Thursday, July 18, 2013

Lords Day 1

I’ve been banging on for a while about the need for Australia’s batsmen to work on their bowling a bit, and Michael Clarke’s decision to hand the ball to Steve Smith at the start of the 76th over might just suggest there’s something in that suggestion.

Clarke’s not afraid to try things, and is equally disinclined to persevere with something that’s not working, which would tend to explain the decision to hand the ball to Watson for the fifth over, a decision that was rewarded with the wicket of Cook, who, interestingly, walked where certain other individuals may have been tempted to linger and discuss a referral.

That suggests a reasonably hard-nosed attitude and a fair aptitude for assessing the chance of success.

I’d been inclined to favour Bird over Harris as the replacement for Starc, but the man they call Rhino definitely delivered. Two early wickets (Root and Pietersen) and the one that broke a 99-run partnership is a fair return for twenty economical overs. The question, of course, is how long you can keep him going, and the question of who to bowl if he breaks down comes into the equation as well.

That, of course, is one of the reasons for the everybody should be able to roll their arm over and send down something reasonable proposition.

With half the side used yesterday it’s also interesting that Pattinson’s eighteen overs were the least impressive contribution with the ball, though one notes the peculiar conditions that apply when you’re bowling at Lords.

For the uninitiated there’s an eight foot drop in height from one square boundary to the other, so the ground has the sort of built in slope that would long since have disappeared in a renovation/reconstruction project anywhere other than the fabled home of cricket.

Pattinson was wayward early, which accounted for Watson’s introduction to the crease. His twelve overs were about where you’d want them on a day when the workload was shared fairly evenly among the main quicks. I’ve always held that one of the benefits of Bowling Watto’s presence in the side is the fact that he saved the other blokes from overwork without any significant drop in aggression, pace or intensity.

Siddle and Harris did the workhorse bit fairly well, but it wasn’t a day when the attack really hit the heights after that impressive score line of 3 for 28 at the end of the sixth over.

From that point Trott and Bell fought back well (as you’d expect). Bell, in particular, has a fair degree of gritty stickability and scores at a reasonable rate as well. Trott’s in much the same mould, so while you’d like to get them cheaply you’ve got to expect fairly stiff resistance so it’s a case of keep it tight and wait for the opportunity, which arrived with a catch in the deep to dispose of Trott.

At that point, 4-127 in the thirty-fourth over, having gone to lunch at 3-80 off twenty-six, things looked to be swinging back Australia’s way, but a 144-run partnership between Bell and Bairstow had England looking good in the run down to the new ball, which is where Smith came into the action.

There’d been the regulation bit of bad luck (or whatever) back in the forty-ninth over with Bairstow bowled off what ended up being ruled a no ball after extensive forensic investigation. There wasn’t much in it, and if it hadn’t hit the stumps and attracted the umpire’s attention on the big screen as the batsman went to leave, it would probably have been counted as a perfectly legal delivery.

Back to the decision to bowl Smith.

In these circumstances, with a substantial partnership, the new ball imminent and not much longer to go, it’s the classic time to try something, and it would be handy to have a few options now that Clarke’s back seems to have taken his left arm tweakers out of the equation.

It had been Watson and Siddle, who’d just come back replacing Pattinson who might need a brief spell before taking the new ball and Clarke had been working the changes already, with short spells indicating a willingness to experiment and see what we can manage to come up with.

Handed the ball, Smith delivers four dots, concedes a four and picks up the prize scalp off the last ball, caught at slip off a perfectly pitched leggie.

Siddle bowls again, Smith gets another over, which goes for three, Siddle bowls a maiden and Smith picks up a second wicket off a full toss at the start of his third over. Bairstow pops the ball back for a caught and bowled, and Smith has his sixth Test wicket, five of which have been taken at Lords.

At that point Clarke could have taken the new ball, but with Smith doing what he was doing, why would you? While you’d prefer the bowler to land them, that wicket’s a reminder you don’t always need to.

At 6-279 Siddle delivers a maiden, Smith has another go, and it yields a four. Harris comes on preparing to take the new ball, Smith gets a third, caught behind and with Anderson in as night watchman to protect Broad it’s time to see what the new ball can do.

As it turns out, two doses of the new pill take the score on to 7-289 at stumps.

The key point here is that little cameo from Smith (6 overs, 1 maiden, 3 for 18) has things set up very nicely for the resumption tomorrow. The new pill is just two overs old, Pattinson and Harris will be fresh and if we pick up a quick wicket, at eight-for and Swann still to come, you’d have to think Broad can’t do all that much damage.

My Day One Par Score is around 6 for 320. On that basis, Australia definitely finishes the day with a nose in front with the prospect of a quick conclusion to the innings and the chance to (hopefully) bat all day to set things up...

Outlook: Definitely bullish.

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