Australia are staring down the barrel of another defeat in this last 2010-11 Ashes Test.
Peter Siddle cleaned up nightwatchman Jimmy Anderson early on but Alastair Cook just kept going. And going, and going. By the time Cook fell for 189 he had passed 1000 first class runs for this tour, and with 766 Test runs is second in series runs for an Englishman only behind the great Wally Hammond’s 905.
All this from a man many, myself included, believed should not even be in this Ashes squad.
Paul Collingwood suffered a brainstorm on 13 when he really should have been grinding out much needed runs; his mistimed skier to Ben Hilfenhaus at mid-on was the shot of a man who had never looked comfortable at the crease and whose leaden-footed, ill-timed jabbings at the ball had started to exasperate even himself.
It may be unlikely he will be called upon for a rearguard rescue operation in the second innings. If this proves to be the case I suspect the England management may give him one last opportunity against Sri Lanka when they visit England in May to prove he can represent his country in the Test arena.
England were 226-5 when Ian Bell joined Cook in the middle, and controversy was to follow.
First, Michael Beer was deprived of Cook’s wicket a second time when Phil Hughes took a low catch at short leg that on replay did not carry, though Hughes claimed the catch – albeit after enough time to indicate he was not entirely sure that the catch was clean. It was this aspect, Hughes’ celebration with his team mates, that provoked the ire of sections of the crowd, and much celebration and comments regarding sportsmanship (or lack thereof) when Cook was allowed to carry on.
The most contentious moment of the day, though, came later when Ian Bell was given out caught behind off an inside edge off the bowling of Shane Watson.
Bell consulted with Prior and asked for a review. Hot Spot showed no edge, and onfield umpire Aleem Dar reversed his decision. What has provoked the wrath of many, though, is that Snickometer later showed the edge.
No system is infallible, and whether you consider Ian Bell a cheat or not is down to how far you are prepared to tolerate using a system to your advantage that allows you to do so.
Snickometer is not part of the Decision Review System as it needs a human being to synchronize picture with sound spike; for one, the process takes too long, and secondly, the technology as it now stands is too reliant on the thoroughness or otherwise of its operator to provide a decision-making tool that is within acceptable tolerances.
One could ask why, if it is not part of DRS, why it was shown at all – the answer is that the host broadcaster (in this case Channel 9) can show what the hell they like, and a bit of controversy is always good for ratings.
Bell may be lying when he says he wasn’t sure if he had hit it.
He could also have been telling the truth.
He did nothing wrong according to the current decision making process, and whether his request for a review was because he was confident in his innocence and because he knew that Hot Spot would show nothing, or conversely because he knew Hot Spot does not always show something, is up to the individual to decide where his own tolerances lie.
Bell used the process – as it stands, to his advantage – and while I am not saying the system is perfect, the tendency towards a rose-coloured nostalgia for more gentlemanly, honourable times is a hankering for a utopia that never existed. Cricketers have always ruthlessly used the rules to their benefit, and the great WG himself was not above replacing the bails and continuing to bat on if he felt his dismissal to be a little too previous for his liking.
In the greater context of the match, Bell’s apparent let-off allowed him to continue on his way to an inexorable and beautifully played ton, controversy aside, and Matt Prior too chipped in with a half-century.
Michael Clarke swapped bowlers, and the ends from which they ran in, so damn often it was difficult to tell whether this attack was coming or going – though it was mostly going, and mostly for a shitload of runs.
Granted, England have had the best of the bowling conditions, and today the pitch was probably at its most docile, but the Australian bowling looks as toothless as ever, and captain Clarke looks like a man who is already running out of ideas.
England are currently 488-7, and lead Australia by 208 runs.