Ashes 2015: Not a bad toss to lose as those cannabis lamps leave the home bowlers and their fans on a high

The Aussie Angle: Michael Clarke's form is a major concern. The captain needs to trust his great record

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The Independent Online

I was startled to read that the always astute Edgbaston groundsmen have been using “cannabis lamps” on this pitch. These devices, borrowed from the police, were being utilised to dry and encourage grass growth on the 22 yards. I was a tad worried that it might affect the players and instead of sledging we would see a lot of hugging, and instead of lunch and tea breaks we would see “Munchies”, all contributing to the most laid-back day one in the history of the Test cricket.

My fears proved unfounded as the vocal home fans were treated to an action-packed first session, thanks to energised English bowling on a “not-a-bad-toss-to-lose” pitch which led to an enthralling day’s play.

I like day-one Test pitches that ask the captain winning the toss: “Do you bat or bowl first?” No doubt Michael Clarke was caught warily choosing to bat first while the English quicks would not have been unhappy to be bowling.

The Lord’s Test seemed a million miles away for James Anderson as he made the Duke ball talk to a mute Australian batting display, apart the plucky Chris Rogers.

Anderson continued bowling full, swinging deliveries into the “Bermuda Corridor” (bowl there and batsmen disappear). For England to win this Test match Steven Finn had to bowl well. He pitched full and let the bowler-friendly pitch conditions do the rest.

 

I’m happy for him. It’s been a tough two years. On the last tour of Australia, it was rumoured the ball didn’t reach the batsmen in the nets when he was bowling as he battled with a variety of run-up issues and attempts to get his bowling-arm path right so it didn’t hit the stumps in his delivery stride. But, at just 27, there should be plenty of England cricket left in him.

Where would Australia be without Chris “Buck” Rogers’ 52 runs here? I reckon the Aussie total wouldn’t have got to triple figures. In this record-breaking, red hair-laden (Rogers, Bairstow, Bell and Stokes) Test, he was at his gutsy and stubborn best in tough conditions. All the more credit to him following the trials he faced fainting and blacking out in the last few months owing to some sickening hits on his helmet. He is one tough character.

Also his fine defensive technique was on display again, playing the ball late, letting it come to him, which gives him maximum time to adjust to late movement. It was outstanding and a great lesson for all wannabe Test openers.

So much so that there has been a push from TOA (Traditional Openers Australia) that when Buck retires we will preserve his body, then have it defrosted in 2050 to show future openers the importance of getting the shine off the new ball in the 2050 Ashes series.

No cryo-preservation for the Aussie captain Michael Clarke. Pup would love to go all Michael J Fox like in the movie Back to Future to 2012, when he scored 1,595 – including 329 not out – at an average 106 with five centuries. His current form is a major concern, with one fifty in 14 Test innings. One of the features of Clarke’s captaincy, besides his aggressive and innovative on-field leadership, has been his ability to increase his run-making capacity.

This series he had been dismissed four times by four different bowlers. His body troubles don’t seem to be limiting him, so it looks like technical and mental issues. With a Test batting average of 19, I’m not going to offer too many technical solutions, but confidence can fluctuate with even the best players. He needs to trust his great record. His team need his runs.

These Ashes series continue to see-saw and the Australians can’t afford a big deficit in the second innings. The bowlers struggled with their line, with too many runs down to leg, but on Thursday they need partnership bowling – and a bit of more luck like Adam Voges’ catch to dismiss Alastair Cook off Nathan Lyon.

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