Ashes Day 2
England 267-4 (Burns 125*) trail Australia 284 all out by 17 runs with 6 wickets remaining
A proper day of Test cricket which went against the predictions before the series (mine included) that ball would dominate bat. This was a perfect batting day and while England did not score quickly they batted in a way that will, all being well, reap rewards tomorrow. The hard work of setting the game up has been done, the capitalisation (hopefully) comes tomorrow.
Responsibility for England’s strong position rests firmly with the Surrey captain Rory Burns who batted throughout the day. A Burns innings is never a thing of beauty, rather like a runner in the London Marathon who collapses over the line with legs and arms going in different directions, you wonder how Burns manages to make regular contact with the middle of the bat. But beauty and results are not always closely aligned and what Burns lacks in the aesthetic he more than makes up for with guts and nous.
Burns’ Surrey teammate, Jason Roy, being given the opportunity of securing an opening spot in the Test side is a far more eye-catching package to the casual cricket watcher, a cricketing firework who blazes brightly but is soon extinguished. And so it was here a 22 ball 10 in an opening partnership of 22.
Joe Root who has, we are led to believe, been persuaded that his side need him to bat at 3 joined burns and together they batted in proper test fashion grinding out the runs, being circumspect but taking advantage of the bad ball.
England’s first hundred partnership of this series, achieved at the second opportunity, was reached in the first hour after lunch before Root departed for 59. Yet another instance of the England captain failing to turn a 50 into a 100, a statistic that he must be acutely aware of judging by the outward show of frustration as he headed back to the pavilion.
Joe Denly was soon into is range of sumptuous flowing off drives and at tea prospects were looking bright with the middle order power of Buttler, Stokes and Bairstow still to come. For those of us who are devotees of the county championship it was a delight to see two county stalwarts not out for an England side building a strong position at the interval. Disappointingly but unsurprisingly the TMS commentary team who it seems are now totally unaware that cricket is played below international level, had spent a large part of the day wondering at Burns technique and latterly marveling at the quality of Denly’s driving. Theirs is not an ignorance of bliss.
Shortly after tea the Australian’s repeated entreaties to the umpires about the condition of the ball bore fruit. They got their ball change and immediately the replacement started swinging and seaming in a way its unwanted predecessor had not. The unkind among the Edgbaston throng, or at least that part of it that was watching the cricket (an increasingly diminishing minority) would have wondered if the presence of three convicted ball tamperers had rubbed off (pun intended) on the unfortunate umpires. After a first day when the two in white coats rarely got an adjudication right their follow up contribution today was to produce a ball that the Aussie bowlers would have dreamed of.
Virtually immediately Denly was pinned in front palpably leg before wicket and Jos Buttler was caught in the slips. 189-2 had become 194-4 and with the second new ball imminent Australia’s first innings was still worryingly distant. While Boycott chuntered on commentary about always adding two wickets to the score Burns and Stokes turned the momentum back in England’s favour. Decisively so.
By the close the pair had added 73, Burns passing his maiden test hundred and Stokes closing on 38 as they reduced those arrears to just 17. It was a period of calm assurance, Burns looking increasingly at ease at this level, Stokes striding over proceedings like the cricketing colossus he is.
Perhaps it was fitting that at precisely the moment Rory Burns saw out the last ball of the day his compatriots in county cricket were embarking on their various T20 commitments. A beacon for county cricket, long may it burn on the morrow.