Ashes 2015: Batting woes for Australia as England roar back into contention

Ashes 2015 scoreboard: As it happenedBaum: more swing, more roundaboutsTeammates unhappy Haddin left outVoges snares unbelievable catch

Australia’s fragility against the moving ball was demonstrated again as they were skittled for 136 within 37 overs by England on an Edgbaston pitch they chose to bat on.

Menacing bowling from Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and the recalled Steve Finn, helped by some Australian batsmen who played at deliveries they should not have and Peter Nevill who did not when he should have, was the cause of the capitulation on day one of the third Ashes Test.

England went to stumps at 3-133, with Joe Root on 30 and Jonny Bairstow on 1. Had it not been for a late rain delay, the fifth for the day, that brought a premature end to play, it would have been the first time Australia had batted first in a Test and finished day one in deficit since the Boxing Day match in 2010, the Ashes Test England went on to win to seal a series victory.

Opener Chris Rogers earlier scored 52, one more than the combined scores of the next eight batsmen on Australia’s team sheet.

Only seven times in Test history have Australia batted first in a Test and been dispatched quicker than the 36.4 overs England needed to take all 10 wickets.

The outcome of Australia’s innings calls into question captain Michael Clarke’s decision to bat first – although his England counterpart Alastair Cook said he would have made the same decision had he won the toss.

While Finn was impressive in his first Test appearance in two years and claimed the pre-lunch scalps of Steve Smith (7) and Clarke (10), he could not rival Anderson for level of influence.

A week and a half after emerging from Lord’s with his worst Ashes match figures, 0-137 from 33 overs, Anderson emerged from day one with his best in an Ashes innings: 6-47.

Anderson was swinging the ball sharply, as he does at his best. Crucially, he was able to get some deliveries to hold their line. That was the cause of the downfall of Nevill (2). The right-hander shouldered arms anticipating more outswing and was bowled by the cross-seam delivery.

Anderson’s efforts, in which he elicited movement off the pitch with the seam as well through the air, were rapturously welcomed by an Edgbaston crowd that justified their reputation as one of England’s most consistently enthusiastic.

The second of England’s three wickets was as unlucky for Cook as it was lucky for Australia, with short-leg fielder Adam Voges rewarded for not turning his back on an aggressive pull shot. The ball lodged in Voges’ midriff, to end an innings in which Cook looked in fine fettle on 34.

Australia’s bowling was generally poor, with the fast-bowlers too short and wide. Generally anything short sat up to be punished on this pitch. The exception was the 196-centimetre Englishman Finn, who forced Rogers into survival mode off the back foot.

Survival mode does not sit comfortably with Australia’s mantra of playing with aggression, but at times it is warranted. A day featuring four rain delays by tea, creating conditions conducive to tricky fast-bowling, fitted that category. Voges (16) and Mitch Marsh (0) were among the players who could have left the deliveries they fell to (although Voges, admittedly, was attempting to do just that but left his bat dangling).

Cook came into the third Ashes Test desperate to avoid another 3-30 start. Presumably that did not extend to inflicting it on the opposition. David Warner, Smith and, most concerningly for the Australian hierarchy, Clarke were all back in the pavilion within the first hour as Anderson regained his new-ball aura and Finn gave an emphatic endorsement of the decision to pick him for the first time in two years.

The captain’s departure for 10, having been comprehensively bowled by a Finn yorker, extended his barren run of scores. In his 15 innings since his courageous 161 not out in Cape Town in March last year, when he withstood a fractured shoulder caused by a buffeting from South Africa’s Morne Morkel, he has only once reached 50: in last summer’s Adelaide Test, when he made 128 in his first innings since the death of Phillip Hughes.

If Clarke does not score at least 48 before his next dismissal his average will fall below 50 for the first time since Australia’s April 2012 tour of the West Indies.

His Test predecessor, Ricky Ponting, stressed the importance to the Australian team of Clarke regaining his batting zeal.

“Michael Clarke needs to stand up and start making some runs in that middle order, because if he doesn’t then the lower order does look that bit more fragile,” Ponting told ESPNcricinfo.

“All the signs coming out of Derby, the tour game, was that he’d started to find a bit of rhythm, a bit of form . . . but we know the [size of] step up from a county game to a Test match is quite vast.

“He doesn’t look to be in the sort of form that we’re used to seeing Michael Clarke in, but none of us ever are [always at our best]. You go through these . . . little troughs in your career. You’ve just got to find a way to battle through it.”

Australia narrowly avoided a repeat of the disastrous 2010-11 Ashes Test in Adelaide, when they lost a wicket to a run-out in the first over of the match. Then, Jonathan Trott’s direct hit removed Simon Katich, who was battling an Achilles injury. This time, Warner survived Broad’s direct-hit from mid-wicket thanks to his typical intensity when running between the wickets, having responded to striker Rogers’ call for a single.

Warner’s survival, courtesy of his desperate dive, was of little consequence, as in the third over he fell leg-before to Anderson. Australia’s second wicket rewarded an atypically early bowling change from Cook. Broad was not bowling badly but Cook nevertheless replaced him after just three overs with Finn.

The lanky paceman had not played a Test since the 2013 Ashes. He toured Australia later that year but was so badly out of form he was not considered for selection, and was eventually sent home early because of it. He got his chance at Edgbaston because of Mark Wood’s ankle injury.

Finn’s best has never been an issue; it’s the gap between that and his worst. In his opening two overs there was only a hint of the worst, a half-volley duly dispatched to the boundary, but strong evidence of his best, with the wickets of Smith and Clarke. He needed only one ball to Clarke, producing a yorker that, while very well directed, did not seem as unplayable as the captain made it look.

The closest Australia came to steadying was a 10-over period straddling lunch in which Rogers was complemented by Voges. The latter’s departure in the second over after the break started a flurry of wickets that culminated in a session collapse of 7-64. The last three batsmen – Mitch Starc, Hazlewood, Lyon – scored 36 runs between them.

In making 52, before being trapped leg-before by Broad, Rogers continued his glut of 50-plus scores. Only once in his past 10 innings has he been dismissed short of a half-century. Given that consistency, and his preparedness to adopt survival mode when necessary, his fitness after his head blow at Lord’s was crucial for the visitors.

The drop in discipline of the Australian bowlers since the preceding Test was best illustrated by the fact that England scored their 20th boundary by the 26th over, 15 overs earlier than it had taken them at Lord’s against the same bowling attack.

Not even the usually economical Hazlewood, who earlier extended the miserable run of opener Adam Lyth (10) was immune. The first three deliveries of his second spell were all dispatched to the boundary by Ian Bell, in a period that Clarke made five bowling changes in six overs.

Bell responded to his promotion to No 3 with a typically elegant, but also effective, innings. His 10th boundary brought up a half-century, from just 51 deliveries, that was relished by his home crowd.

One source of frustration for England on an otherwise superb day was the manner of Bell’s dismissal in what ended up as the second-last over of the day, for 53. He advanced to Nathan Lyon and tried to heave him to deep mid-wicket, only to get too much elevation and allow Warner to take a good catch running with the flight.

At that stage it left the odd situation of Australia’s four seamers – Starc, Hazlewood, Johnson and Marsh – with the combined figures of 1-125 from 26 overs, while the off-spinner had 2-3 from 10 balls. Even after Lyon had got the wicket of Cook, he was immediately taken off as his captain backed his seamers, as he had at Lord’s. This time, however, none of them delivered.


Australia’s shortest innings after batting first in a Test.

18.5* overs: 53^ vs Eng at Lord’s, Jun 1896.31.5 overs: 118^ vs Eng at Edgbaston, Birmingham – Jun 1997.32.1 overs: 112 vs Eng at MCG, Melbourne – Jan 1902.33.1 overs: 88^ vs Pak at Headingley, Leeds – Jul 2010.34.3* overs: 82^ vs WI at Adelaide Oval, Adelaide – Dec 1951.36.1 overs: 90 vs WI at Queen’s Park Oval, Port-of-Spain – Mar 1978.36.2 overs: 116^ vs WI at SCG, Sydney – Jan 1952.36.4 overs:136^ vs Eng at Edgbaston, Birmingham – Jul 2015.

* = adjusted to reflect 6-ball overs ^ = chose to bat first

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation