The day the Ashes were reignited

Scyld Berry, Paul Hay­ward and Nick Hoult on Ade­laide thriller Fi­nal-day news, re­ac­tion and anal­y­sis on tele­ now

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - Scyld Berry CRICKET CORRESPONDENT in Ade­laide

Cricket is some­times said to be a game of num­bers, but that ap­plies – if at all – to an or­di­nary match. Cricket in an Ashes se­ries is pri­mar­ily a game of psy­cho­log­i­cal su­pe­ri­or­ity.

Since day three of the Bris­bane Test, Aus­tralia have held that su­pe­ri­or­ity, but Eng­land have by no means been shat­tered and dev­as­tated, as they were by the end of the sec­ond Test on their last tour when they were al­ready too badly bruised and men­tally scarred by Mitchell John­son to re­cover. The cap­tains of both sides have seen to it that Eng­land have pre­served self-re­spect.

It was Steve Smith, iron­i­cally, who first helped Eng­land by not en­forc­ing the fol­low-on. So in­stead of be­ing wiped out by Aus­tralia on the third evening, when the new pink ball be­haved dev­il­ishly, Eng­land were al­lowed to run through Aus­tralia’s sec­ond in­nings for only 138. Their even­tual tar­get was no more than 354, where­upon Eng­land’s own cap­tain, Joe Root, raised his stan­dard and charged in a counter-at­tack that was Ashes cricket at its most thrilling.

In 2013-14, Alas­tair Cook could not set such a stir­ring ex­am­ple to rouse his troops, and by the end of the sec­ond Test Jonathan Trott had gone home, while Matt Prior and Graeme Swann were on their way out. Smith’s de­ci­sion to bat again, in prime bowl­ing time, guar­an­teed that James An­der­son and Chris Woakes would not go the same way. They picked up nine cheap wick­ets be­tween them af­ter a bar­ren run, be­fore Dawid Malan grew in stature dur­ing his stand of 78 with Root that re­fused to ac­knowl­edge Aus­tralia’s su­pe­ri­or­ity.

An­der­son so prof­ited from Smith’s de­ci­sion to bat again – which was a big­ger mis­judg­ment than Root’s to bowl first – that he helped him­self to his first fivewicket haul in Aus­tralia. An­der­son’s skill in max­imis­ing the swing-and-seam move­ment to be had on the third evening and fourth morn­ing was ex­treme.

This skill reached its apogee when An­der­son bowled in­swingers – and the odd outswinger – from round the wicket to the righthanded Smith. Very few right-arm pace bowlers have ever used this an­gle of at­tack suc­cess­fully at right-handed bats­men.

If Woakes was up­mar­ket bit­sand-pieces in the Bris­bane Test, he was a true all-rounder here. His first con­tri­bu­tion was to the face­sav­ing stand of 66 with Craig Over­ton, which went a long way to per­suad­ing Smith to rest his bowlers and bat again. He fol­lowed up with four wick­ets, two on the third day, then bounc­ing out Tim Paine on the fourth morn­ing and bowl­ing Shaun Marsh when he aimed to hit a straight ball through square-leg. Eng­land had needed no sec­ond in­vi­ta­tion to run through Aus­tralia, with no one scor­ing more than 20.

When the stage was set for Eng­land’s run-chase, the light­ing was as clear as could be at 4.15pm. The tar­get was lit­tle more than the 315 which Aus­tralia knocked off to de­feat Eng­land at Ade­laide in 1902 – the high­est suc­cess­ful run-chase here hith­erto.

Yet again Mark Stone­man ex­hib­ited the as­sur­ance of the se­nior open­ing part­ner, Cook the hes­i­tancy of the ju­nior. Stone­man peeled off six fours – mainly clips through mid­wicket – off his first 22 balls, be­fore Nathan Lyon came on and per­son­ally cut the scor­ing-rate to one run an over.

Lyon picked up Cook for a sec­ond time in this game – and the sev­enth in Tests – when Cook fell over while work­ing to leg, tak­ing Aus­tralia’s off-spin­ner ahead of In­dia’s Ravi Ash­win as the lead­ing Test wicket-taker of 2017.

Stone­man’s favourite stroke in the prac­tice games had been the front-foot cut, a risky shot against the new ball in Aus­tralia. In this in­nings, he played a back-foot cut, safely, then seemed caught in two minds – or else he had be­come so tied down by Lyon – that he merely pushed to gully some­thing else that was cut­table from Mitchell Starc. Stone­man, Malan and James Vince have all shown they can score runs in Aus­tralia, but that is a world away from scor­ing a Test cen­tury in Aus­tralia.

Root barely com­pro­mised on his ap­proach to play­ing him­self in: he might have been a lit­tle more mea­sured ei­ther side of tea, but that was all. Then he metaphor­i­cally pulled down the vi­sor of his hel­met and charged, un­per­turbed by the loss of Vince, who drove at a wide half-vol­ley just when Starc was find­ing re­verse away swing.

It was seat-of-the-pants stuff. Root was edgy with his cover-drives at first, but started to nail them as the ar­ti­fi­cial light re­placed the nat­u­ral. Malan gave a model dis­play of how to hang in un­til the bowl­ing at least seems eas­ier: he then took three fours in an over from Starc.

Eng­land were greatly as­sisted by Smith us­ing up his two un­suc­cess­ful re­views in two overs, be­fore he com­pounded his er­ror by drop­ping Malan when eight off Lyon.

How the Barmy Army rev­elled in Smith’s in­abil­ity to ques­tion any more um­pir­ing de­ci­sions, which fi­nally be­came cor­rect when the of­fi­cials learnt how to es­ti­mate the ball’s bounce on this Ade­laide pitch – not easy for um­pires from Pak­istan and New Zealand.

The loss of Malan, for the sec­ond time to a rip­per of an ef­fort ball from Pat Cum­mins, hardly si­lenced them.

Close shave: Joe Root’s in­side edge eludes the div­ing Cameron Ban­croft


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