Birmingham: Former Australian all-rounder and Channel Nine presenter Simon O’Donnell used to say on air, “Never say die” whenever describing the approach that the Australian teams took to any matches they were part of. For a long time, the phrase did the rounds so much every cricket fan believed that it described the Australian team perfectly. With the set of great players the Aussies had in the 90’s and in the 2000’s, it was impossible to discount them at any point in a cricket match till the fat lady had sung.
Australia players look dejected after the losing third Test against England at Edgbaston in Birmingham yesterday. PIC/Getty Images
For a brief while, as play began on the third day of the Edgbaston Test, the pivotal third Test of the series, even as Australia were just 23 runs ahead in the third innings of the Test, a lot of the English fans -- conditioned by years of Aussie comebacks and the general pessimism that pervades the English minds at least in the sporting sense -- feared that the last three wickets would add enough runs on the board to allow for an English collapse.
Overnight undefeated batsmen Peter Nevill and Mitchell Starc started positively, with some doses of luck, adding 39 runs in six overs. Nevill recorded his maiden Test fifty and played a somewhat toned-down version of Brad Haddin innings. With every streaky edge and missed edges, there were more English players with their hands on heads and others striking the ‘tea pot’ posture.
Karma at play?
When a strangle down the leg side off Nevill wasn’t given by umpire Aleem Dar and England were devoid of DRS reviews, more people began to believe that perhaps Australia’s lower order would in fact set a defendable total. Some Aussies may have even believed that it was karma -- Michael Kasprowicz was given out caught down the leg side off Steve Harmison to end the dramatic 2005 Test at the same venue.
Just as one side’s confidence began to appreciate and the other’s eroded, Nevill was trapped down the leg side, yet again. All the talk, or at least the hopes and belief of miraculous escape -- or miraculous despair, depending on which team you supported, evaporated. The pendulum had swung again.
That passage of play has been emblematic of this Ashes series so far. After being routed in Cardiff, Michael Clarke called it “a kick up the back side”, Australia with their sheer class of cricket, pulled the pendulum that had begun to go England’s way, in their direction. England were humiliated by 405 runs including being dismissed for 103 in just 37 overs.
On a spicy wicket here, England exposed the frailties of the Australian batsmen and dished out their own humiliation by bundling out the Antipodeans for just 136 in 36.4 overs. More than the assistance the English seamers received from the helpful wicket, it was the exposing of their faulty techniques facing a moving Dukes ball, that has given England the series lead.
Given the form of the two teams -- and now that England will be without their ace seamer Jimmy Anderson -- we ought to expect an Australian win in Trent Bridge, to set up a Climax Royale at The Oval.
Neither team seems to think consistency is something to aim for. Nevertheless, they both have combined and contrived to provide entertaining cricket.
To and Fro. Yo and Yo. See and Saw. Back and Forth. And off we go to Nottingham.