After a strange day on which Australia’s batting line up failed miserably, the visitors regained a flicker of hope as evening arrived.
Where we stand
The day began with England adding valuable lower-order runs, then Australia’s finest came and went for a paltry tally of 128. Alastair Cook chose not to enforce the follow-on, allowing Australia the chance to take three morale-boosting scalps. While the home team is an overwhelming favourite with a lead of 264 and seven wickets in hand, Australia has a chance to keep the fourth innings total under 400 and then chase an unlikely but not impossible victory target.
The optimism provided by Peter Siddle’s three last session wickets does not erase the ugliness of the team effort with the willow. One of the most culpable was the top-scorer, Shane Watson. Having begun a nice opening stand with Chris Rogers, he was trapped lbw before lunch. His risible decision to review an obviously correct adjudication had ramifications in the next session when Rogers was incorrectly ruled lbw to a dipping full-toss and didn’t feel he could risk Australia’s remaining review. The reckless shots of Usman Khawaja, Phil Hughes and Brad Haddin were disheartening.
Most pundits thought Cook should not enforce the follow-on. This column disagrees: if he did, and fired out the Australian top order cheaply, it would have been a vicious psychological blow. Between innings the Australians were as flat as Geoff Boycott’s vowels. Instead there was the fillip of reducing the overdogs to 3-31 and continuing the struggles of the English top four. It is hard to see Australia getting out of this match, but Michael Clarke’s men will not feel as devastated overnight as they might have.
Moments that mattered
1. WATTO’S REVIEW. Watson has been dismissed leg before wicket 30% of his Test career, so when he was struck in line and given it was probably out. Chris Rogers at the other end though it might have been going down, prompting Watson to ask for a review. Not so great from Bucky, who then didn't refer his dismissal which would have seen him saved.
2. SIDDLE SNARES THREE. With Australia desperately needing someone to provide a little bit of hope, Siddle took 3-4 from five overs of excellent seam bowling. After failing to inspire in the first innings, Sids was back to his excellent Trent Bridge form.
3. YOURS! YOURS! While it may not have a huge impact on the outcome of the match, a significant lack of confidence and communication was exposed when Joe Root snicked between keeper and slip. Neither Haddin nor Clarke went for the ball. The looks they exchanged afterwards were reminiscent of those between Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.
4. ENGLAND’S TAIL WAGGED. Tail-end runs have the twin value of expanding the score and infuriating the bowling side. England’s third and fourth highest partnerships for the first innings were for the tenth and ninth wickets respectively. After Ryan Harris removed Tim Bresnan with the first ball of the day it looked like Australia would soon be batting, but the last men added 72 in smart time. (Continuing a bizarre trend of this series, Australia’s tenth wicket stand was the second highest of its innings.)
Hero of the day
It is extraordinary to realise that the last English spinner to take five wickets in an innings at Lord's in an Ashes Test was Hedley Verity in 1934. Jim Laker, Derek Underwood, Tony Lock – so many great English spinners failed to achieve the feat. Swann managed it without bowling unusually well.
His haul began with the dismissal of Rogers to the worst ball Swann will bowl all series and benefitted by get-out shots from Khawaja, Haddin and Harris. The one ball he will be proud of was the bouncing over-spinner that deceived Steve Smith. He had two catches dropped – one by Jonathan Trott, one by himself – and still claimed good enough figures to get his name on the honour board.
It should not be overlooked that Swann helped set the tone earlier in the day by clobbering an unbeaten 28 off 26 balls at number eleven.
Four things we learned
1. Khawaja's dismissal, while executed with positive intensions, was poorly timed. Australia was bogged down and needed a boost, an while the attack was on it wasn't in that fashion. He'll learn from it.
2. Ryan Harris has been the only Australian player to perform up to his potential in this Test so far.
3. England is ruthless in this series – see for example Stuart Broad’s shoe-tying shenanigans at Trent Bridge. It is poor form however to see how regularly their fielders leave the ground. The use of fielding coach Chris Taylor as a substitute might be within the rules, but it is clearly outside the spirit of the game.
4. Every day, Graeme Swann looks more like Andy Bernard from the US version of “The Office”.
“Remember how hard the 1985 series was to watch? Don’t forget that it was actually 1-1 after four Tests before the horrors of Edgbaston and The Oval. This series could actually be tougher.”
Caught our eye
Swann managed to get several deliveries to jag menacingly out of the rough. One to a left-hander spun almost fifteen degrees and was taken at slip. Another to a right-hander spat way past the leg stump and ran away for four byes. Ominous signs for the fourth innings.
Soundtrack of the day
Plenty of songs being spun after lunch, trying to distract from the proceedings at Lord’s. As the Australians found new and interesting ways to get out we started with Sophie Koh’s tender ‘Easily Broken’. When Khawaja and Hughes decamped we moved to the stomping jazz of H-Bomb Ferguson and ‘Slowly goin’ crazy’. Clarke’s demise was accompanied by Scandinavian-Australian Jens Lekman’s wonderful ‘If I could cry (it would feel like this)’. Finally as the lower-order crumpled there was nothing left but to dial up The Avett Brothers’ ‘When I drink’.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
First Posted 20 July, 2013 6:17AM AEST