Australia are becoming so adept at losing they managed to let this match slip on three separate occasions. England batted badly in the first innings; loose shots left them with only 238 runs despite having 9 players go past double figures. Lyon took the most wickets (4/42) but he was the beneficiary of some outstandingly tight bowling from the seamers, with only Harris - who makes it back in penetration - giving away any sort of advantage.
In the reply, Rogers (110) was excellent, not in style, but in grit, and Watson contributed 68 before falling to a leg-side strangle, after which the batting fell away. Giving up two wickets shortly before the new ball meant that a promising lead became a paltry one.
Harris was immense in the second innings, taking 7/117, again well served by Lyon, but less so by Bird - who looked out of condition by the end - and Siddle. Even so, Bell was at least as good, if not more, making a decisive 113, but when he and Prior fell with the score at 251 early on the fourth day, and with a new ball, England were in deep trouble. Bresnan changed that, as did Australia's bowling which lacked purpose without Starc's ability to bowl yorkers, largely lost the plot.
And yet, on a pitch that had slowed and got easier for batting with each innings,Rogers and Warner got Australia off to the perfect start. With only 152 required with 9 wickets in hand, the game remained theirs to win. Yet they never got close. Broad's 6/50 was fast, attacking and typical of a player who periodically becomes world-class. But England was greatly assisted by indecisive play and poor footwork (from Rogers, Khawaja and Clarke), poor shots and harsh umpiring (Watson and Haddin), and a little luck all around.
But luck favours those who play in a way that allows it to help, and Australia did not do so when they needed to. They've not played a lot worse than England for the most part, and a side more capable of seizing the moment might have been going to the Oval with a lead or better. A side is only as good as what they can get on the scorebook though, and England and Australia have both shown that, even playing at a relatively similar level, when it counts they'll go their separate ways.
Both sides go to the Oval without much to prove, which may mean a few bowlers getting rested. Anderson has been listless since the opening test, it is a miracle Harris has got this far, and Watson seems to be a day to day proposition again. If the pitch will turn, a recall for Agar as a specialist number 7 might be worth pursuing. In any case, he won't likely make less runs than Watson to date - although Wade must surely be in the top-6 batsmen available. Any change is only worth pursuing if injury demands it though, Australia gain little by further changes at this point in the series; their young players remain unknown quantities and only repeated exposure will shed some light.
A slow match, on a slow pitch. Wormsley is pretty but it might not be the best place for a women's test if this is the result. Australia will come away from this match believing they ought to have won. Elliott's 104 anchored a total of 6/331 declared, and after Ferling announced herself on the test scene by removing Taylor and Edwards, England had slumped to 6/113, still well short of the follow-on. 73 overs later, Knight and Marsh had added 156, the latter with one of the slowest fifties of all time, the former with 157. Another 29 run partnership off 22 overs from Marsh and Hazell meant England ended 17 runs behind, but left little time to force a result.
With only a small lead, much to lose, and not a lot of options to gain, Australia batted cautiously until shortly before the declaration when Fields (78*) hit out. Arguably, the declaration was late, given the scoring rate throughout and the time left to England. Perhaps Fields was hoping for a sudden collapse, but none came, and the game petered out interrupted by rain. The series turns now to the shorter forms, with, barring washouts or ties, each team needing to win four of six to win outright. After having the best of the test match, Australia would be slight favourites to do this. But a drawn series is perhaps the more likely result.
Shaded teams have played fewer than 2 games per season. Non-test team ratings are not comparable to test ratings as they don't play each other.
Idle Summers 18th August, 2013 01:05:43 [#]