The Great Escape

Just a little postscript to my blog post about the cricket at Cardiff. After Australia ran away to 674-6 and had England at 20-2 last night before the rain came down after the tea interval, it looked odds-on for an Australian victory. That impression was strengthened by the feeble batting of  England’s leading batsmen this morning. The rain that had been forecast also failed to materialize, so  England were staring at defeat with the score at 70-5 at one stage.

This afternoon one England batsman, Paul Collingwood, did show some mettle and the tailenders who had played brightly on Day 2 demonstrated much greater resilience than their teammates had this morning. Nevertheless, when Collingwood was out later on, it still looked like Australia would win. Eventually it came down to the last pair, the bowlers Monty Panesar and James Anderson, to cling on, bat out time and attempt to salvage an unlikely draw from almost certain defeat. Monty in particular defended like his soul depended on it and together the two tail-enders saw England to safety. Great stuff.

I absolutely love it when things like this happen. There’s something very “Dad’s Army” about bowlers having to save the day with the bat. Backs to the wall and all that. I have to admit I was completely gripped by the drama of the last hour or so of play and so nervous I was shaking as I watched. One mistake and the match would be lost. Runs didn’t matter, just survival. Fielders all around the bat. The crowd applauding every delivery that was kept out. Only cricket can produce that stomach-churning intensity. At the end of the time allocated for play, England were 252-9, just 13 runs ahead. Australia just hadn’t managed to get that last one out. The defiant rearguard action had held off everything that was thrown at them. England may have needed two innings to reach the score that Australia obtained in one, but that doesn’t matter. Match drawn.

If you want to know how a game can go on for five days and still end in a draw, this is how. And bloody marvellous it is too!

England have their work cut out to improve enough to compete over the rest of the five-match series for the Ashes, but at least this escape has denied the Australians the massive psychological boost the expected  big victory would have given them. I know it’s a draw, but there’s no doubting which team will be happier tonight.

And I’m really happy that the First Ashes Test at Cardiff turned out to be such a memorable one!

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13 Responses to “The Great Escape”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    YIPPEE! Maybe the upper order should take some batting coaching from the bowlers or the England women’s team before the Lords Test, but we go there all square.

    Why is cricket such a great sport? In my view, because of the balance between the individual and the team, and because of the diversity of situations – you can get bowlers batting to win or save a match, fast scorers having to defend, slow scorers having to attack, and so on.

    Anton

    • telescoper Says:

      One of the most memorable moments of the 2005 Ashes series – which produced many of them, of course – was Matthew Hoggard striding out to bat at Trent Bridge when England were struggling to reach a small victory target in the last innings. He looked for all the world like a farmer marching off to war. He gritted his teeth and smacked a four through the covers that brought relief all round the ground, and England steadied their nerves and won the match.

    • telescoper Says:

      Anton,

      I think a lot of the higher-order batsmen would do well to watch how Monty batted. He played very straight, got well forward when necessary and had a good eye for what to leave. These are all things our proper batsmen seem to have forgotten.

      Peter

  2. Anton Garrett Says:

    Peter: Yes indeed; the question is why. We need Test batsmen who are willing to listen and coaches who have the necessary expertise and ability to impart it. This combination does not seem to be in place.
    Anton

    • telescoper Says:

      I think KP is always going to be pretty much uncontrollable – it’s just his temperament – but who knows what he was thinking of when he left a dead straight ball that was pitched on the stumps. But what was Strauss doing playing that shot? He’s meant to be the captain! Cook missed a perfectly straight one. And Prior batted like a twerp against the spin and thoroughly deserved to get himself out. Bopara was unlucky on Sunday afternoon, but looks a bit out of his depth.

  3. Panesar’s batting was a revelation. The last time I saw him he was hopeless to the point of being a joke; yesterday he was back or forward as appropriate, behind the line of the ball, playing with a straight bat, and looking essentially like a proper batsman. There were even hilarious theatrical flourishes in his follow-through after he defended some deliveries. If the old Panesar had come out to bat then Australia would have won comfortably and Glovegate wouldn’t have had its chance to occur.

    One minor point of order, though: runs did matter towards the end of the game because of the two overs’ worth of time allocated to the change of innings. I think the moment the win vanished was when England went finally went ahead. If England had still been behind at 6:40pm, when the match ended, then Australia would have had another few overs to try and dismiss JA and MP (whilst also trying to prevent the increasingly frequent pitch invasions by the England support crew).

    • telescoper Says:

      Quite right, Dan. What I meant to say was that for most of the afternoon England weren’t thinking about getting runs but simply blocking. After going to lunch at a hundred-odd for 5 I’m sure getting past 240 wasn’t really on anybody’s mind.

      The reason people have taken to Monty is that, for all his failings, he’s definitely a trier. He’s by no means a natural athlete, but has turned himself into a competent fielder by sheer hard work and determination. Although he’s a genuine number 11 with the bat he practices diligently and rarely gives his wicket away. Yesterday I thought he was great. Bravo, Monty.

  4. I like Monty too. Although it now seems the weak string to his bow is his bowling, which at the moment seems too lacking in variety to trouble most Test-quality batsmen on most pitches. The smart money seems to be that he’ll be dropped for the Lord’s Test, to be replaced by Onions; and if so I’d agree with that decision.

    It’s also ironic that the focus is so much on Monty given that, if Australia had taken that last wicket, everybody would have been writing about his opposite number, Nathan Hauritz, having “spun Australia to victory”. That would, of course, been hyperbole, but it’s still been a top effort from someone who was the subject of ridicule coming into the match.

    • telescoper Says:

      Agreed. Monty seems to have lost a lot of the variations he had when he was younger, possibly as a result of trying too hard to be good for one-day cricket. In the shorter version of the game, accuracy is more important for a spinner than subtlety.

      Hauritz bowled poorly on Thursday (when I was actually inside the ground) where he was subjected to merciless heckling from the crowd, but looked to be extracting exceptional bounce and real turn on the last day. That shows good spirit.

  5. […] the Third Day.. Following on from my previous posts (here and here) about the First Ashes Test in Cardiff, I can’t help adding a quick post about my visit to […]

  6. […] the series, we now all know just how important that last day at Cardiff was! With England winning at Lord’s, a draw at Edgbaston and Australia trouncing England at […]

  7. […] in a draw as England’s last pair once again staved off what looked likely to be a defeat. Shades of Monty last summer! Although it was clearly a gripping finale, I’m glad in a way that I didn’t […]

  8. […] batting, he’s a genuine No. 11 but he tries hard at that too. And of course there was that memorable day in Cardiff in 2009 when he and Jimmy Anderson held on (somehow) to save the First Ashes Test against […]

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