The final test of this year’s Ashes series has no bearing on the destination of the urn – Australia have already ensured possession of that with their victory at Manchester. However, an England win would tie the series (previous examples of such include 1962-3, 1965-6 and 1972). This post looks at that, and at the closing stages of the County Championship.
THE TEST MATCH
Australia won the toss and put England in to bat. England were somewhat fortunate to reach a semi-respectable 294, Root being dropped three times en route to 54, while Buttler with 70 produced his only major score of the series, and Leach again showed his ability to hang around, lasting 80 minutes (43 balls) for 21. However, in addition to Root’s good fortune Denly, Stokes, Bairstow, and all-rounder Sam Curran, in for Jason Roy, all scored between 14 and 22, and in all cases were culpable in their own downfall. Denly and Burns put on 27 together for the first wicket, the biggest opening stand by either side in the series to date. Archer dealt swiftly with both Australian openers, Labuschagne and Smith have had a good partnership, but Labuschagne has just gone for 48, LBW to that man Archer, adding to this match’s substantial tally of ‘nearly but not quite’ innings and the even more substantial match tally of innings ended by batter error.
I have to say that I am a bit worried about how this match is going, because a 2-2 series draw would give the England selectors something to hide behind and excuse inaction, whereas a 3-1 beating would surely compel action. For similar reasons I take scant comfort in Buttler’s 70, which may simply have bought him an extension to a test career that has yielded inadequate returns for a specialist batter. I hope Anderson can regain fitness because the young speedster Archer and the wily veteran swing merchant Anderson in partnership is an enticing prospect.
SOMERSET SOON TO CELEBRATE
Somerset are poised to win their first County Championship, having ruthlessly disposed of Yorkshire, while the best their only rivals, Essex, can hope for in this round is to avoid defeat at the hands of Warwickshire. Tom Abell produced a gritty performance in the Somerset second innings, when Yorkshire might have stayed in contention had they taken quick wickets, and with more aggressive efforts by Tom Banton, George Bartlett and Lewis Gregory to back him up Somerset ended up with a huge lead, and a dispirited Yorkshire collapsed for the second time in the match. Warwickshire put up 517 (23 year old Matthew Lamb 173) against Essex, who could only respond with 324, and made to follow on, 101-1 so far at the second attempt. Somerset have 205 points with two games to go, and Essex, playing their penultimate game, and with no chance of the 16 for a win are currently on 192 points, which if they avoid defeat will become 197. Thus at worst Somerset will be in a position from which one more win in their last two games will guarantee them the title, as would two draws, while even a draw and a defeat would leave them heavy favourites. Other than Somerset the only teams not to have won a county championship are Northamptonshire and Gloucestershire (who were twice named Champion County in the 1870s, before the competition was out on an official footing in 1890). In the second division Lancashire disposed of Derbyshire in a match made notable by Josh Bohannon, whose previous highest score in a fledgling career was 98 not out, but who this time round scored 174, batting at no 3 and coming in after the fall of an early wicket. One big hundred does not make an England test player, but if he continues to score heavily from near the top of the order the selectors would have to take note (this innings gives him a record of 660 first class runs at 47.14).
I have two major events coming up – Sunday is Heritage Open Day, and I will be stewarding at Lath Mansion, Nelson Street from 2PM to 4PM. A week on Tuesday is the second “Yes We Can” day at the Corn Exchange, and I will be helping to run the NAS West Norfolk stall.
Now for my usual sign off…