Credit to England, but Australia’s batsmen helped them look good

Date: July 31, 2015 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

England v Australia - Investec Ashes Test Series Fourth TestAustralia’s batting was eviscerated by a purposeful and determined England attack on the opening day of the third Test.

Led by James Anderson’s Ashes best 6-47, the tourists were humbled – all out 136 from a mere 36.4 overs.

It was a massive come down for the Australians who rollicked to a first innings total of 8-566 at Lord’s and a massive 405-run victory.

Michael Clarke won the toss and batted but admitted that the batsmen would be tested early with an even tinge of grass the length of a hard Edgbaston strip. For his part, Alastair Cook said he too would have batted given the choice.

Over the next few hours he was no doubt counting his blessings that the coin did not fall in his favour. While the pitches for the first two Tests of the series were largely grassless, benign and lacking in carry, Birmingham offered the bowlers something in concert with the heavy overhead conditions.

However, in essence, Australia’s batsmen did as much to undo themselves as England’s bowlers did.

David Warner was out to a good delivery from Anderson that pitched in line and straightened up to have him trapped in front for two. Aside from that, England’s job was made easy.

Yes, they bowled tightly, with a combination of aggression and control, but let’s face it the pitch and atmospheric conditions should not have added up to an innings total of 136 inside 37 overs.

Chris Rogers’ innings of 52 was the standout both in quantity and quality. He waited for the ball to come to him and demurred on driving down the ground to swinging balls on the up. In the end he fell leg before hitting across the line to a fullish ball from Stuart Broad, but in his defence, by that point he was rapidly running out of partners.

Too many of the Australians were drawn to the ball like boats were to the rocks on the Rhine by the mythical Lorelei. Adam Voges and Mitchell Starc both fell to edges as they were attempting to leave balls they had initially decided to play.

Michael Clarke got off the mark with a boundary to third man – again off an edge after he failed to get his bat out of the line when attempting a late leave. A few balls later he was clean bowled by a quick, full and largely straight delivery from Steven Finn.

The more times you saw the replay the more you wondered how a player of Clarke’s ability could have missed it altogether. You also started to question what the future may be for the Test skipper.

Steve Smith was due a failure after a stellar run however his innings was terminated on seven when he edged a delivery from Finn that was well enough wide of off-stump that he could have let it harmlessly pass.

Mitchell Marsh played an ill-advised drive to a short of a length wide away swinger from Anderson and departed for a third ball duck.

It was a totally injudicious shot given the nascence of his innings and the parlous state of the scoreboard.

It got worse when Peter Nevill, who in the eyes of Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden was a lucky inclusion, offered no shot at all to Anderson and was bowled for two.

Nowadays top flight cricket is a three-piece jigsaw – Test, one-dayers and T20s. On a day when Australia’s batsmen were shown up the one man who stood firm was Rogers. His has an old-fashioned, no fuss approach. Play the ball late, leave the wide balls and punch the swinging ball rather than unload from a high backlift.

Australia’s batsmen need to study video of his knock as it was he alone who came to terms with the conditions and the attack. And he did so with patience, technique and astute decision making.

Some would call it Test match batting.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 30 July 2015, soliciting 226 comments