Australian pacemen pitch in too as England sinks to 238/9 at the end of first day
The Riverside is a lovely place to watch cricket; open, stylish and green, Lumley Castle presiding from on high. This was going to be a dirty, scrappy and slow Test match – but not one bit less lovely. At the end of day one, and despite winning the toss, England retreated from 149 for 2 to 238 for 9 with Nathan Lyon taking four wickets. Australia, superb again, has won 16 consecutive sessions in the series.
England was unchanged from Old Trafford, while Australia preferred Jackson Bird’s control to Mitchell Starc’s capriciousness. It proved a prescient decision.
Bird started well, clipping in like a tap-dancing broomstick and worrying Joe Root, who forced his first delivery just wide of third slip, missed the second, and edged the fourth into the ground. With useful movement coming only via the seam, the bowling needed to be tight, which it was, but the Australians were also aided by a slow, grassy outfield, the boundaries long, particularly square of the wicket. Clearly, accumulation would require occupation.
Shane Watson managed two wides in his first over – almost like a man who doesn’t like bowling; almost excusable given the effort required to force his frame to the wicket. But, barrelling in close to the start of a third morning spell, he moved one off the seam, and by the time Root pressed forward, the ball was past his outside edge and into Brad Haddin’s gloves. Somehow, Tony Hill saw and heard no edge, but Hotspot confirmed its presence on review and Root was gone for 16. Demonstrably, he has the temperament to open at Test level, but not yet the game, too eager to retreat and allow the bowlers to dictate.
This brought to the wicket Jonathan Trott. Twice rotten at Old Trafford, he started with similar pungency here, almost strangulated around his pad first ball before edging one that bounced well in front of second slip.
But he increased the tempo after lunch. First, he played hard down through third man – neither drive nor cut but a very good shot – and then chip-swept Lyon over the vacant leg-slip, Michael Clarke inexplicably preferring a short-leg. Then, a legside flick also went to the boundary, as did a cover-drive, his touch restored.
Lyon then straightened one off the pitch, which Trott tried to work around the corner, instead fondling an edge on to his pad, which was snatched by a diving Usman Khawaja at short-leg. Trott departed with all the alacrity of a cortège on mogadon.
Only Kevin Pietersen would shimmy down the track to the first ball, miscued over midwicket for two. Then, after two straight drives in the following over, things reverted to the sedate, before he ran one off the face of his bat to gully and set off, Alastair Cook so short of the non-strikers’ end that he didn’t even bother to dive. David Warner’s throw missed the stumps by a hair.
Cook then raised his half-century with an edge for four, but just when they appeared to be assuming control, England made a mess. Even in the context of his general disregard for spinners, Pietersen has little respect for Lyon but, when an otherwise innocuous ball drifted a little, he again looked to run it off the face of his bat, tickling to Haddin and stalking immediately off.
Just three overs later, Cook left one from Bird that nipped back, and struck him on the kneeroll, remained there aghast at the horror, bat in one hand. Up went the appeal, up went the finger, and off went Cook; 164 balls of hard labour, ruined in a moment of misjudgement.
Then, in the first over after tea, early in his innings, and deep in form, Ian Bell advanced down the track to Lyon and drilled him towards mid-off, where Ryan Harris took a tricky, leaning catch.
Though Matt Prior and Jonny Bairstow were at the wicket, the requirement was not the breezy partnership at which both excel, but a serious Test match innings. But they could barely manufacture a run; in the ten overs before drinks, they managed only five, and in the one immediately afterwards, Peter Siddle darted one into Prior’s pad, above the knee-roll. Aleem Dar rejected the appeal, but Clarke reviewed it with the smile of a man who knew, and after seeking a nick that wasn’t there, Hawkeye showed Marais Erasmus that the ball would have clattered leg-stump. England was 189 for 6.
Bairstow, meanwhile, was still marooned in drudgery, passing 41 balls without scoring before attempting to swing Lyon across the line and missing. Hit below the knee-roll, he was given out, and indignant that the ball was missing off-stump, reviewed. But he was wrong, and out.
With the old ball replaceable but working nicely, Harris extracted some extra bounce and Stuart Broad attempted to slash him away high on the offside. He could only spoon to Warner at point.
The new ball allowed England some respite, Graeme Swann bounding into a couple of lusty strikes. But then Harris banged one in that climbed above his hook, and Swann skied a catch to Lyon at square leg. In the two remaining overs of the day, the last-wicket partnership managed 24 undefeated runs, James Anderson managing three fours.
England will know that the highest first-innings score at Durham this season is 267, but that does not change the reality. Well though Australia bowled, England’s batting today showed first a lack of care, and then a lack of nerve.