Saturday, December 15, 2012

Hobart 2012: Day Two

Apart from the rain interruptions it's hard to avoid the conclusion that Day Two in Hobart went pretty much according to the script, though for a while I wasn't sure whose script we were using.

When Clarke went early it could have been Sri Lanka's, the one that called for a brisk run through the Australian tail, presumably by removing Wade before he got started and then would have involved keeping Hussey off strike and maximising the exposure of Eight, Nine, Ten and Jack to Herath while maintaining pressure at the other end.

Instead, Wade got started, Mr Cricket stuck around and the scoring rate ticked over nicely enough to add around 150 before Clarke could declare with enough time for a decent go at the Sri Lankan top order before stumps.

Actually, you have to suspect the declaration came, more or less (and allowing for the extended playing time to make up for the rain delays) where the Australian script would have called for it.

Half an hour before tea would, after all, give you two goes at them with the new ball, one short sharp nasty session before the Tea break, and the two hours after it, and if they'd been on the field all along and scoring around 3.5 to 4 an over (and that'd be a conservative figure when you're batting for a declaration off around 55 overs) they'd have been looking at around 500 to 520 as a target.

On that basis 450 was a pretty fair compromise in the runs/time equation.

The breakthrough didn't come before the break, though there were signs it wasn't far away (then again, with the new ball there are always signs it's lurking just around the corner) but Hilfenhaus got Karunaratne caught behind in the third over after the resumption (tick the script item that indicates local boy gets the breakthrough).

The Australian script also called for an early departure from Sangakarra, and Hussey's catch in the gully fitted nicely with the welcome back workhorse Siddle bit that would have been in the script as well.

2/42 became 3/70 when Watson trapped Jayawardene in front. Decision reviewed, umpire's verdict upheld probably also featured in the script and having Lyon strike early (he'd already bowled an over before tea in a neat little move that squeezed in another one before the break) was another box ticked.

With an early start to Day Three you'd guess 4/87 with Dilshan on 50 and Mathews next in will translate into around 200-240 all out just before tea, raising an interesting question about enforcing the follow on.

The Michael Clarke as aggressive captain script would  call for enforcement, but I'd guess we'll bat again with a lead of over 200, declare midway through Monday and have four and a half sessions to knock them over again.

On the other hand, there's a give the boys an extra day off with close to a week and a half till Boxing Day factor that'd always be likely to tempt Clarke to enforce the follow on, and would also do a bit to (a) establish dominance for the rest of this series and (b) deliver a result that might be worth a bit more in the calculations regarding the rankings leading into The Ashes next year.

On that front one notes India are 8/297 in reply to England's 330 at the end of Day Three in Nagpur, which will make for an interesting two days over that way. A 1-0 series win away from home will presumably boost the England ranking, but one suspects there isn't enough time to build a lead and roll India a second time, so you'd guess 2-0 is out of the question.

One notes that three days have yielded around 630 runs and 18 wickets, so from those figures you'd guess England will set out to bat time, maybe declare with something to bowl at just after lunch on the last day, maybe setting a target of 300 in just under two sessions, which could be interesting.

Particularly if the follow on is enforced in Hobart and proceedings are brought to a close midway through Monday…

On the other hand, although we often suspect there's a script in operation, real life tends to have fate lurking around the corner slipping the lead into the boxing glove, so I suspect both declaration scenarios will prove inoperative...

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