Ashes 2021/2022: SCG a Brace of Centuries
SCG a Brace of Centuries
[Image: a cropped single frame from Cricket Australia’s highlights of day 3. Bairstow scores a century, his second in Australia.]
All the pink in the background is, as it has been for almost a decade and a half, in honour of the McGrath Foundation’s efforts to support women with breast cancer by providing them with nursing support. Day 3 at the SCG is known as Jane McGrath day to highlight the charity’s work in providing quality of life support through the challenge of breast cancer.
Publication date: 2022-01-07
Days 1 and 2
Following a rain abridged day 1 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, day 2 was only minorly impacted. The headline stories for the day are the wonderful century on return by Usman Khawaja, and the dogged determination of Stuart Broad for his 5 wickets in an innings (of the 8 wickets taken before Aus declared).
The events of the day seem best captured in curios and vingettes. Broad now has his name beside his father's on the honours board at the SCG for their 5 wickets in an innings each.
As another smidgeon of water fell from the sky, Smith is a third of the way to the boundary before the umpires even consult. This is a very bad look, and I hope the Match Referee docks his match fee for showing disrespect to the umpires. Broad completely fails to actually appeal to the umpires for a wicket time and again. He deserves the same treatment.
Moment of the Day
There are to be three more overs before Tea, and Root is bowling. Over 109 amounts to a dot ball, 4 exchanges of first Khawaja then Cummins taking a single. For the last ball Root bowls absolute rubbish, a half tracker well outside of off stump just asking to be smashed to the boundary. Khawaja says thank you very much and obliges.
[Image: best that could be found of Khawaja about to dine out on this rubbish from Root.]
You know that knock sound which can be made with one's tongue from the roof of one's mouth? That is the sound as the ball leaves that bat and flies between cover and backward point, neither of whom even move. This leaves Khawaja on 99 with two overs to come before the break.
Now, both etiquette and intelligence dictate that as soon as is safely possible in the next over, Cummins should take a single to put Khawaja back on strike so that he can get the century milestone out of the way before the interval. To make the job easier Root has brought on Dawid Malan, a part time leg spinner, to bowl the over. How hard could it be? Cummins does nothing with the first three deliveries, then hits two boundaries, and to really rub it in takes a single off the last ball to deny Khawaja strike for the next over. In the Grandstand at Sumps interview (see sources) he laughingly expresses his frustration and makes fun of not being able to get angry at his batting partner for he is the captain.
Khawaja played his club cricket for the inner Sydney suburb club of Randwick and Petersham. The SCG is his home ground from his early days in first class cricket when he was selected for NSW. He moved to Queensland some years ago and now captains their team, but the people of Sydney treat him as one of their own, and he still views the majestic SCG as his "home ground". As he had grafted his way to his half century, the crowd were behind their local man. When Smith was dumbfounded by a crafty over from Broad which led to his dismissal, Khawaja took over the scoring and played many an elegant stroke to the boundary. The crowd got voice and were cheering him on. But, crowds can be fickle. When Cummins takes that single off the last ball of the penultimate over before Tea the crowd boos the Australian captain!
Root takes himself off and brings Eng's main spinner Leach on for the last over before Tea. Dot. Dot. (oh, come on ...). Single! Cummins takes a single and finally Khawaja is on strike. Leach bowls on off stump but Khawaja beautifully strokes it to the leg side between a diving square leg and backward square leg for three runs. Finally! Or perhaps that should be Immediately! for it was on the first opportunity that Khawaja secures the century. Of course, the crowd erupts and all is well in the world; the prodigal son has returned.
A regular cricket scorecard shows the runs scored by individual batsman. Another view is possible (scroll down) in which, as is the want of this author, one looks at an innings via its partnerships. Yes, Khawaja scored twice as much as anyone else, and that was Smith who scored twice as much as anyone below him, but looking down the partnership card one can see just how important Khawaja's innings was. He has batted in partnership with half of the team and taken the score from 3/117 to 8/398 or a collection of 5 partnerships worth 281. He anchored the Aus innings on what has proven to be a difficult wicket with increasingly variable bounce.
Day 3's start was again delayed by the seemingly inevitable Sydney morning rain. It gets under way, and the all at sea Hameed departs early with the score on 1/22. Malan and Crawley play the odd lovely stroke and try to see off the new ball in difficult conditions. But, the Aus bowlers could not be denied. In the space of 5 overs Eng lose their 2nd, 3rd and 4th wickets for the princely sum of nothing. At one point, Boland who had had a most amazing debut at “The 'G” had another two wickets for still no more runs with the ridiculous figures of 8 wickets for 7 runs. To the joy of many a cricket lover and commentator this sent the statisticians back to their databases looking for when or if this had happened before. The last of these wickets, Malan, who fell to a trap gloving down the leg side, brought about Lunch.
Session of the Day
On return, at the wicket were Stokes bearing a side strain suffered when bowling in Aus first innings and Bairstow, recalled into the side in Melbourne. They grafted away slowly by attacking the rare looser balls on offer as the odd chance missed in the morning grew early in the second session. The clanger missed chance was by the Aus 'keeper Carey off only the 3rd over over the day when he dived in front of first slip, Warner. It was a sign. Eng have dropped many a catch in the series compared to a more disciplined Aus fielding effort, but day 3 was showing a reversal of fortune. The next reversal was not of fortune but attitude as Stokes and Bairstow fought back against the Aus attack and put on 99 runs for the miserly sum of no wicket in the middle session.
Aus spinner Lyon has been very effective in gaining the odd wicket but tying down an end, giving the Aus pace bowlers a rest and giving away very few runs. Stokes and Bairstow would not allow him to settle, sweeping and square cutting away. Stokes played one outrageous shot. Lyon had seen him advancing as he was coming in to bowl and delivers the ball wide of off stump to create a stumping opportunity for Carey. Stokes is essentially beaten in the flight, but at full stretch manages to loft a cover drive into the stands.
[Image: the ball can be seen beside Lyon’s left ear. Stokes is way out of his crease and “miles” from the ball.]
This shot perhaps typifies the combination of a bit of luck with a bucket load of determination shown by the pair in their partnership.
The final session sees Lyon "get his man" trapping Stokes lbw for an enterprising, if not chancy, and determined half century, but only to see Bairstow "move up the gears" and push on. Soon after Stokes' removal Bairstow takes a nasty blow to the thumb which followed many other nasty blows to the hands of other batsmen earlier in the day. Eng’s 'keeper Buttler is shot and departs without troubling the scorers. Both hosts and visitors have appreciated the energy and determination of Eng fast bowler Mark Wood who arrives next to partner with Bairstow. Wood senses the mood and throws his bat into action. He thrice puts Aus captain Cummins into the stands, an unwelcome first for Cummins in Tests. As the BBC commentary rightly put it "we'll never hear the end of it", and neither should they. For it was this partnership with Bairstow who is still rattling along which takes Eng to a position where all is not completely lost.
Off the last over of the day, Bairstow attempts another square cut, and gets a thick top edge. It flies high between point and gully to the boundary taking Bairstow to 103. He survives the last two balls to walk off undefeated, accompanied by Leach with Broad and Anderson yet to bat. Eng are still 158 in arrears with only 3 wickets in hand, but Bairstow can hold his head high. He in combination with Stokes and then Wood turned 4/36 into 7/258 against a very good attack on a difficult pitch.
Over the two days the reason why "centuries" are given such high regard in cricket has been displayed. Yes, its about "three figures" and yes, the determination required (and often times a little fortune), but it is also about the partnerships around the century and what it does for a team's position in a game. More importantly perhaps, and especially so here for Eng, a century is about the morale it inspires.
With inclement weather predicted for day 4, if Eng cannot take this morale which Bairstow and partners have created and make something of it, then they are truly shot.
A warning here for Aus. Do not bowl at the body of Anderson to damage his hands. The world's cricket community will not judge softly. Put Boland on, and you'll get him nicking off soon enough.
The media centre at the SCG was named the Richie Benaud Media Centre. This honor sits atop his statue outside the members pavilion. Many consider Benaud the greatest cricket commentator. He certainly provided excellent analysis and had a wonderful turn of phrase and impeccable timing. His flamboyant captaincy for Australia also heralded a new era in daring. He inspired many to come, including Ian Chappell. Oh, and he was a leg spinner. What more needs be said?
Ashes Daily - Sydney Day 2 (must be opened in a browser, then download), Geoff Lemon and Adam Collins, The Final Word, 2022-01-06
Grandstand at Stumps: SCG Day 2, Grandstand at Stumps, ABC, 2022-01-06
Khawaja's comeback century puts Australia in control (requires browser), Test Match Special, BBC, 2022-01-06
Ashes Daily - Sydney Day 3 (requires browser), Geoff Lemon and Adam Collins, The Final Word, 2022-01-07
Grandstand at Stumps: SCG Day 3, Grandstand at Stumps, ABC, 2022-01-07
Brilliant Bairstow century rescues England after early collapse (requires browser), Test Match Special, BBC, 2022-01-06
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