Cricket Australia Items/Blogs/dean-wilson/2013/8/23/the-oval-at-it-again

Dean Wilson

The Oval at it again

23 August 2013 6

Cricket Correspondent for the UK's Daily Mirror newspaper Dean Wilson says The Oval is becoming the home of the maiden Ashes century.

First Shane Watson, then Steve Smith. The Oval is doing a roaring trade in maiden Ashes tons only this year it has nothing to do with England.

We can all remember Kevin Pietersen announcing his arrival in this famous old series with a swashbuckling 158 to secure the Ashes.

In 2009 it was Jonathan Trott's turn to help keep the urn in English hands, but the only debut centuries we are likely to see for the three lions in this game will be when Simon Kerrigan or Chris Woakes bring up their bowling tons in the second innings.

You've got to admire Steve Smith for reaching the magical three figures in an Ashes Test match, and getting there with such a sweetly timed straight six off Jonathan Trott.

Here is a cricketer who has improved out of sight since we first saw him during the 2010/11 series Down Under when he was picked as a leg-spinner rather than a batsman.

In fact based on the comments from the Australian management and players, we all thought he had just been picked to lighten the mood in a depressed dressing room.

He was the sort of bloke who would make everyone laugh and was a bit of a character in the dressing room.

Nothing about his pedigree as a batsman or a bowler.

Those with a cruel way with words made some disparaging remarks about blonde legspinners, and poor old Steve Smith was never going to be able to live up to expectations.

Since then though he has done what was needed to be done. He has worked hard on his game, he has concentrated on his batting, tightened up his technique, but best of all he has not forgotten what makes him such a good player.

He still has the shot making ability that excites the fans and during his innings on day two he played one back foot square drive that would not have looked out of place had Viv Richards played it himself

So while England were worrying about how they could protect Simon Kerrigan from more damage, Australia were watching one of their youngsters flourish.

The game might only be two days old but you can visibly see how the two teams are swapping momentum ahead of the winter.

Australia are growing in confidence as their misfiring batsmen find form, while England's experiment with Kerrigan and Chris Woakes is failing miserably so far.

There is a long way to go of course, but that is where we are right now, and there is certainly one dressing room happier than the other in this match.

The second day was stunted due to the poor weather so play only began at 2.30pm, but it was painfully slow.

England blamed the wet conditions and the wet ball for taking an hour to bowl 11 overs, but the crowd were clearly restless at being forced to sit and wait for action they had paid good money to see.

There is a fine line between getting some cricket on, and getting the maximum amount of cricket on, and when you expect to watch 90 overs but only get half of it you feel cheated.

It is not England's responsibility to bowl their overs like jack rabbits just because it has rained for half the day, but the umpires need to get a grip on time wasting because it has been going on all series.

Perhaps if the slow over rate here was an isolated event then we wouldn't make a fuss of it, but it isn't.

It is sharp practice that has been going on for too long and the umpires need to step in and use the full force of punishments available.

England at least managed to keep all their wickets in hand and not be 30-3 by the close.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia.
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