Slow start for England
So then they decelerate
Wickets keep falling
Australia got their tactics spot on. Even when England were 100/1 – a pleasant change from 30/3 – the bowlers did not panic or lose control, even though Trott was scoring surprisingly quickly. It was his wicket, caught via the inside edge and pad, off Nathan Lyon’s bowling, that started England’s collapse, although with Kevin Pietersen looking to hit Lyon out off the attack, the scoreboard at least kept moving. However Lyon found something resembling a groove, bowling a steady straight line from around the wicket. It succeeded in cramping England’s middle order and the batsmens’ descent into a wretched catacomb of slow-scoring doom was sickening to watch.
The Australian seamers also kept things fairly tight, giving England little width and few balls strayed from a good length. The Lion finished with four cheap wickets, including Ian Bell caught mid-off and Jonny Bairstow LBW attempting to sweep; both were efforts to actually score a run – though in different circumstances – Bell’s immediately after tea and Bairstow’s after a period of scoring that resembled someone spelling shish in Morse code. We’ve said before that Lyon picks up a significant proportion of his wickets at the end of an innings; here, he slowly strangled the life out of England’s middle order.
All the bowlers contributed to the cause as Australia won the day (although scores from this venue in the County Championship this season suggest that anything in the 250-280 region might be not so bad after all), but England certainly played a part in their own downfall. After winning the toss, the opening pair managed to survive, if nothing else. Too often, throughout the day but especially after tea, Australia were able to bowl maiden after maiden, as England showed no intent or attacking prowess. Perhaps that’s what smoking does to you. Alastair Cook actually had the fourth best strike rate of the top nine but still looked more lost than a drunkard in central Manchester as he coughed and scratched his way to 51 from 164 balls. However a team with Alastair Cook 51* looks a lot better than a team with Alastair Cook 51 and back in the dressing room, drinking strong cider and searching the internet for trendy bars in Chester-le-Street.
Enter Jackson Bird and the ball of the day: from over the wicket he pitched a ball just outside off stump, but as Cook raised his bat to leave, the ball cut back in and caught him plumb LBW. It was a magnificent delivery. The new boy had a generally decent day, only occasionally over-pitching, and the general feeling was that his similarity to Matthew Hoggard should serve him well in most Test conditions. Summary: we adore Hoggy and still haven’t forgiven those terrible bastards who dropped him forever.
It looks the sort of pitch that Graham Onions was born to bowl on. So expect him to beat Lily Allen at ‘Words With Friends’ whilst Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan plug away short of a length and wonder why they’re not bowling as economically as Australia did.