Thursday, July 11, 2013

Trent Bridge Day 2

One swallow doesn’t make a summer, one innings doesn’t create a career, and one decision doesn’t determine the outcome of a Test match.

Let’s turn our attention to that last point while everybody’s rhapsodising over Ashton Agar’s rather remarkable debut innings, shall we?

Umpiring decisions determine the direction in which things will develop, and while English supporters can complain all they like about the third umpire’s decision that allowed Agar’s innings to continue, I’ll respond with inconclusive and benefit of the doubt. The English commentators on the radio were quite outspoken about on the line being out, but I reckon there was a smidgen of doubt and the batsman’s entitled to it.

Maybe that one balanced up the Rogers LBW, which was one of the things that had landed us in that little nine-for predicament.

Predictably, there’s a degree of controversy about the Trott LBW, and rightly so, because it’s something that’s happening off the field affecting what goes down on it, but TV broadcasters have been fiddling with things to suit themselves for yonks, Hot Spot is their technology, anyway, and something like this was always likely to happen, so Murphy’s Law kicks in about here.

You know Murphy’s Law: Whatever can go wrong will go wrong, and when it does go wrong it will go wrong at the worst possible moment.

And if anyone’s going to argue about that one, I’ll have a go at the rather remarkable passage of play about half an hour into the day when the ball, which had been going gun barrel straight, started reversing.

Now, I’m not going to use the word cheating here, and I’m not necessarily suggesting the dark art of bringing reverse swing into play equates to ball tampering, but there’s something very sus about this from where I’m sitting.

Yes, Anderson and company are very good at getting the ball into the state where it will reverse, and it’s quite possible the means through which this is achieved is totally legitimate. The interesting thing, at least as far as I can see, is that this ability to reverse is a temporary thing, and it seems to be something that can be countered by affecting the state of the ball through the agencies of willow and concrete.

With Australia having lost 5 for 9 in about half an hour, the reverse seemed to remove itself from the equation. Strange.

But all that, of course, is secondary to the big issue here, and that’s the fact that Agar’s 98 and the 163 run tenth wicket partnership have set things up for an interesting Day Three.

Exactly where that goes is anyone’s guess, but I suspect that, on this track at least, chasing anything much over 150 batting last is going to be difficult. Given the current situation, where England are, effectively, 2 for 15 that would involve taking 8 for 135 in the first two sessions tonight, and if we can do that, with our batting surrounded by rather severe question marks, maybe a target of 150 will turn out to be just a tad too high.

Time will tell, as it will with young Mr Agar, who displayed a remarkable maturity in a tricky situation. He certainly doesn’t appear to have the same technical issues some of the other bats have, and for the moment I reckon he can expect an extended run batting Eight from here on.

He’ll need to deliver with the ball as well, but there’s definitely a possibility of a spin bowling all-rounder, which raises some interesting possibilities if he can show form with the ball and continue to post significant scores with the bat.

Possibly he could step up a place or two in the order, but I wouldn’t be looking any higher than Seven, possibly with Haddin at Six, in a situation where you wanted to play an extra spinner and still have three quicks because Watto doesn’t bowl much any more.

Or maybe because Watto hasn’t been able to deliver the runs consistently enough to hold his place.

Interestingly, and I’m not suggesting we’re looking at another Sobers, Imran or Hadlee, most of the great all-rounders have started as specialist bowlers whose batting has moved them up into the middle order.

Without getting ahead of ourselves, let’s wait and see how things pan out. You can predict the inevitable slump in performances as the bowling fraternity work him out and identify weaknesses and technical points that can be attacked, but he looks like someone who’ll add a welcome degree of flexibility.

As far as the rest of the day’s play goes Hughes showed a commendable degree of grit and stickability, while Smith and Haddin both had me scratching my head at the apparent abandonment of the old conventional wisdom involving the placement of the front foot and the subsequent position of the head.

That, I would suggest, m’lud, is a key issue in dealing with the ball when it’s reversing since it’ll probably close the gate between bat and pad (and quite possibly allow the adjustment that’ll get the ball hitting the middle rather than snicking the inside or outside edge).

As far as Day Three and the eventual outcome is concerned, the big question is going to involve the size of the target, and whether we can somehow cobble together more than a hundred out of the combination of Rogers (who I see as the key), Watson and Cowan, both of whom need to deliver big time in the not too distant future.

Chasing more than 150 looks to be rather tricky for this side in these conditions, but if One, Two and Three can get the total past the ton, and my suspicions about the ephemeral nature of the reverse elements is correct, anything less than, maybe, 250 may well be doable.

And, as noted yesterday, time will tell.

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