Match report and analysis
That’s all for today. We’ll be back in the morning, bright and early, for day four of this compelling struggle. Goodnight!
A bit of post-play reading
Ajinkya Rahane, his right forefinger heavily strapped, speaks
[Will the finger stop you batting in the second innings?] I don’t think so. I was pleased with the way I batted today – we had a very good day. We were looking to get around 320, but overall I thought we had a very good day. We bowled well, we bowled in partnerships, and 120 for four is a very good effort.
That was a really good catch [by Cameron Green to get rid of Rahane]. We all know he’s a very good fielder – tall guy, big reach.
It’s important for us to think session by session, not think too far ahead. The first hour will be very crucial tomorrow. If we bowl well anything can happen.
Stumps: Australia lead by 296 runs
44th over: Australia 123-4 (Labuschagne 41, Green 7) Oof, Shami almost picks up Cameron Green on a couple of occasions in the final over of the day. First a jaffa cuts him in half and bounces over the stumps. then Green inside-edges a forcing shot this far wide of leg stump.
India could really have done with that wicket. They scrapped with bat and ball on day three, and from their body language you would never have known they were so far behind in the game, but Australia held firm to consolidate their winning position. Contrasting innings from Marnus Labuschagne (41 not out from 117 balls) and Steve Smith (34 from 47) have extended their lead to 296 on an untrustworthy pitch, and they have a great chance of becoming World Test Championship winners for the first time.
43rd over: Australia 121-4 (Labuschagne 40, Green 6) Time for one more over.
42nd over: Australia 120-4 (Labuschagne 39, Green 6) It’s been a long evening session and both teams look ready for their ice baths. Shami tightens his line to Green, who swaps the leave for the forward defensive and survives without alarm.
41st over: Australia 120-4 (Labuschagne 39, Green 6) Umesh Yadav replaces Ravindra Jadeja, which is a bit of surprise. Nothing much happens, save Australia extending their lead from 289 to 293.
40th over: Australia 116-4 (Labuschagne 36, Green 5) Shami replaces Siraj, whose figures of 12-2-41-1 don’t do justice to some superb, aggressive bowling today. He tries to draw Green into something injudicious outside off stump; Green shows good judgement of off stump and ignores everything, which means another maiden.
39th over: Australia 116-4 (Labuschagne 36, Green 5) Labuschagne is taking no liberties against Jadeja. He’s barely scored a run off him in this innings, and when he tries to do he’s beaten outside off stump. A maiden.
38th over: Australia 116-4 (Labuschagne 36, Green 5) Cameron Green gets his first boundary with a languid extra-cover drive off Siraj. Jeez, that was lovely. There are just under 25 minutes remaining tonight; India probably need a couple more wickets.
37th over: Australia 112-4 (Labuschagne 36, Green 1) “Hello again Rob,” says Robert Ellson. “Stuart Broad knows what he’s doing. ‘It would be great for us if Australia try to take us on at our own game,’ Broad said. ‘If we can get them playing in a slightly different style they could make mistakes and that would be brilliant for us. I’d love Smith to dance down the track and sky one to mid-off early doors. That would be classic.’
“Cover point, mid-off, whatever. It’s happening.”
WICKET! Australia 111-4 (Head ct and b Jadeja 18)
Ravi Jadeja puts Travis Head out of his misery. Head was dropped two balls earlier, when Yadav fumbled a slog-sweep over the boundary for six, and continued to try to hit his way out of trouble. It’s hard to criticise that approach, even if it didn’t work this time: he screwed a flat-batted stroke straight back to Jadeja, who took a sharp catch. Head never looked comfortable against Jadeja.
36th over: Australia 105-3 (Labuschagne 36, Head 12) Head is beaten, flirting with a short ball outside off from Siraj. He continues to ram almost everything halfway down, though Head looks generally comfortable.
35th over: Australia 104-3 (Labuschagne 36, Head 11) Jadeja is all over Head, with the ball turning extravagantly out of the rough to the left-hander. Head offers no stroke to a ball that spins a long way and doesn’t miss off stump by much. One from the over, and Jadeja’s figures are 7-2-18-1. Maybe he could have come on a bit earlier.
34th over: Australia 103-3 (Labuschagne 36, Head 10) Labuschagne does brilliantly to keep out a grubber from Siraj, and ends up falling over for the third time in his innings. The man’s an animal.
A single brings Head on strike, and he pulls over fine leg for six. Jadeja was a few yards in from the boundary, which doesn’t impress Siraj, though it wouldn’t have mattered because it was a big no-ball.
Another short ball from Siraj, this time to Labuschagne, clears everyone and runs away for four byes. Thirteen from the over.
33rd over: Australia 90-3 (Labuschagne 35, Head 3) Head, unnerved by a Jadeja delivery that lifts grotesquely from out of the rough, plays an extravagant drive at the next ball and is beaten on the inside. That’s a very good, probing maiden from Jadeja.
32nd over: Australia 90-3 (Labuschagne 35, Head 3) Mohammed Siraj returns in place of Thakur, presumably to pepper the new batter Travis Head. The introduction of a deepish short leg confirms as much, so the next 15-20 minutes should be fun.
Head pulls confidently for two, then fences another short one through the vacant leg-gully region for a single.
“Loved that Selvey piece about Viv,” says Adam Roberts, “but it brought to mind my friend’s assertion that he ruined a generation of aspiring English batsmen who thought it was ok - and the way to bat - to plant their left foot down the pitch and hit it anywhere they felt it should go.”
So basically Terry Alderman should thank Viv for 36 of his Test wickets?
31st over: Australia 87-3 (Labuschagne 35, Head 0) “The main reason I’m not too fussed about McGrath missing two Tests in the 2005 Ashes is that Darren Gough (born in the same year) didn’t play any,” says Robert Ellson. “Australia were lucky to McGrath there at all. After all, it’s completely ridiculous to imagine that a seamer over the age of 35 should be able to play a full part in a five-game series...”
WICKET! Australia 86-3 (Smith c Thakur b Jadeja 34)
Well this is an interesting shot. Smith charges Jadeja, who senses him coming and bowls it shorter and wider. Smith is nowhere near the pitch and clouts the ball miles in the air towards cover, where Thakur takes a good running catch.
30th over: Australia 86-2 (Labuschagne 35, Smith 34) This is an accurate spell from Thakur – very straight, no funny stuff – but what India really need is a wicket or three. Without Bumrah and Ashwin this attack looks fairly harmless, certainly by Indian standards.
The moment I type that, Thakur cracks Labuschagne in the box and knocks him off his feet. Harmless that was not.
29th over: Australia 86-2 (Labuschagne 35, Smith 34) India have won their last four Test series against Australia, which will make this (probable) defeat even more painful. Labuschagne drives Jadeja for a single, then Smith late cuts classily for two. Australia lead by 257.
28th over: Australia 84-2 (Labuschagne 34, Smith 32) Labuschagne is beaten, cutting lazily at a wide ball from Thakur. That aside it’s a quiet over, and time for drinks.
“You talk about Labuschagne’s nap and how it worked for Sir Viv, but you didn’t describe Marnus’ walk to the wicket,” says Adam Roberts. “Viv took about half an hour to get from boundary to crease and I am sure it was to get his sleepy eyes used to the light and generally wake up.”
Talking of which, I’ve always adored this profile of Viv that Mike Selvey wrote for Wisden.com in the early 2000s. It made me realise that web writing could and should always be as good as print, or at least aspire to be. Oh well!
27th over: Australia 82-2 (Labuschagne 33, Smith 32) A good delivery from Jadeja straightens to take the edge as Smith fiddles defensively. The ball lands just short of Shubman Gill at slip and runs away for four.
“In response to Richard O’Hagan, it was the Old Trafford draw that McGrath didn’t play,” writes another Richard. “I remember, as I was there on that amazing fifth day at Old Trafford, early start!”
A very early start it seems, because you’ve forgotten McGrath helping Brett Lee block out the last four overs!
26th over: Australia 74-2 (Labuschagne 33, Smith 24) India look flat in the field. They’re not bowling badly, but the ball is approaching middle age and it’s not as vibrant as it once was.
Thakur puts his hands on his head when Smith works one off middle stump for a single. Who’s going to break it to him that Steve Smith has played that shot a gazillion times, and it definitely doesn’t count as a near miss?
“The technical term for the 2005 series is ‘void’ due to McGrath’s absence,” says David Alcock. “Bless you Stu.”
What was he up to with that nonsense? Just amusing himself in a slightly childish way? If so, I’m here for it.
25th over: Australia 72-2 (Labuschagne 32, Smith 23) No turn yet for Jadeja, who is milked comfortably for four runs. The mood of this innings has changed completely since Mohammed Siraj was raising hell before tea.
“The reason you don’t mind about McGrath’s injury in the 2005 Ashes is that dealing with issues around injuries and poor form is part of what long series are about,” says Andy Flintoff. “Those who have followed England abroad in the last few decades will know that this is what’s being tested on tour.”
Not quite sure it’s that, though I take your point and certainly wouldn’t abuse you on the information superhighway for expressing it. There are a few reasons I’m sure, but essentially I think I was just less idealistic when I was younger.
24th over: Australia 68-2 (Labuschagne 31, Smith 20) Thakur replaces Siraj. Labuschagne pulls a loosener for four, inside-edges past the stumps, is beaten chases an outswinger and then kindly does nothbing of note for the remainder of the over because this sentence is already too long.
“I thought of Alan Knott (14th over) but seemed to remember he batted at No7 usually,” begins Romeo, “but in fact he batted at No8 33 times in his Test career of 92 matches.
“What I’m asking myself is who batted at No7 above him? I suppose it was Ray Illingworth early on and I’ve seen Fred Titmus did too but otherwise I don’t know and haven’t got enough life left to look. Can anyone help?”
Botham was the first player who came to mind (he usually does), and I forgot Tony Greig. Here’s the full list of people who batted No7 for England in Tests involving Knott. As you said, Ray Illingworth is the main one.
23rd over: Australia 62-2 (Labuschagne 26, Smith 19) Ravi Jadeja does come into the attack, though he only has one close fielder, a slip, for Smith. India need wickets surely. It’s a quiet first over, with both teams happy to take a look.
22nd over: Australia 60-2 (Labuschagne 26, Smith 17) Smith has noticed a fella in a red T-shirt behind the bowler’s arm, so there’s a break in play while they wait for him to move. Eventually he does, though it looked quite grudging.
When play resumes, Smith works Siraj off the pads for a single. He has so much time to play the ball at the moment. Labuschagne inside-edges a nipbacker onto the pad, then drives handsomely to the extra-cover boundary. Australia lead by 233 runs, and it’s definitely time for Ravi Jadeja to come on.
21st over: Australia 55-2 (Labuschagne 22, Smith 16) Steve Smith could be out next ball and nobody would remember his innings of 16 in the WTC final, but it has changed the mood of the day and probably extinguished India’s last hope. Probably.
“Call me odd, but I would much rather play an Ashes where everyone on both sides was at full strength, rather than one where one side or the other was weakened by injury and/or poor form,” says Richard O’Hagan. “Thrilling though the 2005 series was, the pleasure has always been tempered (at least in my mind) by the knowledge that the two games England won were the two where Australia did not have McGrath.”
That’s interesting. I have a not dissimilar feeling about the 2019 World Cup final, though McGrath’s absence in 2005 has never bothered me. Not sure why.
20th over: Australia 51-2 (Labuschagne 19, Smith 15) The ball isn’t zipping as much for Siraj in his second spell, and Labuschagne has enough time to guide the ball towards the third-man boundary for three runs. That brings up the Australian fifty, and things feel a lot calmer than they did 20 minutes ago.
“Re: your earlier comments, how about a combined cricket/golf Ashes?” says John Starbuck. “Three teams of fourball players (including a 12th player) to alternate with Test days or rained-off cricket time. A special match of mixed genders to settle the whole series. What do you mean, the Hundred?”
I mean there’s quite a lot to unpick there.
19th over: Australia 47-2 (Labuschagne 16, Smith 14) Now that he’s quietened the crowd, Smith is starting to settle into his innings. He defends/leaves against Yadav before stealing a quick single to mid-on to keep the strike. He has 14 from 19 balls, Labuschagne 16 from 49. It might be time for India to bring on Ravi Jadeja.
18th over: Australia 46-2 (Labuschagne 16, Smith 13) Smith batted watchfully at the start of his innings on day one, but today he has come out swinging. The match situation was different then, of course, and I’m sure he feels in better nick after his century.
Siraj replaces Shami, who bowled a short three-over spell, and starts with a quiet over – one from it. Australia lead by 219.
“I have to disagree with Aggers,” says John Rouffas. “I love that there is bounce and the batters are being tested. It’s good to see their technique challenged. It’s what you don’t get with T20. Rather see it bouncing around than playing on a dustbowl.”
I haven’t been listening to TMS but I’d imagine it’s only the uneven/dangerous bounce that he is criticising. Everybody loves an Oval trampoline so long as the bounce is consistent; indeed, one of the all-time great England wins was on a classic Oval flyer.
17th over: Australia 45-2 (Labuschagne 16, Smith 12) Yadav beats Smith with a good one outside off stump; Smith responds with a cracking back-foot drive to the cover boundary.
“Rob,” says David Bowen. “Hope you don’t mind I didn’t put ‘Hi’ before your name. I always find that passive aggressive but I don’t mean to convey that to you.
”Anyway, hi Rob. How are you? So many lost overs has got me confused. Which doesn’t take much these days sadly. Anyway, is the Oval being used as a venue for something else in the evenings? A Simply Red tribute act perhaps? Why does play have to stop at 6pm when there is at least an hour of sunlight remaining? Thanking you.”
Rules and regulations, blah blah, health and safety, blah blah blah. I forget the ins and outs (and the what-have-yous) but I have a vague memory that it’s far more difficult to extend a day’s play than it might seem to us internet idealists. And yes to no ‘Hi’, and indeed no ‘Rob’. I prefer informality, unless it manifests as a bit of the old ultrabuse.
16th over: Australia 40-2 (Labuschagne 16, Smith 8) I hate to break it to the England fans, but I think Steve Smith might be Steve Smith again. He pulls Shami emphatically for four, then takes a single to move to eight from four balls. Steve Waugh used to seize initiatives like this, then settle down for the long haul.
His approach is infectious: since Smith arrived, Labuschagne has hit his first two boundaries. After being beaten by a jaffa from Shami, he flicks crisply wide of mid-on.
15th over: Australia 31-2 (Labuschagne 12, Smith 3) Steve Smith sets the agenda by flicking his first ball off the pads for three, and then Labuschagne tucks a poor ball off the pads for a much needed boundary. Even allowing for post-wicket excitement, India can’t afford to give away seven runs like that; they need to be almost perfect if they are to win this match.
“Re: Siraj’s deliveries that are bouncing so sharply,” begins Tim Stafford. “Jonathan Agnew on TMS was trying to sound as livid as possible about the state of the pitch before tea, and saying such extravagant bounce has no place in Test cricket, rather than giving any credit to Siraj or to the spectacle in general.”
I think he does have a point – this shouldn’t really be happening on day three – but we’ve seen much worse pitches: Brisbane 1974, Jamaica 1986 and 1998 come to mind immediately. And it is, as you say, a great spectacle (if a slightly guilty one).
WICKET! Australia 24-2 (Khawaja c Bharat b Yadav 13)
Yeah, Matthew Hayden knows about Test batting. The pressure has told, with Khawaja falling to Yadav. He chased a very wide delivery, almost certainly a response to the growing scoreboard pressure, and snicked a drive through to Bharat.
14th over: Australia 24-1 (Khawaja 13, Labuschagne 8) Matthew Hayden, who has 8,625 Test runs more than me, doesn’t agree with Australia’s cautious approach. Far be it from me to point out that he once made a 77-ball 19 in a Test match. He also once scored 380 at almost a run a ball, so there’s that to consider.
Hayden’s point is that Australia, Labuschagne certainly, are becoming sitting ducks. He is beaten by a trampolining delivery from Shami, then gets a crucial inside-edge onto the pad.
“I hope this isn’t cheating because I heard the answer to your question on TMS earlier, but the answer is an idol from my childhood, A.P.E. Knott,” says Jezz. “The Red Adair of many an England batting lineup in the 70s.”
It is indeed, and here’s the proof (h/t Travis Basevi, who we miss dearly). Imagine the fun Alan Knott would have had in T20, and the shots he would have invented.
13th over: Australia 24-1 (Khawaja 13, Labuschagne 8) Umesh Yadav is on for Shardul Thakur. He’s another mid-thirtysomething in this game, and it shows on the speedgun as he tries to get loose: the fastest ball is about 83mph, and Khawaja is able to leave most deliveries outside off stump. This has been a new-ball pitch, so you can understand why Australia are taking their time.
“As much as I’ve been enjoying Bazball, isn’t it nice to see a bit of proper cricket?” says Pete Salmon. “I’d quite like to see these two take the score along to about 1/91 at stumps, Usman just past 50, Marnus on something like 32. Like back in the old days of 2021.”
Arf. In fairness, Bazball and proper cricket aren’t mutually exclusive. England’s innings at Old Trafford last year is a good example of PC. Having Ben Foakes at the crease for a long time helped, but Ben Stokes also did the sour metres before exploding in the last third of his innings.
12th over: Australia 24-1 (Khawaja 13, Labuschagne 8) Mohammed Shami replaces Mohammed Siraj, who produced some hot hot heat before tea. Just a no-ball from the over, which included an extravagant inducker that was well left by Labuschagne.
“Scintillating cricket,” says Brian Withington. “Never mind defenestration, what’s the correct term for trying to remove someone’s fingers with a Dukes ball - aristocratic dedigitisation? Or would that be (assault and) analoguery? Asking for a friend.”
Here come the players. We’re about to start the evening session. We’re also, in terms of overs bowled, at the halfway point of the day: 45 down, 45 to go (or however many they can fit in before 6pm local time).
Teatime quiz Shardul Thakur has already scored three half-centuries in Oval Tests. Only one man has scored more on that ground while batting from No8-11. Who is it, and don’t cheat because we know where you live.
Australia lead by 196 That was a ferocious new-ball spell from India, Mohammed Siraj in particular. He made short work of David Warner and then gave Marnus Labuschagne a ferocious working-over that included two nasty blows on the top hand. Australia remain well on top, but India aren’t going quietly.
11th over: Australia 23-1 (Khawaja 13, Labuschagne 8) This over from Thakur will be the last before tea. Bharat has come up to the stumps to stop Labuschagne taking guard outside his crease, which is a good move. For now Labuschagne is probably just relieved to be away from Siraj, though he does keep the strike by taking a single off the last ball of the over. That’s tea.
10th over: Australia 22-1 (Khawaja 13, Labuschagne 7) Australia need to remember – not that it’s easy amid the maelstrom – that they are almost 200 runs ahead. Okay, I take that back: the batters are just trying to survive, and the hell with the match situation. Labuschagne has been nailed by a lifter from Siraj, which again jammed his top hand against the bat. As Ricky Ponting says on commentary, it’s very unusual to see somebody hit twice on the top hand in a full innings, never mind in the space of 20 minutes.
Labuschagne is knocked off his feet by the next ball, a big nipbacker that hits on the pad. Siraj enquires for LBW but it was far too high. This is some spell from Siraj, particularly to Labuschagne.
9th over: Australia 19-1 (Khawaja 12, Labuschagne 5) Shardul Thakur, the Oval specialist, replaces Mohammed Shami (4-1-5-0). Nothing much happens, just three singles.
“Speaking of golf-fuelled cricket, wasn’t it nice to see that Jonny Bairstow has sired a son,” says Richard O’Hagan. “And a mere nine months and five days after his golf accident, too. I shall look forward to the lad’s England debut in 20 years’ time.”
The science really is changing on rehab, isn’t it.
8th over: Australia 16-1 (Khawaja 11, Labuschagne 3) India would love to pick up another wicket in the 15 minutes or so before tea. They almost get it when Khawaja chases a wide one from Siraj and is beaten.
It’s hot out there, litaphorically. Siraj beats Khawaja again two balls later, this time with another zinging awayseamer from over the wicket. He has bowled marvellously in this spell, although he might want to put the short ball away: for the second time in as many overs, Khawaja pulls smoothly for four. Really good cricket.
7th over: Australia 12-1 (Khawaja 7, Labuschagne 3) Labuschagne has gone from zzz to frantic. He’s rightly sent back by Khawaja and has to scamper towards his crease, though he’s comfortably home by the time Yadav’s throw detonates the stumps.
“Good afternoon,” says Krishnamoorthy V. “You must be the only person other than Shashi Tharoor who has used the word ‘defenestrated’. But your candour in how you would analyze the Ashes is refreshing :)”
I’m not actually going to do that, mainly because those jobs are all taken. It’s just hard to know what constitutes good preparation these days, especially as the most exciting English Test cricket we have ever seen seems to have been fuelled largely by vibes and rounds of golf.
6th over: Australia 12-1 (Khawaja 7, Labuschagne 3) Labuschagne leaves a ball from Siraj that swings back a long way. It was nowhere near the stumps, but it’s another reminder to the batters that this new ball is doing a fair bit in the air and off the pitch.
Labuschagne fences a nasty lifter towards gully, sets off instinctively and then changes his mind. Khawaja hares straight past him, and Labuschagne would have been serious trouble had Shubman Gill thrown to the non-striker’s end. He didn’t.
Khawaja is also surprised by some extra bounce from Siraj and pulls his glove off the handle. But he ends the over positively with a confident, wristy pull for four.
5th over: Australia 5-1 (Khawaja 3, Labuschagne 0) Shami appeals – okay, enquires – for a catch behind when Khawaka misses a pull down the leg side. There’s a zestier appeal later in the over when Khawaja pushes round an inducker, but it’s too high.
“Afternoon Rob, looking beautiful out there,” says Tom Wills. “A parochial question - in this this era of truncated tours (46 days for five Ashes Tests!) how much of an advantage do you think this game gives Australia’s batters going into the Edgbaston Test? Lots of batting practice against a swinging Dukes ball...”
Honestly, no idea. It feels like all cricket wisdom has been defenestrated in the past 12 months, so I’m reserving judgement on every aspect of the series until the 46th day, at which point I’ll work backwards and pick apart one team’s preparation accordingly.
4th over: Australia 2-1 (Khawaja 1, Labuschagne 0) That was such a brilliant shot of Labuschagne, who was woken by the roar of the crowd and stood up bleary-eyed. He’s wide awake now, because Siraj has just pinned him on the glove with a vicious seaming lifter. Labuschagne drops his bat instinctively, hops around for a bit … and then starts smiling. He’s such a batting deviant.
That was a spectacular over from Siraj, a wicket maiden that has energised the crowd.
WICKET! Australia 2-1 (Warner c Bharat b Siraj 1)
Siraj zips a gorgeous delivery across Warner and past the outside edge. He beats him again next ball, at which point the camera cuts to the No3 Marnus Labuschagne snoozing in his pads. It worked for Sir Viv.
Hold on, wake up Marnus! Warner has gone, edging Siraj low to Bharat. It was a loose stroke, a back-foot force with no foot movement, though he was probably unsettled by the quality of the preceding deliveries. Siraj certainly earned that wicket.
3rd over: Australia 2-0 (Khawaja 1, Warner 1) Australia are in no hurry – the match is only just at its halfway point – and that’s another quiet over from Shami.
“Have Aus ever had two 36-year-old openers before?” wonders Gary Naylor. “Until Packer, once they hit 30, they usually had to go and work as a bank clerk in Moonee Ponds to pay the mortgage.”
I was going to say Test cricket has become an old-man’s game until I remembered some of the sexagenarians still playing T20. As for the actual question, I’d have to double check but I think the last time Australia had two openers aged 36 and over was at Lord’s in 1926, when Herbie Collins and Warren Bardsley walked out to begin the first innings. The younger Jack Gregory (not to be confused with Jack Gregory the Younger) opened in place of Bardsley in the second innings. But like I say, I’d have to check.
2nd over: Australia 1-0 (Khawaja 1, Warner 0) Khawaja is turned round by a beauty from Mohammed Siraj, with the ball ending up in the hands of Bharat. India appeal desperately for caught behind, LBW and everything else, but the umpire isn’t interested and Rohit Sharma decides not to review.
It’s the right decision: the ball pitched miles outside leg, may not have touched the bat and bounced short of Bharat anyway. Good ball though.
1st over: Australia 1-0 (Khawaja 1, Warner 0) Mohammed Shami starts round the wicket to Khawaja, with two slips and a gully. Shami’s record in England – 40 wickets at 42 – is a scandal given how well he has bowled for much of that time, particularly in 2018 when he almost broke the Expected Wickets algorithm.
Khawaja flicks a single to off the mark, then Warner defends a couple of widish outswingers.
Thanks Geoff, hello everyone. Usman Khawaja and David Warner walk out to bat with a liberating lead of 173. India aren’t completely out of this, but they might need to bowl Australia out for 36 to have a realistic chance of victory.
The innings break. That seems like a good time for a commentary handover. Please give a stirring round of applause to your friend and mine, Rob Smyth.
History’s best with the bat, argues Andrew Brittain, is “surely” Victor Trumper.
“Inventor of the ‘dog shot’, that is so liberally applied in the short forms these days.”
If you asked me what a dog shot is, I’d think it was punching someone when they weren’t looking. Total dog shot, mate.
Rahane’s innings was the highlight of today. Really stood up when needed, handled the conditions well, and made the most of his slice of luck. But despite all the misses, Australia’s quality of bowling throughout was ominous for the weeks ahead.
69.4 overs: India 296-10 (Shami 10) Well, if India achieved one thing this morning, it was making sure there was no more follow-on chat. They’re 173 runs behind, and they’ve at least assured that the Australians will have some thinking to do about how to go from here.
WICKET! Shami c Carey b Starc 13, India all out 296
There’s the coup de foie gras. Starc belts in a short ball, wicked pace on that watching from behind the arm, and Shami’s attempted pull only gets a touch of glove.
It's over... then it's not
69th over: India 294-9 (Shami 11, Siraj 0) Siraj is belted on the ankle by Green, given out, reviews it without any sense that he’s going to be reprieved, and then the tech finds a little inside edge. By that time half the Australians have left the field and have to come back. Even Siraj was trailing off towards the boundary line.
WICKET! Thakur c Carey b Green 51, India 294 for 9
Sighs of relief for the Australians, as finally their torment ends. Thakur has another huge wind-up and aims it all at a ball outside off stump. Hits about 2% of it. Into the keeper’s gloves.
Half century! Thakur 51 from 108 balls
68th over: India 292-8 (Thakur 51, Shami 10) Spanked that! Straight drive, right past Cummins in his follow through, races away. Then he doubles down with a cover drive that is half stopped, but still goes all the way.
67th over: India 282-8 (Thakur 41, Shami 10) Innovation from Shami! The leading edge drive, to the off side of straight. He’s aiming that through midwicket and ends up with four on the far side of the bowler. Then gets an inside edge past his off stump and past Carey! Eight runs in two balls. Brendon McCullum must be involved in this, surely. Boland shifts his square leg behind the line. Shami whips the ball in front of square! Makes that man run all the way around to keep the scoring to two. He’s suddenly in double figs and that’s a productive over for India. Deficit down to 187.
66th over: India 271-8 (Thakur 40, Shami 0) Mohammed Shami comes out to bat. If Umesh is your No9, honestly, you’re in a bit of strife.
WICKET! Umesh Yadav b Cummins 5, India 271-8
Cummins a little short at Thakur, who deflects a run to deep square. Wonder if that was deliberate from the bowler to turn over the strike. Five balls at Umesh to come. Leg slip comes in, two regular slips and Green in the wingspan zone. Cummins rips one past the edge, top drawer.
Then Umesh gets four! Not textbook. Jumps in the air, and while mid-air reaches outside off stump, jabbing the bat at a wide line, edging it between gully and point. Hit a six, champ.
No sixes coming. Because he’s bowled. Standard Cummins: on line, hard length, decks in a bit, hits everything. Umesh’s six percentage drops to 31.37.
65th over: India 266-7 (Thakur 39, Umesh 1) Boland with another tidy over but Thakur gets through it comfortably, taking a late single.
A question from OBO regular Brian Withington.
“Idly wondering what sort of attention this game between the top Test-playing nations is getting back in Australia, compared with say the forthcoming Ashes series? In passing, do you think England could gainfully host more Test matches that don’t feature the host nation, especially given the potential enthusiastic support from the diaspora of various test playing (and aspiring) nations?”
Absolutely. I suspect that Bangladesh or Pakistan matches could get good attendances here, especially in certain cities. There is a story bubbling away about the Melbourne Cricket Ground campaigning to host an India-Pakistan Test, given neither country will tour the other. Diaspora crowds can fill out an India match in most countries these days, and some non-diaspora fans will also travel for the novelty.
64th over: India 265-7 (Thakur 38, Umesh 1) Here’s a stat for you: of players to have hit more than five Test sixes, Umesh Yadav has the second highest proportion of his career runs from going over the rope. Just under 32 percent, which is what Hasan Ali has as the ladder leader.
He survives most of an over from Cummins though, and even scores a single off the bat.
63rd over: India 263-7 (Thakur 37, Umesh 0) Shardul Thakur takes a single off Boland, leg bye in fact. Umesh Yadav on strike. This may not last long. He knows one way, and it’s mind the windows. But he too gets off strike thanks to a leg bye, into the thigh pad. The last partnership was 109.
62nd over: India 261-7 (Thakur 37) The wicket falls from the last ball of the over, and Cummins at last gets his second.
WICKET! Rahane c Green b Cummins 89, India 261 for 7
What a catch that is! The old classic: Green drops the straightfoward one and then takes the world-beater. Flying edge from Rahane’s drive, flying catch from Green away to his right, one huge arm snaking out like a sci-fi tentacle to reach that ball. Rahane’s fine innings comes to an end.
61st over: India 260-6 (Rahane 89, Thakur 36) Nip-backers deluxe from Boland to start, Rahane blocking studiously from the crease. A maiden over.
The second session will begin as did the first, with Scott Boland from the Vauxhall End.
The players are returning after the luncheon interval. Ahem. Adjust your bow ties, please, and stand to attention.
Painful, that stuff, innit?
Cue the old “How many IPL runs did Bradman make,” I guess.
If you want to see that ICC cable knit that Guy Hornsby wrote in about, feast your eyes.
Lunch - India 260 for 6, trailing by 209 on the first innings
That was quite the session for those who like Australians dropping their bundle. And their catches. Two drops from Thakur, one drop from Rahane, and the no-ball lbw overturn against Thakur to go with Rahane getting the same reprieve yesterday. This has been a celestially blessed partnership for India, currently worth 108 runs.
Rahane will come back after the break with another overseas hundred in his sights, and Thakur will… well, who knows what Thakur is thinking at any given time. He’s about action, not contemplation.
KS Bharat was knocked over as soon as the day began, bowled by a Boland beauty, but the number of wicket-taking deliveries to follow have not taken any wickets. Back with you in half an hour or so.
60th over: India 260-6 (Rahane 89, Thakur 36) Talk about an eventful over before lunch. India’s review upheld, Australia’s review rejected, and India walk back with their seventh-wicket partnership intact.
Review struck down
Australia losing composure. This time Thakur is plunging forward at a ball outside off stump, the ball zipping past his edge. Carey thinks there is a nick, Cummins is talked into the review, and there’s nothing on the soundwave.
Goodness me. It’s another overstep for Cummins, and another wicket wiped away. Great pace, great line, some movement off the seam inward, Shardul Thakur is nowhere against this ball. Smashes his pad in front of middle and leg. Given out on the field, so the review only needs it to clip the stumps. But the review shows the front foot is over, his sixth time this innings.
59th over: India 259-6 (Rahane 89, Thakur 36)
More email flattery comes in, from Guy Hornsby.
“Morning Geoff, absolutely loved your cable knit WTC cricket jumper on last night’s The Final Word Daily. Where fashion and sport collide in the best way. Not sure I could sport that in Sicily today, where it’s 31 degrees. This is a great fightback from this pair, and you’d hope this goes to five days of hard fought cricket, though they’d need another 100 at least to sway that. Australia’s excellent performance is doing nothing for my Ashes nerves either, despite the nature of causality and past performance and future performance and all that.”
They’re on the way, Guy, as Rahane jumps onto his back foot and punches Lyon away sublimely through backward point. Shot! And raises the hundred partnership. Then gets forward two balls later and drives through cover for the same result. Behind by 210. This is some innings from Ajinkya Rahane.
58th over: India 249-6 (Rahane 80, Thakur 35) Standing ovation from the JM Finn stand, as Thakur pings away a flick shot from Cummins for four! It rockets to the fence down there behind square leg.
The partnership is up to 97, the deficit is down to 220.
57th over: India 244-6 (Rahane 79, Thakur 31) At last it’s time for Nathan Lyon to have a bowl. Doesn’t start well, overpitches and Rahane drives him through cover for four. But Lyon doesn’t take long to settle, squaring up Thakur first ball to him
56th over: India 239-6 (Rahane 74, Thakur 31) Cummins back on to bowl and there’s another drop in the cordon! To quote Darren Lehmann, what the blank is going on? Big drive from Rahane, thick edge, flies hard and high to Warner’s left. Tough chance, has to throw his hand at it and only has time to get one hand up. Like he was halfway through the first YMCA move. But if anyone was going to take that, it’s Warner, a freak at those sharp ones. Instead the ball ricochets away for a couple of runs. Wonder if that was Carey’s catch? He did twitch at it, and there has been miscommunication between Carey and his slips before.
55th over: India 234-6 (Rahane 71, Thakur 30) A cover drive for three, and the Master of the Mumbai maidans raises 5000 Test runs for his career. Nice to see him getting this chance to return to the team, he’s been a champion performer for India especially in tougher contests away from home.
Jeremy Yapp also knows how to nail an introduction.
“Loving the commentary as always but most of all, thanks for the searching examination of Steve Smith’s technique. That article will be required reading in the England camp, I’m guessing. Now, given that this is unlikely to be the closest or toughest Test Australia plays this summer, should they treat this as the ultimate grand final and pinnacle, or is it a warm-up? Let’s say Australia takes a healthy lead into the second innings and the top three does well. Is it cynical to play Green at 4 (and even Carey at 5) given that Smith and Travball have already had a bat? The answer to that will tell us a lot about how seriously this team is taking the ICC Championship concept.”
I think they could do both, if they were far enough ahead, and changing the order wouldn’t mean the match didn’t matter. But they would most likely stick to script to avoid any disruption in approach.
Still, one thing most of us do in cricket is get ahead of ourselves. We look at the way things have gone, and extrapolate that they must continue the same way. But cricket trajectories are not even. They’re not predictable. A wicket will probably fall soon and Australia will wrap things up, but perhaps these two will bat all day and change the game. That’s why we watch it, for the times when the unexpected happens. And no matter how many times we’ve seen the unexpected happen, we’re still surprised when it does.
54th over: India 229-6 (Rahane 68, Thakur 29) The Australians will be increasingly irritated by the fact that Shardul Thakur is still there. This is his knack. Gets a little nick (a nick knack?) that doesn’t carry to Carey. Windscreen-wipes at a ball outside off stump and misses. Then thrashes Starc for a cut shot through point for four.
53rd over: India 223-6 (Rahane 67, Thakur 24) Green bowling, another nudge for Rahane through point for one. I wondered how many of his runs he has scored there. Then I remembered that I can look up things like that. It makes 27 of them, close to half his score, between point and deep third. Thakur gets him back on strike, and Rahane plays a rare leg glance to diversify his portfolio.
The deficit is 246.
52nd over: India 220-6 (Rahane 65, Thakur 23) Starc on the long lop to the middle. Thakur loves to hit the ball unnecessarily hard. Tries another through cover and misses it. Gets a run to fine leg to follow. We’re down to two slips now. Starc smashes Rahane on the pad but via the inside edge, and there’s a ricochet run to backward point.
“Morning Geoff, excellent article on the resurgent Smudge,” writes Theo Boardman-Pretty. A polite start and an excellent name, good work.
“Looking ahead to next week, my thoughts are at the other end of the wicket: what happens when the tight line of Scott Boland (Test economy 2.18) meets the unstoppable force of Bazball (run rate 4.76 before the Ireland game)? Wickets, I suspect…”
This is what I’m interested in. Sometimes, a very consistent bowler can be lined up by an attacking team. If they’re willing to hit off the top of the bounce. But that brings attendant risk. No doubt England will go for it, so it’s whether Boland gets enough from the pitch and can adapt. He was the best T20 death bowler in the country for a few years, so he’s dealt with attacking batting before.
51st over: India 217-6 (Rahane 64, Thakur 22) A rare quiet over from Green. Rahane pulls a single. Thakur squirts one along the floor. A bit like my housemate’s cat.
50th over: India 215-6 (Rahane 63, Thakur 21) Starc comes round the wicket at the right-handers after drinks, looking for that angle in at the stumps. Strays down leg to Thakur after Rahane works a single. Once his line carries past off stump, Thakur can’t help reaching at it. But when Starc gets too full, Shardul just about throws out his spinal alignment thrashing it through cover.
Not surprising that many of our readers, like Sam, are seeing this as a three-way contest. Dean Kinsella is at the ground, I assume.
“Really enjoying the cricket in the blazing sun. I hope its not too anglocentric to describe it as a curtain raiser for the main event, but its really getting Ashes juices flowing. Great to have a chance to see the Aussies in action against high class opposition. I don’t know who benefits most - the Aussies to ‘warm up’ in a proper game, or England to have a good look at the opposition. I suspect that if India can somehow miraculously turn this game around the dent in Australian confidence might just swing it in England’s favour. Come on Jinx!”
Bring back the Test Triangular Series from 1912! Bring back Warren Bardsley!
Drinks for Jinks. And well, yes, the head agrees with this…
… but another 55 minutes like the previous 55 would make things fun.
49th over: India 209-6 (Rahane 62, Thakur 16) The luck is with India again this morning. Cameron Green replaces Boland, fires one in fast at the pads that beats Rahane for pace, and clobbers him in front. Umpire says the angle might be taking it down leg. Australia review, and it shows red, red, orange. Not quite nailing the leg stump firmly enough to overturn the call. Rahane celebrates by slashing a boundary off the top edge over slip, streaky, then plays a no-follow-through gem of a cover drive for four more. Just steps into that and holds the pose. Steers a single to deep point. Eventful over! The weirdest part is Shardul Thakur offering a leave to the last ball.
48th over: India 199-6 (Rahane 53, Thakur 15) Mitchell Starc on for a spell, replacing Cummins. One six and the skipper takes himself off? (That’s a joke.) Still, a win for India to get through that period, though it was the missed catch that did it. Starc slings them across the right-handers, gives up a couple of singles.
Richard O’Hagan writes in about the follow-on, or not. “How much do you think that the predicted heat over the weekend will play a part in that decision? I know it won’t be as much of an issue for either team as it is for we locals but surely it is still a factor when thinking about how much rest your bowlers might need? (On that note, I’m playing a club game tomorrow and looking forward to our new Aussie all-rounder finally going an entire match without whining about how cold it is).”
Australians in England in June have a constitutional right to complain about the cold, Richard. We will always defend that. The Met Office says a high of 29 over the weekend, which is pleasant early spring weather for either of these teams, so I doubt it’ll be a factor. If things go Australia’s way it’ll still be a Day 4 finish. Or the current pair pile on another 150 and make things interesting.
They trail by 269 runs.
47th over: India 196-6 (Rahane 52, Thakur 13) Boland carries on, Shardul Thakur showing some discipline with his blocking and leaving, then deflecting a ball to the fine leg boundary off his pad, and gamely dropping a short ball into the leg side, again imperilling his gloves. He’s been battered today, not sure how his bowling will go after this.
Half century! Rahane 52 from 92 balls
46th over: India 191-6 (Rahane 52, Thakur 12) A sudden flurry from Rahane! First he plays that same sort of shot, using the pace to deflect through point for four. Then Cummins drops a touch shorter and Rahane gets under a hook shot for six! Uses the pace and sends it over fine leg. Fair chance this is Rahane’s last Test, and if so he’s going out in style.
45th over: India 178-6 (Rahane 41, Thakur 10) Rahane nicks one from Boland, but softly enough that it drops short of Green this time. It’s tense out there. Just before that he drove a couple more runs.
“Thinking about the best-case scenario for the teams,” writes Sam Jeffers. “For Australia: Enforce follow on, India cave, game over late today. For India: Aus enforce follow on, India bat well (and slowly). Australia still win, but have to bat twice.For England: See India. It’s strange to have three teams playing a game of cricket.”
I’m telling you, there will be no follow-on.
44th over: India 175-6 (Rahane 39, Thakur 9) Cummins in again, and Thakur is dropped again! Having some luck here, if you can call it that, given it means he has to stay out there and keep being peppered. Straightforward at gully for Green, the edge flies hard but straight at his midriff, hits his palms and bounces back out. Can’t grab the rebound with Khawaja also sprawling towards it from slip. More contact as Cummins hits Thakur in the stomach. The batter swings wildly outside off, then finally connects with one for a run. There was another front-foot no ball in that over too, Cummins keeps overstepping.
43rd over: India 173-6 (Rahane 39, Thakur 8) Meanwhile, Rahane is playing like a dream. Soft hands, defending away. Boland from the Vauxhall End defused, then dabbed for a couple of runs. Beaten on the outside edge, then strides into a Meg Lanning style shot, straight bat, no follow-through, just places the bat in the line of the ball to send it through backward point for four.
A message in from India, name withheld. Controversial.
“Well, the follow-on looks inevitable unless the Aussies are very confident in their bowling in the 4th innings. I am still holding out hope for a classic day-long Pujara spell in our next innings, whenever that may be, to at least drag us to a draw! Off topic, it is very refreshing to be able to hear commentary on the radio again. All India Radio has the irritating habit of not covering cricket matches live. I suspect it is a combination of lack of rights and lack of interest, this being a one-off series perhaps helping the former. Either way, it’s refreshing.”
I would say that the chance of a follow-on is zero. Even if India are out quickly here, Australia will still want to give their players another bat – given this is their only planned match. Could be a a lovely centre-wicket net against top-line bowlers, especially for Warner, Khawaja, Green.
And yes, live cricket on the radio in India has been defunct for a couple of decades now, hasn’t it? Makes little sense given the interest in that market and the reach radio can have in regional areas, but TV is considered king by anyone in power there.
42nd over: India 167-6 (Rahane 33, Thakur 8) Nasty from Cummins! The ball rears from a length and clatters Thakur on his back arm. The physio comes and gives him a check, Thakur decides to bat on, and immediately gets hit again. Same spot, right forearm, on the fleshy bit but it’ll still hurt plenty. There’s a longer delay for more physio treatment. Several people out there. They put an arm guard on him. Horse, meet stable door… oh, you can’t. Third ball in this lengthy sequence, in at the gloves! Smashes them. Punched away, literally. This is very unfriendly bowling. Then Cummins rips one past the outside edge! Thakur pulls the bat away too late, after stepping across. He was in all sorts. Breathes a sigh of relief that the over has finished.
41st over: India 166-6 (Rahane 32, Thakur 8) That ball goes wild! Pitches more towards a leg stump line but it careers off the seam way down leg side for four byes. Some movement. Then Boland draws a genuine edge from Thakur that flies away for four more. Undeservedly expensive over.
40th over: India 157-6 (Rahane 30, Thakur 4) Cummins from the Pavilion End, and he’s also hitting a length and getting the ball to jag in. Rahane squeezes out a single off the inside edge. Thakur rides the bounce for two, then flashes outside off and is lucky to survive.
39th over: India 154-6 (Rahane 30, Thakur 2) That is such a Boland over. Wicket second ball. Cuts it in and smashes the gloves and body from the next couple. Then has a catch dropped at third slip! A tough one, over Khawaja’s head. He goes up with the ball, gets fingertips to it but tips it over the bar. Two runs result.
WICKET! Bharat b Boland 5, India 152-6
Goodness me! What a delivery. On the other hand, it’s standard Scott Boland. He’s so good at that. Rahane takes a single to the leg side first ball, a touch too straight. That’s all you get from Boland in terms of bad deliveries. The next one hits that hard length outside off stump, jams back off the seam, cuts Bharat in half, straight through the gate, and hits middle stump. Bharat ends up squared up, leaning over, trying to figure out how that got through him. Incisive.
Scott Boland with the ball in hand. Three slips and a gully for Rahane on strike. Cover is open. Deep backward point is out, interestingly. Fine leg the other in the deep. Mid off, mid on, midwicket.
Here come the teams out to the middle.
Another perfect day here at The Oval, might be a touch warmer than yesterday, scandalously venturing towards the mid 20s on the old Celcius scale. The roller is on the pitch preparing it for India’s resumption.
Send me an email? Had some inbox problems yesterday, sorry, and couldn’t post up messages. But fingers crossed we’re all good for today.
And if you’re the kind of person who wants to know about Steve Smith’s technique and what he’s changed with it, I will go there with you.
The headline assigned to this piece might be, just the tiniest bit, overstating it.
For the detail, get yourself across the match report from The Burning One himself.
Hola amigos. Day three of El Championship Test Mundial, or similar, is upon us. And let us be honest, India = in strife. They lost five wickets yesterday for nowhere near enough. And it’s not like the Australians bowled the house down, but they bowled well enough at the right spots to get some assistance from the surface now and then, and that was enough. The four deliveries from the quicks that knocked over India’s main batting crew all did heaps.
So it’s that old fighter Ajinkya Rahane resuming today with wicketkeeper KS Bharat, a mere 318 runs behind Australia’s 469. But they’re only one 300-run partnership away from parity, and Australia just about had one of those too, so it’s possible. Worth finding out, hmmm?