Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The Ashes – 2nd Test

by Sampad Sengupta
Michael Clarke and Darren Lehmann contemplate defeat
After losing to England in a close encounter at Trent Bridge, one would have expected the Aussies to bounce back strongly in the second Test at Lord’s, but it was not to be.  The visitors were humbled by England who won by 347 runs to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the 5-match Test series.  The home side were well in control of the game barring a few hiccups, and have now left the Australian think-tank with a lot to ponder.

There was no surprise as England fielded an unchanged side from the first Test.  Australia on the other hand made a couple of changes, bringing in Usman Khawaja in place of Ed Cowan and quick bowler Ryan Harris to replace Mitchell Stark, and the burly fast bowler ended up picking 5 wickets in England’s first innings. England were first to bat and had a shaky start losing early wickets.  It was then down to the Warwickshire duo of Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell to consolidate and build a partnership, the latter went on to score his second century in consecutive Tests.  The innings ended with a flurry of runs as Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann put together a handy 10th wicket partnership (last wicket partnerships being the trend in this series so far) to take the score to 361. Australia then came out to bat and failed miserably as a Swann inspired England side bundled out their opponents for a meagre 128 runs. England captain Alastair Cook decided against imposing the follow-on and chose to bat again, looking to build on an already healthy lead.  Once again, England got off to a poor start losing three early wickets and ended the day with Joe Root and Tim Bresnan at the crease.  The match was being played at a brisk pace, the first innings was over and we were three wickets into the second, and it was only the end of Day 2.

Man of the Match: Joe Root
The third day however, belonged entirely to England.  The Australian pacers failed to make any inroads and their spinners proved ineffective on a pitch where Swann had been so lethal the previous day.  England piled on the runs and batted the entire day and continued to do so even on Day 4 before eventually declaring, setting Australia an improbable target of 583 runs to win.  Joe Root top-scored with 180 runs off 338 balls, before getting out trying to play a scoop shot off Harris.  This was Root’s first century at the top of the order for England, showing the talent that he possesses and what exactly he is capable of. His innings took the game away from Australia and virtually sealed the fate of the match. The second innings was no different, as Australia failed to bat out the entire day and were bowled out for a score of 235.  The last wicket to fall was that of James Pattinson, who fell victim to Swann late in the day in an extended session of play.  Joe Root was later named Man of the Match thanks to his heroic efforts with the bat in the second innings.

Swann takes five
This game was no different to the first and had its fair share of controversy, with several debatable decisions on the field and also with the DRS (Decision Review System).  The efficiency of “Hawk-Eye”, the “Umpire’s Call” rule, and the reliability of “Hot-Spot” (especially if the third umpire simply refuses to agree with it) are some things that need to be looked into.  Technology is welcome as long as it improves the decisions being taken and helps in minimising errors, not when it sparks such controversy and debate.  As far as the quality of cricket being played on the field goes, the hosts have all the reason to celebrate as they can hardly set a foot wrong. Their bowlers are on song, batsmen scoring runs and so far they’re beating their arch rivals quite comfortably. One area that needs to be addressed though is their top order batting, with the likes of Cook and Pietersen not yet coming into their own.  The class acts that they are, a return to form for the duo would further strengthen the England outfit.  Australia however, have got a serious problem on their hands.  Their quick bowlers are doing their very best out in the field, but having to bowl in two innings on the same day after a gap of less than four hours speaks volumes of their batting woes.  The openers aren’t contributing, middle order looks fragile and so far most of their runs have been scored by their tail. A worrying statistic is that the tenth wicket partnership has been Australia’s best and main source of runs in 2013.  The likes of Shane Watson and Michael Clarke have to step up and marshal the side. The spin department also looks weak as youngster Ashton Agar looks like he has been thrust into Test cricket far too early.  As cricket lovers, we would hope that Australia can live up to their reputation and that we can witness some close encounters in the remaining Tests.

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