I think we should be told.

Posted by Patrick Crozier on 13 August 2013

England are batting relatively poorly, thereby making the series look closer than it is.

In a composite team of both squads based on the past year, not many Aussies would be picked.

If England picked a fifth bowler instead of Bairstow, I think they’d be unbeatable.

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 14 August 2013

Patrick

In a way 3-0 flatters England, as cricket series scores often do flatter the somewhat better side. 

Australia have definitely had their moments in this series, quite a lot of moments, including the moment when they looked like winning this game on the last afternoon, and when they nearly won the first game.  They have had a first innings lead in three of the four games so far.  So a random dip into the news of how things have been going doesn’t have to be very biased to make it seem like Australia have been doing well.  So they have, for quite a bit of the time.  Just not enough.

Actually, it would be interesting to do a chart of who was winning, at every stage of each game, in the opinion of a bunch of reasonably intelligent cricket watchers.  It might well be that Australia were “winning” for longer than England were.  They just never actually won.

To put it another way, England’s best moments have been very good and Australia’s worst moments very bad, in contrast the England’s longer spells of mediocrity and Australia’s longer spells of honest and potentially productive effort.

This last match was settled in two short bursts of England success and Australia failure (don’t you just love that rhyme).  On the third morning Australia lost their last five first innings wickets for next to nothing and losing a potentially big first innings lead, and then on the fourth evening Australia were blown away in a rush, having looked liked winners.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 14 August 2013
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