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ASHES: Talking points from Lord's day three

Australia's Shane Watson may have played his last Test. (AFP Photo/Paul Ellis)
Expert
20th July, 2013
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2774 Reads

Should Australia stick by their young batsmen? Have the Aussies created a monster in Joe Root? Why are the failures of England’s top order being overlooked? How was Steve Smith’s catch not awarded? Why do the umpires continually check for no-balls after a dismissal?

Should Australia stick by their young batsmen?
Australian fans seeking a distraction from yesterday’s carnage at Lords would have felt no comfort upon perusing the scorecard of Australia A’s clash with Zimbabwe in Harare.

After the Aussies’ cataclysmic capitulation on day two of the Test, their followers were desperate to locate willow-wielding saviours. None were to be found playing on the dark continent.

A workmanlike cricketer with an uninspiring career average of 38 at first-class level, Tasmanian Alex Doolan was the best-performed batsman for Australia A.

However, his return of 35 and 52 against a popgun Zimbabwean attack does not quite amount to overwhelming evidence of his preparedness for Test cricket.

When a batting line-up capsizes in the manner Australia did, the instinctive response is to demand a complete turnover of personnel.

But Australia’s line-up has been in a perpetual state of renovation ever since the retirements of veterans Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey.

Having decided the trio of Phil Hughes, Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja are the best youthful exponents of the blade in the country, the selectors must now back them in.

What purpose would it serve to shoehorn into the side a woefully-out-of-form David Warner or yet another uncredentialed rookie?

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It pains me to say it but the series is done and dusted – Australia cannot feasibly triumph. But they can potentially make some headway by showing faith in their young batsmen.

Have the Aussies created a monster in Joe Root?
Impish opener Joe Root should have spent yesterday watching from the sidelines, fretting over his average of 12 for the series.

Instead, thanks to the rampant ineptitude of Aussie keeper Brad Haddin, he enjoyed the most enchanting day of his infantile Test career.

Late on day two, Siddle induced an edge from Root which flew at waist height through the gap between the keeper and first slip.

To that point, the 22-year-old Englishman had floundered in his debut Ashes series, having scored just 48 runs. Few doubted his talent but the Aussie quicks had managed to get into his head.

Had the keeper pouched that regulation chance it would have fuelled claims that former English opener Nick Compton had been dudded and heaped further pressure on Root.

As most gifted batsman are wont to do, Root exploited his second chance with aplomb.

Now Australia face an assured young player rather than one preoccupied with his position in the English side.

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Why was Steve Smith’s catch not paid?
Luck has deserted the Australian team in England. But it is often said that you make your own and certainly it is common to witness struggling sides drown in poor fortune.

If ever Australia were in dire need of a fortuitous occurrence it was yesterday, with back-to-back-to-back Ashes centurion Ian Bell fresh at the crease and England in possession of an imposing 373-run lead.

Instead they were handed another wretched umpiring decision which left commentators David Gower and Shane Warne flabbergasted.

Bell sliced a delivery from Ryan Harris to the gully where gun fieldsman Steve Smith snatched it just above the turf. The on-field umpires, unable to be certain it was out, referred it to the third umpire.

Upon seeing the initial replays, Gower and Warne considered it to be an obvious dismissal.

Betraying his loyalties, the Englishman expressed anger and incredulity when the catch was deemed to be unfair.

“I cannot believe he has given that not out, there are just so many signs to me that that’s out,” Gower said on air.

Former English skipper Michael Vaughan swiftly took to Twitter to vent his frustration over the decision.

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“That was out,” he wrote. “Really frustrates me that third umpires continue to give those catches Not out”.

Ex-Indian batsman Sanjay Manjrekar backed up Vaughan’s claims, tweeting that “Tv Umpires need to be educated better about tv angles.”

I concur with all of the above observations. Third umpires must be better trained to adjudicate in such circumstances.

Why are the failures of England’s top order being overlooked?
The English team will be delighting in the listless performances of Australia’s batsmen.

But Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior have even greater cause to rejoice in the failures of their opponents.

While pundits and fans have been clamouring to lambast the Aussies, that quartet of Englishmen has managed to escape scrutiny for their lacklustre efforts with the willow.

So far this series Prior is averaging just 13, Cook and Pietersen only 21 apiece, while Trott’s average of 26 is half his career mark.

Not in Michael Clarke’s most luxuriant dreams could he have conjured such failures from a group of opponents so accomplished.

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Cook has been strangled by the Aussie quicks who have restricted his scoring avenues by offering him no width.

Pietersen, meanwhile, has looked rustier than an ’84 Holden Camira. Australia will hope he continues to donate them his wicket.

Uncharacteristically impatient at the crease, Trott has undone himself on more than one occasion with negligent strokes outside off stump.

Prior has been similarly reckless in his strokeplay, although the Aussies deserve some credit for setting appropriate fields to him and bowling accordingly.

Unfortunately, Australia have been unable to take advantage of the feeble form of these key batsmen and it is not likely that players of such pedigree will continue to underperform.

Why do umpires continually call for needless reviews of no-balls?
It seems the umpires do not monitor the landing of the bowler’s front foot as intently as they used to.

At least three times in this Test following the fall of a wicket the central umpire has called for a video review of whether the delivery was a no-ball, only for the bowler to be shown to have been well within the rules.

After Bresnan spooned a limp pull shot to Chris Rogers at square leg from James Pattinson yesterday he hovered near the pitch while the third umpire again double-checked the bowler’s stride.

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No less than 10cm of Pattinson’s foot was ensconced behind the crease. It was yet another unnecessary use of technology by the umpires.

Legendary former Aussie keeper Adam Gilchrist echoed the sentiments of many cricket followers this week when he argued that the Umpire Decision Review System had removed some of the cherished spontaneity from the game.

Doubtless it has, although the statistics show it also has improved the percentage of correct decisions which are made.

But the referral of no-balls following dismissals has become excessive and is a source of tremendous frustration.

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