Ashes 2021/2022, MCG, Day 2: A Bowler's Day Out
A Bowler's Day Out
[Image: Buttler dives for a neigh impossible leg side catch.]
Publication date: 2021-12-27
For this article you will be treated to a collection of still frames from the video feed summary of the day's play (see Sources for the video). In this it is hoped that the reader will appreciate the skill of the camera operators and the planning that goes into delivering live cricket video. There are fixed position cameras (each end of the pitch) and side on, and dynamic shots of both wide and close up focus. I offer my thanks and respect to the camera operators.
[Image: Cameron Green on drives for four.]
Day 2 at the 'G may well turn out to be the most exciting day of this series. Eng had to come back. They had to bowl and field well. And, boy did they. Three chances were missed in the field by their keeper (2) and star bowler, but they were all next to impossible. The bowling, especially from Anderson, was of the highest quality. No partnerships were allowed to blossom. Eng were "in the game" during Aus' entire innings, constantly at them, constantly threatening, and regularly taking a wicket. The crowd were treated to top shelf Test cricket.
Please watch the highlights reel for Jimmy Anderson. (The video reference is below under Sources). This series is almost certainly the last time he will play Test cricket in Australia. The pitch was still a little green, and there was life in it. Anderson put on another of his masterful displays of seam and swing bowling. His bowling figures for the day were 18 overs attaining 3 wickets for 19 runs; incisive and miserly mastery.
[Image: James (Jimmy) Anderson in celebration as Stephen Smith looks behind him to where his off bail used to be. The ball, having moved off the pitch, ricocheted off the inside of Smith’s bat, glanced his thigh, and hitting the top of off stump has been deflected upwards and sits between them in the foreground. To the right is this camera operator’s counterpart at the other end of the ‘G.]
Anderson was ably supported by both Wood and Robinson, with Leach and Stokes chipping in. If his bowling display was not enough Anderson almost took a catch which would have been on every highlights reel worldwide.
[Image: Anderson flies to his right to just fail to take would would have been the catch of the series to date.]
For Aus, the under pressure Harris top scored for both first innings with a somewhat scratchy 76. But, he was there, and stood in partnership with half of the team (Warner, Lyon, Labuschagne, Smith, Head and Green) to get Aus to 6/180, only 5 runs in arrears. The most prosperous partnership was with Warner the evening before, reinforcing just how well Eng took to the field on the day. However, the Aus lower middle and lower order put on a series of 20's to push them to an 82 run lead.
Contained in the lower order run scoring effort was some good ol' hitting by Starc, a magnificent on drive by Green, and the first runs in Test cricket for Boland.
[Image: Camera operator catches a close up of the smile on Boland’s face after his first run in Test cricket.]
That first run scoring shot for Boland saw many of the 40 000 crowd on their feet for their local debutant batting at no. 11.
Eng had contained Aus' lead to a not insurmountable 80 odd, and needed to bat out the day not losing many wickets, eat into that deficit, and show their attack that they, the batsman would back them up. It was not to be. However, of the 4 wickets to fall, one was a night watchmen, and the others were not in the "gift your wicket away" style seen on day 1, but were to very good bowling. The British media will likely go into a lament, as is their want. Good bowling, on a still lively pitch, late in the day with a new ball will not be denied. With Cummins at one end giving nothing away it was Starc at the other who removed the opener Crawley, and then Eng's second best batsman, Malan, to the next ball.
[Image: Malan has been struck on the pad, and is bowed in defeat. Gully is collecting the ball, but the entire cordon and bowler are in appeal. See the energy in the cordon. The inevitable review was denied. Malan leaves the field for a golden duck.]
The ball to follow was a potential "hat trick" ball, a rare feat in any form of cricket, the taking of three wickets in three successive deliveries. Root's first ball to face missed the outside edge by a whisker.
[Image: The still is from about two seconds after the initial full appeal by Aus for the potential hat trick ball by Starc. In the center can be seen ‘keeper Carey still appealing, with support from first slip Warner, while to their right the umpire stands unmoved and 2nd and 3rd slip and gully recognizing that no wicket will be given. To the left of Carey and Warner, the bowler Starc can be seen withdrawing his hopeful appeal, but in the background the crowd are in the air for what will be denied. Wonderful composition by the camera operator.]
A few overs later, the local debutant Boland is given the ball for what will be the penultimate over of the day. With his third delivery he removes the other Eng openner, Hameed, sending the crowd wild.
[Image: Boland screams, finger raised, to appeal (in completely the wrong direction — the umpire is behind him) for his second wicket of the match, that of Hameed one of Eng’s openners. Meanwhile, Root looks on, concerned.]
Eng send in their spinner Leach as a night watchman.
Now, the Aus captain is a bowler. For the penultimate over he could have chosen anyone except himself, having bowled the previous over. Keep with Starc who has just taken two? Bring on the most experienced bowler in the side, Lyon? Give it to Green? No. No, no, no. Gimme Boland, the local lad. Success, Hameed is gone, and now we’ve got the night watchman. Hmmm, what sort of field to set? Gimme a break. How about 4 slips, a gully and silly mid-on?
Two balls later Leach shoulders arms to hear the top of his off stump rattle, sending the bail one way and the ball the other; a perfect delivery which moved off the seam back towards the off stump, completely flummoxing the night watchman.
[Image: for the reader’s pleasure I have highlighted with a yellow circle (upper right) the off stump bail. The ball can be seen above the non-striker. Note the entire cordon are still unmoved. That is how fast, fast bowling is. The bail is 4 metres in the air. Leach looks back towards where that bail was, a half a second earlier.]
Needless to the say, the crowd completely lost it, as did the entire Aus team.
Is the captain happy? Just a bit:
One beer may have been permitted in the rooms, for four wickets in 12 overs.
More than a decade ago the MCG chose to use what are known as "drop in pitches". If I recall correctly this happened around the time of a significant drainage upgrade to the ground after it was basically flooded and cause extended interruption to a Test match. One must understand that the MCG is also an Australian Rules football ground, and thus during the winter football season its’ center pitches would be gouged by football players in studded boots.
The change in strategy started well enough, but during a period 8 to 5 years ago the pitches prepared outside the ground and "dropped in" tended to produce very one sided cricket. The pitches were basically a road. This produced draw after draw in both domestic and international long form (also known as "red ball") cricket. Neither the Victorian Cricket Association nor the national governing body, Cricket Australia, were terribly happy about this. Its great for watching batters cream drives to the boundary, but produces boring one sided cricket resulting in the aforementioned draws. Something had to be done, and that something was the hiring of a skilled Head of Groundstaff, or Curator, whatever the correct title is.
Enter Matt Page, who in the last 4 odd years has produced pitches (also known as wickets, just to confuse us all) which did what cricket pitches are meant to do. The basic idea is that early on (day 1 and a bit of day 2) the pitch should offer something to the bowlers. Then it should "settle down" and make batting easier. Then, with more drying (depending on weather) but with the wear and tear introduced by bowlers, and batters running, degrade to a point where spinners and pace bowlers who know how to employ reverse swing gain an advantage. Mr Page has succeeded in banishing the "roads of old" and producing red ball pitches which provide the balance between bat and ball which all cricket lovers crave.
So, hats off to you Mr Page for the pitch. We have been able to see some of the best pace bowlers in the world practice their art and confound some of the best batters in the world. "Aggers" from Test Match Special described the day’s play as:
Test cricket at its best and most brutal
There can be no better accolade from the media for the groundstaffs' efforts.
Ashes Daily - Melbourne Day 2, Geoff Lemon and Adam Collins, The Final Word, 2021-12-27
Grandstand at Stumps: MCG Day 2, Grandstand at Stumps, ABC, 2021-12-27
England facing defeat despite bowlers fightback, Test Match Special, BBC, 2021-12-27
Final hour collapse undoes Anderson-led bowling effort, Cricket Australia, 2021-12-27
Watch the Anderson video below. It is mesmerizing.
Spellbinding Anderson's morning of brilliance, Cricket Australia, 2021-12-27
Boland’s late in the day joy:
Late-day double! Boland scalps ram home advantage, Cricket Australia, 2021-12-17
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