|The G...iconic venue|
The Aussies won the toss on a shirt front, in front of a huge crowd and Warner went off like a train. Bancroft looked like he played the short stuff as well as I play a stradivarius but the first session was as benign a performance from England as I can remember. Warner on 99 then spooned Curran in the air for a catch before replays showed that the Surrey debutant had overstepped the mark. Warner reached his hundred the next ball and summoned all of his courage, bravery and experience to let off a stream of invective towards a kid playing his first game.
Whilst on the subject of Curran, he looked like he had a bit about him although his speed of 80mph will need to be beefed up. God knows what will happen when the English bowling coaches get hold of him and make him lose 5mph like all the others?
|Bird...quietly supping his pint|
The Australian innings was a strange one. A pitch so slow it was akin to the IQ of Joey Essex, made scoring difficult and we saw more Australian drag ons than an episode of watching Bee and Lizzy in Prisoner Cell Block H. The home side finished on 327 with Broad making a welcome return to form with 4-51. The Barmy Army were immense during this Test by the way. They may have had a rather snidey article written about them by a journalist during it but they were outstanding with their Happy Birthday to Joe Root, their 'shoes off for the Engerland', when a police officer asked one of their number to put his on and their 'Ali, Ali Cook'.
England batted and all of sudden Cook looked different. His footwork had suddenly gone from Douglas Bader to Nuryev and his back foot punch down the ground was the shot of this match. Stoneman went to a caught and bowled from Lyon but it was the Geordies opening 'marra', who made hay by the Yarra. Vince nicked one onto his pad and Root pulled a hook when he didn't need to. At Christmas time, to quote the Virgin Mary when he hadn't pre booked his accomodation, "What were you thinking of Joseph?" Malan middled one into his pad for another lbw but the Chef stayed there.
A lot has been said about Cook and I was harsh on him after Perth. He proved me and many others wrong. A dead rubber? No Mitchell Starc? A placid pitch? The Aussies had given up? Bollocks. This was a knock of courage, playing for his career and fronting up for his country. Even Stuart Broad fronted up before he had to walk back to the pavilion with Khawaja claiming a catch that could only be described as the dog on the Melbourne soap, Neighbours...Bouncer. Never mind, England finished on 491. The Aussies missed Starc but Hazlewood and Cummins were excellent on a worn deck. Cummins, despite being ill bowled with pace whilst Josh is going to be an all time great if he stays fit. Not only does he bowl at pace but his metronomic accuracy means he doesn't bowl any rubbish. The boy could land 99 balls out of a hundred on Warwick Davis' japs eye if he wanted.
England needed wickets but something happened which was quite ugly. Close camera work showed Jimmy putting the back of his thumb into the shiny side of the ball. Not the top of his nail into the rough side but the furore it caused was unbelievable. Cricket Australia even tweeted about it which was odd behaviour from a board of a country during a game when the umpires or referee hadn't been involved. I know many Australians, a number who I would consider good friends and one thing they don't do is 'grass' or 'dob' as they call it. The behaviour of the board here and of the team who deliberately leaked stuff to the stump mic earlier in the series, is un-Australian. Besides, both sides were hurling the ball into the dirt to try and make it reverse. After ten overs of both innings it looked like Bouncer had been chewing at half of it.
The tweets got quite ugly on social media too. No wonder I missed out in the New Year's Honours List for my services to Anglo Australian relations.
England couldn't quite force the result despite Warner opening the door with a horrendous hoik off Joe Root. Smith had so much time to wait on the back foot, it became impossible. The skippers shook hands and a draw was called with Smith getting yet another hundred.
|There were a few Aussie Drag Ons in this match|
England played well here finally. They needed the big names to step up and Cook, Root, Anderson and Broad all had good games. We avoided the whitewash which is better than two of the last three tours to Australia. Drop in pitches need looking at, as this one ruined the spectacle. When you get one as flat as a nightclub pint, it tends to become tedious; and so it proved. A pitch needs to bed in with the roots to get bounce and this one would have made the chiropractor's fees for Bairstow and Paine go up, so much time did they spend scrambling around their bootlaces.
Onto Sydney we go. Expect to see Mason Crane although we may play two spinners on this bunsen. Moeen, again poor, needs wickets badly but he will probably retain his place in New South Wales.
England, however have avoided the whitewash.