By Stephen Giles
- England all out for 430. Root 134, Ali 77; Starc 5-114
- England resumed day two on 343-6
- Australia in response: 264-5, trailing by 166 runs
CARDIFF, UK – Moeen Ali took centre stage with both bat and ball on another enthralling day of Ashes cricket which ebbed and flowed throughout, before Australia lost three key wickets in the last session to end day two on 264 for five, trailing by 166 runs.
Ali, a top-order batsman currently masquerading himself as a number 8 displayed that he was rejoicing in his new role down the order as he stylishly swept, stroked and thrashed England to 430 all-out, contributing 51 of the 87 runs scored this morning, all done in a mere 14.1 overs.
He then turned bowling supreme as he took the contest to the Aussies on a pitch that offers little in the way of turn. Nevertheless, he expertly claimed the prized wickets of both Steve Smith and captain Michael Clarke to leave England in a strong position, going into day three.
It was very much England’s morning, resuming on 343-6 and looking to continue their aggressive streak on another sun-soaked day in Cardiff.
The runs continued to pour off the bat, however they didn’t make it through the first hour unscathed. Stuart Broad attempted to slog spinner Nathan Lyon into Cardiff High Street, but in doing so, he edged it through to wicket-keeper Brad Haddin out for 18.
Not so long ago, Broad would have been severely condemned for that nature of dismissal, but this is England’s brand-new world don’t you know, criticised for not playing aggressive shots in the past, one cannot criticise a player when he gets out playing attacking shots, this time around, right?
Ali continued in the same vein, putting the Aussies firmly on the back foot, however his innings was brought to an end when he drove Mitchell Starc, found an outside edge and Shane Watson caught the catch at slip with aplomb. A crucial innings personally for Ali, who has had to fend off criticism from Australian observers who doubted he could last long against short pitched bowling.
Starc mopped up the innings when he comprehensively clean-bowled James Anderson to finish with figures of 5-114. A fine effort all-round by England then, bearing in mind the precarious situation they found themselves in yesterday morning.
In contrast to Starc, Mitchell Johnson finished the innings without taking a wicket and producing his worst ever figures of 0-111. It was also the most expensive 0-for by an Australian fast-bowler in an Ashes Test in England since 1985, much to the pleasure of the English (and Welsh) crowd inside the stadium.
Australia started their reply to England’s first innings solidly and without any real concern. David Warner and Chris Rogers steadied the chase with an enterprising opening fifty-two partnership, before Warner (17) became the first Aussie to head back to the pavilion as he edged an Anderson delivery to first slip with Cook taking a sublime diving catch at first slip.
Alastair Cook cleverly put into practice his promise to be more courageous, with some funky field positions throughout the day, with Australian observers publicly doubting whether he had it in him to be more adventurous.
With Warner gone, all eyes were now on Smith, the most form-player on the planet. He instantly signalled his intent with three boundaries off an Ali over. The runs continued to come regularly for Smith and for Rogers but captain Cook kept intuitively changing his fields in an attempt to frustrate the Australian batsman.
The move eventually paid dividends as Smith came sliding down the wicket to the bowling of Ali and bamboozled Smith with a deceptively quicker ball which was meekly chipped into the safe hands of Cook at mid-on. A much sought-after wicket for England and some very astute captaincy by Cook, against a man who averages well over ninety with the bat this year.
Playing his last series before retirement, Rogers anchored the Australian innings to perfection and lead the Aussie fightback. He helped himself to a seventh consecutive Test match fifty, a record, but ominously, he hasn’t been able to convert any of those into three-figures. On 95, Mark Wood continued with his aggressive spell of bowling and looking for his one-hundred, tempted Rogers into a loose-shot which caught the edge of Rogers’ bat and was caught by Jos Buttler, gifting Wood his first Ashes wicket.
When Clarke was caught and bowled by Ali for 38, Australia were now 207-4. An inspired change by Cook who had brought Ali back into the attack, and with the batsman still looking to target the spinner, Clarke made his way down the wicket, didn’t quite get the necessary elevation on the ball and simply lobbed the ball into Ali’s hands, cue wild celebrations around the ground. Another vital wicket for England, and they could now be forgiven for believing they were in charge of the match.
Another Ashes debutant, Adam Vogues, at the age of 35 was the next man to the crease as part of the “Dads Army” brigade. However he never quite looked comfortable at the crease, so it wasn’t a surprise when Ben Stokes induced Vogues to drive at a ball he never really looked in control of, chipping woefully into the covers, with Anderson taking the simplest of catches to put him out of his misery and put to an end a tame innings with an even tamer dismissal.
A very good all-round display by England, although the match hangs in the balance. They will now be hoping they can mop up the Australian tail early on day three, with a healthy lead before batting the Aussies out of the game.
Day three continues tomorrow starting at 11:00am BST. Follow the action with Britwatch Live Scores