Despite England seemingly cruising at 4/368 on Day 2, the last Ashes Test at the WACA was not destined to be a happy one for Joe Root and his team. Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow’s first innings heroics ultimately wasted by England who surrendered not just their strong early position, but also The Ashes as a result of their Innings and 45 run defeat.
ENGLAND BOWLERS TOOTHLESS DOWN UNDER
Given the fact that just one of the last nine Ashes series has been won by the visiting team, it perhaps isn’t that surprising that the English bowling attack’s results in Australia are far inferior to back at home. Five English bowlers brought up ‘centuries’ during Australia’s First Innings as Joe Root and his team seemed answerless as to how to curtail the Aussies batting onslaught. Until they discover a way to challenge without the assistance provided by their home conditions they will continue to experience days like they did on Day 3 at the WACA.
GOOD LUCK OR GOOD MANAGEMENT: SELECTORS IN MIDDLE OF A GOLDEN RUN
Cameron Bancroft. Tick. Shaun Marsh. Tick. Tim Payne. Tick. Mitch Marsh. Tick.
The Aussie selectors have reaped dividends from each of their four controversial decisions this summer. With the Ashes regained, will this embolden them to continue their logic free approach to team selection?
While recognising the undoubted success the selectors have had this summer, for the long-term success of the team, we hope they return to the age-old approach of rewarding runs and wickets rather than gut feel and supposition.
ENGLAND ARE IN DENIAL
In all honesty, I don’t think they are the better side.
They have maybe had us covered at times in the pace department but when we’ve had the ball moving we’ve shown we’re able to put their batsmen under a lot of pressure and at times with the bat as well we’ve been putting runs on the board, but just not enough.
England Opener Mark Stoneman
Stoneman has had an attacking presence at the top of the order for England, refusing to take a backward step in the face of Australia’s fast bowling battery. His unbroken confidence, despite his team falling 3-0 behind in the series, is to be commended but it might be based on faulty logic.
In just three matches, England has bowled Australia out just once and in scoring 162 fewer runs have lost 23 more wickets than their opponents. Hardly the kind of numbers that would suggest his team has been unlucky rather than outplayed. Having already surrendered the Ashes, unless they snap out of thinking they have gone toe to toe with the Australians, they may find themselves on the end of another 5-0 series defeat.
THE BEST SINCE BRADMAN?
In Perth, Aussie Skipper added another chapter to an extraordinary story we long ago ran out of superlatives for. For nearly ten hours, Smith tormented Joe Root and the English attack on the way to a career high score of 239.
The man of the match performance, saw the ICC move Smith to equal second on their All-Time batting rankings. It means, at least in the eyes of the game’s governing body at least, that we are watching the best batsman since Bradman.
The Sportress isn’t ready to make this kind of claim just yet, but it is fair to say that we are watching an incredible story unfolding in front of us. As good as he has been to this point, at just 28-years-old, his best years may be still in front of him. What an extraordinary thought.
MITCH MARSH DELIVERS AT SIX
Striding to the crease with the worst record at number six in Test history, and with his team faltering in their response to England’s first innings 403, there was a fair bit of pressure on the shoulders of Mitch Marsh. If he felt the heat of scrutiny it was not apparent with even his earliest strokes executed with supreme authority.
Combining with Steve Smith, Marsh helped take the game away from England in a WACA record 5th wicket partnership of 301. Just one Test Match after his brother became the first Australian to score an Ashes Century at number six, Marsh wrote his name on the WACA honour board with a century of his own.
So bereft of ideas was Joe Root and the English attack, Marsh’s dismissal early on Day 4, came as a complete surprise to just about everybody watching it. Surprised by Jimmy Anderson, one of five English bowlers to bring up centuries with the ball, Marsh was trapped lbw for 181.
It was a compelling display by the 26-year-old of his undoubted potential. If he can replicate the power and control he exhibited in this innings, you can be sure the long list of doubters he had built across his first 21 Tests will quickly fritter away.
STARC TAKES ADVANTAGE OF PITCH CONDITIONS
Social media was aflutter with descriptions of Mitchell Starc’s dismissal of James Vince, pundits hailed it as “the ball of the century”, a fluke and everything in between. In truth it does lie somewhere in the middle but in no way does it detract from it being a thing of beauty. We at The Sportress could watch the above video again and again all day.
RAIN DELAYS AND LEAF BLOWERS
The last day of Ashes cricket at the WACA was clouded in farce as play was delayed as a result of overnight rain seeping into the pitch and making it unplayable. As the Australian’s impatiently waited for their chance to take the last six English wickets, ground staff busily attempted to make the pitch playable with leaf blowers.
It truly was a miraculous effort to improve the pitch from the ‘plasticine’ conditions, English Coach Trevor Bayliss described at the prescribed start time, to a fit condition with the loss of just 35 overs. Unfortunately, the fact that such efforts were required at all was embarrassing for all involved.
With a proud history in the story of Ashes cricket, it made for a sad end to the WACA’s involvement in world sports oldest rivalry.
DRS: DRAMA REVIEW SYSTEM
The weakest point of any decision review system remains the human element involved in the process, a fact reinforced during the Third Test by the First Innings dismissal of Mark Stoneman. The opener parried at a searing bouncer from Mitchell Starc that was gleefully gloved by Tim Paine amongst a chorus of appeals from the Australians.
Umpire Marais Erasmus remained unmoved despite the spirited appeal, adjudging Stoneman not out. Steve Smith wasted no time in seeking a review of Erasmus’ decision and it was here that the drama began.
Despite the burden of evidence required to overturn an on-field decision, a smudge on ‘snicko’ as the ball passed Stoneman’s gloves was enough for third umpire Aleem Dar to rule Stoneman out. On face value, it would seem a brave call from Dar, given the seemingly unanswered question of which glove it struck given one hand was not on the bat.
Quite reasonably, England sought answers from the Match Referee as to how Dar reached his decision. What wasn’t reasonable was Captain Joe Root’s petulant response to the decision, where he seemed to urge Stoneman to remain on the ground in the hope of a reprieve before punching the door in frustration. Right, wrong, or indifferent, a Test Match captain can’t respond in this manner to decisions he disagrees with and he can count himself lucky that he was not asked to share some of his match payment with the Match Umpire at games end.
‘PLOT TO FIX THE ASHES’
The Third Test began amidst explosive claims, published in The Sun, of spot-fixing on Ashes Test Matches. The claims, made by Indian bookmakers, was that a number of players were their ‘puppets’ and that they could easily manufacture results to suit their gamblers.
The ICC was quick to respond to the claims, with General Manager of anti-corruption Alex Marshall issuing a statement. “It is obviously very early stages and our priority on receiving everything from The Sun late last night was to consider whether the integrity of the third Ashes Test had been compromised,” said Marshall. “There is no evidence, either from The Sun or via our own intelligence, to suggest the current Test match has been corrupted. At this stage of the investigation, there is no indication that any players in this Test have been in contact with the alleged fixers.”
That such claims could be so easily made and aired, with little corroboration, is extremely disappointing. However, with the stench of corruption seemingly indelibly tied to cricket, I guess as fans we should happy that the story appears to be baseless.