Stokes & Co pay big price for ignoring the basics NEIL MOXLEY BIG MATCH VERDICT
‘BAZBALL’ doesn’t take account of fine margins.
When that little cherry is disappearing into Row Z and bowlers are given uberattacking fields, it’s all about the buzz.
Pushing those boundaries and scoring them, too.
But in Ashes cricket you ignore the basics at your peril – as Jonny Bairstow and Stuart Broad found out to England’s cost.
One missed stumping, another missed catch and a noball at the worst time possible ensured Ben Stokes & Co paid a heavy price for their carelessness.
It could cost them this first Test.
The Aussies responded to England’s opening-day onslaught with all the grit and gumption you would expect.
They’re the world champs, not world chumps, after all.
On a featherbed Edgbaston pitch and with little movement through the air or off the seam, wickets were always going to be hard earned.
That meant chances needed to be taken.
And while both Broad and Bairstow had credit in the bank – the bowler claimed two early scalps to leave England dreaming, including one in which the wicketkeeper took a blinder – they ended up letting themselves down. The hosts could, would and should have been in a far stronger position than they were at the close.
Their clangers were that costly.
It now looks like Stokes’ gamble on Friday night could well backfire as the tourists eye a firstinnings lead.
The shine has already been taken off the second new ball and there will be plenty of life left in an Aussie tail that won’t be cut short by any declaration. Pat Cummins isn’t that daring, stupid or clever – take your pick – but he will want to bat long and deep this morning.
The bottom line is that anyone who watches elite sport knows there are key moments upon which the outcome rests.
And England will be hoping that they aren’t looking back in anger. It was there for them to have grabbed this one by the throat.
Moeen Ali had just announced his return to the big arena by snaring Travis Head who lost concentration and slapped him into Zak Crawley’s hands at short midwicket.
That left the Aussies still 250 runs behind with four men back in the hutch – and it should have been five. Two balls later,
Cameron Green left his ground taking an almighty swipe at the off-spinner and the ball turned and smacked Bairstow on the hand and bounced off it.
Despite the fact that the gloveman took a superb catch to dismiss Marnus Labuschagne, it immediately provoked discussions about whether Ben Foakes’ more refined skills should have been overlooked.
Ali eventually ended that 72run stand for the fifth wicket with a spiteful delivery that bowled Green through the gate.
However, in the last over before the second new ball was taken, Bairstow again failed.
Stokes was speeding through proceedings, using Joe Root and Harry Brook to ease the load on his frontline bowlers
Alex Carey had played a few decent shots but nibbled at one from the former and Bairstow was found wanting. It went down and worse was to follow.
Usman Khawaja, who had compiled a beautiful, patient, chancesless first ton on these shores, was castled by a special from Broad.
His wicket would have left the Aussies still some 130 runs shy – but Marias Erasmus called him back after the third umpire spotted a no-ball.
The yellow shirts from Down Under in the crowd whooped and hollered.
The decision drained the confidence from Stokes’ men. The last half-hour was torture as the visitors chipped away at the deficit.
They are now within sight of overhauling England. And the hosts have themselves to blame.
Broad and Bairstow had credit in the bank but they let themselves down badly