Dannie Byrne in his element
DAY TWO Smith breaks more records but Archer and Curran swing things in favour of the home side; Day Two at the Oval.
The 50 partnership between Buttler and Leach was completed from 74 balls in the first over of the day when Buttler crashed the final delivery from Cummins to the extra cover boundary. Leach followed this with a lovely square drive off Marsh. Leach edged Marsh at catchable height through the vacant third slip area before Buttler was comprehensively bowled by Cummins attempting to hit the ball into the Pavilion again ( 294 – 9 ). Broad edged Cummins just short of Warner at first slip before Leach played on to Marsh without any additional runs being scored. The home side was all out for 294 from 87.1 overs and Marsh had taken five wickets in an innings for the first time in his 32nd Test appearance.
As Lee Fortis sat on the heavy roller to further flatten the wicket Terry was busy clearing up after a phenomenal early morning drinking session in the Beehive before the start of play. All the umbrellas had been safely locked away in the cellar and even Terry didn’t know what he had done with the key. Appreciation can be shown for his valiant efforts to keep the rain away by means of donating the price of a pint of Fosters any evening following the conclusion of the Test after 5 pm.
Warner has had a terrible series in England and things were about to get worse. A wild swipe at a delivery from Archer wide of off stump resulted in a faint edge being caught by Bairstow behind the stumps. Umpire Dharmasena initially ruled not out but when Root called for the Decision Review System to be invoked, third umpire Ruchira Palliyaguruge pressed a few buttons and hot spot quickly located the point of contact on Warner’s bat ( 5 – 1 ). Broad had a close lbw shout against Labuschagne and Harris edged Archer with the ball bouncing in front of Buttler in the gully. Two balls later and another edge from Harris was superbly caught by Stokes low at second slip ( 14 – 2 ). Curran replaced Broad after a 5 over spell and Labuschagne played an aggressive drive with the ball flying just wide of Stokes at second slip.
Woakes replaced Archer after an outstanding opening spell of 7 – 5 – 7 – 2 and Curran had a few lbw appeals against Smith turned down. Lunch was taken with the score 55 – 2 from 19 overs with most of the crowd enjoying the glorious sunshine while those of us in the Pavilion reached for another layer of clothing. The 50 partnership between Smith and Labuschagne was as predictable as finding Terry with a pint of Fosters at 5 pm on a Tuesday afternoon. Broad and Archer had a few overs each before Woakes was brought on at the Pavilion End. Archer continued to run in from the Vauxhall End and was rewarded for his efforts when Labuschagne played all around a straight delivery and was lbw for 48 ( 83 – 3 ).
Curran eventually replaced Archer and immediately after the drinks interval Woakes was convinced he had Wade lbw. Root called for the review and the original decision from Dharmasena was upheld. Leach came on to bowl the 36th over of the innings allowing Curran to switch ends. Four balls later Wade was lbw to a delivery that swung in the air and straightened to trap him in front of the wicket ( 118 – 4 ). Smith hit Leach over deep mid-wicket for a six to bring up his inevitable half century from 91 balls becoming the first player ever to score ten consecutive scores of 50 + against a single opponent. Tea was taken with the score 147 – 4 from 44 overs with 92 runs coming in the session for the loss of two wickets from 25 overs. It isn’t just the Australians who have a problem with slow over rates.
Archer bowled from the Pavilion End for the first time after the interval. A short delivery was pulled straight to Leach at deep fine leg by Mitchell Marsh ( 160 – 5 ). The left arm spinner had been doing his stretching exercises prior to coming on to bowl but with the fall of the wicket Root threw the ball to Curran instead. Smith was dropped attempting a cut to Curran when on 66 by Root wearing 66 standing at first slip. Curran didn’t let his disappointment last for long and Paine was caught behind in his next over ( 166 – 6 ). Cummins was the next man in and Curran trapped him lbw with his first delivery. The Surrey bowler ran off towards the Archbishop Tenison’s School to celebrate not even waiting for the umpire to raise his finger ( 166 – 7 ). The crowd looked on in eager anticipation and Siddle calmly edged the hat-trick ball all along the ground to the third man boundary. After Moeen Ali’s hat-trick here a few years ago the Oval was not going to witness another one today.
Smith was still going at the other end and he played an incredible shot when allowing the ball to run between the slips to the boundary off an audacious late cut to Archer of all people. Leach replaced Archer and Woakes took over from Curran at the Vauxhall End. Smith was lbw to Woakes’ first delivery after the drinks break not playing a shot for 80 ( 187 – 8 ). It was Smith’s lowest score of the series and he received a very generous and thoroughly deserved standing ovation from the Oval crowd. Lyon came in with all guns blazing. He carved two boundaries to the vacant third man area and poor bowling from England allowed 37 runs to be added for the ninth wicket. Lyon hit Woakes for a six over square leg and was dropped by Leach at deep fine leg off Archer. He was eventually deceived by a brilliant slower delivery by Archer that dropped like a Yorker into the block hole after Lyon had already played his shot ( 224 – 9 ). Archer had taken 5 wickets in an innings for the second time in only his fourth Test match.
Hazlewood was dropped off his first delivery by Root at slip with the ball coming off the batsman’s helmet and the umpire not signaling for a leg bye. Three balls later Siddle was brilliantly caught by Burns at gully diving low to his right to give Archer his sixth wicket. The Australians were all out for 225 giving England a lead of 69 from the first innings. Burns and Denly were required to bat for 18 minutes before the close of play and Cummins managed to clonk Burns on the helmet with his third delivery. Denly was dropped at fourth slip by Harris, a straight forward chance off a ball from Hazlewood and the fielder immediately left the field to get attention for a damaged finger. Things were going well for England until Burns was given out lbw to the last ball of the day. The decision looked dodgy even from where I was sitting and fortunately for England Burns called for the DRS which showed the ball to be pitching outside the line of leg stump. At the close of play England had reached 9 – 0 from 4 overs with an overall lead of 78.
DAY THREE: Denly books his place on the winter tour as England bat themselves into a winning position; Day Three at the Oval.
Cummins and Hazlewood opened the bowling for Australia on the third morning. Denly and Burns survived a barrage of short deliveries before Lyon was brought on to bowl the 13th over of the innings. Eleven runs were taken from it including a straight six from an innocuous looking punch drive from Denly. Siddle replaced Hazlewood and after 95 balls the crowd applauded the first 50 run opening partnership of the summer. It had broken the sequence of 15 innings where the opening batsmen had failed to take the scoreboard up to 50 without the loss of a wicket, the longest in England’s history. It was probably too much to expect them to continue for much longer and Burns was caught behind attempting a drive to a wide delivery from Lyon ( 54 – 1 ). At least he had scored 390 runs in the series at an average of 39 and the problem with the opening partnership was usually found to be at the other end.
Hazlewood was immediately recalled as Root walked to the crease. The England captain didn’t appear to mind and a short delivery was deliberately carved over the slips. An edge from Hazlewood’s next over dropped short of slip and it wasn’t until Lyon was switched to the Vauxhall End that Root managed to get an edge to carry to Smith ( 87 – 2 ). As Stokes walked to the crease Andrew Samson came up with an amusing piece of information on the radio commentary in that should this series finish as a tie the Australians were well ahead on the number of boundaries scored. Lunch was taken with the score 88 – 2 from 30 overs. The overall England lead was 157.
After the interval Stokes was dropped by Smith at slip off Lyon when his score was on 7. It was the fifth dropped catch by the Australians in this match. Denly brought up his half century from 127 balls, his fourth score of 50 + in Test cricket and all of them in England’s second innings. Stokes went after Lyon’s bowling taking 11 off one over and Marsh replaced Hazlewood at the Pavilion End. Marsh had a huge lbw shout against Denly turned down by Erasmus with the batsman on 54. The Australians chose not to use the DRS which was just as well for Denly who clearly should have been given out. The 50 partnership came up from 114 balls just as Denly retreated into his shell and scored only one run between 2.12 and 2.56 during the afternoon session.
Labuschagne was introduced into the attack and Denly hit a fortunate boundary just over Cummins at mid-off to take his score to 67. Hazlewood replaced Marsh and Stokes reached 50 by smashing a full toss from Labuschagne over cow corner and into the crowd for six. His effort had required 89 balls. Paine was regularly switching his bowlers around at this stage and when he dropped Denly on 74 he probably didn’t realise it was Siddle bowling as the ball failed to properly carry to him. The 100 partnership was completed from 183 balls just before Tea was taken with the score 193 – 2 from 60 overs. The full complement of 30 overs had been bowled in a session for the first time in the match and England had scored 105 runs without losing a wicket. The scoring rate was a healthy 3.5 runs an over and Denly was 82 not out, his highest Test score. The overall lead had climbed to 262.
Denly used his feet well coming down the wicket to drive Lyon to the long-off boundary but the partnership soon came to an end when Stokes was bowled by Lyon for 67 with a delivery that dipped and turned sharply ( 214 – 3 ). Denly survived a huge lbw appeal from Siddle when on 94 only to be caught at slip by Smith a few balls later ( 224 – 4 ). The selectors busy compiling a list for the winter tour will have added his name having initially discarded him from their preferred options. Buttler came out and immediately showed his intent by hitting a couple of boundaries. Bairstow was also looking to score quickly and 15 runs were plundered from an over from Siddle. Cummins replaced Siddle and Bairstow smashed the first delivery through the covers. Marsh replaced Cummins and Smith took an excellent catch with the keeper diving in front of him to remove Bairstow ( 249 – 5 ). The partnership had added 27 runs from 33 balls and noise coming from the Peter May stand was so loud I could barely hear the Test Match Special commentary on my radio.
The new ball was taken as soon as it was available with the score 277 – 5 and Curran was caught down the leg side to a fine edge off Cummins ( 279 – 6 ). Woakes and Buttler looked set to contribute a useful partnership until Smith pulled off an outrageous catch diving full length to his right at second slip to remove Woakes ( 305 – 7 ). The wicket came from the last ball in Marsh’s over and when Siddle bowled the next delivery Labuschagne ran in from the deep square leg boundary to dive full length to remove Buttler ( 305 – 8 ). Leach walked out to bat to the biggest ovation I have heard at the Oval since Alec Stewart played his last Test match in 2003. Cummins replaced Marsh at the Pavilion End and Leach greeted him with a perfect straight drive that was just cut off inside the boundary. Labuschagne replaced Siddle and the crowd were cheering wildly every time Leach hit the ball. At the close of play England had reached 318 – 8 from 91 overs with an overall lead of 382. The bowling rate had improved slightly and only 3 overs were lost to the game on the third day bringing the overall total up to 18 for the match. I slowly made my way across Spring Park to the Black Dog pub and the delicious craft beer I discovered was