Ashes 2017 | Talking points from Day 3 of the first Test

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Ashes 2017 | Talking points from Day 3 of the first Test

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Faizan Qadiri

11/25/2017

After ending two days in England’s shadow, Day 3 well and truly belonged to Australia thanks to a brilliant unbeaten 141 by Steve Smith who was well assisted by Pat Cummins (42). After taking a slender lead, Australia managed to restrict England to 33/2 by the end of the day’s play in Brisbane.

Brief Scores : England 302/10 & 33/2 (Mark Stoneman 19*, Alastair Cook 7; Josh Hazelwood 2/11) lead Australia 328/10 (Steve Smith 141*, Shaun Marsh 51; Stuart Broad 3/49, James Anderson 2/50) by 7 runs.

The innings of the year

This year has been a great advertisement for Australian Test cricket so far. Be it the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, where they started off as the underdogs, or the Bangladesh series, where they showed great resilience after losing the first Test, it has been quite a ride. With it fans have seen some exceptional performances from Steve o’Keefe’s spells in Pune or Steve Smith’s batting in the challenging conditions of the subcontinent. However, none can match what the Aussie skipper did at the Gabba in the first Test of the 2017 Ashes.

With Bancroft and Khawaja falling cheaply, Smith came in with the team struggling at 30/2. It wasn’t too long before Warner and Handscomb were back in the dressing room as well with a collapse looking ominous. However, Smith, who had scored 19 off 47 balls at that time, looked like a man on a mission. England never stood a chance. Along with Marsh, who played past a nervy start, Smith built a 99-run partnership to stabilize the collapse. After a mini-recovery from England, who picked up 3/34, Smith again went into his shell and saw off the new ball, protecting Pat Cummins from the English pacers. Once the ball had lost its shine, he began rotating the strike and built yet another important partnership. Eventually, he just ran out of partners in his innings, 141 off 326 balls, because there was no way England could send him back any other way

Australia’s tail wagging again

After surrendering the Border-Gavaskar Trophy to India, and drawing against Bangladesh a lot of questions were being asked of the Australian lower order. Traditionally, the Aussies had been able to add some valuable runs at the fag end of their innings which would pull them out of precarious situations. However, the best they could manage in 2017 was just 51 scored by Steve O’Keefe and Steve Smith on a docile Ranchi pitch. 

However, a true mark of a great team is the way they react to adversity. After losing three quick wickets in the morning session of the third day, Pat Cummins came to Australia’s rescue. With Australia still, almost a hundred runs behind the English, Cummins and Smith started to consolidate the crumbling innings. The pacer scored just two runs off his first 24 balls to see off the challenge posed by the new ball and take his side into the lunch break with three wickets in hand. 

Such was the poise with which Cummins played, England were forced to turn to Ball and Woakes after lunch because their premier bowlers, Anderson and Broad, were proving to be ineffective. Even though he fell short of a well deserved fifty, off 120 balls, by eight runs, his partnership with Smith was the main reason that Australia wrapped up their innings ahead of England. If this is a sign of things to come, England could be in a host of trouble, considering Starc failed to put up a score today.

That’s the Gabba we know

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When opposition teams start a series in Australia, most have them already know that they are a game down. The pace and bounce that the Brisbane pitch offers, plays right into the hands of the hosts who have an incredible 61.66% win rate there. However, when the first ball was bowled, something seemed off. There was no bounce, no lateral movement, and the ball was slowing off the surface. A 140kmph+ Starc ball was being collected by Paine near his feet. While it proved to be a different challenge for the batsmen to overcome, to a purist, it would not have felt right. 

During the match, Ricky Ponting had explained that showers in Brisbane had been the main reason for the way the pitch was reacting. He also promised that the pitch would show its true nature a couple of days into the match and that is what happened today. As Starc and Hazelwood ran in and hit the deck hard, the bounce was back and with it was the confidence of the pacers. The fabled, and fearsome, short pitch bowling of the Aussies looked as menacing as one from the bygone era. England would have been pleased to see the umpire flip the bails to signal the end of the Day’s play. But one thing that fans can be sure of, tomorrow will be the best day of the series so far.

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