Worcestershire v Australians, New Road, 2nd day July 3, 2013

Bird makes his case after Compton's fight


Worcestershire 246 for 7 (Compton 79, Mitchell 65, Bird 4-38) trail Australians 396 for 4 dec (Watson 109, Rogers 75, Smith 68*, Clarke 62, Cowan 58) by 150 runs

New Road is the sort of ground where instead of posting the sold out sign, the club sends a kindly request over the Tannoy for spectators on benches to bunch up a little closer. Shrugging off the unfamiliar crest on his helmet to compile 79 for Worcestershire against the Australians, Nick Compton did his best to ensure England's bench for Trent Bridge is similarly crowded. Either side of that innings, Steve Smith and Jackson Bird likewise swelled the tourists' options with bursts of runs and wickets.

Each of the Worcestershire-for-a-week Compton, Bird and Smith were in need of something eye-catching to force their way into the first Test plans of their respective teams, and all would provide something to recommend them for inclusion. Ryan Harris was less successful in his quest for the stuff that would vault him into the Test XI, dropping short of the length most likely to reap wickets.

Bird had found the going equally barren in his early spells, but after tea struck four times in as many overs to illustrate why he may yet be a pivotal Ashes contributor. Moving the ball a tad either way while maintaining a relentless line has worked on plenty of occasions for Bird, and there was a pleasing look for the tour selectors Rod Marsh and Darren Lehmann in a scorecard that showed one man pouched at slip, one lbw and another taken behind, albeit down the legside.

These wickets removed some shine from Compton's earlier work. He had taken the Australians for 81 with Somerset last week and, parachuted in to Worcestershire's midst by the ECB, he acknowledged his half-century with a somewhat sheepish wave of the bat towards the home dressing room. Nonetheless he remained determined and focused until the moment of his exit, thus keeping his name in front of England's selectors much as Smith had done for Australia's panel in the morning.

Smith dominated an unbroken stand of 74 with Phillip Hughes, ostensibly ahead of his fellow New South Welshman in the queue for Trent Bridge batting spots but less certain here than he had appeared at Taunton last week. Whether that was out of respect for his former teammates at Worcestershire cannot be certain, but it was clear the hosts had a fair idea of how to keep Hughes corralled.

By contrast Smith gathered momentum with every over, and looked bound for an attractive century by the time the captain Michael Clarke called him in. In 2010-11, Smith was called up alongside Hughes for the third Test of the series in Perth, and both would look out of their depth in the three matches that followed.

Back then Smith appeared confused about his role, juggling a personal preference for batting with expectation that his embryonic leg breaks would develop fast enough to merit a place on their own. But two years on he is most definitely a swashbuckling middle order batsman, and would be capable of occupying the No. 5 or 6 spots, where his comfort against spin may come in handy.

The closure offered Harris and Bird the chance to get the better of Compton, but neither would manage to do so before the interval. Harris moved the ball a touch and swung one tempter past Compton as he reached out to drive, while Bird was typically straight and narrow, maintaining a line just outside off stump that did not encourage free scoring.

Clarke tried Ashton Agar and James Faulkner before the end of the session, meaning of three preparatory innings so far only the first against Somerset - Marcus Trescothick hooking to fine leg from the bowling of James Pattinson - reaped a new ball wicket for the opening bowlers in their initial spells.

Bird and Harris both improved upon resumption, and Compton was fortunate when the sound of an inside edge strangled Bird's appeal for lbw not long into the afternoon. He lost Matthew Pardoe for 16, slicing Faulkner to gully, and Moeen Ali could manage only 10 before some turn from Agar drew a low edge and a catch by Clarke that was confirmed after the umpires consulted.

Shane Watson delivered a brief, cobweb-shedding spell, but posed few problems as Compton pushed gravely past tea. He looked good for a century in the evening, but Bird defeated him on the pull shot after the Australians had upped their ration of short balls. Alexei Kervezee was pinned in front of the stumps five balls later, then Tom Fell edged to slip and Daryl Mitchell's busy innings was ended by a glance too fine to evade a diving Brad Haddin. It had been a precision spell to undo the hosts, causing New Road's benches to clear where once they had been packed.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 5, 2013, 7:11 GMT

    @tom brock - u are right, but kawaja in his test career has faced a minimum of 40 balls and on average about 70-80 balls. This average is pretty similar to the amount of balls used up by Cowan. But yeah u are right people like him are needed at the top of order, not a hundred or nothing (for next 3-4 innings) warner/hughes.

  • David on July 4, 2013, 19:05 GMT

    @ Tom Brock. You are dead right. Many forget a basic test batting skill - knuckle down, protect your wicket, tire out the opposition. Cowan has that, & Aus will need it. Domination is not only scoring tons of runs. In a series of 5-day games, grinding a fielding team down to the point of exhaustion can be as effective.

    This was seen in Aus' series vs SA. (Cowan scored the 3rd most runs!) The Aus batsmen put SA to the sword, piling up runs. But, in the Adelaide test's 2nd inngs, SA's batsmen hung on like limpets, refusing to risk wickets. Who would predict AB de Villiers scoring 33 off 220 balls - a SR of 15! A team batting for 9 hours - 148 overs at 1.67 per over - to save a match & series, has effectively dominated the final 3rd of that test.

    In test 3 the exact opposite occurred. Aus needed a huge 4th inngs. Cowan faced 149 balls: the next best were Clarke & Hussey, 52 balls each. Cowan was 3 times better at defending his wicket, & made the 2nd most runs! Yet people knock him!

  • H on July 4, 2013, 15:11 GMT

    @Lyndon McPaul against your attack slow and steady is likely to be a better plan than trying to score quickly. Pattinson, Starc and Harris are all strike bowlers. Go flashing at stuff when they've got a new ball in hand and you might as well start walking back to the pavilion. Grind them down, however, and they'll get easier to score runs off as the ball gets softer (before it reverses and they get dangerous again). Lyon's also not as dangerous as the seamers (although he's not as bad as some people seem to think). For Australia scoring runs quickly makes more sense. Broad and Finn will bowl a lot of dross, but if they get it right, they'll take wickets.

  • Hanson on July 4, 2013, 13:04 GMT

    Unfortunately for Cowan, it's not meant to be. So he averages 46 for this match. In his own words this would be considered a "pass mark."

    If you select Cowan, this is about as good as you can hope to get from him.

  • Hanson on July 4, 2013, 12:41 GMT

    So Cowan only has to score 44 in this innings to better Rogers. If he betters Rogers it has to go some distance towards silencing some of his critics (such as me). Meanwhile Hughes hasn't spent enough time out there to be judged similarly. All bets are off if he's involved in another runout.

  • Dummy4 on July 4, 2013, 12:07 GMT

    I'm sick of all the Cowan bashers! He's going to be way harder to knock over at no.3 than Warner, Hughes or Khawaja. His stability constrasts well with the selection of aggressive Watson at opener, and possibly Warner or Smith in the lower order. It's test cricket!

  • Luva on July 4, 2013, 11:47 GMT

    @Moppa Starc doesn't take too many wickets with his opening spell in First Class cricket either. I they do pick him, Clarke should keep him far from the new cherry, it is just wasted on him.

  • Dummy4 on July 4, 2013, 11:46 GMT

    @jimcilhinney..." it depends on your point of view.If a batsman scores 50 then how quickly he makes those 50 is not going to determine whether or not his team wins the game" I disagree! Wickets like death and taxes are inevitable and if a team doesnt cash in their scoring opportunities; it will reflect on the scoreboard. In saying that a player should always assess the conditions and play accordingly and their are times when consolidation or survival are more important than runs. Comptons innings would of been great for a seaming greentop under heavy cloud cover and to be fair he is probably way better at those kind of innings than Shane Watson but in this instance he allowed himself (w/shire's only test standard player)and therefore the team to be tied down on a belter of a pitch. He didnt do the conditions justice and the result for the team speaks for itself. Watson's Innings in comparison and because of its speed; set the whole game up for Oz.

  • John on July 4, 2013, 10:32 GMT

    @Lyndon McPaul on (July 4, 2013, 6:29 GMT), it depends on your point of view. If a batsman scores 50 then how quickly he makes those 50 is not going to determine whether or not his team wins the game, assuming that the psyche of the teams is not affected either way. If a team scores quickly then it increases the chance of a result in the game but doesn't necessarily increase that team's chance of winning. If England lose their cool because of fast scoring by Watson or other Australians are inspired to greater heights then that is in Australia's favour. Otherwise, it just means that England have more time to bat themselves and push for the win. Consider Australia batting first and scoring 350 in each innings. England score 350 in their first innings and thus need 350 in the fourth to win they might fall short and the game drawn or, if Australia scored their runs quickly, it might give England more time to reach the target they need.

  • Firdaus on July 4, 2013, 9:53 GMT

    Well, this secures a spot for bird. The last place in the bowling line up is open for either Siddle or Starc (Or maybe even Harris) Smith comes in at no. 6. What's left: No.3 for Cowan or Khawaja. If Cowan can make 75+ in the last innings, he's in. If he can't, he's out. This is my team for Trent Bridge:

    Rogers, Watson, Cowan/Khawaja, Clarke, Hughes, Smith, Haddin, Starc, Pattinson, Bird, Lyon