Saturday, 24 August 2019

It's the hope that kills us

Day three, although by the state of the game you'd think it was towards the end of day four.  Australia's lead is probably long enough but they have four more wickets to help stretch it a bit further.  But Broad and Stokes are bowling well to begin with, torturing the England fans with hope.  A dropped catch from Bairstow doesn't help...  Time to change the keeper?  No that was last week.  If England had held their chances they would be batting by now, the fielding has been poor.

When Archer has Pattinson caught at slip the lead is 327 and the celebrations looked muted, in fact Root looks furious.  Archer fells Funnyname (who has now given FOUR chances ) with a rapid ball that thumps the grill.  Bowling isn't the problem, its the bats that have consistently let us down over several years now and fielding in this innings...
Archers short pitched attack continues, Funnyname is uncomfortable.  Stokes bowls a short one from the other end and Cummins pushes it to gully 226/8.  I'd be loving this bowling performance if our batting hadn't been so fucking shit!
Ironically it's a misfield from Denly that has Funnyname going for a second run that sees him run out for 80 and Aus are 9 down.  Not long afterwards Archer bowls Lyon and the innings is over for 246.  England have bowled very well but fielded badly and now require a record 359 to save the Ashes.  We make it through to lunch unscathed, bar Burns' fingers which take a rap, 11/0.

I try to think positively.  Records are made to be broken and this is Headingley where England pulled off miraculous Ashes wins in 1981 and 2001.  West Indies chased down 300+ here a couple of years ago.  For the England fan in Test cricket it's the hope that kills us.

Soon after lunch Burns gets an edge from a good ball but one he could have left.  Then Roy is bowled by a beauty and we're 15/2 and it looks like groundhog day.  But then the unthinkable happens, Root and Denly get in and start to nudge a few runs, what's most impressive is they are actually leaving the ball with good judgement.  This is one of those rare occasions where they are actually fighting and not giving their wickets away.  They bat through the afternoon and the partnership builds, passed fifty to rapturous applause and on.  If I can block out the match situation, watching them bat today is actually enjoyable.  Especially as the Aussie bowlers are really fucking impressive.

Tea comes and goes.  Root and Denly continue and it's a wonder to watch.  Root gets to fifty, the partnership passes a hundred, both landmarks greeted by standing ovations.  Fair play to the crowd at Leeds, they haven't given up on England.  Denly finally gets to a deserved fifty, his best test knock to date if not yet his highest.  But there he is stranded, Lyon and Hazlewood, bowling in tandem are strangling England and finally there's a crack, Denly is bounced out and it's 141/3.  I'm pleased he's made some runs even if I don't think he should be in the team.  Stokes comes in and immediately looks in control, even if he's hardly scoring.  We make it to close at 156/3 with Root 75*.

So tomorrow England need another 203 runs to win with seven wickets in hand, they can't do it can they?  As ever the first hour will be crucial, if both Root and Stokes are removed then the game is gone.  If one of them remains they will need to be not out at the end of play.  In all likelihood Australia will take the seven wickets they need to retain the Ashes.  But even so we might be in for a torturous, tight, heart breaking finish.  As ever, it's the hope that kills us.

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