Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Ashes: Cardiff Test, Day Four

Day four of this intriguing contest sees England chasing 10 wickets to take a 1-0 lead in this Ashes series. Australia being Australia will do their best to make an effort in chasing down the mammoth target of 412, but on a wearing pitch and with the Welsh weather set surprisingly fair, there's only one likely outcome.

Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad open with the new ball for England. Here's the action from day four down in the Welsh capital.

Anderson and Broad begin the day looking threatening, and it's not long before the first chance is offered. But it's a disaster to start the day for England. Chris Rogers nicks one off Anderson and it flies to Joe Root, who drops it. It's a similar chance to the one he took off Starc in Australia's first innings, but this didn't stick. This is quickly followed by a big appeal on Warner for caught behind off the bowling of Broad. Cook reviews it straight away but there's nothing on Hotspot or Snicko, so Warner survives...
But finally, England get a deserved wicket and it comes from Stuart Broad. Chris Rogers edges it...
And he sees it fly low to Ian Bell at second slip. Bell takes a good, low catch. Rogers isn't convinced that the ball was caught cleanly, but replays show that Bell got his hands under the ball. The third umpire informs the on-field umpire to stick with his decision and Australia are 19-1, Rogers going for 10.
David Warner is the danger man whose wicket England so desperately crave. Moeen Ali is brought into the attack but any loose deliveries Moeen bowls are punished by the pugnacious batsman.
He smashes Moeen for a 6 then a 4, and it brings up Australia's 50. 
Warner continues to punish anything loose from England and soon finds himself raising his bat for 50.
But after smashing Moeen about, it is the man from Worcestershire who has the last laugh. Warner shuffles across his crease and the ball creeps past his bat to strike him on the pads in front. He goes, LBW for 52. His wicket also signals lunch.
Australia are 97-2 but the wicket of Warner is huge. A batsman very capable of taking the game to the opposition and he's out. It signals another shift in momentum in the Test.

The afternoon session begins and Steven Peter Devereux Smith is at the crease. 
His driven 4 brings up Australia's 100. 
If you're an Australian cricket fan reading this, I'd go and grab whatever food/drink provides you comfort, because things are about to get messy.

But soon, disaster strikes. Smith pushes at one outside off stump and edges it...
Straight into the waiting hands of Ian Bell at second slip. Smith goes for 33 and Australia are 101-3.
 Honestly, go and get some chocolate.

Clarke soon joins the party of poor shots as he reaches for one outside off stump...
And sends it straight to Ben Stokes at backward point. The Australian captain goes for 4 and it leaves Australia 106-4.
It doesn't get much better in the next over either as the procession of Australian middle order wickets continues. 
Voges nicks one through to Jos Buttler off the bowling of Mark Wood and Australia are 106-5. Mark Wood celebrates like a man possessed, running to his team mates like he's in a romantic film and has just spotted them across a barley field.
Haddin gets off the mark in traditional Haddin style, nearly chopping on but instead finding that it's gone to the boundary. In the 2013/14 Ashes, he regularly rescued Australia when they were 5 wickets down. But it's not to be today. Looking to attack Mo, he ends up hitting it straight to Alastair Cook.
Who juggles it a bit, then juggles it some more before eventually catching it flat on his back. It reduces Australia to 122-6 and England only need 4 more wickets to win.
Johnson comes in and plays positively. 
He duly smashes Moeen for 6 over the onside.
I'd recommend something stronger than chocolate here.

Can you guess how Shane Watson was out?
Can you guess what he did next? 
29 times Shane 'Leg Before' Watson has been out LBW. 14 of those times have been against England. The majority of them have been reviewed, and mostly unsuccessfully. And whilst you can understand why he's reviewed both his LBW decisions in this innings, given that he's the last recognised batsman both times, it's still absolutely hilarious. Sorry.

Anyway, Moeen nearly gets another wicket on the stroke of an interval, but Starc and Johnson survive. Australia go into the tea break 162-7, having lost 5 wickets in the afternoon session. Having been 97-2, it is Australia's middle order collapse that has pretty much handed victory to England on a plate.

The evening session begins and Mitchell Starc, whose highest Test score is 99, plays an absolutely beautiful drive that goes to the boundary for 4.
Mandatory use of deface 4/6 card from the England v New Zealand ODI at the Rose Bowl last month.
And with Australia's hopes of victory gone to 'very slim', Johnson decides to have some fun. He stands up and punches a four through the off side...
And it brings up his 50. He may not have been able to bowl on the pitch, but he's certainly been able to bat on it.
Meanwhile, Joe Root is brought back on. Johnson's eyes light up and he smashes Root for 4, 4, then a huge six over long on. But at the other end, Starc has been struggling with spin/slower bowling and Root strikes.The ball rises up on Starc who nicks it...
It flies to Alastair Cook who can only parry it...
And it's caught on the rebound by Root's fellow Yorkie, Adam Lyth.Starc goes for 17 and Australia are 223-8.
Josh Hazlewood, another one to be described as 'no mug with the bat' arrives at the crease.
He hits Mo for an 'up and over' boundary to show that they're still going to be playing their natural game, no matter what.
Down at the other end, Root strikes again and it's the key man of Johnson that he dismisses. 
Johnson advances down the pitch but gets an edge on it and it goes flying to Adam Lyth at first slip. He takes a very good catch above his head and Johnson has to go for 77. It's a very good knock in vain.
And it's all over fairly soon afterwards.
Hazlewood looks to hit Moeen but gets his timing all wrong...
And he gets caught by that man Joe Root.
England are absolutely ecstatic. Australia, crushing pre-series favourites, have been well and truly humbled down in Cardiff. They're all out for 242 and it's a stunning 169 run victory for England!
Who on earth would've thought that? Michael Clarke sounds disgruntled in his post-match interview with Michael Atherton but praises England for their performance. Alastair Cook sounds like a man transformed. Joe Root is named Man of the Match. He doesn't dedicate it to Brad Haddin, but instead to the hard work of his team mates.

A superb win for England and, given the misery of the past year or so, it's a victory that has given the public something to be proud of. It's a quick turnaround for the Lord's Test and Australia will be sweating over the fitness of Mitchell Starc, who was clearly in pain whenever he bowled, despite how optimistic Michael Clarke tried to sound about it. Will yet another Mitchell play at Lord's as Australia decide to finally drop Shane Watson? Will England follow up their emphatic win with an equally emphatic loss, as seems to be their style at the moment?

On both counts, the British nation truly hopes not.

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