There will be a further inspection at 6pm. They need to be back on the field before 7pm, with play possible untll 7.30pm.
“Forgive the ignorance here, but what exactly are the superduper, revolutionary principles of Bazball?” asks Joe Johnson. “To me it just looks like treating a Test match as if it’s really a set of one-day games and hoping for the best. What am I missing?”
Belinda Carlisle understands Bazball.
“Bazball is only ‘risky’ if you want cricket as played in 1954!!!!!” says Tony White. “The WHOLE point of Bazball is not to worry about, ‘Oh dear, we might lose, we might have to bat harder, we might have to bore the spectators to death’!!! There are OBOers who need clinical psychology!”
Well, that last bit is a fair cop.
“Gotta say I disagree with all the naysayers and hindsighters on the declaration,” says Rob Coates. “1) pitch was a road, give your bowlers max time and opportunities; 2) how many more were they likely to get with two wickets left? Not enough to make a difference; 3) protect your bowlers from batting injuries; 4) psychological impact cannot be understated in what should be a tight series. “Great decision on the balance of probabilities, displays authenticity of leadership and courage and belief in the team.
“Sure, we didn’t get a wicket on day one and sure we lost two openers in a difficult patch but could easily make the case if Australia had been bold and declared at their sixth wicket they could have had us five down now. So I’m all for the bold, brave declarations.”
I understand that argument, even if I strongly disagree. One thing, though: it’s not fair to sneer about ‘hindsighters’. I can assure you I’ve been boring people to tears in WhatsApp groups since Friday evening.
Also, on point 2, with the way Root was batting England could easily have got 40 runs in the six overs before the close, then brought Australia back out on the third morning. Those runs would be handy now. Personally – and I appreciate I’m in a minority, and may well be totally wrong – I think it was a poor decision made for the wrong reasons.
“On the radio this morning,” writes my colleague Daniel Harris, “Aggers (I think) asked Baz if he asked for this pitch and he said ‘What do you think?’ i.e. did i eff.”
The story so far
It’s been a three-faced Test match, with each day bearing little resemblance to the others.
Day 1 82 overs, 407 runs, eight wickets
Day 2 90 overs, 297 runs, five wickets
Day 3 32.4 overs, 103 runs, seven wickets
“People want Bairstow,” says Chris Seymour. “People want Foakes. I’ve figured out how to get them both in the same team: drop Stokes, making him 12th man.
“His batting hasn’t been much to write home about of late and he can barely bowl, so we wouldn’t miss that and we can get him on in place of Bairstow when England are in the field.
“The ultimate funky selection. OBE in the post, please.”
The next inspection will be at 5.30pm. But the rain is getting heavier.
“Stokes’ declaration doesn’t look too clever right now,” says Brendan Moore. “Bazball is risky enough without reckless punts on stormy weather. If England had finished their innings, they probably wouldn’t even be batting in these conditions.”
I refer you to my colleague Geoff Lemon: if you change one occurrence in a temporal sequence, you can’t retain the subsequent occurrences that followed it. But I still didn’t like the declaration, and will feel the same even if England win. Maybe not if they win with two balls to spare; should that happen, I’ll bury my happy face in humble pie.
“Watching the 1997 game on Sky, interesting to note the sound of school kids singing,” says Vic Rushton. “As the first two days of the game were school days, they must have given away tickets. Considering the number of empty seats, they evidently were having difficulty filling the ground. Interesting in light of the debate we’ve been having about pricing and cricket crowds.”
I hadn’t picked up on that. I’m very surprised it didn’t sell out, especially as there was so much excitement and anticipation after England’s Hollioake-inspired 3-0 win in the ODI series.
The umpires are strolling round the ground. The outfield is still very wet, and there’s a bit of light rain falling.
“To my way of thinking (which is probably overstating it) the issue with the wicket isn’t that it’s true and flat but that it lacks the pace Stokes had asked for and, most crucially, the bounce,” says Geoff Wignall. “With bounce and some pace on a true pitch you get the very best contest between bat and ball with opportunity for all types of bowler. If the mission is to entertain, surely that’s what is needed?”
Indeed. And I think – though you can never be sure with these things – that those are the pitches they wanted.
Weather update It has stopped raining, and the groundstaff are doing their stuff. The umpires will inspect at 5pm. We may yet get some more cricket tonight.
“Hi Rob,” writes Ben Mimmack. “Just realised I’ve been emailing you for over 15 years now, so we’ve been in a (correspondence) relationship longer than I’ve known my wife (you can have the Wisdens in the divorce). Anyway I thought given your Relentless phase some years back, you might enjoy these drinks my sons bought me for Father’s Day.”
“Afternoon Rob. Matt and Louise, Aussies touring Italy here noting that Ben Stokes seems to have some shaman-like ability to control the weather as he sees fit! Has there been another Test in recent memory when rain has come in handy as an offensive weapon (day two) and a defensive one right now?”
I’m sure there have been more recently examples but the Ashes decider at the Oval in 2005 comes to mind. It took loads of time out of the game, which helped England, and also juiced up the pitch to facilitate Australia’s collapse on day four.
“If the Bazball approach gets England in the clear rather than deep in the mire,” begins Ian Copestake, “then we can safely conclude that, like Grandma’s dressing gown, it covers everything.”
“Really enjoying this first Ashes Test and its twists and turns,” writes Colum Fordham. “Brilliantly aggressive captaincy from Stokes helped to make amends for his rather reckless declaration and even rasher shot. But never a dull moment with Bazball or our captain.
“Could you wish my father Richard a happy Father’s Day? He’s an unconventional cricket fan, preferring to read about the cricket the day after. But it’s in the blood. His father Arthur William was an excellent cricketer and captain of the London School of Economics team in 1929.”
Of course. Happy Father’s Day Richard! (Or perhaps I should say, in view of his reading habits, ‘happy day after Father’s Day, Richard!’)
“I’ve done some digging,” says Louise Henry. “When England are batting and play is called off on the third day of a five day match, they have never gone on to win (timeless Tests a different story). I wonder if Stokes is thinking of this or of Bazball means all history and reverence is out the door.”
I believe ‘history’ and ‘precedent’ are the two options on the England team’s breakfast menu.
“Quite right, England will not want to come back out and bat tonight,” says Jeremy Boyce. “But will it be any better for them tomorrow with a moist wicket and maybe some hot sun? How’s the long-term forecast ? What they need now is some mind-boggling Bazball batting and then, while the wicket’s still dodgy, plenty of scuff marks, etc, bring on their killer bowler, Derek Under….. Ahhh. Ok. Harry Brook to bowl, right arm over…”
“The answer to the Foakes/Bairstow dilemma is pretty simple really,” says Kim Thonger. “ECB hire the best make up artist the British Film and TV industry can offer. Disguise Foakes as Bairstow when we are fielding. They could easily accomplish that. Some might call this cheating but I prefer the Alan Clark turn of phrase ‘economical with the actualité’.”
“The problem I have with that passage of play isn’t that they carried on in gloomy conditions,” says Andrew Moore, “but I didn’t see the umpires take a light reading. This could be controversial if light intervenes on Monday in better conditions than they just played in. Hopefully won’t come to that.”
I didn’t see it either but they will surely have done so. Right?
“Besides the walking comment, would Crawley be the most in danger IF anyone in this side were to be dropped?” wonders Dechlan Brennan. “I wondered if Bairstow’s keeping would facilitate a change eventually to a pure batsman (despite his desires). Baz doesn’t seem like one to drop players but Foakes would disagree and Crawley seems to either go big or nothing (Hussain’s words).”
I’ve been watching England since 1988 and I can’t recall a tougher selection decision than the one they had at the start of the summer. There was just no satisfactory solution. Dropping Crawley is fine in theory but it would mean moving somebody else to open, and none of them are even close to being a natural fit. I feel so sorry for Foakes but I don’t think we’ll see him this summer unless Bairstow gets injured.
“On England’s dilemma, I just think flatter truer wickets suit Australia more who have the quicker bowlers and the superior spinner,” says Digvijay Yadav. “They’ll always get more out of the pitches. But also batters’ frailties are masked. Green top might suit England more even if you can’t bat ultra aggressively.”
I understand that argument but I don’t agree. England want to play to their strengths, which I think is the right idea. In 2015 that strength was Anderson and Broad, hence the slower seaming wickets. I can see both sides though.
“A quick statgasm thought whilst we’re in a rainbreak,” begins David Hopkins. “The Australia innings featured a few occasions when the two highest test wicket takers amongst fast bowlers were bowling in tandem, which is pretty amazing when you think about it.
“Has that ever happened before? Presumably at points in the distant past. Maybe Walsh and Ambrose more recently?”
I don’t think Ambrose ever got past Kapil Dev or Sir Richard Hadlee. I’ll see if I can find out when it last happened. I suspect it’ll be more than 50 years ago.
Good news/bad news
“I guess Bazball doesn’t include walking: Crawley absolutely taking the cover off the ball in both innings and standing there,” says Dechlan Brennan.
It was a great catch by Alex Carey at mid-off.
“At the time I thought it was a performative, self-indulgent declaration from Ben Stokes,” says Brian Withington. “If England had taken a wicket it would have course have been hailed as a crowd-pleasing, momentum seizing masterstroke, rather than simply frittering away some 30 valuable runs (or more). But it still rankled with me.
“My only hesitation is that from the outset I have been rather cynical about Ben Stokes as captain and then all the B**B*** media hype. However, he has continued to confound all my scepticism with his genuinely inspiring captaincy as he continues to walk the talk to remarkable effect. Let’s see how he digs England out of this meteorologically facilitated hole. He may even have to resort to going truly leftfield and getting his head down and scoring some hard runs …”
Don’t flush runs down the loo, because you never know what conditions will be like when you bat again. If the teams get back on the field tonight, England are in serious trouble.
“Afternoon Rob, hope you’re well,” writes my colleague Sachin Nakrani. “Just returned to London after a lovely day-and-a-bit in Brighton where the family and I had the joyous pleasure of a hot sun over our heads and the joyous pain of unforgiving pebbles under our feet. We ate and drank a fair amount too.
“Not been able to follow any of the cricket while I‘ve been away and, as such, was really looking forward to getting home and watching the rest of today’s play.
“While they’re off the field, a question for you: who do you think would win in a fight; Ben Stokes’ utter and absolute refusal to follow the conventions of the sport he has dedicated his professional life to or a tiger? Love to know your thoughts.”
My thoughts are with the tiger’s loved ones.
The two wickets to fall
That was such a pulsating passage of play. It would have been so easy for Cummins and Boland to strain for wickets, knowing the rain was coming, but they were forensic in their work. You can see why England are reluctant to prepare the kind of seam-friendly wickets that helped win the Ashes in 2015.
“Was Steve Waugh one of the declaring, but losing, captains?” asks David Horn. “No idea on the other one … seems like something that could happen on a featherbed that turns into a bunsen, so I’m going with Gavaskar.”
England lead by 35 runs
That might be it for the day. England’s players may secretly hope so.
10.3 overs: England 28-2 (Pope 0, Root 0) The rain comes to England’s rescue after an exceedingly nasty mini-session: 22 balls, two runs, two wickets. Cummins and Boland bowled masterfully.
Root is not out! He drove at a gorgeous full-length delivery from Cummins that vroomed past the edge. Smith thought he heard something, but replays showed a bit of daylight between bat and ball.
The crowd have started sarcastically appealing whenever an England player leaves the ball.
AUSTRALIA REVIEW FOR CAUGHT BEHIND AGAINST ROOT! Cummins goes upstairs this time on the say-so of Steve Smith. I’ve no idea if Root nicked it; Smith was sure he did.
10th over: England 28-2 (Pope 0, Root 0) Australia are all over England like a cheap cliche. Root survives a huge LBW shout from Boland after being hit on the pad by another big nipbacker. It looked like he got outside the line, and Pat Cummins eventually decides not to go upstairs. That’s admirably clear-headed captaincy, because most captains would have gambled a review in the hope of getting Root.
Technology confirms that Root was outside the line. And no, it’s not cowardly to pray for thunderstorms. Another half hour of this and England will be in all sorts.
Crawley was aggrieved as he walked off – not with the decision, but because he thinks the light isn’t playable. What a chance this is for Australia to pick up Joe Root and blow the game wide open.
Two wickets in four balls! Crawley, on the walk, thin-edges Boland through to the keeper. It was another lovely delivery – perfect line and length, with just enough movement. This is masterful bowling from Australia.
9th over: England 27-1 (Crawley 7, Pope 0) This is a helluva chance for Australia to undermine England before the thunderstorm, because the ball is doing plenty.
Cummins tries to bowl Pope round his legs first ball – I assume it was deliberate – and spears it down the leg side. He has a more attacking field now, with three slips and a gully. Pope defends the last ball of the over, his second, with authority.
Duckett felt for a wide awayswinger from Cummins and edged it low to the left of Green in the gully. He got down so quickly and stuck out his left hand to take a beautiful catch just above the ground. No controversy here, despite a few pantomine boos from the crowd. That’s out.
Cameron Green has taken another blinder! It’ll be checked by the third umpire but the on-field reactions suggest it was a clean catch.
8th over: England 27-0 (Crawley 7, Duckett 19) Scott Boland replaces Josh Hazlewood, a smart move given the overhead conditions. His second ball straightens off the seam to beat Crawley’s expansive off-drive.
A thunderstorm is imminent. Pretty much any team in Test history would play defensively in this situation; England do things differently.
Boland has a big LBW appeal against Crawley turned down by Marais Erasmus. It was a lovely delivery, which snagged back off the seam, but it was surely too high. Pat Cummins decides not to review.
There’s another LBW appeal next ball when Crawley offers no shot to a nipbacker. It didn’t do enough, and Marais Erasmus shakes his head. That was a terrific over from Boland.
7th over: England 26-0 (Crawley 7, Duckett 18) The lights are on and it’s pretty gloomy at Edgbaston. A very good time to bowl, in other words, and another test of England’s commitment to
Cummins has one ball of his fourth over remaining; Crawley defends it to midwicket.
Here come the players. It’s on!
“Totally agree Stokes’ declaration was awful,” says Max Williams. “We left 50 odd runs out there, potentially crucial ones. Root was imperious, Robinson comfortable, Australia exhausted. And we gained what? Four overs at the openers in benign conditions. Even if we’d snagged a wicket – highly unlikely – I think you’d still prefer 440 on the board. Australia would have been delighted walking off rather than continue suffering in the field.”
What I find interesting is that two of the only people to query it were Kevin Pietersen and Michael Vaughan, two of England’s most groundbreaking cricketers in the 21st century. The people you thought might critique it – Nasser, for example – were actually in agreement.
I’m also conscious that Ben Stokes is a genius, and that most people agreed with the declaration, so maybe I/we are guilty of old fartism.
“Well Rob, thanks for the alert about free entertainment on Yupp TV here on the continent,” writes Dan at Berlin airport. “It will make the receding prospect of ever boarding my delayed flight home today at least bearable.”
My condolences. On the plus side, there should be some Ashes cricket to follow in seven minutes’ time.
Here’s the forecast for the rest of the day, which can be summed up in one word: thunderstorms.
Live cricket while u wait
“Before the resumption at Edgbaston, readers could do worse than check out the World Cup Qualifier games taking place in Zimbabwe, where Nepal are behind (now – they weren’t before) in the game against Zimbabwe and West Indies are well ahead against USA and, importantly, the sun is shining and cricket is being played,” writes Romeo.
“The ball is white in this tournament but they do have stumps and bails
and stuff and the basic rools are the same. Matches between Test nations and Associates are very often much more entertaining, and can be much more unpredictable, than those between Big Three countries.
“All matches are free to watch on Yupp TV in continental Europe, and
(paying one way or another) on Sky Sports Mix or their ‘app’ in
UK/Ireland but in Australia you have to engage with Fox.”
“I think there’s a counterintuitive side to England’s tactics that is unexplored by many,” writes Daniel Jewesbury. “If England had not declared, had not forced the pace of the game and tried to put the draw beyond reach, there’s a chance Australia would have scored 500. By declaring, in other words, they limit their opponent’s score. What? How??
“Surely the point of the declaration is not to have four overs of bowling but to dictate the game. Australia batted very much below their capability, with many of their stars failing in this environment, and their captain unsure how to face the England style. England are dictating the whole of this game. England had two wickets in hand and a few runs to spare but more importantly they had a 40-over surplus on Australia.
“None of the components of England’s approach makes sense without the others.”
While I agree with most of what you say, especially that last point, I thought it was an awful declaration, a rare bit of gratuitous captaincy from Ben Stokes. Appreciate I’m in a minority though. More importantly, this rain has increased the chances of an even funkier declaration tomorrow!
Woot woot. I didn’t see that coming. The forecast still isn’t great for the rest of the day, but for now the plan is to resume in just under half an hour.
Quiz question, apropos nothing whatsoever
Two captains have declared in both innings of a Test and ended up on the losing side. Who are they?
Sky are showing highlights of the extraordinary Edgbaston Test of 1997, when England reduced Australia to 54 for eight on a delirious first morning. And why not.
Moeen Ali’s spinning finger, the state thereof
He had a similar problem during the 2017-18 Ashes, when he soldiered on for all five Tests but averaged 115 with the ball. I fear he might reverse his reversal after this game.
“‘If you change one occurrence in a temporal sequence, you can’t retain the subsequent occurrences that followed it’,” writes Kev G, quoting Geoff’s wisdom at 2.22pm. “I’ve made a note of that, thanks. It will do exceptionally well in response to allegations that some or other task I’ve omitted to do should’ve been done yesterday. Is there nothing in life for which the OBO doesn’t have an answer?”
Thanks Geoff, hello everyone. I hate to sound pessimistic, but
we’re all going to die some day, no two ways that might be it for the day. It’s hosing down in the West Midlands conurbation popularly known as Edgbaston, and the forecast for the rest of the day isn’t great.
With the rain still trickling down and the Birmingham city buildings shrouded, this seems like a good time to hand over to Rob Smyth. He loves this stuff.
https://www.theguardian.com/sport/live/2023/jun/18/the-ashes-2023-england-vs-australia-live-updates-first-test-cricket-eng-v-aus-latest-score-day-three-egdbaston The Ashes 2023: England v Australia, first Test, day three – live | Ashes 2023