England Prise Open The Cracks
When considering the margin of the deficit in this series for England, the statistic that Australia have been 5 wickets down for less than 150 in three of their four first innings almost beggars belief. The fact is though, that while all of Australia’s batsmen contributed in the series, they’ve never done so together, and England have had clear opportunities to break matches open in the first innings.
As it is, too often have one or two big partnerships wrestled Australia to a position of strength. Today however, finally, things were different. England bowled well from start to finish and despite some missed chances in the field have removed every shred of resistance bar Brad Haddin, who remains unbeaten on 43* with Australia 164-9 trailing by 91 in the first innings.
This was comfortably England’s best day of the series so far and puts them in a position of enormous strength in the match.
England’s Lower Order Fades Away
The day did begin badly for England—their final four wickets succumbing for just 29 runs.
The struggles of the lower-order have been accurately used to exemplify the decline of this England team. However, it is worth acknowledging that there is no better way to remove tail-end batsmen than with a fast bowler targeting bodies and stumps, and that is exactly what Mitchell Johnson is regularly doing. You can’t expect James Anderson and co. to whether Johnson’s storm.
This was ultimately a day of two teams bowling efficiently and accurately on a pitch which is proving to be difficult to score runs on. England’s lower-order were outclassed, Australia’s were frustrated and pressurised into mistakes.
Analysing Kevin Pietersen’s Dismissal, Volume 192
When analysing a dismissal, as well as shot selection and execution which can often be closely assessed, it is also worth extending the concept of selection to consider the strategy or intent of the shot being played.
Early on the second morning, the wide-stance, open front leg heave that saw Pietersen bowled by Johnson was poor shot selection, and as is almost always the case with a dismissal, poor shot execution. It was a high-risk shot against a bowler who was swinging the ball at pace and targeting the stumps.
However, with England seven wickets down, and James Anderson and Monty Panesar the two batsmen to come, the time was certainly right to take the attack to Australia: the strategy made sense.
Of course, this doesn’t make it a good shot—far from it, it was a terrible shot—but there was nothing theoretically stupid about what Pietersen did, it merely looked stupid in execution. As for the claims of him being selfish, would it not have been more selfish for him to edge towards a century before running out of partners?
There’s more to every dismissal than meets the eye; it’s worth thinking about that before unleashing opprobrium.
When George Bailey was given out caught behind following an England review, the buzz word on Twitter and in commentary boxes was “consistency.”
Following the decision to give Joe Root out in Perth based on a noise on the Real Time Snicko, even with no clear mark on HotSpot, the exact same evidence this time—if applied consistently—would see Bailey given out, as indeed he eventually was.
However, while the danger of the on-field decision influencing the DRS decision remains greater, there is a growing issue that the desire to apply “consistency” supersedes reaching the correct decision.
The ultimate aim of every review should be to ensure the correct decision is made, not necessarily to appease the parties involved through morality or a sense of justice.
Keeping an Eye On…
Jonny Bairstow fumbled a number of deliveries in his first innings as England wicket keeper but crucially held onto the ones that mattered, taking three catches.
Tears for Piers
During the tea break Piers Morgan fulfilled his promise of facing a Brett Lee over in the nets in front of 10,000 people baying for blood.
Spectators at the MCG nets decline Warne's invitation to applaud Piers Morgan. They know what they saw and what it deserved— Simon Wilde (@swildecricket) December 27, 2013
While the whole occasion was, as David Gower accurately commented on TV “completely unedifying,” live match coverage rarely does justice to the pace of the game at international level—however, the camera angle in the nets, and gulf in ability between Morgan and Lee did do just that.