Friday, 31 July 2015

Review of the 3rd Test v Australia

"Do I not like that" was a quote made famous by a man who cut his teeth in Watford and then came to prominence in Birmingham, but that is where the similarities between Graham Taylor and Steven Finn end. A quick game is a good game say the lazy journalists, as this one in the second city was done and dusted within three days. That famous Warwickshire fan Shakespeare once said, "better to be three days early than a minute too late" as this one was more or less in the bag by the end of Day Two. Even the English girls were happy with a premature ending as England thrashed the Aussies by eight wickets, in the cauldron of Edgbaston.

England were recovering from the thrashing at Lord's by a mere 405 runs. Ballance lost his place and they brought in Bairstow, and on the bowling front Steven Finn came in for Mark Wood. The Aussies were unchanged. Everyone expected the Aussies to roll England over, and confirm their superiority. Everyone expected England to roll over. Never mind the new jumpers that England wear, at Lord's they were more of a pushover than pullover.

Michael Clarke won the toss and batted. It was a decent toss to lose. On a day when the world was aghast about an African Lion, it was the English Lion that roared loudly. Warner, almost out without facing, was soon on his way back to the hutch trapped in front by Jimmy. Then those blokes from a country where shark attacks are prevalent, seemed to be running scared of the Mighty Finn. The Middlesex man touched 93mph at one point as he bowled with hostility and venom. The Hollies Stand was rocking, as the thoughts turned to a song by UB40, formed just down the road in Balsall Heath, as they urged Finny to "Don't Slow Down". Smith got a good one and was held by Cook, and Clarke played a similar shot to the ball where he was bowled at this venue in 2005, albeit to a much quicker ball than the one that Steve Harmison foxed him with. The Hollies gave every Aussie a "cheerio" on the way out as the ball wobbled under slate grey skies. ELO may have been another Brummie band, but there wasn't much "Mr Blue Sky" on Day One.

Clarke is struggling. His back is not great and although it is much documented that he is wary of the short ball, I am wondering if the full ball is now becoming a problem. Perhaps he is over compensating, mindful of the short one and not getting forward? He faced ten balls and played and missed four times. Only Henry VIII had more misses! Rogers meanwhile epitomised the gritty Aussie. He has been the pick of their batting on this tour and he just accumulates runs. Quietly, unspectacularly and without fuss, he is strong through point, opens the face well and the transfer of weight is excellent. At Lord's Smith took the plaudits for his double ton, but Rogers got a 173 there too. Here on a seaming wicket that was doing a bit, he was a rock. Some of the Aussie batting may have showed themselves to be as yellow as the fans seated in the new end at Edgbaston dressed in their one day kit, or even Stevie Wonder's bathroom floor, but this Rogers was no coward of the county.

The Mighty comeback since Lazarus

Jimmy must have had something in his lunch because after the interval he was immense. A sixfer for the Lancastrian, he was unplayable at times and the movement was mainly off the pitch as opposed to through the air. There is an area near Edgbaston called Rotton Park, but Mitchell Marsh had a rotten game. Nevill left one. As one wag tweeted us, "Nevill, Nevill your stumps are a mess, Nevill, Nevill you were careless". Anderson finished with six as the Aussies were skittled for 136. Brummie Ozzy Osbourne may have bitten the head off of a bat once, but Jimmy bit the head off the Aussie bats. It was England's best day since 2009 at Melbourne when the Aussies were bowled out for 98.

When England batted Lyth was caught yet again in the cordon. At present he nicks more than a junior copper going for promotion. Cook looked good until he screamed one into Voges jumper at short leg, and the ball stuck. Velcro Voges? Bell at number three looked brilliant, taking Hazlewood for three fours in an over and the Warwickshire man and Root could have put the Aussies out of their misery, until Bell had one of his famous aberrations and tried to hunt down Lyon. Nathan was no Cecil as he got him quickly.

The next day Johnson bowled brilliantly as he blasted out Bairstow and Stokes. In one venomous over he hauled his side back briefly into the match and the series. Despite running the gauntlet of the Hollies, Johnson is a fine pace bowler albeit in short bursts. Three hundred Test wickets tells a story. Root got a fine 63, and half centuries from Midlands duo Bell and Ali, got them to 281.

T29YAWK meets Simba, Cecil and Nathan

When the Aussies batted again, they were blasted away by the Watford man. As strong as an Oxhey, he bounced the top order as only Warner flashed a few shots. The cordon were kept busy by Clarke and Voges whilst Smith and Marsh were beaten for pace. Warner skied a leading edge and it was game over for the Aussies. Broad was registered on the speed gun at 96.6mph but I wonder if second hand car dealer look a like Nathan Lyon had been fiddling with the speedometer? Nevill got a fifty despite gloving one down the leg side. The Twitterati were incensed but if my team were in this sort of trouble and I thought I could get away with it, I'd be walking about as quickly as Douglas Bader, Heather Mills, Arthur Askey and Tito combined. Should we call him The 29 year old Aussie Wicket Keeper or T29YAWK for short as the Aussies did to Stuart Broad? Despite some lusty blows from T29YAWK and Starc the Aussies only had a lead of 120.

Jimmy meanwhile went off with a side strain, and was ruled out of the Trent Bridge test. I would go for Jack Brooks to replace him, but the names of Woakes, Rushworth, Footit, Plunkett and James Harris have all been thrown into the ring. Perhaps Wood will come back and Finn will open? I'd go for the Headband Warrior myself. Brooks is an out and out wicket taker, and he won't let anyone down. As Geoff Boycott says, "Brooks makes the new ball talk".

When England batted often these small targets can be quite tricky. Starc bowled Cook early, it was squeaky bum time, but Ian Bell got the Hollies in party mood. It was as if the E's that shape the floodlights here at Edgbaston weren't the only E's around as the place rocked. England cantered home sans Mark Wood's horse, as the Hollies chanted "E'sy". Clarke dropped Bell to complete a miserable game for the Aussie skipper. Mitch was taunted more, and a chorus of "God Save YOUR Queen" rang out. Lyth had another failure but at least didn't nick off this time and Bell completed his second fifty of the game; the seventh occasion that he has done this in Tests.

"Shall I see you again at Trent Bridge, Skip?"

This has been a strange series. One side either hammers the other, and the series isn't just fluctuating but oscillating wildly. Forget John Snow, this series would break Peter Snow's swingometer. Why? As Brummie Toyah Wilcox would say, "It's a Mystery".

The Aussies showed that their batting is brittle and if they lose this series they have to move towards youth, as this match in the city that gave us Musical Youth proved. Too much relies on Rogers and Smith, and behind that they haven't got much batting. England still have problems at the top of the order, but I expect Lyth to stay in for the trip from West to East Midlands. Here in the home city of The Streets Mike Skinner, the "Weak Became Heroes". England were outstanding and Finn adds value.

Edgbaston also needs to take credit. A good cricket wicket, fantastic facilities and a boisterous atmosphere were all on offer. The crowd were the twelfth man here, and were outstanding.

So onto Nottingham they go, next week with England 2-1 up. As that bard from just down the road from Edgbaston once said, "Once more unto the breach, dear friends".