Fourth Day of the Third Investec Test at Emirates Old Trafford: Australia 527-7 declared (Clarke 187, Smith 89, Rogers 84, Starc 66*, Haddin 65*, Swann 5-159) and 172-7 (Warner 41) lead England, 368 (Pietersen 113, Cook 62, Bell 60, Siddle 4-63, Starc 3-76) by 331 runs
Few Emirates Old Trafford Tests are complete without some mention of the Manchester weather. Rain was predicted by some on the Saturday of this game but it didn’t arrive; it was even more confidently asserted to be on the way during Sunday, yet its fleeting presence ten minutes before the scheduled tea break delayed the game barely at all; instead, it was bad light which caused the umpires to bring the players off the field 25 minutes after the resumption; in their dressing rooms they stayed, though, as the rain returned, and now it seems that the heavy showers which are forecast for the final day may prevent an enthralling climax to a contest which has, for the most part, been dominated by Australia.
The basic architecture of the match is easily described: having earned a first-innings lead of 159, Australia batted with the urgency of a side that knows it must win this game in order to have a chance of regaining the Ashes. By the time the gloom had set in, the tourists had extended their lead to 331 for the loss of eight wickets, many of them surrendered with a breezy, pragmatic ease which is well known to league cricketers across the country.
Australia’s second innings effort of 172 for seven in 36 overs contained no contribution greater than David Warner’s 41 and the man promoted to open supplied enterprise without needing too many of the raking boundaries or mighty sixes on which his cricketing reputation rests. By the time Warner was second out, whacking a short ball from Tim Bresnan to deep square leg where Joe Root took a good tumbling catch, Clarke’s men had scored 74 runs in 18 overs and their pursuit of a sizeable, if tempting, lead had been launched.
The remaining members of the Australian top order followed Warner’s lead but with varying degrees of success: Usman Khawaja was unimpressive and was bowled round his legs by Graeme Swann for 24; having made 18, Shane Watson lofted Bresnan to Kevin Pietersen at third man; Steve Smith hit Swann and Jimmy Anderson for splendid sixes before being run out when sent back by Clarke when the young all-rounder was looking for a second to third man. Arguably, the most subtly impressive batting, though, came from Clarke, himself, the Australian skipper hitting just one four in his 32-ball 30 not out. This was a classic example of opponents and spectators alike glancing at the scoreboard and wondering from where the hell the batsman had got all those runs.
Partly as a result of Clarke’s canny strokeplay, Australia go into the final day with a little more than a sliver of a chance of achieving the victory that would revive the series. The weather and the formidable England batsmen lie in their path.
The home side’s last three wickets added 72 runs in 19.3 overs in the first 80 minutes or so of Sunday’s opening session. England’s initial objective, that of saving the follow-on, was achieved in a mere 45 balls as Chris Broad and Matt Prior stroked a series of crisp boundaries. Ryan Harris’s fourth over of the morning went for 17 runs but any thought that Prior and Broad could establish a major partnership were extinguished when the Nottinghamshire all-rounder was caught behind by Brad Haddin off Nathan Lyon for 32.
That classic off-spinner’s dismissal was followed by two more wickets for the untiring, banana-eating Peter Siddle, who had Swann caught behind off the inside edge for 11 and then induced Prior to top edge a pull when the wicketkeeper had made 30. That left England all out for 368 and the excellent Siddle finished with 4-63 from 29.3 overs.
Picture (c) Simon Pendrigh