Published on December 4th, 2017 | by Arunabha Sengupta0
The four quick wickets have brought England back in the game, but only just
At long last, James Anderson has produced a spell with the new ball which has made the opposition hop. 11 probing overs the veteran paceman sent down produced 2 wickets for just 18. Cameron Bancroft feathered an outswinger and Usman Khawaja was left squared up as the ball left him, taking the thick edge of the blade.
And then Chris Woakes found the conditions to his liking as well. David Warner, strangely quiet for 60 balls, fell edging him to slips for 14. And then the big one. Woakes, bowling round the wicket, got one to nip back in and Steve Smith was trapped plumb with just 6 against his name.
50 for 4. The pink ball wobbling about, the conditions under the lights in favour of the bowlers, the Australian batsmen distinctly jumpy in their approach.
At long, long last the Barmy Army had something to cheer about. The whole day had been more or less a voyage through strained silence for this band of England supporters.
However, is it too late in the day? Metaphorically that is.
The late surge has brought England slightly back in the game, but they are still on the backfoot by a long way. Australia are 268 runs ahead, and one can argue that had Smith enforced the follow-on a similar fate could have awaited the English top order, thereby practically finishing the match. Indeed, Smith’s decision was surprising because the remainder of the day was about to be played in that period of setting sun and glowing lights, when batsmen are not too eager to make their ways to the wicket.
If England had indeed been asked to follow on and had been reduced to such shambolic circumstances, the series could well have been nearly over. In fact, with the highest score of the first innings being 41, scripted by a debutant from No 9 whose job is to run in and bowl, things did look doubly ominous for the visitors. Australia’s decision to bat again was surely a welcome respite for the entire team. And thanks to the four quick blows that followed, the match is still alive, if only just.
Yet, one must admit that the resulting breathing space is minimal. The England batting has looked more and more brittle as the match has progressed. None of the batsmen has inspired confidence. Sadly, both captain Joe Root and the immensely experienced Alastair Cook have fallen to strokes that were eminently avoidable. Had Woakes and debutant Craig Overton not added 66 in a defiant eighth wicket association, the bottom line could have been even worse, and perhaps Smith would have thought seriously about finishing the mismatch quickly by enforcing follow-on. If the rest of the wickets are not picked up really quickly, and the target kept within reasonable bounds, the task can soon reach Himalayan proportions.
However, the resilience of the two late order batsmen, followed by the blows inflicted by Anderson and Woakes have just provided a minuscule glimpse of hope for England.
To build that into an opportunity, there need to be very quick wickets on the morrow, followed by some serious makeover in the batting.
For the sake of competitive cricket, one does wish that these elements will be provided on Tuesday at Adelaide.