So once again the next session is looking potentially crucial in this Test. The first five sessions have set up an excellently competitive match but one wicketless session, or a few quick dismissals, could change everything. Or at least, a lot.
TEA: Australia 76-3 (trail by 226 runs with 7 wickets remaining)
24th over: Australia 76-3 (Smith 19, Handscomb 14) Handscomb prods forward and edges the ball, which doesn’t carry to the slips and goes wide of them as well, skipping away for four. Then he flays a wide, short ball that was pretty much asking to get the treatment. It’s not quite hard enough to reach the boundary but the batsmen run four anyway. Add a nice push through the covers for three and you’ve got an expensive final over of the session and Peter Handscomb’s tea will taste a little sweeter now.
23rd over: Australia 65-3 (Smith 19, Handscomb 3) And Anderson still hasn’t bowled at Handscomb, five dot balls being followed by a couple for Smith, who shuffles across to give himself the chance to work the ball into a nearly vacant leg side. “Must say I’m rather relieved to see the back of Warner,” writes Phil Withall. “Four years ago I spent the Saturday of the Gabba test watching him and Michael Clarke score depressingly rapid centuries and set the tone for the series. With him gone it will take an English collapse of mind-blowing ineptitude for him to get the chance to spoil my day of drinking overpriced weak beer and being mocked by passing Aussies.” Certainly if today’s your day of drinking overpriced weak beer I’d say it’s pretty safe. Tomorrow, well, anything can happen.
22nd over: Australia 63-3 (Smith 17, Handscomb 3) Ball bowls a fine yorker to Handscomb, but the batsman deals with it exemplarily. A couple of balls later he tries to cut a shorter delivery but bottom-edges down into the ground, though well wide of his stumps.
21st over: Australia 63-3 (Smith 17, Handscomb 3) Anderson’s back, presumably to have a go at Handscomb, though he never gets the chance, bowling a maiden to Smith. “Should England enforce the follow on? Asking for a friend,” writes Tom from Sydney. Very droll.
20th over: Australia 63-3 (Smith 17, Handscomb 3) That was just a misjudgement by Warner, faced with a shortish, straightish but not wildly challenging delivery. Handscomb comes out and hits his first delivery square for three, a handsome start.
WICKET! Warner c Malan b Ball 26 (Australia 59-3)
A key breakthrough! Warner thumps the ball straight to midwicket, where Malan doesn’t quite gather at the first attempt but pockets it at the second!
19th over: Australia 56-2 (Warner 24, Smith 15) A boundary! The first for seven and a bit overs. Warner cuts Moeen nicely, and a couple of balls later Smith hits through midwicket and very nearly gets another: the ball is finally chased down a yard or so from the rope. Eight runs from the second half of the over.
18th over: Australia 48-2 (Warner 19, Smith 12) Smith and Warner have been entirely unruffled since they came together, and Ball fails to significantly ruffle them, though it’s a pretty decent introductory over but for an early no-ball.
17th over: Australia 46-2 (Warner 18, Smith 12) Morning whinge: BT Sport/Channel 9/whoever’s fault it is’s inability to show the number of overs that have been bowled, and the number of balls in the current over, makes an OBOer’s life even more difficult. “Smith and Warner showing little respect for the respectfully sedate template laid down by England’s batsmen,” writes Brian Withington. “Already batting with indecent purpose and intent – have they no shame?” Jake Ball’s about to find out if he can do anything about it.
16th over: Australia 41-2 (Warner 16, Smith 9) David Warner averages 25.76 in his first innings against England, and 69.09 in his second. Which is strange because across his entire Test career he averages slightly more in his first innings than his second (49.32 v 46.57).
15th over: Australia 40-2 (Warner 15, Smith 9) A couple of singles off Moeen. Still the early days of what might be the match’s most crucial partnership.
14th over: Australia 38-2 (Warner 14, Smith 8) Three dot balls from Woakes, and then one goes too straight and Smith gets a couple. In other news from the Gabba today, some people got engaged in (or at least very near) the swimming pool:
13th over: Australia 35-2 (Warner 14, Smith 5) Morning/afternoon/whateveritiswhereyouare world! I am welcomed by a Moeen maiden to Warner. These are exciting times, which certainly sugars the pill of being conscious and this unconscionable hour.
12th over: Australia 35-2 (Warner 14, Smith 5) I think there’s still a sneaking dismissal of Steve Smith’s brilliance in some English quarters but a rasping straight drive to an over-pitched Woakes delivery will go some way to correcting that misapprehension. Smith is his idiosyncratic self at the crease, shuffling, scratching, twitching, but crucially, when it matters most he’s still and focussed. The challenge for Woakes and co is Smith moves so far across to the offside the standard fourth stump line has to become fifth stump, which means of course that if Smith stands his ground he has width to play with.
Anyhow, that’s my last over for the day. Time to pass you into the safe hands of Simon Burnton.
11th over: Australia 31-2 (Warner 14, Smith 1) All the talk around Khawaja was his ability against spin after being discarded for the subcontinental tours, and he was immediately found out against England’s offie. The most significant partnership of the match so far you feel now with Australia’s two guns at the crease and under pressure. Gripping stuff under the Queensland sun.
WICKET! Khawaja LBW Moeen 11 (Australia 30-2)
Um, what was that about Australia settling? After Warner had taken a single from the opening delivery, Moeen got stuck into Khawaja. The first ripped past the outside edge. The second, faster and flatter strikes him on the pad plumb in front and Aleem Dar wastes no time raising his finger. There was barely even a discussion with Warner about a review.
10th over: Australia 29-1 (Warner 13, Khawaja 11) Woakes makes it a double bowling change, giving the TV commentators an opportunity to admire a classical bowling action. Not much to report from the over with a couple of singles keeping the scoreboard moving. After that early breakthrough for England, Australia have settled.
9th over: Australia 27-1 (Warner 12, Khawaja 10) Interesting – England have brought Moeen Ali into the attack very early, Joe Root looking to replicate the impact of Nathan Lyon. David Warner isn’t interested in allowing the off-spinner to settle, getting forward quickly and driving with hard fast hands through the off-side. Moeen is undaunted and flights one beyond Warner’s defensive prod, demonstrating there’s still plenty of turn in this wicket. Excellent contest.
8th over: Australia 23-1 (Warner 8, Khawaja 10) A disturbance in the force at the start of the eighth over as Warner takes two from the opening delivery. Broad responds with a full straight delivery with a hint of in-swing from around the wicket that Warner inside-edges onto his pads.
7th over: Australia 18-1 (Warner 5, Khawaja 8) You know the drill, Warner is allowed off strike first ball of the over. Khawaja doesn’t struggle with the next delivery though, driving an over-pitched Anderson delivery for four behind square.
6th over: Australia 13-1 (Warner 4, Khawaja 4) Guess what, another single to Warner, the fourth from the six deliveries he’s faced. It’s almost as though England are happy for him to be at the non-striker’s end. And you can see why when Khawaja is squared up by Broad, the ball squirting off the shoulder of the bat but just in front of a diving third slip who can only parry the ball down to the third-man fence.
5th over: Australia 8-1 (Warner 3, Khawaja 0) Another single to Warner invites Khawaja to face Anderson and he is beaten all ends up first ball by one that leaves him off the pitch. Same same three deliveries later as Anderson continues to angle the ball across the left hander whose feet are yet to start moving. England are on top here, they need to cash in before Warner bludgeons the momentum away from them.
4th over: Australia 7-1 (Warner 2, Khawaja 0) That was a classic England new ball dismissal. Broad offered it up for the drive, the batsman thought about it without committing and the catch goes to hand. I liked the little I saw of Bancroft mind you, and he clearly isn’t the first to succumb to Broad in such a fashion, nor is he likely to be the last.
WICKET! Bancroft c Bairstow b Broad 5 (Australia 7-1)
That’s the early breakthrough for England! Bancroft looked untroubled for 18 deliveries but to his 19th he pushed half-heartedly at a line and length delivery from Broad and succeeded only in deflecting it behind the wicket where Bairstow does well to dive to his right and snaffle the catch. Just the start England wanted.
Meanwhile in the Sheffield Shield…
3rd over: Australia 4-0 (Bancroft 3, Warner 1) After Warner’s tip-and-run gets him off the mark, Anderson finds some movement off the seam, getting one to nip back and rap Bancroft just above his pad. Anderson’s bowling from wide-ish of the crease, angling in to Bancroft, looking for the one to hold its line and tickle the outside edge.
Owen Liiv is ready to up the ante in the contest to rack up the most air miles between Ashes OBOs. “I’m travelling from Whangarei (NZ, currently 4pm and a balmy 22 degrees) to London (18,194km) for Christmas this year, and will be back in NZ in time for the fifth test. 36,000km travelled (with two kids under five to boot) over the series has to be worth a mention! Whether I will be this active/coherent on the chat during my time in England remains to be seen.”
2nd over: Australia 3-0 (Bancroft 3, Warner 0) Broad shares the new ball and his line is much straighter than Anderson’s, targeting the stumps and pads of Bancroft. Bancroft looks to the manor born though, confidently getting into line and presenting the full face of the bat. Remember, he was smacked in the grille at short leg earlier the day, and there was nary a flinch.
Tim Pearson has a response to Peter Gibbs’ earlier post about the Gabba pool deck. “I think Mr Gibbs has it wrong. Alcohol being a diuretic ‘n’all, the punters’ pee will be virtually clear, so more or less undetectable. The problem comes when they stop drinking, stay in the pool and dehydrate, at which time their orange emanations will be be like gaudy Vegas neon signs.”
1st over: Australia 3-0 (Bancroft 3, Warner 0) Bancroft faces up to Anderson for his first over in Test cricket and the Western Australian is off the mark with a couple squirted down to third man, quickly followed a clip off his pads for one. Not a lot to get excited about for England, the ball gun barrel straight with no hint of misbehaviour either in the air or off the seam.
The sun is out, the players out, the Gabba is a scene. Time for the afternoon session.
Time to start looking towards Australia’s reply. How will Cameron Bancroft play on Test debut? Is David Warner’s neck still an impediment? Can England get the Kookaburra ball to move laterally? Another engrossing session is in prospect.
Peter Gibbs brings up a point that was also in the back of my mind: “Good morning from exotic Selsey, where people go to die then forget what they came for (but more famous for a namecheck from Madness). I was thinking about that pitch side pool and how anyone should follow the same advice I was given, namely to avoid and take note how the drinkers managed to sup beer all day but never needed to leave for the toilets. Already going gold in there I should imagine and should be green also before too long.”
Some more correspondence from around the world as the players tuck into their lunch.
Keith Roderick is in Thailand: “Good Morrow, I am stuck here in a dark, damp office in Sri Racha, Thailand following the cricket on OBO only, somewhat regretting my decision to come out of enforced retirement to take on a temporary work assignment that will finish at year’s end, meaning I shall miss all the live coverage bar the final Test, damn it!”
Daniel Parkinson is across the ditch: “One of my favourite phrases has always been ‘damp squib’ and I look forward to putting it into use later with any stray Aussies I meet over in NZ to describe their bowling attack and hype that surrounded the build up. However I must admit as a long suffering England fan who grew up on the 90’s inconsistent cricket, I can’t be overly confident and need to caveat my mocking with my ongoing dread of a dramatic collapse. Fingers crossed my pessimism is merely an inbuilt English stereotype and my fears are unfounded.”
Richard Woods is north of The Wall, for now: “Greetings from a cold, wet and foggy evening here in Newfoundland. I have little to add beyond that except to say that for the next test I will be in Wuxi in China. That is a distance to be travelled of 11,132km between the first two OBO’s without being in either of the countries where the tests are being played. Any challengers?”
England 302 all out
That ends England’s innings and heralds the 40-minute lunch break.
302 is a disappointing total for England who were 245-4 and coasting just over an hour ago. After navigating the new ball this morning England fell apart in the second hour of the session, losing six wickets in a flurry to hand the initiative to Australia.
The dismissals were the product of some belated strategy from Steve Smith. After allowing the game to drift away from his side he landed on a bodyline-lite approach that eventually accounted for Dawid Malan. Once that gap had been prized open Nathan Lyon’s excellence earned the wickets of Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes. Jonny Bairstow knew he had to take the attack to Australia and fell on his sword before the tail wagged enough to send the total beyond 300.
Australia deserve credit for sticking at their task despite never really appearing to find collective form. Lyon was the pick but the pacemen toiled around him. Despite their issues they never allowed the run-rate to escape them. Whether this was poor batting or good bowling is a point of conjecture, but it has put Australia in the ascendancy at lunch on this second day despite three England batsmen passing 50 and looking set for big scores.
WICKET! Broad c Handscomb b Hazlewood 20 (England 302)
Hazlewood replaces Cummins as thoughts start to shift away from the fun and games of tenderising England’s opening bowlers to actually getting them out. The line and length continues to be short and at the body but after three nondescript deliveries Broad pulls out his slap again and sends it into the safe hands of Handscomb at deep square leg.
116th over: England 301-9 (Broad 20, Anderson 4) Starc continues the barrage of short-pitched bowling from around the wicket to England’s left-handed tail-enders and Broad loves it! After almost wearing the first delivery he decides he’s had enough and slaps hard at the second. He looks out for all money on the square leg boundary but Marsh makes a horlicks of the chance, spilling the ball with Pat Cummins on the periphery of his eyeline. Broad continues his slap-happy approach with a two and then another four in the on-side, bringing up England’s 300.
Robert Wilson is tuning in from Provence. “Given your rotating correspondents from Ulan Bator, Uranus and Proxima Centauri, I’m not sure humble old Arles cuts the mustard. Nonetheless, here I am. Vincent Van Gogh blahblah, South of France blahblahblah. At least I can claim to have greatly perturbed the locals when they heard that I’d spent last night watching croquet. By far the best moment was when a local barkeep and general sage, Virgil, wrinkled his considerable brow and asked me (disapprovingly) if the horses didn’t get a bit hot what with it being Australia and all. I thought it was safer – and definitely shorter to reply; Yes, sometimes.”
115th over: England 291-9 (Broad 10, Anderson 4) Australia clearly want to take the tenth English wicket but I think they’ll also be happy if they’re out there for a few overs of chin music. Cummins is short and at the body of England’s new ball pair but after Broad nurdles a single, Anderson backs away and top-edges a hoick that sails over Paine’s head for four.
114th over: England 286-9 (Broad 9, Anderson 0) Anderson evades the final two deliveries of the over but he will not be able to come back in for lunch as the extra half-hour has been taken.