I write this in what could be called ‘real time’ – that is the thoughts and views at the time, no benefit of hindsight or foresight!
The joy of watching cricket is many fold – great batting, bowling of all types, fielding in all its forms – but one overlooked is captaincy. Books and theories abound on the subject crossing over into management theory and practice but the joy of Roots captaincy yesterday and so far today cannot be overstated. His novel approach, homework, willingness to try something new or fresh is refreshing and welcome and most importantly obvious to all concerned. So far today we’ve seen a modern day leg theory revisited, rings of fielders within rings, areas of the field uninhabited and bare- so rare its exceptional. A joy to watch and savour all by itself. Let’s hope it continues. We approach drinks on day 3 Aus 5/188, two overs until the new ball and Ali into the attack. Conventional wisdom out of the window?
lunch – Ok so what do I know? Personally I would have combined spin and seam for a few overs as this worked at a similar stage for Australia but Root took the new ball and within an over Jimmy had worked his magic! Broad followed – Starc tried to knock him out of the attack – and Australia dropped anchor, back in their shell but at least the 200 came up. Lunch 7/213 Smith 81 – will Smith get his 100 before he runs out of partners or will Australia get a first innings lead- or both or neither? Just another aspect of cricket with games within games, issues to be addressed but all to play for.
Forecast for tea – England 0/60 after a first innings lead of 70 but then I have no idea and been watching cricket since the 1960s!
Drinks 7/252 Smith approaching his 100 and has found a chum in Cummins to keep him company. England second string bowling struggling a bit, doing their best but need more penetration; England slightly off the boil, Australia hanging in. Half way through in terms of time played – where will this match go?
Tea Australia 8/287 – as Manuel from Fawlty Towers would say…I know nothing, nothings! Cummins played out of his skin and comfort zone with a determined 42 taking over two hours whilst Smith just played the waiting and patience game, waiting for something to hit, put away and play on. He just loves batting but not in the Boycott sense. I’ve seen a century of rare class from a supreme batsman at the top of his game. Okay his captaincy needs a bit of work, the rest of the batsmen need to show his resilience, skills and patience – ok not everyone has all three but they can all practice patience!
Forecast for the close of play – an Australian lead on first innings and England with somewhere near 75 runs on the board but not necessarily in the lead; how many wickets down…?
But as above…I know nothing!
So at the close, Smith got his ton, Australia a lead of 26 on first innings and England looking as if they’ve never played the game before at 2/33 a lead of 7. One wonders whether the players watch the opposition when they bat? Smith was patience personified, the new ball took early wickets but then died down…so be patient, patient, patient but no! All reason went out of the head – after all the game is 90% played in the head a la Richie – so why did Cook hook when he didn’t need to? Vince was undone by the induced pressure of the situation and Root hit on the helmet. The last hour and a bit was full on, intense, hard fought test cricket in all its glory. The nearest similar situation was Holding and the WI at the Oval in the 70s…but today had a lot less physical intimidation.
So where does the game go from here? Forecast tells of an Aussie win after lunch on Day 5 but a hard fought contest nonetheless- chasing more than 250 here is not what you want especially with the brittleness of the Aussie top order but we’ve seen that the tail can wag!
And add in the support of 30,000 plus Australia fans tomorrow and England have more than 11 in the opposition to contend with!
There is a first for this Ashes match – the first played with bails that glow!
All in all so far an amazing experience, test cricket at its best and more to come.
Sample of today’s photos to follow