Sunday, 4 August 2019

Heaven and Hell

I had a teenager to deliver to a far flung corner of the county, there is no long wave on the car radio so it's a nervous journey back wondering how things are going.  I rushed through the house and turned on the TV, Burns caresses one through the covers for four but Stokes is out (for 50), the score is 293/5, the lead is just 9.  We need at least another hundred.  A couple more singles then Burns is out to Lyon for 133 and the score 296/6.  Every extra run is vital now.  Ali leaves a straight one and gets a predictable duck then Bairstow plays a crap shot and it's 300/8.  The game has evened up.  Broad and Woakes bat sensibly and survive until lunch nudging the lead along to 44.

After lunch I have the car loaded and ready to go fishing for the first time in ages but decide to wait until the fall of the next wicket, anything could happen.  The lead inches past fifty, the crowd cheers every run and inwardly so do I.

It is evident that Tim Paine is out of his depth.  As captain he's used his bowlers and Lyon in particular poorly.  From what the TV is showing Smith is orchestrating thins and Paine is captain in name only.  His keeping is sloppy, he takes his eyes off the ball and he contributes fuck all with the bat and could soon be unemployed.

Meanwhile the partnership creeps past fifty and the score past 350 while the Edgbaston crowd ramp it up, giving the Aussies grief.  Smith comes on to bowl to a crescendo of boos and "... he's got the sand-paper in his hand...".  The lead is now 72, fifteen more minutes and I'm going fishing.

I had to stop en route so it was 1600 before I was on the water and TMS tuned in.  Australia 22/1, the loathsome Warner out!  As I drifted down the stretch Ali removed Bancroft but then Smith and Khawaja start hitting it around and the lead (which was 90) was being whittled away.  Stokes get's Khawaja! and Head comes and seems comfortable.  By the time I am settled with a brew Australia were effectively 4/3.

Australia picked up Runs with ease over the next hour.  As idyllic as it is, listening to TMS afloat in the wilderness I would have liked to have been hearing England taking wickets.  Eventually the light closed in and the umpires took them off, 124/3.  Australia are 34 ahead and still well in this match.  Ali has bowled poorly today, Smith is the key now.

Day four and I had to work again but managed to position myself next to the radio for a large part of the day, it was horrible.  TMS started with eager anticipation of quick wickets but Smith and Head continued to frustrate, in fact they made it seem easy.  Head got out to Stokes but Smith passed 100 for the second time in the match.  When I left work the lead was about 250 but when I switched the radio back on down at the lake it was 454/7, the lead is massive.

Australia eventually declared after some torturous tail end hitting, the score 487/8 meaning England need an impossible 398 to win or bat three sessions tomorrow to survive.  But not before a tricky few ominous overs this evening.  England made it through to the close unscathed despite a few near misses, 13/0.

Ali has had a poor match and with Jimmy injured we've effectively had three bowlers which has been a factor but England have been absolutely crushed today.  For the first time in a decade England face going behind in an opening home Ashes match but it doesn't hurt too bad and I won't have a sleepless night.  There is still a good chance we can save this match but part of me is thinking 'fair play', Piggy Smith has been playing a different game, even better than Kholi this time last year.  It's been a brilliant test match and England have been in strong positions but haven't kept the Aussies down.  If we get out of jail tomorrow it will be a right result.

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