Second Day of the 3rd Investec Ashes Test at Old Trafford: England 52 for 2, trail Australia 526-7 (Clarke 187, Smith 89, Rogers 84, Starc 66, Haddin 65, Swann 5-159) by 474 runs.
“This is what Ashes Tests used to be like.” It is a phrase which a seasoned watcher of games between England and Australia frequently uses to remind a younger friend or relative that one country’s dominance is no more than a trend.
Since 2009 England have been in the ascendancy in the matches, yet for those brought up on five-day cricket in the period 1989 to 2004, memories are clear of batsmen in green caps accumulating huge piles of runs and batting for days without end. The second day of the Emirates Old Trafford Test was something of a throwback to that era and it was none the worse for that.
After their supine display at Lord’s Australia’s batsmen enjoyed themselves on a true wicket and nothing epitomised their ease more clearly than the confidence with which No9 batsman Mitchell Starc hit nine thumping boundaries on his way to a 71-ball 66 not out prior to the declaration. Even the opportunity to end their innings when they chose must have seemed like something of a luxury to the tourists. By the time Michael Clarke called his players in, the scoreboard read 526 for seven and five Australian batsmen had passed fifty, most notably Clarke himself, whose 187 will surely be seen as one of the best innings of the series.
And in the last session the Australian attack did its best to back up the efforts of the batsmen. England had laboured to 52 for two wickets off 30 overs at the close, but although they are only, say, five sessions batting away from retaining the Ashes, the home batsmen were made to battle hard in Emirates Old Trafford’s evening sunshine. Cook was dropped on 13 when he nicked Nathan Lyon to Brad Haddin in the off-spinner’s first over and Joe Root was becalmed on just a single for 34 balls before eventually being caught behind off a fine delivery from Peter Siddle for a 57-ball eight.
Nightwatchman-plus Tim Bresnan departed to the same combination for a single two runs later and batting had scarcely become easier by stumps, even though the ball had lost a lot of its hardness. Alastair Cook will return to the crease on the third morning with 36 runs to his name while Jonathan Trott is two not out.
The spoils of the morning were evenly shared. Australia scored 89 runs in 26 overs but lost a couple of wickets in the process. The sadder of these from the tourists’ point of view was that of Steve Smith who got to within 11 of his first Test century before shaping to hit Graeme Swann over the top on the leg side, but only succeeded in skying the ball to Bairstow at midwicket.
The more comical from the perspective of the Barmy Army and almost everybody else was that of David Warner, who edged Swann to Jonathan Trott at slip when he had made five but still chose to review the decision. It is difficult to know what the Australian didn’t feel when he hit the ball and did feel when he saw the replay. Clarke, meanwhile, progressed to 168 not out at the interval and his three successive boundaries off Tim Bresnan were highlights of the session.
Australia added a further 115 runs in the afternoon. Clarke’s mighty 314-ball innings ended when he could only fend a lifting ball from Stuart Broad down into his stumps, a dismissal which gave the England seamer his 200th Test wicket, and Siddle’s clueless waft presented Swann with his fifth wicket of the innings. The remainder of the innings, though, belonged to Haddin, the Australian wicketkeeper batting responsibly for an unbeaten 66, and Starc, who flogged a weary attack all round Old Trafford. The pair had added an unbroken 87 for the eighth wicket in 20 overs when Clarke called off the dogs.
Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire/Press Association Images