An early lunch has been called while the rain falls.
“The ground DJ had the temerity to play ‘Have you ever seen the rain?’ as the covers went on this time,” emails Gavin Robertson. “Answer- yes we bloody have.”
While we wait for play to resume, enjoy Bangladesh’s incredible Test triumph in New Zealand.
Rain stops play
12.3 overs: Australia 30-0 (Warner 15, Harris 11) Time for some raw pace with Mark Wood replacing James Anderson. If he doesn’t engineer an early breakthrough it could be a long couple of days in the field for the tourists.
He only gets three deliveries before the heavens open again.
12th over: Australia 30-0 (Warner 15, Harris 11) Ben Stokes replaces Stuart Broad and he fails to test either opener in an over that passes mostly outside Marcus Harris’s off stump. Warner advances his score with a simple nudge off his pads.
11th over: Australia 29-0 (Warner 14, Harris 11) Anderson continues around the wicket and Harris doesn’t look completely assured, especially when some movement beats his outside edge for the second time in a couple of overs. Anderson gets too straight though and concedes a couple of easy runs. Harris demonstrated his ability to shrug off the previous ball during his match-winning knock at the MCG and he is back in that groove today.
“Hey Jonathan,” good afternoon John Kyriazis. “At the game with the family, paid top dollar, looking forward to it and they stop playing for a few raindrops. Then too slow to restart. Please stick up for the fans at the game.” Agree 100% John. As Geoff tweeted earlier, quite why we can’t adapt and start earlier on days like this (when it’s sunny and dry with a forecast for later rain) is beyond me.
10th over: Australia 27-0 (Warner 14, Harris 9) Glorious swivel pull from Harris to despatch Broad through midwicket for four after the England bowler dropped short to begin the over. The remainder of the duel is even with Harris defending deliveries targeting the top of off, and picking up a further single for his troubles. This opening partnership looks rock solid.
“Get the spinners on,” emails Phelim Mcmanamon.
9th over: Australia 22-0 (Warner 14, Harris 4) I don’t think I was effusive enough in my praise for that final delivery of Broad’s over. It was a jaffa. The exact delivery that he had perfected to remove David Warner in England.
Now Anderson follows suit and moves around the wicket, but Warner again demonstrates how his eye is in today, timing an effortless straight drive for four to an overpitched delivery. Anderson responds well, rapping the opener on the pads, but it’s a stifled appeal after the ball jagged a mile off the surface into the left-hander. England decline a review, and DRS indicates the ball was a couple of coats of lacquer too high and wide of leg stump. England’s salt and pepper shaker finishes the over beating Warner’s defence again, but once more the line is angling down leg.
8th over: Australia 18-0 (Warner 10, Harris 4) Broad still pretty full, angling in to Harris from around the wicket. There’s no lateral movement on offer though, so by the time Broad refines his line to tempt Harris into a stroke, he’s too straight and it’s an easy nudge into the on-side for a couple of runs. Broad is undeterred and he does find a skerrick of wobble away from the bat and, for the first time today, there’s a genuine play-and-miss that beats an outside edge.
7th over: Australia 16-0 (Warner 10, Harris 2) Beautiful shot from Warner. After Anderson targeted the batter’s ribs, he threw a wide tempter that had some swing angling it away and the Australian calmly stroked it through the covers for a very pleasing boundary. Four more soon follows with Anderson losing his line and Warner glancing him fine for four… off his thigh-pad; leg-byes. England have not taken advantage of the new ball or the slightly helpful conditions.
6th over: Australia 8-0 (Warner 6, Harris 2) Broad has come back from the break fuller, forcing Harris to play around his off stump, inducing a false stroke from a very late leave. No alarms yet for this opening pair though.
5th over: Australia 8-0 (Warner 6, Harris 2) Anderson is harmlessly wide of off stump for a couple of deliveries, then he’s straight and towards Warner’s ribs to complete the fifth over.
Benedict Carter wants England to go back to basics. “There is a youtube video where Geoff Boycott gives a batting masterclass with Michael Vaughan and Ricky Ponting looking on in awe. We have to go back to basics with the batsmen – India can do it, Australia and New Zealand do it. But we ignore basic technique and the result is useless contortionists at the crease.”
We’re back on! Anderson has three deliveries remaining in the fifth over. David Warner on strike.
“We’re gonna need a bigger whiteboard…”
David Sadler has sent in a lovely email, full of the common sense and naiveté of one not embittered by unravelling the mysteries of cricket for decades. “Still fairly in my infancy of watching Test cricket, and a vested interest in this match as I have tickets to days 3 and 4 (albeit reluctantly given the weather, England, and err, COVID). Is there any circumstance under which they will abandon the match early given it is forecast to rain every day pretty much continuously, barring a few brief spells of sunshine? E.g. would they get to the 3rd day, when Australia are still 50-1 on their first innings, and just go “well we’re not getting a full match, let’s call it”. Oh David, welcome to cricket. The short answer is no. The longer answer is: welcome to the club, you have more head-scratching ahead of you.
The umpires were out inspecting the square and the word was we were just five minutes or so away from a restart – but more rain has now arrived.
The covers are being peeled back. We may be back on sooner than expected.
Ashley Giles has really rattled your cages, hasn’t he?
“It sounds as if they are on at the wrong ends,” emails John Davenport, “Jimmy can conjure movement out of nothing, but Broad needs some help. Anyway, who decides from which end the first over is bowled? In fairness, it should be the batsmen.” It’s up to the fielding team to decide that John, and as for which of the two new ball bowlers, most have a preferred end that factors in the run-up, landing position at the crease, or simple superstition. If both bowlers want the same end, we find out who the alpha is. But it’s a good general point about how Broad and Anderson (as magical as they have been for a long long time) have long felt as if they captain themselves in the absence of decisive/intuitive leadership from Cook or Root or whomever.
Rain stops play
4.3 over: Australia 8-0 (Warner 6, Harris 2) Anderson has decided his stock ball today will be the one that swings away from the left-handed openers. The problem he’s got is judging where to start his line. Anything wider than middle and Warner can leave outside off. Anything on leg allows Warner to get inside and work to the on-side.
That particular calibration will have to wait, because one of those heavy blustery showers has blown across the SCG. The players are coming off, and the blanket coverage of overhead clouds suggests they may not return for a while.
4th over: Australia 8-0 (Warner 6, Harris 2) Broad is still bowling gun barrel straight and a little short. Eventually he pitches up and Warner throws his hands at the ball outside off stump and crunches a four just in front of point. The kind of shot that encourages both batting and fielding units. Some drizzle in the air.
Meanwhile over in New Zealand, literally “THE BIGGEST UPSET IN THE HISTORY OF TEST CRICKET”.
3rd over: Australia 2-0 (Warner 1, Harris 1) Another maiden, this time Anderson to Warner, the Aussie opener comfortable watching the ball sail over over his pegs or slant wide of them. There is something on offer for the new ball, but England have not yet hit the right lines and lengths.
2nd over: Australia 2-0 (Warner 1, Harris 1) Broad begins around the wicket to the left-handed pair, searching for that delivery that angles in but seams away. There’s less movement on offer for Broad than Anderson and Harris defends a maiden from the crease with a lovely straight bat.
“Ashley Giles: the poor man’s Phil Tuffnell” is the kind of email I’m going to click on. “A few years ago, before he became a 3rd rate cricket administrator, the King of Spain tried his hand at being a summariser on TMS,” emails Tom Paternoster-Howe, who goes on to make his thoughts clear about Gilo on the radio. In short: no stars.
“I recall one particularly salient and topical incident, when rain delayed the start of play. The junior groundstaff were running a rope around the outfield and the commentators were wondering why. A physicist wrote in to explain that the rope running over the grass would break the water droplets up into smaller ones so they would evaporate quicker. A concept so simple I would expect a seven-year old to grasp almost immediately, but which Giles claimed not to be able to understand.”
As every year goes by, the Mitchell and Webb “are we the baddies?” meme about the 2005 Ashes series becomes more salient.
1st over: Australia 2-0 (Warner 1, Harris 1) Lively start from Oh Jimmy Jimmy, rapping Warner on his knuckles with a tasty lifter first up. Anderson is bowling over the wicket to the left-hander, and after that initial delivery curving back into Warner, the next three seam away, a couple prodigiously. Another in-ducker is too straight and Warner get the scoreboard moving with a tuck off his hip. Harris also gets off the mark with a single, but this is much tighter, and the product of a delivery that moved like a frisbee in the air. Promising signs for England with the new ball. Now, can then find the right length to take advantage?
30 minutes later than scheduled, David Warner is taking guard and James Anderson is at the top of his run-up. It’s cricket o’clock.
“Hi Jonathan,” hello Ruth Purdue. “I have just listened to that Giles interview. Seriously, seriously, why is he so combative? They have nowhere to hide anymore. They have no excuses left. Some of these excuses were trotted out last time in Australia by the way. The worst being talking about being in bubbles and letting go home. How about they treat Leach better? How about playing a spinner when it’s spinning pitch? How about you let all the players that are never picked and deserve a chance go home? Why are kept around, in the hope of getting a game when they have no interest in playing them? We all know the names of these players now. They have a duty of care to those not playing too right?
Maybe try a different tone. I for one am no longer nodding along. Talk is cheap, I don’t give myself a bonus at the end of the year.”
The teams are out in the middle of a blustery but dry SCG for the anthems and Welcome To Country.
Colum Farrelly takes aim at the players: “The current batch of players are not anywhere near as good as they have been talked up to be and a little more realism and modesty from press and players wouldn’t go amiss.” The question, of course, is why are the best not good enough?
Andy Robinson is looking higher up for scapegoats. “Tom Harrison has to go along with the ludicrous Hundred. And some test matches have to be on terrestrial telly. Sacking Giles is just rearranging deckchairs.”
It’s safe to say Ashley Giles hasn’t endeared himself to some of you. Here’s Seth Levine’s take: “Just listened to the Ashley Giles interview on TMS. I cannot imagine any other leadership position where you get to burnish your credentials by referencing how poor your predecessors were (seriously – using 90s England as your benchmark?). He came across as chippy, self-serving and fatalistic. Harrison should be first to go. Then Giles.”
Joe Root admits he would have batted first too, given the option, but he likes the grass coverage on the pitch and hopes there’s some early movement. “We don’t need much change now,” Root adds, when asked about the one switch to the XI.
Australia win the toss and bat
Joe Root called incorrectly, Pat Cummins had no hesitation. Not the worst toss to lose given the rain and humidity around the SCG.
Just the one change expected to both XIs with Usman Khawaja replacing Travis Head (Covid) for Australia and Stuart Broad coming in for Ollie Robinson (shoulder).
Trevor Kingston is thrilled. “England bowled out for under 70 and the only change is the return of Broad in place of Robinson, lengthening the tail. But I suppose when the tail extends to the two openers…”
And here’s Andrew Benton with the first email of the day, enraged by the comments below from the King of Spain.
“It is remarkable and truly disappointing that Ashley Giles doesn’t feel that anyone’s head needs to roll for the appalling performances of late, especially given that the failures earlier this year were all prep for this series. He needs to take responsibility for the failures, and suffer because of them, to foster the change that is needed. Not do so makes a laughing stock of the ECB. Clearly he’s protecting his bonus. England have lost a supporter in me because of the way this is being handled. The only right thing is two resignations – Giles and Chris Silverwood. Then the changes that are needed can start.”
England’s managing director, Ashley Giles, understands the bigger picture. Now, what’s he going to do about it?
Unless we look at more systemic change, a collective responsibility and collective solutions, we can make whatever changes we want – you can change me, the head coach, the captain – but we’re only setting up future leaders for failure. That’s all we’re doing. We’re only pushing it down the road.
Toss delayed by 30 minutes
Match now scheduled to start at 11am.
Ok, let’s tuck into some analysis of where we are in the series with Geoff Lemon and Jonathan Liew. Is it time to revise the Ashes schedule? Is there any appetite to to do so? Is it even feasible?
It’s stopped raining
This is going to be one of those days full of heavy showers blowing through and the covers coming on and off again. But reports from the ground are that we should have a toss on time.
Great news! There will be even more time to pick over the carcass of English cricket, because it’s raining in Sydney. Heavy showers are forecast over the next few days, blowing in from the east (the coast), and one of those bands is sweeping through Moore Park at the moment.
Hello everybody and welcome to live over-by-over coverage of the opening day of the fourth Ashes Test. We’re underway at the Sydney Cricket Ground at 10.30am local time (11.30pm UK).
With the Ashes done and dusted for another cycle it’s hard to know what to make of the remainder of this series. With both countries in the midst of another wave of the pandemic, sport once again feels detached from reality, especially a match such as this, where the sport itself is shorn of most of its competitive jeopardy.
With neither side ringing the changes at the selection table, we’re grasping for narratives like Old Mother Hubbard searching for a bone. “But it’s an Ashes Test!” some of you are probably yelling, “that’s all the bloody narrative you need.” Maybe, but in the current circumstances this Test feels like little more than a couple of dozen content providers fulfilling their production duties for a TV show that reached the apex of its plot arc earlier in the series.
Maybe Zak Crawley makes good on his pre-match comments? Maybe a fired up Stuart Broad delivers one of *those* / spells? Maybe Harold Bishop returns from the dead and revives the format?
There has been lots written about the moribund state of English cricket since the Boxing Day Test, and some thought provoking pieces about Australia and the health of the rivalry too. So we should wade into that without further ado.
If you would like to join in, you can reach me by email or Twitter (@JPHowcroft).