Jon Holland has bolted into contention for a shock Test recall if he can overcome a finger injury in time for Australia's series opener…
Halfway through the first Ashes Test and Australia were all out for 308, 122 behind the England total. The match is terrifically poised, and all that fans are asking for now is that it ends in a thrilling last ball tie.
Here are the ratings for the first innings.
The start of the First Test coincided with the third State of Origin, give or take a rain delay, opening ceremony and/or drunken James Faulkner pitch invasion.
Sensible New South Wales fans quickly dropped the ‘New’ bit and embraced the cricketing delights of South Wales. The Test may not have had any squirrel grips, but it did have an actual squirrel on the ground at the end of Day 2. And that’s better in almost every imaginable way.
The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he wasn’t a baby-faced England number five batsman. Because, look, as sublime as the inevitable Joe Root century was in England’s first innings, it shouldn’t distract us from the fact that he is literally Lucifer himself.
There are many pieces of evidence for this. The choirboy looks that doth protest too much. The projected Test average of 66.6. That time the renowned exorcist David Warner tried to toss Walkabout holy water over him before settling on a punch to the chops.
But, as one more piece of evidence to add to the mix, consider that after a caught behind appeal was given not out shortly after Root had reached fifty, he immediately began to wickedly fiddle with his gloves in an attempt to induce a review. Then beamed like an innocent cherub. Get thee behind me, Satan!
Australia had an early chance to rid themselves of the plague of Joe Root, with Brad Haddin spilling a chance when he was on zero. In retrospect, a poor decision from one of Australia’s most experienced players. Still, if giving England’s best batsman a life before he’s scored doesn’t prove that Australia is nicer than New bloody Zealand, what will?
With England eventually all out for 430, a lead of 430, Chris Rogers came out to bat, looking to make seven consecutive scores of 50 or more.
He had no trouble doing so, scoring a fine 95, including a ramp shot for his first ever Test six, very much giving ticket holders their money’s worth. Although not his ticket holders, obviously.
Rogers’ next target is the more interesting one of becoming the first player in Test history to make 50 consecutive scores of seven or more. Can he do it?
Alastair Cook’s testicles
Before this series, as part of the traditional pre-Ashes ‘banter’ that is in no way tiresome, Stuart Broad made the claim that Steve Smith coming in at three might be an advantage for England.
Of course, this was immediately assumed to be another one of Stuart Broad’s famous Ashes comedy bits. But perhaps on this point, he was being deadly serious. Perhaps he meant that Smith coming in at three was an advantage for England because Smith would edge a cricket ball into Alastair Cook’s testicles forcing him from the field so Root could take over as captain.
Because if that was what he meant, everything went perfectly to plan, much to Root’s laughing delight as his captain lay writhing on the ground clutching at his nether regions.
Reminder: Joe Root is the devil.
Cook later returned to the ground with what many originally thought was a prosthetic testicle, but which on closer inspection just turned out to be Jimmy Anderson.
Shane Watson’s Ashes
There have been Ashes series dominated by one individual before. Bradman’s Ashes. Botham’s Ashes. Flintoff’s Ashes. Johnson’s Ashes. The 2015 Ashes is set up perfectly to be Shane Watson’s Ashes.
Oh, sure. There’s a lot of talk of the Root versus Smith battle as the two star batsmen in the team look to make their mark on the series. But with no explanation coming from the Australian camp as to why Smith chose to be dismissed for just 33 and Root busy stealing souls, there’s a gap here for Watson to exploit.
And what makes the prospect of Watson’s Ashes even more enticing is that Watson clearly hates every aspect of the sport of cricket. Bowling is an imposition on his time, energy and hamstrings. Fielding is just a terrible chore to endure. The batting has its moments but also requires a lot of running about and eventual embarrassing DRS choices. He quite likes the anthem-singing, but he’d like it more if they’d let him bring his guitar. And so on and so forth.
Despite Watson’s hatred of the sport, Clarke threw the ball to him (or possibly at him) during the England innings for eight overs of his shambling medium pace, where he dutifully took no wickers for 24 runs.
He did, however, snare a couple of sharp catches in the slips. And, while Nathan Lyon came in as Brad Haddin’s nightwatchman, Watson chose to come in as his own nightwatchman, proving again that he is ever the innovator, even at this late stage in his career.
Watson went on to score 30, stranded just 370 short of Brian Lara’s record Test score, disappointing the Day 3 Cardiff crowd.
It’s a steady start to Watson’s Ashes. But we mustn’t lose faith. There are still four and a half Tests to go. (Although don’t tell Shane that.)