Ashes at Adelaide: Day 1, Classic Test Cricket
Day 1, Classic Test Cricket
[Image: from Cricket Australia. Nesser being presented his cap by Glenn McGrath.]
Publication date: 2021-12-16
See the usual sources for the state of play at the end of day 1.
Interestingly enough, one sees just as much hogwash and hot air in the sports commentary space as one does in geopolitics. Having observed the game via text methods, because all of the audio or video sources are locked behind the broadcast licensing deals that fund the modern cricket national boards, I was given time. See, text doesn't move, or keep speaking at you. One can read and ingest it.
While character may be more rapidly assessed from audio by the nuance of voice, it constantly builds in textual form. The commentary published at the BBC's "Live" coverage as text could be categorized into three baskets: the pessimists, the non-British commentators and the straw clutchers.
The pessimists seemed to largely come from the BBC's efforts to engage a public audience and having succeeded in finding, or at least promoting these commentators.
The non-British commentators I shall ignore as they are useful or insightful, and I'd rather you listen to me than them, except where I make exceptions.
The straw-clutchers are the most wonderous. However, to lay an introduction, a background against which their commentary can shine, a summary of the day's play is required.
CoVID pandemoniacal protocols required that the new captain of Australia (hereafter 'Aus'), having been within the bluetooth range of a mobile phone regularly used by someone who was infected with the virus was excluded from playing; he got "track and traced". One of Aus' most economical and controlled bowlers, Hazlewood, was also excluded due to injury. The Test thus begins with half the Aus "attack" and their captain switched out. Nesser, a prolific Queensland state cricketer is rapidly given his cap, the already-chosen backup bowler Richardson is inserted, and the vice now acting captain, Smith, walks to the middle for the coin toss. Luckily, he calls well, and does the only thing one should ever do at Adelaide Oval, and chooses to bat.
Against this backdrop of an Aus side changed by circumstance, Eng fields a side partially "kept in wraps" for this specific Test. Their two most prolific bowlers were "rested" during the first Test, but were now rolled into their attack.
With the toss complete and Aus choosing to bat, now was their time to shine!
Interestingly enough, Aus' first batting innings at Adelaide echoes their first at Brisbane, in which one openner, Harris, is removed quickly but the second wicket partnership stand just stands and stands. The Aus "top order" puts up a wall, does not scoring quickly, and says "ok, you're bowling, come and get us".
The first session closes with Aus at 1/45 off 25 overs. This is a very poor strike rate (runs per ball/over), and a very poor over rate, though Aus have lost but the one wicket.
Aus' rate of scoring increases during the second session, slowly, but Eng cannot find a wicket to progress the game. This is the period in which the straw-clutchers, and pessimists emerge, and strategy clairvoyants amongst them.
On the straw-clutcher/optimist front, Simon Mann is your man:
That's a beauty. England have beaten the edge plenty today and Australia have just kept missing them!
As for finding the pessimists, the BBC found:
The wisdom of leaving out your one 90mph plus bowler and specialist spinner on a flat, dry pitch is something that escapes me to be honest. Looks like a log, hard slog in store.
But, not to be outdone:
This XI is perfect for the previous Test, whereas the previous Test XI is perfect for this Test. Silverwood has to go.
Jasper in Verwood
All quotes are from the BBC Live coverage.
Clairvoyants were infesting cricinfo too:
Calmer observers were trying to insert calmer comments:
The best analysis was not by a “smart batsman” but a retired bowler, the metronomic record breaker, Glenn McGrath:
Australia will be thinking about getting through the rest of today without much damage and then keeping England out there for a good chunk of tomorrow, when it's going to be really hot.
The weather gets a bit cooler from day three onwards.
Yeah, okay. Simple. Maybe.
But that is exactly what transpired.
Day/Night Test Cricket
The "Day/Night" Test match is a new phenomenon. Trialed in Australia only a decade or so ago, teams and tacticians are still learning about it. The game is time shifted, to remove the first (morning) session and tack that on the end in an evening session. The trick is that dew may fall around the time of the second to final session transition, and can give a bowling attack a significant advantage during that final session. The rules for Test matches are generally that if the bowling team is behind in their overs delivered, an additional half hour is to be added to allow the proper completion of the allotted 90 overs for the day.
It seems that of any discernible strategy displayed by Eng on the day, one component was to utilize this half hour, at the end of the day, in the conditions most likely to support their bowling attack by slowing the early over rate.
Perhaps this is why they kept their two leading “strike bowlers” in wraps? Let us instead watch how whichever devious plans were laid, bloom.
Aus begins the final session at 1/129 off 53 overs. The run rate is better, but still low, whilst wickets are still in hand. Its the 53 overs which exposes the only tactic which this cricket lover could identify, as described above; bowling with the time extension with the dew "under lights". There is nothing wrong with this. Its within the agreed playing conditions, both teams are aware of them, and the consequences of failing to deliver the requisite number of overs in a day was delivered upon the Eng team after the Brisbane Test. Namely, an irrelevant level of monetary loss, and a not insignificant punishment in the global tournament for the Test Cricket Championship.
The final session occurs in two phases: before and after the "new ball". During the first, runs are scored carefully, but at an increasing rate. Then, before the new ball a wicket falls, then a fielding brain fade denies Eng an important wicket and the Aus batters "set up shop" (take no risks). The new ball is taken, and very little happens thereafter.
End of day: Aus 2/221 after 89 overs. To put that in context, Eng had two new balls and got two wickets in almost 90 overs, and their bowlers are now tired but need to take 8 wickets in what will be the hottest conditions of the match. (See McGrath, above).
Eng’s “strategy” seems to have been to use tactics that have worked for other nations in the very recent past at the venue and believe that their cotton-woolled strike bowlers would “blow the house down”. I call this not strategy, but hope.
Aus’ nuggety second wicket partnership again denied Eng any access to the middle order. Tomorrow, Eng’s bowlers will take the field in unfamiliar conditions on a placid pitch with a wearing ball. Predictions are for idiots with cricket, but one can wish.
I hope that Labuschagne gets his century, Smith at least a half, and Travis Head comes out on his home ground and makes another lightning century, such that Eng are in a “spot of bother” at 6 odd for 450 or so as Aus consider a declaration late in Session 3. Which they shall not. See you on day 3, visitors!
The funny thing is that if this happens, Smith will need to consider a follow on. I can name two bowlers who would be saying “YES, YES”: Lyon and Nesser. They would gladly bowl for two straight days to win this, and with Carey behind the stumps it is a set up made in heaven. With the strike power of Starc and Richardson, who could not want this?!
A draw here is a win for Aus. 1-0 with 3 to play, means Aus winning any one of those remaining games and the Ashes are retained. Hey, Eng remember the last series? 2-2?
Audio Summaries of Play
Grandstand at Stumps: Adelaide Day 1, Grandstand at Stumps, ABC, 2021-21-16
England miss chances on long opening day, Test Match Special, BBC, 2021-12-16
Ashes Daily - Adelaide Day 1, Geoff Lemon and Adam Collins, The Final Word, 2021-12-16
Video Press Conferences
As “Aggers” acknowledges, you know things aren’t good when you send your assistant coach to the presser. Thorpey begins with “I though we stuck at it well in those first few sessions.” Recall he’s an ex-Test player. What sticking and how many “sessions” speak you of? 20 seconds is enough. Bye bye.
“Davey” gets rolled out for Aus to incisive questions about “whether he would play” when he’d just scored 95. Someone sack these “sports journalist” human interest trainees. A sports journalist with an Indian accent asks a far more probing question about angles of bowling and how a batsman combats them. In the response, Warner speaks of “minor adjustments” on batting out of the crease to create height problems for Eng’s bowlers trying to achieve LBW dismissals. This is what sports journalism is about; exploring the thought processes employed at the higher echelons of the game. Maybe young players might be interested?
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