Well, who needs 5 days of cricket when you can pack in so much drama and excitement into 3! What a game it ended up being with England staging a remarkable fightback to win the game and level the series 1 apiece.
After being rolled for just 179 in the first innings, Australia looked to be in serious strife. Joffrey Archer took 6 and bowled with fire, and the Aussies largely capitulated again barring Dave Warner and Marnus Labuschagne who both made half centuries. Australia had it all to do on Day 2, and bowled superbly, rolling the Poms for 67 and taking a strangle hold on the game. Hazelwood with 5 wickets, Cummings (3) and Pattinson (2) simply ran through England, giving the Aussies a 112 run lead heading in to the 2nd innings.
As has been a common problem, the top order again failed for the Aussies, Warner going for a duck, Harris for 19 and Khawaja 23. Labuschagne again top scored for the Aussies making 80, with a few others chipping in to set England an improbably 362 to win. Hazelwood and Cummins got us off to a good start, with 2 quick wickets, however Joe Root (77) found form, Joe Denly (50) steadied the ship before Stokes took control. In what will go down as an Ashes classic innings, he took the game away from the Aussies making an unbeaten 135 and won the game for the Poms. He’s an incredible cricketer Stokes and he’s again put the Aussies to the sword this series with commanding batting performances.
In the end, the Aussies essentially choked, dropping catches, missing run outs, butchering reviews and ultimately shooting ourselves in the foot, whilst Stokes just took his chances and won the game for England. With the Series level, the last two tests are going to be riveting viewing.
So who were the Chocolates, and who were the Boiled lollies?
Ben Stokes – Incredible cricketer, though probably should be in jail. In fact, had he not been a bloody good cricketer he would be but he is and you certainly can’t argue with his talent. 2nd ton of the series, and this one a match winning one. Also played a huge roll with the ball in the Aussies second innings, removing both Head and Wade before stumps on Day Two. Worst part about his dominance is it might get the Aussies selectors thinking about playing Mitch Marsh again……….
Marnus Labuschagne – Three innings, 213 runs and outside of Smith has been our most accomplished bat in the series. Incredibly was only selected for this test as Smith was injured. Will surely keep his spot with Smith returning which will place huge pressure on Khawaja or possibly Harris for the 4th test.
Josh Hazelwood – 9 Wickets for the match, and has been arguably our best bowler in the 2 tests he’s played. Bowling great lines, has bowled with aggression and got the ball to move just enough. Key player for the rest of the series
Joffrey Archer – 6 wickets in the 1st innings put the Poms on top…..until they capitulated with the bat. Made an important 15 runs in the second innings to hang around with Stokes for what was a memorable win. His bowling has turned the Poms around with his aggressiveness at the crease. Still a big player in this series
David Warner – 61 in the first innings, and 6 catches. It’s a solid test for Warner. Needed to make runs in the second innings to really help the Aussies kick on but failed again. Still, played a big part in the Aussies being in a position to win it.
Tim Paine – Poor with the bat, poor captaincy on the last day, wasted reviews. He’s lucky we have no one to replace him
Jason Roy – Becoming a feature in this write-up, and likely to stay there for the rest of the series I reckon. Just can’t take his one day form across to Red Ball cricket. Keeps falling early and his technique is all over the shop. Can’t see him surviving till series end….which means I’ll have to work harder to find duds in the games.
Nathan Lyon – Hate hating on the ‘Goat’ but I will now. Struggled for wickets and missed a crucial run out late on day 3. He’ll bounce back but had an average test.
Usman Khawaja – You need runs from your No.3 in test cricket, and we just aren’t getting enough. 8 & 23 in this test, and only 122 runs for the series at 20. Just can’t see him making the 11 for the 4th test at this stage, and you have to wonder where his career is heading. Unfortunately, he’s no different to a lot of our batsman these days. Looks good at times, has good patches, but just not consistent enough at turning starts (when he gets them) into big scores.
Umpiring & Reviews – Seriously, it’s time to take the reviews off the players and just have it managed centrally. The umpires are having an absolute mare this series and it’s hurting both sides. Whilst the captains need to use their reviews better, we simply need to take it out of the hands of the players and leave it to the 3rd ump. If there’s an appeal, he can quickly look at it to see if it’s close. If not, play goes on. If it is, then he asks the umpire on the ground to hold things up for a few seconds. It’s shouldn’t be too difficult to do this. Or, just find competent umpires. That would help also.