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England race for the line

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Tom Fordyce | 08:53 UK time, Monday, 6 December 2010

Adelaide, South Australia

Tick-tock, tick-tock. Drip-drop, drip-drop.

After four days of roasting Australia's bowlers and batsmen, England's cricketers now face a nerve-butchering battle against two rather more nebulous opponents: the clock and the climate.

When Andrew Strauss declared with his side on 620-5 at 1012am Adelaide time, a lead of 375 on the board, his side had almost six sessions to take the 10 Australian wickets needed for victory. When a dramatic day drew to a close eight hours later, the equation was excruciatingly poised: six wickets from three sessions, 137 runs in hand.

The number they will be most concerned by? 28. That is the number of millimetres of rain Adelaide usually receives in the whole of December. It is also the amount of rain forecast to fall on the city on this particular Tuesday alone.

That England's players have spent much of the tour mucking about with a dance called The Sprinkler now seems horribly ironic. Perhaps Graeme Swann can get busy working on The Umbrella, or The Extremely Efficient Draining System.

It was not meant to be like this. English cricket fans are accustomed to praying for rain on the last day of Tests against Australia, not begging it to go away.

But beg they might have to. Midway through Monday afternoon, the Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology issued the following apocalyptic warning for the Adelaide area.

"Severe thunderstorms are likely to produce very heavy rainfall, flash flooding, damaging winds with gusts in excess of 90 km/h and large hailstones."

The detail - "Move cars under cover. Secure loose items around your property. Stay indoors, away from windows" - painted an even bleaker picture. The only surprise was that there was no mention of plagues of ravenous locusts or four mysterious horsemen.

Then again, with the Midas mojo that Kevin Pietersen seems to have this week, he would probably quite fancy his chances against Pestilence, War and Famine, even back himself to give Death a decent fight.

Having begun the day by making his highest Test score, he ended it with the remarkable dismissal of Michael Clarke to give England fresh hope when it was starting to fade.

kp595catchap.jpgCook leaps to complete the dismissal of Clarke as Pietersen watches on. Photo: AP

Clarke has looked a walking wicket in this series so far. His top score in his last six Test innings before Monday was 14 and he was very nearly caught off bat and pad to his very first ball. Yet, four hours later, he was still there, mowing and slashing with the wild abandon of a man on a mission to save both his own bacon and the team's hide.

He had survived chance after chance: given out caught at slip by Paul Collingwood off Graeme Swann, only to be reprieved on the referral; beaten all ends up by a Swann ripper that turned a mile from outside off to clear leg; advancing down the track to the next ball and miscuing just past Cook at short leg.

When Strauss brought Swann off after a marathon spell, with the light closing in and spectators trudging towards the exits, and threw the battered ball to Pietersen, it was not so much rolling the dice as tossing them up gently in an easy arc.

England's first-innings double-century maker might have begun his professional career as an off-spinner but after 67 Test matches his bowling figures read 3-569.

Still, if anyone can have faith in their wicket-taking ability with stats like that, it is Pietersen. He found bite from Doug Bollinger's footholds, watched the ball clip Clarke's bat and ricochet onto his thigh guard, with Cook diving backwards to take the catch.

Umpire Tony Hill initially turned the appeal down as Clarke started the long walk back to the pavilion. The batsman stopped, prompting a referral, which confirmed what England had hoped. Clarke later apologised on Twitter for not continuing his walk.

Whether his team's chances went with him will come down to the accuracy of those meteorological forecasts as much as his stranded partner Mike Hussey.

This England team have become extremely adept over the last 18 months at saving matches with sterling rearguard actions. In both Cardiff and Cape Town, they somehow hung on for draws with the last pair together at the crease and the vultures circling.

What they have not had so much recent practice in doing is the opposite - winkling out the opposition and forcing results when time is running out. When they did have the opportunity, against the West Indies right at the very start of Strauss's captaincy, they failed to apply the coup de grace in both Barbados and Antigua.

To be denied a series lead after dominating completely for so much of the match would add a particularly cruel and unwelcome entry to the long litany of English Ashes aches.

Did the declaration come too late? When Simon Katich and Shane Watson were making hay in the morning, it seemed not. When the rain swept in from the north mid-afternoon and threatened to wash out the rest of the day's play, it appeared so.

Australia's batsmen offered much stouter resistance than they had on that first morning.

Simon Katich, limping from the pain of his sore Achilles, battled away with gritted teeth for almost two hours until Swann had him caught behind off the skinniest of snicks.

Shane Watson, planting that big front foot down the pitch, clunked and cut merrily for an hour longer before the excellent Steve Finn moved one away to draw the edge to slip.

That he failed for the 13th time to convert a flashy fifty into a century came as no great surprise. That Ricky Ponting lasted only 19 balls before being undone by Swann's straight one left England ecstatic.

The ball before had spat up a puff of dust from the disintegrating surface and turned sharply into Ponting's pad. Plunging forward to the next one, he played for the same turn and edged low and fast to Collingwood's left at slip.

An aggregate of nine runs for the match was not in Punter's pre-game plans. On the grassy bank in front of the scoreboard, Barmy Army trumpeter Billy Cooper parped out Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart, while the troops took delight in swapping Swann's name into the title instead.

There were other chances. With a black curtain of rain hanging round the back of the Chappell Stands, James Anderson fizzed successive balls past Hussey's poking pushes. Collingwood found the edge of the same man's bat with his cheeky off-cutters only for the ball to fly just past the left hand of Anderson at slip.

Mr Cricket hoicked Swann away over midwicket for six, only to squirt the next ball so close to his stumps that timber and leather could have exchanged phone numbers.

As each opportunity slipped past and the clouds overhead grew steadily darker, English hands grabbed at heads and mouths forming anguished O's.

The pattern for the final day had been set. Tick-tock, drip-drop.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    ok, so this could look totally foolish tomorrow, but i think straussy might have learnt to declare at the perfect time. Can't control the weather and us having to bat again will lose us time. great quick runs early on.

    If this does end in a draw, I still think england have the momentum, saved by rain is bad for your ego, saved by own effort and obduracy/skill (england at the gabba) is very good. I'm not expecting england to crumble even if the aussies escape. If we lose broad in the next test, we've got good back up, so I'm not worried.

    This was always going to be a tight series.

  • Comment number 2.

    If we hadn't declared they might well be ahead now as the morning was prime batting time so it has to have been right to carry.

    Six wickets in a day, with the tail so close it looks on. By handy if Broad can manage to bowl of course.

  • Comment number 3.

    Let's hope someone from the England camp is on friendly terms with the raingods. It would be awful to not win now after dominating the match from the fourth ball of the game.

    Clarke's wicket could prove crucial - it exposes that incumbent of the last chance saloon Marcus North to the new ball and if England nip him and Haddin out then the rest could follow quickly - hopefully before the deluge.

    Day 4 at Adelaide dissected: Two out of Three Ain't bad for England http://bit.ly/id7mGH

  • Comment number 4.

    A well timed declaration. Any earlier and England would arguably have been left chasing a larger total (though still not huge, obviously) in potentially difficult batting conditions. Ponting would have kept the quicks on in what may well be questionable light and forced the umpire's hands in stopping play. Hopefully, we will be left with a small total to chase - or none at all! - and enough time within which to chase it. 2 wickets early doors will see us into a weak tail.

    Since taking over the captaincy, Strauss has been frequently criticised for his defensive strategies, in particular in relation to declarations. More often than not these accusations have been found to be without merit once the match has been decided. His bowlers have generally repaid the faith shown in them. Its easy to forget that Strauss inherited a side near the beginning of a rebuilding process. In times like this, the key is to avoid defeat. He has done so admirably by and large and is now beginning to reap the benefits.

    Ultimately, it is very hard to see even Engladn losing from here. Whether a disciplined batting performance or, more likely, the weather will force a draw remins to be seen. Aussie tabloids are providing instructions for a rain dance. Anyone know of a sunnier equivalent?

  • Comment number 5.

    If the heavens do open and there isn't enough time then England just have to take all the positives they can forward with a "We'll get 'em next time attitude", simple as that.

    Hussey is the key, Haddin's in decent nick too. Grab one of those sharpish in the morning and the tail is open. KP's wicket right at the end was a massive moment, hopefully we'll get the last day this deserves and not a wash-out.

  • Comment number 6.

    It is generally unwise to try and force a result by declaring when relying on weather forecasts. I think Strauss did the right thing. We have put on a decent total and it would be foolish to give them even a sniff of victory (as history as taught us against Australia!).

    Well done England. A real pleasure watching this team.

    Long way to go in this series but Cook, Pietersen, Trott and Bell look in great touch and our bowlers are hitting the right line and lengths. Brilliant stuff. Papa Shango seems very quiet this fine morning!

  • Comment number 7.

    Well a bit of cloud in the morning could help when we take the new ball. I expect the spin will probably open with swan and maybe KP for a few overs, see what happens then hope for some swing with the overcast conditions. Maybe if it is very cloudy early on they should just take the new ball straight away?

    Probably just as bad as the rain in terms of forcing victory is the injury to broad. I always worry about this sort of thing when going in with only 4 bowlers on a flat wicket. Nevertheless I agree with the declaration as the runs came nice and fast and may save us having to bat again.

  • Comment number 8.

    #3, thereversesweep: Would you take the new ball? I'd certainly be giving Swann and KP a few overs at the beginning of the day. Think their chances of snaring Hussey, North and Haddin are greater than the quicks and in addition it enables us to get a far greater number of overs into the day's play. Take the new ball once we're into the tail or if there's no progress after 20 overs.

    On another note, it will be interesting to see if there are any timewasting tactics employed by the Aussies. If we're honest, we probably deserve it after Cardiff, but Ponting has been pretty vehement in his condemnation of this approach to saving a match.

  • Comment number 9.

    By walking and then turning back, Clarke has summed up this Aussie team - clueless. As vice-captain, he should know better. The rights and wrongs of walking are for a different conversation, but walking and then coming back is disgraceful.

  • Comment number 10.

    thought the declaration was pretty much spot on to be honest, they batted for what? about ten overs and scored at a decent lick, so it's not like they were wandering along aimlessly. In fact, great intent from all the batsmen, and KP's wicket at the end of the day could prove to be absolutely crucial.

    Rain, rain, stay away...

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 12.

    And here he is....

  • Comment number 13.

    I'm trying to imagine england bowling tomorrow morning, broad at one end, Anderson at the other with thunder rumbling in the background, but all I remember are the infamous "12th Man" tapes of many years ago from Billy Birmingham when Merv Hughes takes a hat trick against Sri Lanka.

    Youtube it if you dont know what I'm on about.

  • Comment number 14.

    There will be some criticism of the declaration, Botham always calls for early declarations (usually incorrectly), but I think he got it spot on batting for just 40minutes but getting 70 quick runs.

    Had it been only a 300 lead, it now looks like Australia would have every chance of surpassing it and making England bat again,which firstly would up time, and secondly would allow Australia to control the over rate tempo.

    It was the right decision from Strauss, whatever the outcome!

  • Comment number 15.

    Papa Shango is off his medicine again?

    As a current exile it has been agonising watching Australia performances from afar and wondering what is going on... If Haddin and Hussey can stay in the morning session then we have a chance of a draw.

    We have the longest tail and we should be able to force it. Wishful thinking me thinks..

  • Comment number 16.

    I'm glad to see that a lot of people have come out to support Strauss in his decision to bat on for a bit longer in the morning. I think this was the right decision, regardless of the weather. 2. At 10:56am on 06 Dec 2010, Pondlife, was dead on - if we had put in Australia to bat straight away with less of a total, and having the night to prepare mentally to go straight into bat, we could be in a worse position. My view is that we ought to prepare for the best possible outcome - we cannot lose this match, so the only factor is whether the weather (ha) will allow us to win, and if it does hold out the ability to win the match by an innings will be more than just a victory for England - it will crush an already ragged looking Aussie team.

    On another note, Tom Fordyce wrote: "Then again, with the Midas mojo that Kevin Pietersen seems to have this week, he would probably quite fancy his chances against Pestilence, War and Famine, even back himself to give Death a decent fight."

    Please keep up these nuggets of joy in your blog posts Tom - they don't have brighten up my cold, dark mornings! After his performance in this test, I'd back Pietersen against the Horsemen!

  • Comment number 17.

    england took 14 australian wickets in 2 days so far on a good batting pitch, and england lost only 5 so far in the 2nd test, 4 century partnerships, 2 hundreds by individual batsmen, good fielding...all these are positives the england team can take in to the next test regardless of the outcome of the 2nd test.

    australians on the other hand have issues from selectors to the players in every aspect of the game and not a good position to be in compared to the england team. this is also an extra psychological advantage for england.

    so england must NOT squander the opportunity when it gets as the australian are very good at turning things round!

  • Comment number 18.

    it must have been very uplifting for England to get clarkes wicket on what turned out to be the last ball but has the damage already been done?

  • Comment number 19.

    I think Strauss batted for the perfect length of time - as has been mentioned already, you can't factor the weather into a decision to declare because it's just too dangerous. Not giving the Aussies any kind of sniff of victory means their is less positivity in their play and it's harder to save a test than try and win one for sure.

    It's on a knife edge if the weather is correct - it could be over in a matter of 1-2 hours, or it could go straight through for the draw. I don't think Haddin will last, because I don't think he's a batsman for saving a test, but North and Hussey could if North can get past the first few overs and find some touch.

    It's such a pleasure watching England in this form - I no longer wake up and check the scoreboard with fear and we're only into the second test!

  • Comment number 20.

    Good article once again Tom and your reports and opinions have been most enjoyable, and useful platforms for debate, during this Series. Please keep it up.

    I cannot be as charitable toward most of your correspondents. Talk about "Much Ado About Nothing" - how can others express unequivocal opinions regarding the timing of Strauss' declaration until the game has finished, under what circumstances (eg rain) and with what result (ie who wins)?

    Perhaps a good example of empty vessela making the loudest noise! As usual with a 5th day and a result possible, even probable, there are all sorts of inponderables that can occur which may alter, or interfere with the balance of, the game.

    Finally if the result proves Strauss entirely wrong in batting on, etc, and eg Australia force a draw and perhaps bat all day to achieve it, then and only then can one reasonably pass a verdict on the timing of the declaration, for or against, but to debate the merits now and to write lengthy opinions based mostly upon conjecture is boring and frankly an insult to the theme and quality of your article.

  • Comment number 21.

    I'm an expat currently living in Gold Coast, south of Brisbane. Since the fantastic match at Brisbane, it's done nothing but rain here - 140 mm yesterday (Sunday) - I left a plastic bucket out and it was full today! So, the expected rain in Adelaide is no big deal and it's impossible to forecast thunderstorm tracks accurately. Also, don't make jokes about plagues of locusts, they had one in NSW a couple of days ago! Great bowling (and batting) by KP - keep it up lads! The Aussie TV commentators are making predictions of England setting some sort of record by scoring a 500 run innings in each Test of a series - they are getting downright dispirited!

  • Comment number 22.

    Good to see that Michael Clarke was suitably embarrassed after not walking when he obviously knew he'd hit the ball. It was so flippin' obvious that even Mike Hussey appealed - just look at the picture that you've included in the blog. Hussey is appealing for the catch just as much as Pietersen!! I'll bet Clarke is well chuffed. How often do you see your batting partner appealing for you to be out??!! No wonder there' talk of strife in the Aussie camp!!

  • Comment number 23.

    #20 closertofine - I'm not sure I agree with your point (that is, if I've understood it correctly).

    It would (will) be very easy to comment at the end of the game as to whether the timing of the declaration was good or bad. But that would be with the benefit of (20:20) hindsight. So if we win it was a great call, if we draw perhaps not so good.

    The point is that people are giving their opinion as to whether they think Strauss's decision was right AT THE TIME HE MADE IT, WITH THE INFORMATION HE HAD AT THE TIME on all those factors (weather, time left, conditions etc). All those things were and are still imponderable. I don't think they are supposed to be unequivocal opinions (unless your name is papa, but let's not go there). I think it's just people's views, right or wrong. Some people think he should have got them in rigth away, some agree with what he did. Of course we can all be wise after the event, but that's not very wise. Or have I misunderstood your point?

    Anway, with that in mind, I still say more or less what I (and others) said in the last blog, i.e. that he had to put the Aussie win out of the equation first. He did that by putting on those extra runs today. It also got them in the field for a few more overs, more tired, more demoralised, and possibly allowed us to bowl at them in better conditions for us(?) Had he declared earlier, they may have passed or been close to our total by now, and that gives them a boost.

    IMO the perfect timing of the declaration would be to make sure that they would JUST fall short of our total, hence meaning that we don't need to bat. If we could get the requisite runs in the first innings, why not do that and obviate the need to bat again (which apart from anything else, would waste valuable time)? So lets guess that they can bat at just under 3 an over and let's say we get 150 overs to bowl at them, then he should have set them a target of about 400-450. He in fact set them 370 ish, so by that theory he declared a touch early. But I think that was a good call, because it gives us enough time to bowl them out (I hope!) and also means that they can't win.

    And whilst I would be disappointed for it to end in a rain affected draw now, I can't really see the Aussies winning a test if they carry on playing like this

  • Comment number 24.

    The consensus is that the decision to bat and the timing of the declaration appeared right at the time and I agree.

    Hindsight will not prove those decisions to be right or wrong - they were right at the time and whatever the outcome that will hold true as o one has a crystal ball. If it was right then its right now - whatever the outcome.

  • Comment number 25.

    England were totally useless in this match.

    * Their average per wicket dropped from 517.00 to 124.00 - a drop of 76%!
    * In 79.2 overs, they only managed to take 1 more wicket that Peter Siddle did in 3 balls on the first day at Brisbane!
    * Cook was especially bad. He scored 87 fewer runs than he did in his last innings. At this rate, his next score will be 61, before he starts making negative scores.
    * Pietersen, again, fell to a left-arm spinner, giving Xavier Doherty his second-best ever figures in Test cricket.
    * There were 3 Australian century makers in England's first innings compared to England's 2.
    * Bell again fails to convert a start into a century.
    * Trott, having made a century in the first Test, clearly has his mind on his future career as a ditch digger instead of scoring runs.

    Not to mention, Australian mind games are affecting Pietersen. A giant picture of Warne with a burger unnerved him to the point of getting him out a few balls later.

    I could go on...

  • Comment number 26.

    @closertofine - surely people can have an opinion about when the right time to declare was. Strauss had to make a call without the benefit of hindsight. It is interesting to see whether with broadly the same information others would have made a similar decision. Clearly many of the posters on this blog are armchair critics, but still interesting nonetheless. I was slightly surprised he batted on, but now think it was probably a wise decision. Scoring 69 runs in 9 overs (or whatever) when the aussie heads were down could prove to be a masterstroke, as it will be hard to score at that rate with fresher bowlers in a second innings on a deteriorating wicket. And with Broad unable to bowl for part of the day, having a slightly shorter day in the field was not unhelpful either.

  • Comment number 27.

    #25 - Loving that fella! People getting very optimistic at the mo, but when you see facts like that - and I mean actual FACTS - it certainly suggests caution. The Aussies have got to be odds on for the Ashes now, haven't they? ;-)

    On another note, it looks increasingly likely that Katich won't be available for Perth. What are people's thoughts on likely replacements? Could Hughes make a return? Would that be a good or bad thing for England?

  • Comment number 28.

    Well worth another night of broken sleep, listening to Radio 5 Sports Extra, under the bed covers in a frozen Scotland! KP's last-ball-of-the day dismissal of Michael Clarke was just what England fans had been hoping for. Praying for a sunny day in Adelaide tomorrow so that we can finish the game off!

  • Comment number 29.

    Agree with just about everyone above. Declaration timing was correct.
    Pieterson’s wicket was redolent of Harmison’s at Edgbaston in 1995 (although hopefully this won’t get quite as tight). Apologies to any cars affected on A1 this morning by a car suddenly swerving across the road. Listening to cricket whilst driving can be dangerous!

  • Comment number 30.

    #20 closertofine - I believe you are completely wrong. It's perfectly acceptable in sport to analyse and cast well-supported opinions on decisions.

    This seems so patently obvious as to not merit further discussion but I will indulge you; consider F1, [Brundle]"Hamilton's in.. yes he's in early, that looks like a good move by Mclaren it's going to bring them out well clear of the traffic".

    To me that's great stuff and adds a huge amount of enjoyment to the sport because I now understand the risk/reward and rationale associated with key decisions.

    I enjoyed the discussion on here, because it improved my understanding of the declaration. If Stauss had not declared at all today would you still be saying, "wait and see, we just don't know yet", clearly not?

  • Comment number 31.

    #25 Loving your work fella.

  • Comment number 32.

    #25 Thoroughly enjoyed that analysis

  • Comment number 33.

    I know KP has been busy trying to find batting form of latebut he really has the potential to become more than an occasional off spinner . He gives it a rip and has good height and I think spin bowling was how he started his cricketing career. I am pleased to see him given a bowl.
    If you can get some overs out of KP he could makes selection very easy for England.
    Now he seems to have "found himself again" with the bat he should make a an effort to revisit his tweakers.

    I have a feeling that Aus + Weather may be enough to see Aus out of jail but with new ball first thing .... COME ON Jimmy .

    P.S. I think we will see Steve Smith and Tremlett both play in Perth.

  • Comment number 34.

    #20, closertofine...

    Disagree mate. You write:

    "Finally if the result proves Strauss entirely wrong in batting on, etc, and eg Australia force a draw and perhaps bat all day to achieve it, then and only then can one reasonably pass a verdict on the timing of the declaration..."

    Even in this scenario, it could be argued that hindsight still wouldn't enable us to pass absolute judgement. If Australia manage to force a draw by batting all day, that doesn't mean that Strauss' declaration was badly timed. Especially if you consider that arguably his prime motive in the timing of his declaration was to avoid defeat. One could argue for instance, that if he had declared earlier, the Aussie batsmen might have batted more aggressively yesterday, have run up an overnight lead, built on that lead in the first session and then declared, hastening an Engladn collapse. Unlikely, but no less unlikely than what happened here four years ago.

    Ultimately, we can only go on what we see in front of us and what we have seen previously. In my estimation, Strauss has generally timed declarations very well and has done so again.

    And, as others have pointed out, sharing opinions about sport is fun. It is, after all, only sport (though I do have to question the 'only' when it comes to the Ashes). There would be little interest in sport in general if everybody's opinions had to make way for simple reportage. We would have to describe Cook's performance thus far simply in terms of runs scored, minutes batted, ball's faced etc rather than in terms of quality, human endeavour and joy. How jolly dull!

  • Comment number 35.

    I text two friends last night to bemoan the fact England were batting on, and I stand by that opinion, despite the runs the Aussies have scored.

    At the start of play, England led by just over 300, with 6 sessions to play. In the nightmare scenario of the Aussies setting a target, they'd have need appox 3 sessions to knock off the runs (100 per session) and then a couple of sessions to set a score. England, whatever the past, were not going to be knocked over in a session, or even 2 sessions. Especially with the weather around, we were not going to lose.

    Instead, seemingly to score some cheap psychological points (not having to bat again whatever, getting over 600, setting a 'record' target) they have jeopardised the chance of a win. They might still go ahead and win, but to my mind, they have endangered that chance needlessly.

    Had England declared overnight, and the wickets fell as they did, they would of had approx 15 overs at North today, and still be 68 ahead... had they got North, they'd be one wicket from the tail.

    And in my opinion there are a few other reasons to have declared. First off, it might be nigh on insignificant on first look, but by delaying, they lose a couple of overs. Second, I think it sends a stronger pyschological message to declare and say - we don't care if you do manage to get past our score, we feel so strong we can knock off what remains on a crumbling pitch. And finally, although I see the merit in batting on, and the drooping shoulders that might have caused, I also think that resignation would be short lived. After getting over the shear bloodyhellishness of having to troop out again, the realisation that, with every passing moment, the time left to survive was getting less and less, will have come as a relief to the Aussie batters.

    If it boils down to missing victory for the sake of a wicket, or a handful more overs, then there will be some sorry looking faces in the England locker room.

  • Comment number 36.

    Yes but that's ludicrous to suggest that the wickets would have fell as they did. This morning was better for batting and unlikely unless they gifted us some wickets that we'd have taken any. They'd have had 11 more overs to add fairly easy runs. Only as the weather turned did we start to make headway.

  • Comment number 37.

    i think #25 may be the most entertaining thing ever written on this website.good times.

    and yes the dodgy sleep, even with so much essay writing to do today, is so worth it

  • Comment number 38.

    #25
    Hughes hasn't got off to a flyer this season and is averaging 28 with a highest score of 81 against England (dismissed twice by Tremlett btw).
    Left field selection may be Marsh. He is not an opener but Australia have a record of promoting middle order batsman to open. Has more shots than his dad (who's nickname wasn't Swampy for nothing).
    I don't knwo of any other opening bats on the horizon for Australia and they may be forced to pick a middle order batsman instead (Hussey or White also spring to mind). I don't think they will pitch either of their young guns into the fire of opening of Khawaja or Ferguson.
    In conclusion, Katich is best opening bat they've got and they will do everything they can to get him on the paddock.

  • Comment number 39.

    #8 Deep Heat - Not straight away. Like you, I think it is probably worth giving Swann and even KP a chance to see if they can unsettle North - who doesn't play spin well. For numbers 8-11 though, the new ball should be enough to run through what is a pretty weak tail.

  • Comment number 40.

    Pondlife, I didn't say the wickets would have fallen the same way, I used it merely illustratively.

    Neither of us know what would have happened. It may have been we'd of taken more wickets. It may have been we'd of taken less. Either way, the point is we'd have more time and, in my opinion, thus more chance to take the 10 required.

  • Comment number 41.

    #25 actually made 'laugh out loud', great stuff!

    No surprise about the poster - Shane Warne chucking a burger would actually be more threatening than Xavier's slow left arm orthodox!

  • Comment number 42.

    The decision to bat for 9 overs was predictably bad. It's 9 overs that will almost certainly be needed tomorrow, in what now looks to be a draw. Hate to say I told you so but it's the sort of tactical error that I expect a professional not to make. England struggled to take 4 wickets today and I have to say that Australia have a good chance of putting up a stoic defense for the last 6 wickets, with all the predicted rain.

    England's play deserves more, but tactically the delayed declaration was idiotic. This is the worst Australia side I can ever remember and England should be battering them with no mercy, not playing conservatively because "it's Australia".

  • Comment number 43.

    New ball first thing tommorrow, Anderson & Broad steaming in at the Aussie Mid/Lower order then Swann to rip into the tail - it may only take one hour to finish it off. From all the forecasts I can see, there is no significant rain due until 3pm+. Happy days!!

  • Comment number 44.

    Where's the Aussie finger? Where's the flags?

  • Comment number 45.

    All the journo chat that I've seen seems to be pointing to Broad being unfit to bowl tomorrow, but you never know.

  • Comment number 46.

    Even if Broad isn't fit, I beleive Finn is starting to impose himself on this series and may well relish the new ball, something he has not had much chance to do so far.

  • Comment number 47.

    According to Broad's Twitter, he is not feeling good, but intimates he'll bowl... http://twitter.com/stuartbroad8

  • Comment number 48.

    All those saying they've a good chance for the last 6 wickets to make a stand aren't looking at their line up to well, we need two and then we can send anyone in to bowl out the last four.

    Quite like to see Finn with the new ball.

    As for declaring early they'd likely be just ahead at this point and that would definitely give them an advantage for clinging on in this test.

  • Comment number 49.

    I would like to see Finn take the new ball and give him some seam to work with before the ball becomes the usual sponge after 10 mins of play just to see if he can get a little extra movement/bounce.

  • Comment number 50.

    come on rain, i need you, well my sanity does. i cant handle another all nighter - i love you england but enough is enough.....

  • Comment number 51.

    Sign #25 up for a Blog or add him to the TMS analysis team. Top stuff.

  • Comment number 52.

    I think the declaration was timed about right - without the extra 70 or so, the Aussies would only be about 60 or so behind now (probably less as they would have had another 9 overs).
    I think try a few overs of spin, then new ball time.

  • Comment number 53.

    The only thing that could save Australia's bacon now is rain.
    Perhaps Andy Strauss should look up into the heavens with clasped hands, as Ricky did, and ask for divine intervention.

    It would be a travesty if the weather interferes with the match. It is my hope that one day the powers that be will exercise the wisdom in allowing extra time to conclude a match when and where a result is possible.

    Well done, England; well done, KP!

  • Comment number 54.

    Thanks everyone, I dedicate that piece to papa "dingoes ate my babies" shango.

    Am I the only one who has a giggle whenever I see "R Harris" on an Australian scorecard?

  • Comment number 55.

    @ 54

    I did indeed have a wee giggle - must say again though, Rolf Harris with his wobble board and his creepy 'hum ha ha hum' singing would be more threatening than the current Aussie line-up.

    Where is Papa today anyway?

  • Comment number 56.

    #54 – I find it necessary to sing “I can’t live, if living is without you” every time Denilson of Arsenal is mentioned. It’s a joke that no one else gets, but it keeps me amused.
    Apologies for footie reference on cricket blog.

  • Comment number 57.

    Having been utterly overtaken by owl hours, I shall be out again tonight hoping England bowlers can get really predatory.

  • Comment number 58.

    He's had a comment modded which is a travesty. I might not agree with many of his comments (for many read almost none at all) but they rarely breach the rules.

  • Comment number 59.

    England should be able to get the 6 wickets and win the test match tomorrow
    The weather forecast for tomorrow is not good
    There will be showers and thunderstorms most of the day

    Australia have been batting good in their 2nd innings so it won't be easy for England to get the 6 wickets

    I predict it will be a draw

  • Comment number 60.

    A troll has been seen riding a stationary bike in his granny's flat.

  • Comment number 61.

    It is interesting reading the posts. You can certainly see the part-time cricket fans panic and want early declarations. I am sure if Strauss had declared and Australia had passed England, they would be fearing Australia getting a 150 lead and bowling England out.
    This is Test cricket folks, you have to have a little patience. It could be all over within a hour. The rain may never come, Australia may dig in for a draw. So many scenarios.

  • Comment number 62.

    Adelaide forecast for Tuesday:

    Rainy periods, easing to a shower or two early morning, before increasing to showers and a thunderstorm during the afternoon.

    Warm to hot with light to moderate northeast to northerly winds and a light to moderate southwest afternoon sea breeze.

    There you are, folk: a result is highly unlikely, sadly!

  • Comment number 63.

    I think, without doubt, they were correct to declare when they did. As everyone agrees, it is a race against time; if England declared at the start of the day there is a very good chance that they would have reached England's score and made England have to bat again. If England have to bat again, we will lose a number of overs play, making it yet more difficult, so they were absolutely correct to try to make sure this didn't happen. Even if they have to bat again anyway, it was the correct decision - I'd be fairly confident of the Aussies chasing 300, less so 400.

  • Comment number 64.

    Reading these posts makes me wonder how many people on this blog play cricket and how many just watch it, or play it on the playstation....

    First few posters all seem on the mark about Straussy's declaration, but John (42) has no idea what he's on about, and a draw doesn't prove him right.
    I think Straussy was right to bat on - more runs ahead means:
    a) men round the bat for longer (crucial in order to let Swanny turn the screws plus we now can have a very attacking field with second new ball)
    b) Aussie openers out in the field not knowing when they would be asked to bat
    c) scoring the runs in easier batting conditions
    d) far easier to score runs against a side that's down and tired than against a resurgent one who sniff a chance of a draw if they can restrict us in a final afternoon run chase.
    e) if we need to chase a quick target expect some very negative bowling (test rules on wides/bouncers remember - not one day rules).
    f) chance to win by an innings - far more pyschological points.


    If it belts it down, i doubt the 9 overs will decide the game. However, if it doesn't, then they should - in our favour.

    Deep-heat (4) - why are you even considering England losing as a possibility? That's far too negative - there isn't time for Aus to get far enough ahead to declare with time to bowl us out - not an option.

  • Comment number 65.

    Tigermilk boy: "You can certainly see the part-time cricket fans panic and want early declarations."

    What a nonsense. You might equally say such blandishments as "you can see teh post 2005 cricket fans who've not suffered the 25 years of total mediocrity, timidity, fear...

    The timing of the declaration can be happily debated. No one knows for sure what will, or might have, happened. There is no need to post slyly dimissive statements about people whose experience or 'dedication' you have no idea about. Besides, a person might have followed cricket closely for 50 years and talk drivel, or might have only followed for 6 months but have a genuine insight.

  • Comment number 66.

    @John #42,

    For me, adding what they did this morning was the most merciless thing England could have done - instead of going out there thinking "We're still in this", the Aussies knew all they could hope for was a rain-affected draw. Pretty demoralising...

  • Comment number 67.

    Tom, reading your blog every day I'm slowly being drawn to the inevitable conclusion that you are a genius. Your natural wit and flair for cricket writing is currently unrivalled and the debate you spark is truly insightful. I hope for the sake of cricket that this series (or match in fact) doesn't go the way of the frustrating series recently played in Sri Lanka against the West Indies where no result could be achieved due to weather.
    Strauss seems to have timed his declaration perfectly and even when Clarke and Hussey were batting serenely he never lost control and kept the pressure on the batsmen. It just needs to be hoped the weather holds off long enough to either allow England to win or see Australia fight to a memorable draw.
    It must be said that Clarke's refusal to walk is one of the most disgraceful examples I have ever seen (albeit I am still a teenager and so am sure someone who has been watching the game for longer than me will be able to recall some worse examples). Especially in this era of technology and referrals it is inexcuseable not to walk off after such a blatant conection (although Tony Hill deserves an equal share in the blame for not noticing it, is he good enough to make decisions on thin edges if he can't see full faced deflections?).
    Here's hoping for a dry day tomorrow and England wrapping up victory before lunch!

  • Comment number 68.

    Boikey - Closer responding and I know where, and why, you're coming from - and I see many other correspondents have said they agree that the timing of the declaration was right.

    And that's precisely my point - apart from speculative conjecture by them and others as to why that decision by Strauss WAS right at the time he made it, the fact remains that the correctness or justification of the time of the declaration can ONLY be gauged or determined with real certainty when the result is known.

    To say now, with an uncertain day to go, that the timing of the declaration was right and Strauss did the right thing is stabbing in the dark, tilting at windmills, etc etc with absolutely no point being made, other than opinion with no base nor merit. Do you understand better now what I'm saying?

    The fact that many express the opinion today that it was right, including a lady who wrote to the effect that after close of play she felt it was right, is totally incapable as a bald statement of being determined as right (or wrong) as all the facts and circumstances required to establish that fact have YET to unfold.

    If you're still not with me I give up. ps Also I've fallen in to the trap of writing more about this too! pps I do think Tom's articles are great and thought provoking and that it's very encouraging to see so many participating regarding them. Ciao, Closer


  • Comment number 69.

    Agree with posts 64 and 66 wholeheartedly. Azzadot44444 in particular mentions a few of the more esoteric reasons why batting on was good. The key thing is that if they stay in for say 2 more sessions, they will pass our total. Better to get the runs on the morning of the 4th day than at the end of the 5th day. And all the other factors that he mentions. And I think Bobbinmoore's point about demoralising them is a good one.

    And as some people have mentioned, whether we win or draw, it's a bit nonsensical to go back afterwards and say "see, I was right". I personally think Strauss made a good call and has given us the best chance to win, given all teh imponderables (not least the weather).

    Let's hope the weather holds and we finish them off

  • Comment number 70.

    THAT'S THE BEAUTY OF CRICKET

  • Comment number 71.

    Closertofine,

    I actually think you may be missing the point here. You really can't judge the decision with hindsight - we could go on to draw this match, but that's not to say it was a bad decision to bat on this morning. You can't account for what the weather will do or how the Australian batsmen will bat, you can only judge the situation at the time. If Strauss had declared after getting 200 runs in front, this would undoubtably have been an incorrect decision. Even if we had gone on to win in this situation, it would still be an incorrect decision and we would just have got lucky.

  • Comment number 72.

    #68 closertofine, well to be honest, sort of. I think anyone who says "Strauss was right to declare" or "Strauss was wrong to declare" and states that as fact is obviously not thinking right. However I think most people are saying "I agree with Strauss's decision" or "I disagree with it" are just expressing a view. I happened to agree with him, because I think it gives us the best possible chance.

    You say "the correctness or justification of the time of the declaration can ONLY be gauged or determined with real certainty when the result is known."

    Don't really agree there 100% either. We will never know what happened had he put them straight in to bat. We might have won, we might have drawn, we might even have losst (very unlikely I admit).

    So you can't 100% assess his decision as right or wrong even after the match. Can you??

    For me what he did was to eliminate the chances of a loss to practically nil, and he put the boot in as noted by Bobbinmoore. And that has given us the bst chance of a win with maximum psychological hurt. Lovely!

  • Comment number 73.

    Boikey "Better to get the runs on the morning of the 4th day than at the end of the 5th day."

    That is the most valid argument for batting on, and one I can respect, even if I disagree with it. I would only counter it with, if we feel we can't knock off 150 having batted as we have done thus far, then we really haven't shed the scars of 2006.

    And indeed, lets hope the weather plays no part whatsoever and England cruise it, and all the debate is proved pointless!

    And I also agree, that regardless of result, it won't prove one decision or the other the 'right' or best decision in the cirmcumstance. It will merely prove the decision as taken either resulted satisfactorily, or unsatisfactorily.

  • Comment number 74.

    On the debate of did he declare at the right time, in the ground most people sitting round me thought it was about right. Lets face it if we can't get 10 wickets in 5.5 sessions then 6 is not gonna make much difference. I think a couple of early ones today and we are gonna win this at a canter.
    What we need is Shango the numpty to predict Australia will bat all day without losing a wicket

  • Comment number 75.

    What is this ? People disagreeing with each other, and then agreeing to disagree, whilst putting forward fairly cogent arguments on both sides ? Irrational debate is what is needed with specious facts to support your point of view and if that fails personal insults to really underscore what you are saying. Shame on you all and bring back You Know Who. (To be fair "He Who Must Not Be Mentioned" rarely resorted to personal insults).

  • Comment number 76.

    post #75 is wrong,you janner.

    (Is that better SaAP?)

  • Comment number 77.

    SaAP, in the spirit of your Harry Nilsson admission, and with apologies to him, "Everybody's talking at me. I can't hear a word they're saying. Only opinion that matters, is mine"

  • Comment number 78.

    Should think he who shall not be named could keep himself very busy atm by backing the sacking of Newcastle's manager on 606.

    Besides all the facts in post 25 have subdued the rest of us. Genius.

  • Comment number 79.

    Bravo Matsov. I would include a clapping smiley but I don't know how.

  • Comment number 80.

    Re 65. At 3:48pm on 06 Dec 2010, matzov wrote:

    "What a nonsense. You might equally say such blandishments as "you can see teh post 2005 cricket fans who've not suffered the 25 years of total mediocrity, timidity, fear...

    The timing of the declaration can be happily debated. No one knows for sure what will, or might have, happened. There is no need to post slyly dimissive statements about people whose experience or 'dedication' you have no idea about. Besides, a person might have followed cricket closely for 50 years and talk drivel, or might have only followed for 6 months but have a genuine insight."

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------


    I will stand by my observations that too many fans think this is some one-day or 20/20 slog and they expect things to happen quickly. But looking at the names of posters who are complaining about Strauss' later declaration, they are the same people who were ready to bring England home in disgrace and defeated after the first two days of the first Test.
    People panic too quick. There are 25 days of Test series and many sessions.
    Sorry if my opinions offend you, but if you were really sick, would you go to a experienced, respected doctor of medicine at a top hospital or would you go see a 13 year old who wanted to be a doctor because even a novice can offer 'genuine insight'?
    I am just pointing out that there are too many armchair pundits who have never played the game who think they know-it-all, whilst some of us who have actually played the game at a decent level might have some insight and experience. I might not 'know-it-all' but Strauss made the correct declaration in this instance.

  • Comment number 81.

    A few minutes ago I read:
    " Forecast for Tuesday
    Rain periods, easing to a shower or two early morning, before increasing to
    showers and a thunderstorm during the afternoon. Warm to hot with light to
    moderate northeast to northerly winds and a light to moderate southwest
    afternoon sea breeze."

    Sounds to me like the fifth horseman of the apocalypse (rain) has decided to skive off work and go to the beach instead. Tom, are you sure the number 28 was a forecast of millimetres of rain and not degrees of temperature? Or maybe just an Aussie meteorologist pulling the pommies' collective plonker?

  • Comment number 82.

    @ closertofine

    I disagree with your view that the declaration decision will only be shown to be right or wrong depending on the result. The best analogy I can give to support my opinion is a poker one:

    Player A is holding pocket aces and the board reads Ah, Ad, 10c, Jc.

    Player B goes all-in at this point and Player A calls immediately.

    The river comes 9c and Player B triumphantly shows his Qc, Kc for a straight flush to beat Player A's four aces.

    Your point says that in this situation Player A was WRONG to call with his four aces because, in the end, he lost.

    Decisions and their merit can only be debated and judged based upon on the known information at the time they were made.

  • Comment number 83.

    Looking bleak given the forecast. I know its easy from here, but I still think Strauss should have declared overnight and backed his bowlers to bowl them out on day 4. If as seems inevitable we are to lose a major part of Tuesday, then the chance of England having to bat again would be remote anyway. Everyone stressed the need to be able to take chances if and when they arise, and I fear we may have let Aus off the hook. That say, this has been a power house performance that should give England confidence for the rest of the series. But all talk of a complete aus demise is premature - their batting is still strong, and their bowling will do better than this on more responsive pitches. All to play for

  • Comment number 84.

    Tigermilkboy: well, in that spirit, I might say i have also played to a decent level, am not some johnny come lately fan, and I hold a completely different view to yours. In was in this regard that you indicared that all those who held an alternate view to yours were 'part time cricket fans'. Well, at least I for one am not.

    You mention patience being required in the game. I thoroughly agree. The tenet of my argument is that England require(d) more time than they have allowed for to get the wickets needed. It is the attritional nature of the wicket taking, and the patience required in taking said wickets, that I was trying to take into account.

  • Comment number 85.

    82 malmcleod1408 - nice analogy, good work. But even that isn't 100% accurate, because in that example you can go back and see what would have happened had you made a different choice (e.g. if you'd folded). The point here is that Strauss made a decision, and once he had done so any other option immediately becomes a what if? Had he declared first up, we might have bowled them out today or they might have batted the whole day and not lost a wicket. We'll never know.
    To shift the focus a bit, I remember Steve Davis when he won the world snooker final vs Parrot 18-2 or something. He said that when you are on top, there is a tempatation to slack off, but you can't let yourself do that. You have o go for the jugular. That's what we have to do.

  • Comment number 86.

    Tigermilkboy - Only 2 people appeared to question the timing of Strauss declaration - Matsov and Closertofine.
    Matsov has defended his position pretty well and seems a decent sort. (He's wrong though, and named after a type of cooking oil).
    Therefore it is "not necessarily part time cricket fans" who have disagreed.

  • Comment number 87.

    Now I come to think about it, perhaps rain falls under Pestilence's portfolio. Flooding is part of his job description, right?

  • Comment number 88.

    #25 - Excellent statistics, opinions are over-rated, fact!

    I'm going to spend all day at work grining like Tuffers and annoying my American co-workers by saying "'Appy days!" and explaining why cricket, and most especially The Ashes, is the only thing of consequence in the world :-)

  • Comment number 89.

    mazov @65

    a person might have followed cricket closely for 50 years and talk drivel

    ----------

    Yep! I qualify in both respects, but in the second respect it's still fun!

  • Comment number 90.

    One quick thing before I go, what was the point of Justin Langer's piece ? Surely he is there to provide an Australian insight into the days proceedings? His piece did nothing of the sort.
    I am not one normally for criticising blogs as I don't want to sound like the bloke who used to comment every week on Robbo's blog. But please.

  • Comment number 91.

    Strauss missed a trick and batted on too long, now a draw becomes likely. The English failure throughout history has been to always think about NOT losing, rather than trying to win.

    Neither side here have a bowling attack with any menace, and England do not have the killer instinct. Panesar and Anderson can pull off performances to save a match, but winning is not in Englands vocabulary.

    Never has been and never will be. One exception.....Ian Botham ....he was more like an Aussie.

  • Comment number 92.

    Without the whirlwind 70 in the morning from Bell/Prior, Aust could be within about 25 runs. Ok they could be 5 down, but 130 runs behind on the last day is precarious.

  • Comment number 93.

    91 barrymanulow - Strauss's declaration doesn't make the draw any more likely really. The only way they can draw is by not getting out in the time left, or by passing our total and leaving us insufficient time to get the runs. Strauss delaying the declaration doesn't change that very much. Whether he declared straight away or after 9 overs, we still have to bowl them out in less than 130 overs or whatever it works out as.

  • Comment number 94.

    barrymanulow, yep winning isn't in this england teams vocabulary despite the fact they keep doing it. wum

  • Comment number 95.

    even if the weather intervenes, England should move forward from this test with significant personal victories that make all the difference in a 5 match test series

  • Comment number 96.

    I've just checked several weather forecast sites (including the BBC's) in order to decide if I'd waste a night's sleep to watch the final day.

    Verdict: off to bed. Unanimous prediction of all the weather sites - rain for most of the day's play. I know all weather forecasts have a degree of error but the one day ahead ones are the most accurate and all agree to an extent that it seems highly improbable we'll get any meaningful play, if at all.

  • Comment number 97.

    So, if the match ends up as a draw those 9 overs lost will be critical??? MIght it not be that the Australians have just batted well?

    You can play "what if" for ever, but you simply do not know what would have happened. However, that bombardment from Pietersen, Bell and Prior made a significant deficit a huge one. And made it difficult for Australia to get ahead early. Once they are ahead - if it happens - every run counts double because it's one that we have to chase. Andrew Strauss wanted to bat just once in this match and this was the way to make it most likely to happen. 375 to avoid an innings defeat makes the task a mountain for the Australians.

  • Comment number 98.

    Just had a look outside chaps (6:15am here) and the skies are blue as far as I could see.

    Looking at the latest hour by hour forecast (the only one I take notice of simply because its updated every two hours), it says partly cloudy/sunny for most of the day and the likelihood of heavy rain is minimal.

  • Comment number 99.

    PCinOz, what about the forecast for pilots? That one was fairly accurate yesterday, whereas most of the forecasts seem to take a scattergun approach and change by the hour.

  • Comment number 100.

    Partly cloudy/sunny sounds perfect bowling conditions. I'll settle for that :)

 

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