Wednesday, July 08, 2009

It's On! Cardiff Day 1

336/7. A beguiling score on the first day of a Test Match. 7 wickets suggests that barring significant bad weather, a result is very likely. 336 suggests that the batting side did have its moments. The basics of the day look sound. What i mean by that is that there appear to have been none of the himalayan miscalculations of 2002-03 when Nasser Hussein won the toss and fielded at Brisbane, lost Simon Jones to a horrific injury, let Australia reach 2/364 (Hayden 186*, Ponting 123) and didn't recover until the Ashes had been lost, or any of the dramatic events of 2005, where Australia won the toss as batted, were dismissed in 40 overs for 190, and returned to reduce England to 7/92.

England will look at scores of 30, 35, 69, 64, 56 and 37 and wonder what might have been. Australia will look at 7 wickets and be quitely satisfied, having been asked to field on the first day of the Test Match. And yet, this score suggests that England will end up with a satisfactory first innings score - one in the 350-375 range. The 7 dismissals indicate no real pattern. They are a mixture of good deliveries and some injudicious batting. A Test Match number 3 batsman would be very disappointed if he were to go having spooned a catch to point off the slower ball. Kevin Pietersen, well, it can happen. He's still England's best player, and his stroke was not much worse than Alistair Cook's, but it will definitely be remembered longer than Cook's.

Even though England are reasonably placed at the end of Day 1, they will sense a huge missed opportunity. They won the toss and batted, and Australia, without Lee, did not possess the bowling firepower to threaten them. Yes Mitchell Johnson can be genuinely quick as Andrew Strauss found out, but compared to McGrath, Gillespie, Fleming & Warne, this was an attacked that should have been sent on a minor leatherhunt on a day like today. Even if Pietersen's mode of dismissal may not have been much worse than Cook's or Bopara's, the timing of his dismissal was crucial. It meant that England lost 4/142 in the last session of the day. With hindsight, i think they will say that they would have taken 1/90.

So England didn't have their best day, and yet ended the day with a respectable score on the board. This suggests that Australia don't have the firepower of yore, and despite their superb results in South Africa where they bowled out the South Africans for 220, 291, 138 and 370 (chasing 546) to seal the series, they will have to work hard for their wickets in England. The series will be won the the side which makes the fewest unforced errors, since neither side seems to have the firepower to blast the other side out in short order (Flintoff and co. may prove me wrong, but it would be very dramatically at odds with the formbook).

Australia have already made one wise selection. The inclusion of Marcus North at number 6 (leaving out Andrew MacDonald, who i thought would be central to Australia's strategy with the old ball in the absence of a crack spinner), means that the visitors have stuck with their time tested strategy of picking 6 specialist batsmen plus a wicketkeeper. North has made 24 first class hundreds in his career so far, and has played for no fewer than 5 English counties.

Unless Australia perform worse with the bat than they have with the ball, it looks like we might have a thriller in the offing at Cardiff. I know its only Day 1, but i have a feeling about this.

7 comments:

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