Just like their musical tastes, cricketers have preferred venues where runs or wickets are music to their ears, and others venues which are big turn-offs.
My musical preferences on the Aussie team rock box were Metallica, Pearl Jam and even a bit of Iron Maiden when I wanted to mellow out. My old team-mate Shane Warne’s preference was cringeworthy pop like the Spice Girls, Ricky Martin and even Aqua. Maybe it’s just me but the sounds of Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” rattling in your brain as you are going out to bowl fastish outswingers for your country didn’t quite put me in the zone. On the field, the spin king dominated at the Gabba and SCG but struggled in the reputably spin-friendly “city of churches” in Adelaide.
Lord’s is Chris Rogers’ “Stairway to Heaven” – he churns out epics. His 158 runs was his eighth century at the home of cricket. We saw a quirky scenario early in the first session when Mark Wood was bowling to Rogers where the Aussie opener showed his great experience in Lord’s conditions. Before this innings, the “away” opener Rogers – who plays county cricket for Middlesex – averaged 55 at Lord’s against the English paceman Wood’s four wickets at 35. Who is playing at home, exactly? His innings was right out of the Justin Langer book on how to open the batting – plenty of shots square of the wicket, punch drives and a rock-solid defence.
This Lord’s pitch was quicker than the one in Cardiff but was as flat as the audience at Hot Tub Time Machine 2 – which was right up the alley of Rogers and fellow opener Dave Warner. England had obviously analysed Rogers’ gameplan and set fields with a leg slip and catching midwicket, with the plan of bowling straight and taking away his cut shot to put a higher risk on his push on to the leg side that worked so well in Cardiff. But the flat pitch made it a character-building day for the England bowlers.
Moeen Ali is a handy cricketer, shown by his fluent 77 in the first innings in Cardiff. He gives depth to the English lower batting order, something which was a huge issue in the 2013-14 Ashes series when the English tail where “Johnsonified”. With the ball he isn’t Saqlain Mushtaq – batsmen are not confronted with an abundance of spin or mystery balls, but he is a handy spin option.
I didn’t understand the philosophy of the Aussie top order in Cardiff, and Warner, who played like Moeen had to be hit out of the attack pronto. A case in point was Moeen’s first over. Things started swimmingly as Warner hit a full toss for four, then slogged a length ball for four. He and Rogers then traded singles for 10 off the over with one ball to go. Do you milk him for one or try and slog a six? He went for the latter and was caught out trying to take on long-off against the spin.
It was a disappointing end as he was starting to middle the ball comfortably and he looks like he really needs a big score for his confidence. I like Rogers’ theory against Moeen: play with respect and patience, wait for the bad ball and cash in.
Dominant Smith wants to emulate Ponting at No 3
Aussie teams are best with a dominant No 3 – top-line players like Ian and Greg Chappell and Tasmanians David Boon and Ricky Ponting have batted at first drop and been the cornerstones of great Aussie teams.
Now Steve Smith gets the chance to keep that tradition going. The first thing I like about him is that he wants to be this era’s Ponting. Secondly, he likes to score and dominate bowlers, something he has done in his four Tests in the role, with two tons already, and at 25 years of age he should be able to fulfil it over a prolonged period. And he may have a role to play on day five with his leg-spinners.
Damien Fleming played 20 Tests for Australia and is the author of Bowlology. @bowlologistReuse content