The Gabba – Days 1, 2, 3

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Day Three

I don’t want to be negative, and I hate to say “I told you so” (especially as this game isn’t finished by a long shot), but day three showed us precisely why Australia were always favourites in this Ashes series.

Both teams have fragile batting line-ups – everyone knows that – but the hosts have Steve Smith, the immovable object, and a bowling attack with more pace. Both these factors are absolutely crucial.

Although speed isn’t everything, it’s bloody useful when it comes to mopping up the tail. If there’s one thing lower order players can’t handle, no matter how competent they are with the willow, it’s extreme pace and mystery spin. And England have neither.

Let’s just look at how lower order runs (or lack of them) have shaped this game. England were cruising at 246-4 yet were ultimately blown away for just over 300. Australia were limping along at 209-7 yet managed to creep up to 328. And that, my friends, is the game. Right there.

It’s possible things would’ve been different had Anderson not picked up a sore side – he was withdrawn from the attack prematurely after bowling a brilliant short spell with the second new ball – but when have injuries ever been kind to England on Ashes tours?

Unfortunately our lack of genuine pace isn’t going to change over the course of the series. It’s a problem we’ve had for years, and it constantly hampers the team’s prospects unless the pitch offers our seamers some assistance.

Australia’s attack, on the other hand, is a handful all the time. And lower order batsmen, and even some of the lesser top order players, simply don’t fancy it and can’t handle it.

England still have a chance to win this test. It’s not all doom and gloom quite yet. It’s possible that Root, or someone else, might play an absolute blinder and we’ll set Australia a challenging total.

The problem is that it’s going to take exactly that – a blinder. Australia’s pace attack is so fearsome, especially now the Gabba wicket is speeding up, that’s it’s going to be one hell of a challenge.

The last hour, in which Root and Stoneman clung on for grim death, might be something of a template for day four. All we can do is play as well as possible and pray.

And even if we manage to set Australia 800, one suspects Steve bloody Smith will chase them down on his own anyway.

Day Two

I’d forgotten how badly Ashes jet lag cripples my ability to function. Just two days into the series and my body clock is already completely screwed. I have no idea what day of the week it is – Thursday? Friday? Saturday? And I have a big meeting at work in precisely two hours. Oh heck.

Re: the actual cricket, this must be the most surprising Brisbane test match for years. I really think we caught something of a break, and we really needed to cash in while the pitch was relatively benign (albeit not the easiest to score on).

Consequently I was really disappointed to wake up and see that our lower order had been blown away – six wickets going down for a paltry 56 runs. Our top order put in so much hard work for essentially nothing.

I feel that 300 was subpar in the conditions – no matter how incompetent Australia’s batsmen are too – and I worry what Starc, Cummins, Hazlewood will do to us on pitches with a bit more pace. Quite a few of our players looked uncomfortable against the short ball. Why Moeen is batting above Bairstow I’ll never know.

Having said that, it’s brilliant that England are still in the game. Our bowlers did really well early on and we’ve shown that the Aussies are vulnerable too. I can’t see too many draws in this series!

It’s just a shame that Steve Smith is such a massive bastard … by which I mean he’s annoyingly good. He now averages over 70 in Australia. That’s simply phenomenal. We must dismiss him early tomorrow because (a) I can’t stand watching him bat, and (b) he has a penchant for making Daddy hundreds that win Australia games.

On different note, I wonder if the Gabba food outlets were serving humble pie as well as the usual gristle and onion ones? Shaun Marsh proved the perfect foil for Smith – let’s call them beauty and the beast – and looked like a very able test No.6. So what was all that fuss about?

With Vince, Malan, and Marsh all making runs in this game, perhaps us supporters should give the selectors some credit occasionally and admit we were wrong? Nah. Screw that.

Day One

First of all the good. James Vince we salute you. You made more than 30. In fact you made three times what you usually do. You’re obviously a bit of a dunce for getting run out – I guess we can’t have everything – but you played beautifully. It was a nice reminder, as if we needed one, that our selectors are geniuses. I won’t have a bad word said about them. Ahem.

And then there was Mark Stoneman. What an impressive Ashes debut. He looked compact, competitive, and composed. He left the ball really well and it took a good delivery to claim his scalp. I think he surprised a lot of Aussies out there.

And now, inevitably, for the bad news. A score of 196-4 isn’t bad on paper. But it could have been a bit better. This wasn’t a typical Gabba wicket – it was sluggish and lacked pace in the morning session in particular – and we haven’t quite cashed in enough (yet). We might not get a better chance to make big first innings run this series.

Although I was relieved that our batsmen dug in and weren’t blown away, and it’s obviously encouraging to see two of our less heralded batters play well, I also have a slight sense of foreboding. The pitch at the Gabba basically took the edge off Australia’s fearsome pace trio, but we still found batting hard work.

A run rate of just over 2.5 runs per over tells it’s own story. So much for my prediction that England would play attacking cricket! Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins looked pretty threatening despite the conditions, so I’m naturally worried what they’ll do to us on the spicier surfaces to come.

Nathan Lyon also bowled superbly. He’s improved a lot over the years and I still think he will play a pivotal role this series. There’s nothing worse than seeing English batsmen struggle against spin. At some point we’ll need to attack him.

Overall, however, I think most of us would have taken 196-4 in the circumstances. This is Brisbane, after all, and we usually have a complete nightmare at this ground. The good news is that we’re still very much in the game, and that’s definitely something to be thankful for.

I know I’m going to say this a lot over the coming weeks, but the first session of tomorrow morning is going to be absolutely vital. If Malan and Moeen can put on a good partnership, and edge that score up to 300-4, then we’ll be in a great position. It’s so much easier for the tail to play shots in the opposition’s bowlers are tired.

A couple of early wickets, on the other hand, and we could get blown away for under 300. And if that happens then I’d expect us to lose the game. It’s going to be fascinating to see what happens.

James Morgan 

38 comments

  • I think it’s very important for us to keep the bowlers out there in the field – it’s a 4-man attack with a history of injury (Cummins) or not playing the whole series (Starc).
    Morning session crucial – lose wickets against the new ball and we will struggle. See it off and we can cash in.

  • England were always going to try to play deep into the game in the first test, so I don’t think we can yet draw any conclusions about attacking cricket just yet, particularly after Cook fell cheaply* so early on (and Moeen did give a couple of hints of what might come tomorrow).
    And without wishing to jinx him, it’s just possible we might have found a number 3 – we older guys tend to forget that people in their twenties are eminently capable of change…

    *How many consecutive test scores below 25 is that now… ?

  • I suspect the key factor will be how the wicket develops. If it continues to play as on the first day then I have difficulty seeing a result other than a draw. If it gets to be more like the usual Gabba wicket England may be in with a shout having had first use. My one real concern is that it gets better for spin, given that Lyon got some turn on day one; in which case Australia have the only bowler to reliably exploit it.

  • Didn’t see a single ball, sadly, but was pleasantly surprised to wake up to find England a.) still batting and b.) only 4 down. One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but good for James Vince. If he continues in similar vein then he couldn’t come good and disprove his doubters (of which I have been one) at a better time. Having missed out on a maiden test century he now has the perfect motivation. Also, with a bit of luck we might just emerge from this series with at least one dependable opener (clue: their initials might not be “AC”).

  • More positives than negatives. I think the tactic of the top order playing steadily and not forcing the run rate before the acceleration further down the order is sound. Should set up better platforms for the batting as well as turning up the strain on the three bowlers. I think their level could drop off quite quickly if they’re not allowed to carry out shot bursts.

    All three of the new batsmen have generally looked promising but for this tactic to work it really needs Cook to come to the party.

    I’m calling it… weather-affected draw or England win(!)

  • I think Moeen is going to really enjoy bowling on this pitch. Its going square for a first day, and unless it dries out and hardens up on the second day, i think he will bowl very well on this

  • Anyone think Aus are actually going to deliberately use slow, flat, dry wickets to nullify our pace attack, and making it into a battle of Lyon (one of the best spinners in world cricket) vs Moeen (a passable international spinner)?

  • Considering we could have been bowled out for this score, honours even I reckon. Lyon bowled superbly and on another day could have taken 6 wickets.
    First hour crucial tomorrow. No Stokes though and Cook out of form?

  • Most “experts” have been saying that for us to be competative in the series, we must not lose in Brisbane. When Joe said “We’ll have a bat” I was genuinely concerned we would get bowled out cheaply, especially so when Cook was out early doors.

    Great battling by Stoneman and Vince, Malan and Mo looking set and Jonny and Woakes to come. Knock off 300-350 and we have a great chance of getting something out of the game.

    C’mon England !!

  • Well done to Vince and Stoneman. They did what was required when it was sorely needed.

    What I can’t understand is why Mo is coming in at 6 with Bairstow at 7. I’d be much happier seeing Malan and Bairstow coming in as a pair, in the first session tomorrow. Still, what’s done is done and we are where we are. Good luck to them both.

    I get it that the pitch was slow, but were tied down to a large degree. I’ve never before seen Root so unable to score. Given that there is not a lot of change in the wicket I guess the jury is out until Australia bats. I hope there is a bit of life for our seamers to access but if the pitch crumbles it will all be down to Mo. A fascinating day ahead.

    • As has been said elsewhere, the England tail is a bit longer than it has been recently, and Bairstow does a far better job of sheparding the less accomplished batsmen.

      • That’s one reason fair enough, but it’s a waste should he run out of partners. Broad is good on his day but he seldom lasts long, while no matter how much shepherding is given to Jake Ball and Jimmy, we can’t expect much from those two tail end fighters.

  • I thought the day ended on level terms, we might have a test match that goes five days. How pleasing it was to see a touring team not get rolled on day one by home town wickets and conditions heavily favouring the hosts. No two day test here, the wicket seemed to work against the Aussies. Day 2 will certainly be interesting.

  • Funny old game when you stop wafting outside off stump .. well batted Vince and Stoneman, it was great to see batsmen apply themselves properly and not try and white ball their way out of it .

    Long may Vince learn from this

  • Good to see us making a fist of it without contributions from Cook or Root. Always felt that without Stokes the rest of the team would be more cautious. Easy for the likes of Moen and Bairstow to get over excited watching him bat. Always remember watching Botham trying to emulate Richards at Somerset. Hardly ever came off.
    Amazing though, after a few hours batting, how many posts are suddenly laden with optimism, after having written this team off as no-hopers. We have to wait till they bat before any realistic assessment of our chances can be made. If we screw this game up will the ‘I told you so’ leopards change their spots again.

    • I think this game could be a bit of an anomoly. From the Aussie point of view there might even be some questions for the ground staff as I’m sure the plan for the Gabba would’ve been to make good on all the trash talk and try to blow England away with pace. It’s still an open question what might happen when we have to bat on a pitch with more zip that offers greater assistance to Starc and Cummins.
      Still, if the newer batsmen continue to show some resilience, Root puts this game’s first innings failure behind him and Cook actually turns up at some point then it might be a lot closer than 2013-14.

      Oh, and I’ve reflected more on James Vince and my comment above about him proving his doubters wrong. This isn’t strictly correct. No, his “doubters” were by any reasonable standard absolutely justified in their doubting because his first stint in the team was complete pants. I saw a short interview with him after play yesterday in which he said he’d seen some comments to the effect that he wasn’t good enough for Test cricket. What seems to be happening is that he’s actually taken these comments on board and is seeking to iron out the flaws in concentration and shot selection that previously impeded his natural talent. Comparatively few players manage such a turnaround at the highest level – especially in the face of modern media (and social media) pressure. If he succeeds – and he does need now to show us some more of the same in order to be sure – then I think the achievement will be much more meaningful than simply “proving the doubters wrong”. As for his selection, it certainly seemed left field. I get the impression someone must’ve had a very candid “discussion” with him before giving him the gig. I’m loathe to defend the England selectors but in fairness they have in the not-so-distant past been criticised for not giving players sufficient chance to establish themselves in the team, so maybe they can’t win. Not that this explains sufficiently quite why Gary Ballance is in Australia…

    • Vince has pays done Decent test innings so no, he’s not proven anything wrong yet.. if he plays that way (defensive and patient and puts away the wafty shots) and after games has shown consistency then maybe he’s worth a change of opinion.

      Certainly can’t start saying he’s good enough after one knock, on a feather bed of a wicket with barely any movement

    • I’m not sure why anyone would change their pre-series predictions on what we have seen so far – I’m certainly sticking with Australia to win. However, it may well be the team with the shortest injury list that wins the series.

  • Fell asleep in front of TV watching highlights of Day 1 and woke to watch end of England innings and afternoon session.
    Thought England bowled really well.Broad and Anderson exceptional. Think Anderson is better bowler now than 4 years ago, has more craft when ball not moving. Broad bowled top of off a la McGrath which is when he bowls his best.
    A word on Vince – he always looked the most technically sound of all the players England tried, just needed to sort out shot selection. Hopefully more of the same to come. A player that might play better overseas than at home.

  • Woakes has had a miserable test so far.
    Neither his batting nor his bowling suggested much brain activity.

    He can do much better.

    I’m not over impressed with Root’s second day captaincy, either.

  • Currently one of the best test matches I’ve seen for a long while. Hard to score but not a minefield, two equally matched teams and both are low quality.. stayed up for all three days play and it’s been enjoyable.

    If only the English batters remembered its tests not white ball.. few too many shots and risks taken

  • Consequently I was really disappointed to wake up and see that our lower order had been blown away – six wickets going down for a paltry 56 runs.

    Don’t agree with that. The last three wickets put on 52 runs, about 40 more than I expected given that Starc apparently eats 9 10 and jack for breakfast.

  • Your comments about England not having a mystery spinner are not strictly correct. They just didn’t pick him. Crane would have been a better bet than Ball on this pitch (although that’s at least partly because this is not a normal Gabba wicket). The problem with the first innings wasn’t the tail. It was going from 246/4 to 250/7.

    On a happier note I have been really impressed with Stoneman. If only we could find him a quality opening partner!

    • To be fair, Moeen is not entirely fit – looking as though he’s not 100% recovered from the side strain, and apparently suffering a bad cut to his spinning finger (which rather accounts for the difference between him and Lyon).

      The real question is where all the Chef’s runs went to ?
      A bit early to be asking who Stoneman’s next partner might be…..

  • Absolutelr right… England have lacked real pace for years, that is another reason why they aren’t world beaters. Wherever there is no swing, English fast bowlers look totally clueless!

  • I stayed up all night as it turned into the key sessions. As to say that the predictions over who collapses least would win seems to have worked out for this test at least.

    My thoughts:

    Cook is declining and isn’t anywhere close to the player he was, however now one else is close or him so hea still miles ahead of any other opener

    Stoneman: showed in the first innings until he got 50the application and mental apptitude required.. got to 50 and decided to go into white ball mode and paid the price. Second innings, for some reason he forgot to bat again and tried to be ‘aggressive’.. failed and looked dodgy
    Vince: as above, until he was dropped (should have been out) he was really disciplined as you should be.. then suddenly went all white ball and took a one day single and paid the price. Brain dead TEST batting yet again
    Root: technical failings shown up (his head falling over isn’t a new fault) and the 50 and out mentality.. this shows why he isn’t a top order batsmen a she doesn’t go big anywhere near often enough. Decent captaincy though
    Malan: first innings showed discipline until 50,then tried to white ball again and got out. Awful second innings yet again
    Moeen: the guy Just isn’t as good as people seem to crow about. Mediocre average of 35 ish and seems incapable of not playing white ball and wafting.. sure he got some runs but totally out of context to what was needed.. should never again bat and the test ups be looking for an actual spinner.
    Bairstow: gives it away twice with poor shots.. way too aggressive again and no fight shown. First innings he had little option so forgiven
    The rest… woeful batting and should really look at what Cummings did.. that’s what you need in tests.. not slogging

    Enjoyable test match though, low scoring which makes runs at a premium and much better than 400 plays 400 etc. Disappointed with the lack of pace and hostility in the bowling as England look yet again clueless vs the short ball

By James Morgan

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