Ben Foakes and playing spin

Ben Foakes .jpg

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It took Ben Foakes 44 balls to do what Rory Burns took 3 balls – score the first boundary in their debut Test. Coming in at 103/5, Foakes set about undoing the damage started by Burns chasing a ball down the leg stump line.
He was good while facing spinners – he looked assured of either foot. Today was a day every England batsman who came out to bat before Foakes came with the intention of imposing themselves on the match. What else can explain the shot that Moeen Ali wanted to play off the first ball that he faced? Result? The first golden duck in his career.

Ben Stokes in a similar manner wanted to fetch the ball and ended up stretching more than what was necessary. He was bowled by what could’ve been punched to mid-off for a single. At that stage, a total of 200 looked too far. Foakes walked in at this stage in the match, a situation far from ideal for a debutant. There have only been two centuries from a number 7 on debut for England – Prior walked in when the score was more than 350 and Thorpe had situation similar to what Foakes had today. While Thorpe had Gooch for company, Foakes had Buttler and Curran.

Batsmen have different strategies for batting on the pitches in sub-continent. Some hit their way out, some grind the bowlers out and some devise their plans on specific shots. Foakes, today, alternated between the second and third of the mentioned strategies. In the company of Buttler, he started slowly and picked up pace. After Curran’s wicket, he concentrated more on being there than scoring runs – Rashid did the latter job for him.

Facing spinners can be a tough task. During the IPL when Rashid Khan was wreaking havoc, Sangakkara, in the studio, was asked what would he do counter him. Sanga replied back saying that as a right hander, he would stand on the off stump to negate the power of Rashid’s googly and force him to alter the line. Root, in his brief stay at the crease, was doing the same before rush of blood saw him coming down the track and yorking himself.

Foakes must have seen the dismissal as he set about to be effective rather than pretty. For balls pitched on the stumps line, he went back comfortably and tapped it to the midwicket region. This was what he did till Tea. After tea, he started coming down the track, not in an attempt to force the bowler out of the attack, but to tell the bowler that if he changes the line, he could come down the track and play it to similar areas.

Sri Lankan bowlers would go back and check their line to him. While line didn’t seem to trouble him so much, it would be interesting to see what changes in pace, change in the angle and flight would do to his poise. Day 1 was won by Foakes when it seemed that Sri Lanka would walk away with the honours

Brad Haddin

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108,86,365,205,320.

100,257,143,112,97.

These are the first innings scores in England and Australia that Haddin came to the crease at. For the last two Ashes in England, the talk has centred around the fact that Australia generally failed to grab the big moments. The scores in the return series in Australia are much worse than what they were in England (in terms of Haddin coming to the crease).

Every time that Haddin came to the crease with his side in crisis in first innings, he bailed the side out with at least a half century. He did the same on Day 1 in the fifth Test at Sydney too. Every Australian player who came to the crease played like they were chasing that huge score in the Bangalore ODI. While each one of them was positive with their stroke play, what was lacking was the judgement in playing them. So, it turned out that the first mistake that the batsmen made was their last mistake too.

Enter Haddin at 97/5. People all over were predicting that Haddin was due a failure. He set it upon himself to bail his side out of trouble. Though he struggled to find runs at a clip that he wants initially, he exploded after the 39th over. At that stage both Smith and Haddin were on 21 off 41 balls. After that Haddin proceeded to score 54 runs off 49 balls with the aid of 10 boundaries. He played every shot in the book; none better than those front foot pulls of the pace bowlers.

Chappelli has been saying that the experience of bailing out his state team New South Wales time and again has served Haddin well. That probably reflects in his batting. When he was beaten all ends up by a short ball, he looked at the Smith and smiled. Not too long ago, Haddin was a batsman who was frustrating to watch, not because of dour batting, but because of his propensity to go for shots when he had the bowling at his mercy. A casual glimpse at his dismissals suggests that a huge chunk of them came when he was trying to the clear the infield.

In this series, it was to his advantage that Cook quivered at the prospect of setting fields for him from Brisbane onwards. He utilised the advantage well and stands out as an equal to Johnson in grabbing the big moments for Australia

The biggest compliment today for him came from his captain. Clarke denied that Haddin might retire at the end of the test and shook his head forward to indicate that he will make the trip to South Africa

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Finally, Australia win

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Under the Southern Cross I stand,

A sprig of wattle in my hand,

A native of my native land,

Australia, you f*****g beauty

 

Nathan Lyon had to wait 316 days to sing this song in the dressing room. In the interim Australia played 9 tests and lost 7 of them. Coming as it does after these setbacks, singing the song must have been doubly sweet for Lyon.

After that 5-0 sweep in 2006/07, this is the first time in four tries that Australia has gone ahead in the series. The last time Ashes was played down under, it did begin well, but it fell apart in the last three days as England put up 517 runs for the loss of just one wicket. Though they did manage to level that series at Perth, they were taken apart in the next two tests. In fact, the beating in the three tests was comprehensive- they lost all of them by an innings and more.

The two series that they played in England weren’t as comprehensive as the score line suggested. They lost the 2009 series by 2-1 and the 2013 series by 3-0. They matched up to England in most aspects in both the series, but came up short in the sessions that mattered, which were inevitably won by England. A lot can be deduced from the fact that England crossed on 5 occasions, but didn’t cross 400 even once. Australia did cross 400 twice, but apart from these instances, they never crossed 300 in the series.

A lot of pre series talk was centered around Mitchell Johnson and how he was going to wade into England’s batting order. If his previous exploits in Ashes Tests were anything to go by, he had more chances of coming up short than actually succeeding. The fact that he came to the crease at 132/6 and scored 64 runs in a partnership of 114 runs with Haddin was seen as a positive sign by many. Yes, it was positive, with the manner in which those runs were scored. He resisted the temptation to go over the top and concentrated on staying put at the wicket.

Though it didn’t seem so at that point of time, that partnership marked the first time in many tests that Australia found themselves in a corner and dug themselves out of it. They had made a habit of losing the games from point where they were delicately poised.

Trott’s wicket just before the lunch on the second day and the way they ran through the middle order and lower middle order in the second session was a pointer to Australia slowly climbing back to a point where they dominated the sessions that mattered.

At 77/2 on the second day, there was a danger of Australia collapsing, as the captain was founding wanting against the short ball in the first innings. Clarke imposed himself on the game by attacking the short deliveries aimed at him. The way he and Warner went about attacking the bowlers meant that it was the third time Aussies found themselves in a hole and managed to get out of it.

When Cook and Bell were building their partnership, most of the bowlers looked ineffective, but they didn’t stop trying. They were backed up brilliant fielding. A lot of runs were cut down by good fielding. Siddle managed to break the partnership by finding the extra bounce- by landing the ball on one of the cracks on the pitch- and drawing Bell into jabbing it.

The same bounce also accounted for Cook, but the bowler was Lyon. Mopping the tail off was left to Johnson and his mean short deliveries. Root, Tremlett and rain in that order seemed to delay the inevitable. Harris subjected Tremlett to a short ball barrage and finally got his wicket.

When James Anderson strode to the crease, he was met by a few taunts by Bailey. The umpires intervened at the right time, but that didn’t stop Clarke and Anderson from going eye-to-eye. Clarke said to Anderson, “get ready for a f*****g broken arm”. This was different from the Clarke that seemed to sink into his jumper most of the time when the going was tough for his team. Today was different. Peter Siddle launched into Anderson after he was dismissed by Johnson.

Johnson was a deserving man of the match for the 103 runs he scored in the match and the nine wickets he took by intimidatory bowling. Though he was the man of the match, there were three people running him close for that award. The bowling looks to be safe hands. It is the batting that needs some sorting.

When asked about how they would brace themselves for Johnson in the second Test, Cook put it beautifully when he said, “We have faced Johnson before and have had success against him. There is no reason why we can’t do it again”.

The win for Australia has opened up the possibility of a close Ashes, something that hasn’t happened for a few years now

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Batting stars of Australia

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Yesterday after Australia bundled out England for 136 and had a lead of 151 runs, the ghosts of Cape Town must have made their visit to Clarke’s mind. In that Test, they had a lead of 188 runs and were bundled out for 47. That pitch and attack were very different from what they have now at hand. So, the sight of Warner smashing a full delivery past covers off Anderson might have been reassuring for the captain.

While Rogers was intent on grinding down the attack, Warner showed that he learnt his lessons from first innings well. He showed more initiative in taking singles and doubles when the boundaries weren’t on offer because of the well spread out field.

So, when Anderson attacked the pads of consecutive balls in the first over of the day, it seemed that Australia might be in for a tough day. The feeling was accentuated when Broad claimed Rogers off the first ball he bowled today. Rogers was disappointed because he moved back early and was in a position to cut, but somehow contrived to get himself dismissed.

Watson was defensive from the outset and in the initial period of play Warner didn’t get much of the strike. When Watson pulled Tremlett for a boundary, it did seem that he would start off from where he left in the final Test in England. The next short ball that Tremlett bowled; Watson top-edged and was dismissed.

At 75/2, Australia seemed to be in a spot of bother. It was a no brainer after the first innings’ dismissal that Broad would be on as soon as Clarke came to the crease. He bowled a couple of short balls and Clarke made his intentions clear when he pulled both of them. The first went to deep midwicket and the second pull was played behind the square.

After that point, Clarke was surprised by a short ball only once. He seemed to be buzzing with confidence today, so much so that after playing a drive off a wide ball, he shrieked ‘yeahhhhhhhhhhh’ in appreciation of the shot he played.

One of the best aspect of this partnership was the way they both handled Swann. Because they moved their feet well to his bowling, he was forced to alter the length of his deliveries, which the batsmen were quick to pounce upon.

Another thing impressive about these batsmen was the way they ran. Warner got a sum total of 37 runs from 2’s and 3’s. Clarke too totalled the same. In the entire innings, Clarke was troubled by Swann in the 43rd over. Warner credited his footwork for the runs he got today. He said he was concrete footed against spin early in the year and did some work on the foot movement through the year. He was glad that it paid off.

Warner reached his century first and looked to attack once he crossed the milestone. He lofted Broad straight back over his head for a six and fell in the same over. Bailey was initially quiet against the pace bowlers and exploded when Swann and Root bowled in tandem. Clarke reached his century and fell to Swann while trying to up the rate.

Haddin and Johnson continued from the first innings but in an attacking mode. Haddin, in particular, looked to attack every single ball that he faced. Johnson was subjected to a short ball barrage by the fast bowlers. He withstood that and attacked them when they erred in line and length. He was also brutal against the spinners.

At 75/2, when it looked like the familiar old tale for Australia, they managed to turn it around. The growth of Warner as a batsman augurs well for them not just for this series but also for the upcoming series’

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Australian bowling attack

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In a press conference after his retirement, when asked about the Ashes, Sachin Tendulkar picked the name of Mitchell Johnson as the bowler who might make a difference to the Australian squad. A part of that faith must have come from watching him at close quarters as a team mate at Mumbai Indian. A part might have been gathered from the batsmen in the Indian cricket team.

Going into the first Test, the view, if you were following the coverage, was that Mitchell Johnson was going to be a huge factor in the series. The hype around him was so huge that, his captain, picked him to be the man of the series with a rider attached. The rider was, if he was selected in the eleven.

Johnson and Lyon must have been the last names to be pencilled in. In fact, New South Wales team management was informed a couple of hours before the start of the game that Lyon would be playing in the XI and wouldn’t be making the trip to Sydney. Instead, Faulkner made the trip to Adelaide.

Mitchell Johnson was given the new ball and the first ball he bowled was a full-toss down the leg side, much to the amusement of Barmy Army. In his second over, which was bowled to Cook, his bowling lacked the sense of direction. One was down the leg side and another one was short on the off stump, both deliveries were asking to be hit. Cook obliged and got himself a couple of boundaries. Harris, at the other end was also taking his time to settle down and he bowled a few deliveries that beat the outside edge of the batsmen.

Mitchell Johnson was removed from the attack when Carberry upper cut him for a boundary. All the while he was bowling from over the wicket. Harris removed Cook with a well thought out delivery. He got the line closer to off stump and the ball didn’t move as much as Cook expected and he got the outside edge. In walked Trott. An invitation for Johnson to come back into the attack, but he didn’t face Mitchell Johnson for some time as Carberry looked comfortable against him. The first ball that Trott faced from Johnson was a bouncer. He got his gloves in front of the face and the ball flew to the no man’s land in the off side. After that, Trott started moving inside the line to play the short ball barrage. He was dismissed off the last ball before lunch.

Though Australia didn’t go into lunch with ascendancy, they were kept in the game by those two wickets. After lunch, Pietersen was also peppered with short deliveries. Barring a few, he played them very well. He was dropped by Siddle of his own bowling. That didn’t cost Australia much as Pietersen’s flick was intercepted at midwicket by Bailey. It was the introduction of Lyon that put some doubts in the mind of Carberry. With a guard outside the off stump, Carberry was beaten in flight, turn and bounce. Lyon’ s first three overs were all maidens.

It was now that Johnson decided to go around the wicket. He bowled a couple of short deliveries to Carberry. He fended the first one off and was beaten by pace as he looked to hook one away.  The third ball was aimed at the throat and Carberry edged it to the slip cordon. From that moment on, the innings veered towards disaster as England lost 3 wickets in thirteen balls. Bell and Prior fell to inside edges to short leg. Lyon was on a hattrick and bowled a ball that Broad left easily. Root was caught driving and the edge was easily taken in the slip cordon. A few deliveries later, Johnson also accounted for Swann by bluffing him. Swann was expecting a short ball and received a good length delivery that he edged to short leg.

Tremlett, who looked to be putting up a decent partnership with Broad was terrorised with short deliveries by Harris. He was dismissed fending off one to Lyon at leg gully. Siddle was brought back into the attack and was immediately punished by Broad. His figures before this spell read 15 runs conceded off 10 overs. The phase of play where Siddle and Lyon strangulated the run flow was a huge contributor to the collapse. Broad was dismissed by Siddle as he was looking for some runs and to cut the lead.

If Australian bowlers can continue this form into the second innings, they can be assured of a win in eight attempts against England.

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