We haven’t had much opportunity to crow thus far on this tour so let’s indulge ourselves. Dawid Malan you absolute beauty! That was one hell of an impressive knock. He looked more and more composed as the day went on, and I think we’ve finally found ourselves a batsman. He came to crease with England in a spot of bother and coped with the pressure remarkably well.
It beggars belief that Malan has been around the England squad for years yet only recently handed an opportunity. He drives so fluently and doesn’t have any obvious flaws – although he struggles a little when right arm fast bowlers come around the wicket.
It’s good to know that our ‘throw enough shit at the wall and hope some of it will stick’ selection philosophy can occasionally work. It might take a bit longer to unearth talent, as lesser batsmen fail and fall by the wayside, but you’ll get there eventually.
England are now ahead of the game for the first time this series. There’s lots of hard work left to do – I can still see Australia bouncing back strongly tomorrow morning and knocking us over for 360 – but equally we have the chance to post something approaching 450 or 500. And if we manage that then a series whitewash should be averted (and we might even get back into the series).
The first hour tomorrow will be absolutely crucial. Moeen and the tail might wag if the Aussie bowlers are tired and they’re given a licence to play their shots. A couple of early breakthroughs, however, and we’ll be under pressure again very quickly. It’s vitally important, therefore, that we make hay while the Australian sun shines. The average first innings score at Perth might only be 320 odd, but this pitch looks unusually good for batting. There’s a bit of pace (but not too much), and very little spin or lateral movement.
Overall, our batsmen can be really proud of their efforts on day one. It wasn’t all good – Cook worryingly missed a straight one, and Vince did a Vince – but the others were either a tad unlucky or played very well. Root in particular was unfortunate to get strangled down the legside.
Stoneman, once again, showed grit and determination. He made another half-century before being ‘out’ caught behind. It was a controversial moment as 3rd ump Aleem Dar should not have overruled the on-field decision with the limited evidence available at the time. A subsequent replay ostensibly proved him right, but there’s still a chance that the noise on snicko was ball flicking grill rather than glove. The England dressing room looked mightily pissed off.
The other star of the day, of course, was Jonny Bairstow. Although he rode his luck at times (as did Malan early on) he became more and more assertive. Some of Jonny’s drives were really commanding – as if we was dispatching a nervous medium paced debutant in a championship match at Headlingley. Heaven knows why England have been hiding him down the order. He looks the perfect test No.5 or 6 to me.
However, before we get too smug, we need to put today’s efforts into context. As I mentioned earlier this pitch looks very good for batting indeed. There are some cracks to monitor, which might help us later in the game, but these only tend to open when the weather is hot. Unfortunately the weather forecast suggests that it will stay relatively mild over the coming days.
It’s also worth remembering that Australia’s attack has more potency that ours. If their bowlers looked toothless for spells today, imagine how our guys might get on. Unless it clouds over and we find some swing (unlikely with the Kookaburra ball) we might have to rely on scoreboard pressure or bad batting to take twenty wickets.
I don’t want to be the harbinger of doom, but it’s worth mentioning that England’s lone century on the last Ashes tour was scored by another left-hander at Perth. We lost that game, and we lost the series 0-5. It’s quite possible that Australia bat past England’s total and then put us under real pressure in the 3rd innings of the game – especially if that bastard Smith gets his eye in.
Anyway, let’s try to be optimistic for now. Tom Harrison might have written to the players yesterday warning them to behave – a completely unnecessary and cynical PR stunt as they’d already received warnings from Bayliss and Strauss and won’t be out late during a test anyway – but our players are very much in the good books today.
What a shame that the headlines might focus on The Sun’s thus far unsubstantiated spot-fixing claims rather than the performance of our batsmen.
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