Today is the peak pink day at the pink test…for my non-cricket followers, the pink test is in aid of the McGrath Foundation and today everyone goes pink mad in memory of Jane McGrath, late wife of Australia’s fast bowler Glenn McGrath- one of the finest fast bowlers ever in test cricket or any other form.
Jane passed away from breast cancer and while it was suggested 10 years ago to have a collection for cancer charities in return for wearing pink clothing, Channel 9 got hold of it and dressed all their ex-cricketing commentators in bright pink suits and the whole thing just took off! The McGrath Foundation was set up to provide nurses and other support for those suffering from breast cancer and their families. It is now nationwide- across a country the size of Europe!
The whole test is now pink and the aim is to raise donations of $1.3m over the five days. So far we’ve collectively raised $325,000 but today’s the big push! If the goal is reached it means 10 more nurses for a year across Australia – shows they need every cent they can lay hands on.
Even BT Sport has got in on the act and if you’re watching TV I’m the one in the crowd wearing a pink shirt! The pink shirt which was so carefully washed and ironed and kept in pristine condition since I left the UK in mid-November just for this day!
In case you’re wondering there’s a blue shirt day at the Oval test each year – another low profile kept by English cricket!
Meanwhile there’s a test to be played! Australia resume on 2/193 with Khawaja poised to make his first Ashes century and Smith just under half way to his and to emulate a record of the Dons. The new ball is due in 13 overs time (approx 1 hours play) and will be key to England both initially but also mid afternoon when they’ll try and get some reverse from it.
From afar the pitch still looks good for batting but with footmarks appearing there could soon be something for the spinners to get their teeth into.
Forecasts are for England to underperform in their second innings leaving little to set as a target. With a leggie in the side, the target needs to be substantial or very competitive at least. But we shall see. My forecast for the first drinks break (and we have standard hours since all the time lost on Thursday has been made up), Australia 2/236.
Drinks 2/237 Smith 68 Khawaja 110. This forecasting is getting more accurate – perhaps I need to watch more cricket to get it perfect? Khawaja went to a well crafted century and deservedly so; his ability to play spin earlier in the series was being called into question but it seems that England’s spin bowlers have given him more lessons than he’s had before. Neither seem uncomfortable against the new ball and continue to flourish. We’ve seen the latest plan to try and dismiss Smith from England- I’m not sure which letter of the alphabet we’re up to but it could be Plan AA – namely bowl round the wicket outside his off stump, that immediately takes bowled and lbw out of the equation as modes of dismissal so perhaps they’re trying for ‘bored out’ as an option- he won’t take the bite as he just loves batting and has more patience than I’ve seen in anyone for decades! Forecast for lunch 2/284.
Lunch 3/277 Khawaja 133 Marsh S 2, Smith having gone caught and bowled Ali for 83 missing out on equalling a record by 17 runs but there’s always the second innings if needed! Crane’s potentially first wicket was referred and found to be a no ball but there’s a debate as to whether Khawaja would have been out. Raises the question again of why umpires are not calling no balls other than when being referred to the 3rd umpire. Why not have the 3rd umpire call all no balls anyway- it wouldn’t slow the game but it would mean that the batsman doesn’t have that millionth of a second to change their shot…overall the lack of no ball calling is a concern. Batting up to the point Smith got out and the last 10 minutes when England became agitated for a while looked good and no doubt will be so again this arvo. New ball looked ineffective but perhaps there’s a bit of reverse to come after another 10 overs or so. Forecast for afternoon drinks 3/320.
Drinks 3/319 Marsh S 21 Khawaja 155. Honestly I’m making these forecasts at the end of the previous break so seem to be getting better. That’s more than I can say for England’s bowling. Every option is being tried but to no avail and batting against this attack looks increasingly easy (famous last words). England need to be batting by the end of the day otherwise the game is going to be beyond reach. 33 overs on the ball so perhaps a bit of reverse is now possible but…? The quicks earlier on dropped back to the old ways of not bowling full enough with one expert describing England’s performance as a ‘mess’ and it’s hard to disagree!
Forecast for tea 3/363
Tea 3/365 Khawaja 166 Marsh S 54. I have no idea where the next wicket is coming from let alone the next 17 we need to take to win the match. Australia now lead by 19 with plenty of power to add which looks likely. Will England be batting by the end of the day? Probably won’t be batting until this time tomorrow when the lead could be close to 300 and gives Lyon plenty to bowl to and with the odd crack appearing next the pitch then he’ll become even more unplayable than he has been to date. Also England may find the pitch completely different to that at present and start to imagine things that are not there – call it scoreboard pressure or mind games but there we are. Crane continues his good progress but it’s asking a lot of him to be a match winner in his first game.
With 30 overs left today overtime seems unlikely for the first time in 23 days but England could also bowl more overs than they need to – you don’t take wickets by not bowling! Forecast for drinks break 3/410.
Drinks 4/389 Marsh S 68 Marsh M 4. Nothing slows scoring than taking a wicket and the loss of Khawaja for 171 was just that. It’s Cranes first wicket and defeated Usman in the flight as he danced down the wicket. So a wicket to England but with another 17 overs to go Australia have power to add. Crane’s having difficulty with his run up and aborting once an over which just adds more pressure as the crowd get on his back. A valiant performance nonetheless. Forecast for close 5/437.
Close 4/479 Marsh S 98 Marsh M 63 and a lead of 133 with two days to play and six first innings wickets to fall! It’s been men against boys most of the day and especially in the last session when England looked shabby, tired and really wanted to be somewhere else. Even with two spinners in action for most of the day, the English over rate continues to be poor and took them an additional 15 minutes to bowl the overs. Anyway, no one seems to care but how would they squeeze the extra overs in if they ever go to four day tests is beyond me.
Tomorrow Australia will bat on and on and a lead of 250 can be expected by early afternoon then Lyon works his magic and its goodnight Vienna!
The Marsh brothers played without trouble adding so far over 100 and supporting each other brilliantly. They don’t look in trouble and ready to add more agony tomorrow.
The McGrath fund raising had reached over $ 800,000 by the close of play.
One piece of good news from today – there’s less than 100 days to the start of the County Championship!