England grudgingly conceded last night that they had an obligation to the paying spectator. Such a notion looked as though it had never entered their collective psyches as they spent the third day of the fifth Test tootling along at barely two runs an over.
They were like the Sunday driver content only to survey the sights without giving a hoot for the general progress of traffic. The second session was especially dire, largely featuring two of their most attractive batsmen, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen yet bringing only 84 runs in 38 overs.
Joe Root, the opener who contributed 68 from 184 balls, agreed that the public wanted to see runs scored. “Obviously there is some sort of responsibility, otherwise no-one would come and watch,” he said. “It can’t happen every game. Unfortunately the way they bowled at us and the condition of the pitch stopped us from scoring at a quick rate. You just have to play the situation and get the best possible outcome for England.”
It was rarely pretty throughout the 98.3 overs that were bowled for 215 runs and often it was considerably ugly. Proceedings only perked up when Michael Clarke, the tourists’ captain, and Kevin Pietersen, the home side’s most prodigious batsman, swapped views late in the afternoon, a popularity contest if ever there was one.
Peter Siddle, the Australia quick who has so far bowled 21 tireless overs in the innings without reward, said: “We were just asking 0if they were thinking of playing a few strokes. It was pretty tame really.”
That might have been so, but it seemed odd to be doing it 30 yards apart. To put a stop to the antics, umpire Aleem Dar walked up the pitch to have a word with Clarke at first slip. Considering how turgid it all was he was being a bit of a spoil sport.
“The teams are going along fine,” said Siddle. “It has been a tough, long, hard tour. It gets harder when you’re trying to get the breakthrough and there’s not a lot happening from the batting side. We just stuck to our guns today, it was a good day’s Test match cricket from us.”
For England it was a grim, if largely effective day at the office, though they still need 46 runs to avoid the follow-on. With the pitch yet to show any signs of wear or life, this should be easily attainable.
Root said: “People come and watch cricket for a number of reasons. It’s not something we can always control and we need to play the situation. Credit to Australia, they bowled pretty well at us and made it hard to score. We have seen that throughout the summer. It’s not always that easy.” Of course, he was not saying if it was England who asked for this kind of pitch in the first place, which might place the argument in a different perspective.
Meanwhile, former Australia captain Ian Chappell has accused coach Darren Lehmann of hypocrisy after he labelled Stuart Broad a “cheat” for his failure to walk during the first Ashes Test at Trent Bridge.
But Chappell – who captained his country from 1971-75 – believes Australians are in no position to complain about opponents who don’t walk given their track record over the years. “I don’t like to be called a cheat and basically he is calling all people who don’t walk a cheat, which would include himself,” Chappell said.
“‘Cheat’ is not a word you should use very light-heartedly, and even if you are being light-hearted that’s a word you should steer away from. And even when you’ve got your tongue in your cheek it’s pretty hypocritical for an Australian to complain about somebody not walking.”