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15 hours ago, Scott7 said:

I disagree. England can improvise a collapse anytime, anywhere, any conditions.

Yes, but to be able to do so, and to make it look natural, and unintended, takes years of preparation and practice. 

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Root's testes tested in Test.

 

 

THE ASHES | MIKE ATHERTON

The Ashes 2021-22: Joe Root hit by injury as England defeat to Australia seems inevitable

(Fourth day of five): England, with six second-innings wickets in hand, need 368 runs to beat Australia

updated

Mike Atherton

Sunday December 19 2021, 2.30pm, The Times

Root is brought to the floor by an 87mph ball from Starc that struck him in the groin

Root is brought to the floor by an 87mph ball from Starc that struck him in the groin

 

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-ashes-2021-live-report-adelaide-day-four-test-two-qgjl3l3j9

 

White as a satin sheet at the best of times, what colour there was drained from Joe Root’s cheeks. At the moment of impact, he clutched his groin with both hands, fell to his knees, as though going to the guillotine, and then rolled around in agony, first to one side and then the next. A dramatic day was ten minutes away from the close and England’s Test captain was in trouble.

Root’s batting partner, Ben Stokes, and Australia’s fielders gathered around, and, in the way of things, their genuine concern morphed into mild amusement. Root took some treatment — in the famous words of David Lloyd, did he ask the physio to lose the pain and keep the swelling? — gathered himself, left the next ball calmly enough and then ran a single or two like John Wayne, bow-legged and gingerly.

The context was all important here. Before play began, Root had been hit in exactly the same place by the spin-bowling coach — really, England do have one — Jeetan Patel. It necessitated Root missing the opening 78 minutes of play, while he went for a scan, with Stokes taking charge. It was only when Stokes brought Ollie Robinson on to bowl some off spin, rather than his customary seam, that Root returned to the field, wondering, perhaps, whether his deputy had gone rogue.

 

So when Starc hit him flush in the same region three overs before the close, it was no laughing matter. The pain was very real, soon to intensify. With the second ball of the next but one over, the last of the day, Starc thundered in from round the wicket, bowled a full-length 87mph ball that drew Root forward, and found enough movement to take the edge. As the ball settled into Alex Carey’s magnetic gloves, the reaction from Starc and the fielders told of the situation and the importance of the wicket. It was the last action of the day.

What a blow it was, from a bowler who has really impressed in a leading role given the absence of Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. With the new boys, Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser, not overawed in the slightest, Nathan Lyon enjoying the kind of conditions crying out for a spinner, and Cameron Green a revelation as the fifth bowler, offering pace, bounce, movement and accuracy, Australia’s attack has been unrelenting.

 

On the eve of the match, Root had said: “If we go about things exactly have we have on the last tour, we are going to get the same results.” So far the similarities to defeat four years ago have been uncanny. As then, Root spent the fourth evening in Adelaide battling away under lights valiantly for his team and, in this case you felt, his captaincy. As then, England find themselves four wickets down, the needle of defeat now pointing somewhere between highly likely and inevitable.

There was no less drama at the start of the day, with the news before play that a Covid positive test was stalking the press and broadcast centre. Within three overs, there had been a near run-out opportunity — a direct hit from Haseeb Hameed that produced overthrows — two wickets, a drop and a leg-before appeal referred to the third umpire, all reminiscent of Australia’s frenetic start to their second innings in the corresponding fixture in 2017.

 

England’s bowling and general strategy was a revelation in the opening hour, as the bowlers, praise be, pitched the ball up and Stokes set sensible fields, with a short extra cover and a short mid-wicket combined with a straight-set mid-off and mid-on, encouraging a fuller length. As a result, Australia were smothered much as England had been the day before, 14 runs coming in as many overs for the loss of three wickets.

One of the them was the nightwatchman, Neser, the others, Marcus Harris and Steve Smith were more significant and highlighted neatly the curate’s egg nature of Jos Buttler’s wicketkeeping. From time to time in this match, when diving to his left, Buttler has looked like a worthy successor to Alan Knott; at other times, going to his right, not so much, with slow and ponderous footwork.

First, Buttler caught Harris, driving at Stuart Broad, brilliantly one-handed to the left; he then promptly dropped Smith first ball, a much easier chance to the right. Smith survived what looked like an obvious leg-before appeal second ball to Broad — the bowler was so convinced that he was out he didn’t bother turning to look at the umpire — before tickling one down the leg side, for Buttler to take another fine, spring-heeled catch to his left. Buttler’s subdued celebration indicated his own disquiet at the inconsistency displayed.

 

The local boy Travis Head had begun to impose himself and he and Marnus Labuschagne added 50 in even time and the lead stretched beyond 350. Head is a punchy player, unafraid to put bat to ball and take his chances, and his approach put England on the back foot for the second time in as many matches. The second hour belonged emphatically to Australia, as 75 runs came in 13 overs, although Labuschagne’s penchant for playing and missing remained.

It was then a question of how many runs and overs Australia wanted. What resulted was one of those forgettable passages of play, except for Dawid Malan, who took his maiden Test wicket, Stokes, who bagged an outstanding catch in the deep, Green, who spent a little time at the crease, and Starc, who threatened to tweak his ribs trying to hit the spinners into the McLaren Vale. Not content with scoring all the runs, Malan and Root nipped in with four wickets between them as well.

 

For once, Rory Burns survived Starc’s new-ball spell and battled gamely. Until the left-armer returned with his knockout punch on the bell, it had been Neser and Richardson, who had done the damage. Skiddy and lively, Richardson had dismissed both openers, bounce accounting for Hameed in his first spell and angle from round the wicket proving too good for Burns in his second. In between Neser had caught Malan half-forward on the knee-roll, the ball after Smith had shelled a catch at slip.

Set a mammoth 468 to win, in a nominal 134 overs, it looked an all too familiar tale at this point, as Stokes and Root came together to try to see matters to the close. Australia’s declaration, 40 minutes before the second interval, was well-timed, designed to give England minimal hope; to allow the quick bowlers two bites with a newish ball either side of the break, and then to exploit the evening period under lights — and again with a second new ball on the final day if necessary. Should it go that far, only then will the script have deviated from that of four years ago.

 

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THE ASHES | GIDEON HAIGH

The Ashes 2021/22: Rory Burns’s technique looks like a committee’s brainstorm

Gideon Haigh

Sunday December 19 2021, 12.00pm, The Times

 

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-ashes-test-two-day-four-rory-burns-england-australia-bz5bsqlj7

 

As England began its second innings at Adelaide Oval just before tea, Rory Burns took guard to face the first ball from Mitchell Starc.

It was an act weighted with symbolism, and probably always will be. In some ways England haven’t recovered from their shattering beginning that fateful morning at the Gabba when Burns was circumvented by Starc’s fast, full, first-up offering; he had left the task to his partner Haseeb Hameed since.

Starts had not been coming to him readily anyway. 2021 has been an up and down year for most of us, but Burns has taken it to another level. He made a fine Test hundred at Lord’s. He made important contributions to English efforts at Leeds and Birmingham. He has also made six noughts. It has been a lot of duck and some dinner.

 

And this is more of a problem for Burns than some, because his technique looks like a committee’s brainstorm. Surely no individual could have come up with such a concatenation of quirks. His bat face is closed. His head is tucked tightly into his shoulder.

Mr Bojangles had nothing on the complexity of Burns’ footwork, although this in Brisbane degenerated into a hokey-pokey: you put your right foot in, you take your whole self out.

When he fails, then, the setback is always held to be technical, an outcome of this, that or the other thing, even though his long-term predecessor opening for England, Alastair Cook, had a style no less ugly and idiosyncratic.

Cook, of course, could point to a mountain of runs that from a technical point of view it seemed like he should never have compiled; Burns’ record is more modest, albeit comparatively not bad in a tough few years for opening batters, especially those on English pitches.

 

This time, Starc’s first ball passed harmlessly by an upraised bat, although the next swerved by a tentative defensive shot. He tucked a boundary away to get off the mark, then was beaten again. It would be that kind of night for all concerned; no point fussing about it. Haseeb was caught at the wicket in the next over.

 

Burns has predictable weaknesses for a left-handed opener. His struggles against Starc’s left-arm speed have reproduced problems he experienced with Pakistan’s Shaheen Shah Afridi; the challenges posed by Nathan Lyon follow difficulties against the West Indian Roston Chase. Lyon confronted him last night with three in a tight off-side ring, near enough to be close contacts, with three more prowling round point.

What Burns does do is battle, stoically and inscrutably, exhibiting his capabilities in a fine Ashes hundred at Edgbaston thirty months ago. Now he tried; how he tried. He got to double figures; he survived until tea. He was beaten by Neser; he cut for four. He was given caught behind off Green; he reviewed successfully. He outlasted Dawid Malan; he was joined by Joe Root.

Burns had a long day to contemplate his vigil, as England’s chasing task swelled from the demanding to the epic, the improbable to the miraculous.

For the first hour, the tourists were alert and purposeful, conceding 14 runs in 14 overs whilst prising out three wickets. In the next hour, however, England managed to undo much of this groundwork. Smith having perished to a leg side strangle, Travis Head’s busy presence got Labuschagne going, and the pair added 75 in an hour.

Having scorned to choose a specialist slow bowler, Root was, by the end, relying on his own and Malan’s part-time variations. As they winkled out some late wickets, the fielders did not even trouble to huddle, although this may also have been a South Australian Covid protocol. SA Health will soon be requiring its own version of the lbw law.

 

Smith’s declaration finally set them to score more runs than they scrounged together in two innings in Brisbane, and Burns duly felt the squeeze. Two hours’ graft yielded 30; for twenty balls Burns was becalmed. He drove on the up at Richardson and barely escaped.

Two balls later he had to play at a ball that just straightened, and Smith completed the catch low to his right at second slip. Great effort; little luck; no avail. It was as symbolic as Burns’ dismissal at Brisbane.

 

● Gideon Haigh is Cricket Writer for The Australian

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54 minutes ago, Bill said:

I predicted a 3-1 series win for Australia. For some reason I actually thought England could get a win and a draw but I now realise that was just fantasy thinking. 

The only bit of my prediction that i got right was that Smith would be captain before the end of the series.

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A sound thrashing by an Australian team, shorn, bizarrely,  of the world's No 1 rated bowler, Cummins, and, by injury, of its second pick quick, Hazlewood, hard on the heels of the ignominy of the Gabba. 

ENG will have to grit its teeth, gird up its loins (in Root's case, literally) and try to grind something out of the Melbourne Test.

I would not back them, even for a month of Sundays with a French actress. 

 

Here's Atherton's take:

 

THE ASHES | MIKE ATHERTON

The Ashes: Fighting spirit must not hide fact England were out-thought and outplayed

Adelaide (final day of five): Australia beat England by 275 runs

Mike Atherton, Chief Cricket Correspondent

Monday December 20 2021, 10.30am, The Times

 

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-ashes-fighting-spirit-must-not-hide-fact-england-were-out-thought-and-out-played-gcm73p2dj

 

A tour two years in the planning has unravelled in nine days of cricket. Only one team in the history of the Ashes has come back from a two Test deficit to win and that was one inspired by a cricketer, Don Bradman, regarded as the greatest the game has seen. If the history books provide glum reading, then current viewing is not much better, despite the spirit so evident on the final afternoon, as England clung doggedly to the hope of a draw.

There was fight, of course there was. After the early dismissal of Ollie Pope, all England’s batsmen had to be prised from the crease and the way in which they made Australia work for their gains only added to the regret from the night before when their best batsman, Joe Root, was dismissed to the final ball of the day. Had he survived that examination, who knows what might have been on the final day.

Although a beating competitive heart is the minimum expectation of an international team, England carried the game far, far deeper than many thought possible once two wickets had fallen in the opening hour. It wasn’t until after tea, with the shadows long lengthened over the entire ground, that Australia administered the full stop when Jhye Richardson accounted for James Anderson, fending a short ball into the gully.

Buttler was forced back into his crease by the pace of Richardson and trod on his off stump

 

That the day carried any residual interest at all, was due to Jos Buttler who, one day, when the pain has subsided, will be able to tell his grandchildren about the time he blocked like Geoff Boycott. Playing his second longest Test innings, Buttler defied Australia through much of the morning, all of the afternoon, and until two overs after the tea break, to the point at which he had brought some hope where previously there had been none. There were 24 overs remaining when he was dismissed.

The freakish nature of his dismissal only added to the pain. Pushed onto the back foot by the pace of Richardson, who took his maiden five-wicket haul by bowling quickly and with great spirit, Buttler misjudged the depth of his crease, dislodging the bails when his back foot brushed the stumps. It was a cruel way to go after an innings of astonishing self-restraint (26 from 207 balls, including just nine runs in the extended afternoon session), although after a duck in the first innings and three dropped catches, Buttler knew he had ground to make up.

 

He is old enough and experienced enough to know that the encomiums that will follow his fine rearguard action could have been obituaries for his Test career instead, had Alex Carey accepted a chance before he had scored off the eighth ball faced. Such is the game: Carey, who had not put a foot wrong until this point, would have fretted as long as Buttler was out there fighting for the cause, while Buttler has now been given an opportunity to turn his tour around.

To say Carey dropped the chance created by Mitchell Starc would be an exaggeration, as he allowed the edge to slip by without attempting to intercept it. As the edge flew between him and David Warner at first slip, Carey feigned to go and then stopped, at which point Warner simply stepped aside to allow the wicketkeeper room to dive and the ball flew to the boundary. Had that been taken, England would likely have subsided by lunch, but Buttler did not give another chance until dismissed.

There was only a sliver of hope for England at the start of the day, reduced further when Pope and Ben Stokes fell in the opening hour. Pope’s tour has not started well. His defence has looked shaky against Nathan Lyon, resulting in a tempo the wrong side of the line between assertive and frenetic and in the second innings here he failed to cope with the angle of Starc, fencing at a ball fully two stumps wide. As the ball nestled in the hands of Steve Smith at slip, Pope did a small jig of frustration — this was a sucker punch.

Stokes had defended resolutely against Lyon, with plenty of close catchers for company. His method was to play deep from the crease and move across to off stump, to negate the spin, so Lyon varied his pace and the amount of side and over-spin put on the ball, to try and deceive Stokes in the air. He finally did so, after an hour, with a ball a little quicker and flatter than before, producing a thunderous appeal and a decision upheld on DRS review.

 

The expectation was for a quick kill, much as had happened at this ground in 2017, when Australia’s victory came in a rush on the fifth morning. It was Chris Woakes who stopped the rot, by joining Buttler in the 57th over of the innings and staying with him until the eight overs after the second new ball had been taken. Woakes’s bowling has been ineffectual throughout the opening two Tests, but his simple batting technique compares well with his top-order colleagues.

Woakes was one of only two wickets to fall in the afternoon, as the ball softened and the pitch fell to sleep, and Smith continued to search of the breakthrough. It needed a good ball to beat Woakes and Richardson provided it, a sharp break-back that crashed into middle stump. Ollie Robinson lasted 39 balls, before edging Lyon to slip, bringing the off spinner level with Shane Warne for wickets taken on this ground. Tea came with 26 overs remaining, and two wickets required. Hope was snuffed out with Buttler’s dismissal shortly after the break.

Given Lyon’s success, and the way he combined with Starc to shackle England, one of the odd sights in this game was to witness Robinson lumbering in to bowl off spin on the fourth day. Once an off spinner on the Kent academy by all accounts, he was requisitioned into action by the stand-in captain, Stokes, in the absence of a first-choice spinner, Jack Leach, and Root, who was off the field having his injury attended to.

Now, no-one in their right mind would account for England’s current predicament on the basis of Leach’s absence from Adelaide, but his non-selection reflected much of the woolly and flawed thinking that has characterised England’s Ashes campaign so far. Would Leach have made a difference? Probably not. Should he have played? Of course he should. Mark Wood was rested, they say. But for what? England are now 2-0 down.

 

Robinson bowling off spin; Lyon ripping it square and England’s spinners sat on the bench. You couldn’t make it up, really. The margin of defeat was a mighty one, and the fighting spirit on the last afternoon should not camouflage the fact that England, for the second time in as many Tests, have been out-thought and outplayed. Once again the batting has been completely underwhelming and they face a returning and refreshed Pat Cummins next as Australia announced an unchanged squad for the Boxing Day Test. Root’s Ashes dreams hang by a thread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Uilleam
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