x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Ashes: thin on wickets on third day but Broad's thick skin rules

Compared to the rumble of dismissals on the first two days, a sedate day had the usual moments of a Test match until Broad opted not to walk, writes Paul Radley. Session play

England's Stuart Broad, top, nicked a catch to Michael Clarke at first slip but stood his ground. Jon Super / AP Photo
England's Stuart Broad, top, nicked a catch to Michael Clarke at first slip but stood his ground. Jon Super / AP Photo

This was more like it. No sixes. Run rate hovering around two per over for most of the day. Just six wickets in 90 overs. No walking when you are caught, even if you smash the leather off the ball. Sneering abuse. Invective.

After all the frippery, Ashton's Ashes have finally made way for the proper Ashes.

Enough of all this devil-may-care strokeplay. The crisply hit sixes off the world's best spinner. The smiling. Smiling in an Ashes Test? Tsk. Shouldn't be allowed.

The international game's oldest rivalry is supposed to be a tough grind. Cricket war. Ashton Agar was in danger of spoiling the image with his teen spirit on day two.

Players are not supposed to smash 98 while batting at No 11 in any form of cricket, but particularly not the Ashes variety - and especially when they have only just learnt to shave.

To misquote Rod Marsh, the tough as teak former wicketkeeper from the days when cricketers had proper facial hair, day two was more like an adjectival tea party than Ashes cricket.

How to solve a problem like Agar? First, send for Alastair Cook. Fifty runs in 165 deliveries is more like it. No frills, just get-past-that defence. Proper cricket.

Then Ian Bell. He may be England's most stylish batsman, but he does a good line in self-restraint when the situation demands, too.

He high-front-elbowed his side back into a position of strength with a masterful unbeaten 95.

When he passed 50, Bell became the 14th England batsman to reach 6,000 Test career runs. Few have been more valuable than those he garnered yesterday. He had some luck, too.

Not for the first time, Bell made the most of a lucky reprieve in a Trent Bridge Test.

Two summers ago, he was rightly given run out in a match against India. Following a storm in the tea break, he re-emerged to bat after MS Dhoni, India's captain, withdrew his side's appeal.

His slice of luck was more conventional this time around. England were 172 for five when he was given out for 34 after Kumar Dharmasena upheld Shane Watson's lbw appeal.

That was corrected to 172 for four when Bell reviewed the decision and Hawkeye ruled the ball was missing the leg stump.

So if Cook and Bell provided the rearguard, what about the spite? Step forward that ready pantomime villain, Stuart Broad.

Dhoni quelled a minor diplomatic incident back in 2011 by pardoning Bell at this ground.

Broad, by contrast, threatened to spark one this time around when he stood his ground despite being caught off the most obvious, glaring edge.

The Nottinghamshire player had been batting with a shoulder pad on, modified from rugby under armour, in order to protect the injury he sustained when hit by a James Pattinson bouncer in the first innings.

He might have been reaching for some full body armour plus a thick skin in the wake of his flagrant opportunism in the evening session. In the process of essaying a cut off Agar, Broad edged a catch to Michael Clarke, standing at slip, via the gloves of the wicketkeeper Brad Haddin.

And promptly stood there. Butter would not have melted in his mouth. And Aleem Dar, the umpire, let him stay.

No wonder the Australians were seething. They could have saved themselves a lot of heartache if they had not burnt their two umpire reviews in such speculative fashion earlier, though. This was not a day of cricket for the Indian Premier League generation. Did it suffer for it?

Hardly. It was gripping.

HOW IT UNFOLDED SESSION-BY-SESSION

Morning session
England 157 for four at lunch Having owned day two of the 2013 Ashes because of his exploits with the bat, Ashton Agar, below, enjoyed some success in his main suit in the first session of day three, too. Getting Alastair Cook, the English run-machine, as a first victim in Test cricket is not a bad feat. Agar clearly has the Midas touch. England’s defences had already been breached when Kevin Pietersen had his middle stump levelled by James Pattinson following an uncharacteristically watchful 64.

Afternoon session
England 230 for six at tea When England reshuffled their pack of batsmen to bring the fit-again Pietersen back in to the side for the Ashes, Nick Compton missed out, while Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow were retained. Neither has excelled since. Bairstow became Agar’s second wicket when he edged behind to Brad Haddin after a painstaking innings. Matt Prior gave the innings some thrust briefly, but his cameo ended when he hooked Peter Siddle, his regular nemesis, to mid-wicket.

Evening session
England 326 for six at stumps Sky Sports’ graphics team had already changed the score to 297 for seven, such was the clarity of Stuart Broad’s edge to slip, via the gloves of the wicket-keeper, off Agar. Somehow, the hometown batsman got away with it. Australia had burnt their two reviews by that point, and were left seething when Broad was given not out by Aleem Dar. By the close he and Ian Bell had shared in a century alliance and inched their side up to a 261 run lead.

pradley@thenational.ae

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