Ashes 2013/14: Key Points from Day 1 of 4th Test at the MCG, Melbourne

Freddie WildeContributor IDecember 26, 2013

Ashes 2013/14: Key Points from Day 1 of 4th Test at the MCG, Melbourne

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    Scott Barbour/Getty Images

    A key point review of Day 1 of the 4th Ashes Test in Melbourne.


    4th Test: Australia vs. England at Melbourne
    A Cookc Clarke b Siddle 277047
    M Carberry B Watson38145103
    J Rootc Haddin b Harris2411582
    K Pietersen not out67242152
    Bellc Haddin b Harris2712098
    Stokesc Watson b Johnson143323
    Bairstowb Johnson101617
    Bresnannot out11913
    Extras1nb 1w 10b 6lb18  
    Total 226-6  

    BBC Sport


    Click Begin Slideshow to read more. 

Constructive Criticism

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    Michael Dodge/Getty Images

    Australia’s bowling tactics and execution in this series have been close to perfect.

    Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle have bowled consistently accurate, probing spells, and their frugality has been supported by Nathan Lyon and Shane Watson, while Mitchell Johnson has operated in short, sharp, destructive spells—it’s a package that England have found impossible to crack.

    Australia’s quintet came together in harmony again on Day 1, and yet again England’s batsmen struggled for runs before succumbing to the unrelenting pressure.

    Batting against teams "bowling dry" is difficult at the best of times, but such difficulty is radically exacerbated by the fact Johnson has been so destructive. However, that Australia have bowled well in the series does not excuse England’s response from constructive criticism.

    While it is difficult to score against Harris, Siddle and Johnson when they are bowling as well as they are, there’s certainly an argument to be made that England could be more proactive against Watson and certainly Lyon. 

    The benefit of being positive against a team’s spinner has been tellingly demonstrated by Australia’s dismantlement of Graeme Swann, which has not only nullified the threat he provides but has restricted Alastair Cook’s rotation options amongst his bowlers, wearing out the already tired seamers sooner.

    Watson has bowled well, but that 203 of his 244 deliveries bowled in this series have been dot balls exemplifies England’s struggles rotating the strike.

    The MCG pitch appears particularly conducive to spin, but allowing Lyon to find rhythm could be seen as one of England’s biggest mistakes on Day 1.

    Indeed, being more positive against him may go some way to solving the more glaring flaw of England’s batsmen getting in and then getting out before kicking on to a bigger score.

    While England’s batsmen have on plenty of occasions got out by wicket-taking deliveries, it is as often—if not more often—poor shot selection and execution. It is errors in judgement forced upon them by the bowling discipline that is leading to their demise.

    Unsettling that discipline could release the pressure valve, and in these conditions, the weakest link of an exceptionally good bunch is probably Lyon.

    Of course, there’s a fine line between attack and defence, but not scoring runs allows bowlers to settle and the fielding team to dominate. Being positive in defence is a hallmark of a successful team and England have been the very antithesis of that as the series has worn on. 

    It’s not about being reckless, it’s about being proactive. It’s not easy, either, but England need to find ways to improve. Making a more concerted effort to be positive against Lyon could be a start. 

    Ultimately, though, today—as they have been for the entire series—Australia were seriously good.

Guess Who's Back?

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    Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

    Despite England’s continued struggles with the bat, when the second new ball was taken with England at 201-4, Cook’s men would have hoped of closing on a more respectable score than their eventual 226-6.

    As it was, Johnson the destroyer—his missing threat hardly noticed in the morning—returned to wrestle the match firmly into Australia’s hands with a classic spell of fast bowling.

    His two wickets of Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow were the decisive and vicious blows in an otherwise attritional day of Test cricket.

I Am Legend

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    Gareth Copley/Getty Images

    There was a lovely moment in the final seconds of the day’s play when Kevin Pietersen, desperate to wind the clock down and ensure the 89th over bowled by Johnson was the final over of the day, fidgeted around in the middle of the wicket

    He delayed the final delivery of the day by five seconds, 10 seconds and then 15 seconds with a growing smile on his face as the boos grew louder and louder.

    It’s only a trivial anecdote, but it exemplified Pietersen’s lonely struggle on a day when only he could resist the relentless pressure of Australia’s attack. 

    Pietersen has been under disproportionately intense media pressure following the relinquishment of the urn in Perth, with his playing style in particular coming under question.

    Geoffrey Boycott even called for Pietersen to retire from Test cricket to focus on the limited-overs formats, per BBC Sport.

    Therefore, if Pietersen converts his 50 into a century, this innings will be enormously enjoyable—not so much in the means, but in the ends. 

    Even if not played with his trademark aggression and chutzpah.

    Pietersen played with care, caution and circumspection—there was a very determined air to his batting. It was strangely apparent that he was willing to sacrifice his natural instincts for a score of substance, more than anything, to prove a point to those who questioned him.

    In a wonderful quirk of fate, Pietersen passed Boycott’s Test run tally for England in the process.

    Pietersen did have more than his fair share of luck, however. On his only six, he hooked Harris straight to the substitute fielder Nathan Coulter-Nile, who caught the ball but over-balanced in the process and gave Pietersen six more runs and a second life.

    A number of edges and mis-hits also fell short of fielders.

    You felt Pietersen had earned his luck, though.

Here's Jonny!

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    Michael Dodge/Getty Images

    Jonny Bairstow’s return innings to the Test side ended in familiar fashion—with his feet moving very little and his stumps rearranged.

    It’s easy to criticise him, but with just three innings since landing in Australia more than 10 weeks ago, to say he’s short of middle-time would be an understatement. It’s hard not to feel sorry for him.

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

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    Scott Barbour/Getty Images

    You’ll probably hear and read plenty about how the MCG, sucker for an attendance figure, will claim to have broken the world record for the biggest attendance for a single day’s Test cricket today with more than 90,000 people coming through the turnstiles. 

    Well, they didn’t. 

    It’s widely accepted that at Eden Gardens in Kolkata for India-Pakistan in 1999, and for India-Australia in 2001, more than 100,000 people crammed on to the terraces.

Thought for the Day

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    Scott Barbour/Getty Images

    This Test is the first time since 2004, when Darren Lehmann was still playing, that Australia have named an unchanged team for the fourth consecutive Test.

    Does winning lead to consistency of selection or does consistency of selection lead to winning?