England v Australia, 1st Investec Test, Trent Bridge, 3rd day July 12, 2013

A fate Australia did not deserve

Although ending the day frustrated, tired and, perhaps, a little angry Australia showed plenty of attributes that will serve them well during the Ashes

Ashton Agar did not deserve it, and nor did Australia. Life isn't always fair and nor, at regular junctures in its winding five-day narrative, is Test cricket. Sometimes, events simply do not unfold in an equitable manner. It is a fact of life an international cricketer must learn to deal with, for too much rage at an apparent injustice can still be clouding the mind when the next pivotal moment arrives.

An obvious edge to slip that the umpire Aleem Dar did not see, and that the batsman Stuart Broad insouciantly declined to acknowledge, was the most sickening moment for Agar, the captain Michael Clarke and the coach Darren Lehmann, who wore a thunderous expression on the team balcony. But it also spoke to a wider truth about day three. The touring side put their very marrow into the task of dislodging England on a flat pitch, and could not be criticised too much for their thinking, or their execution. Yet Agar and the rest still walked off the field at Trent Bridge with another four wickets to claim on day four, Broad's among them.

Australia's planning for the day had shown plenty of evidence of lessons learned from the dysfunctional tour of India earlier this year. There were tight spells by the pacemen with ring fields and an avid search for reverse swing. Agar dropped onto a teasing length and used the footmarks created by the bowlers as a source of variation, in addition to the loop, flight and changes of pace he was able to impart. And Shane Watson was used on short stints at the crease that emphasised nagging accuracy and concentration, the occasional stumps-seeking inswinger used as a weapon of surprise.

All these stratagems forced England's batsmen to play with considerable discipline, from the moment Kevin Pietersen joined Alastair Cook on the second evening following the fall of Joe Root and Jonathan Trott to successive balls from Mitchell Starc. It was perhaps the most sustained display of such bowling by an Australian attack in generally unhelpful conditions since the 2004 triumph in India, when a far more revered team succeeded in winning the battle of patience.

"Michael Clarke set some very good fields today," Pietersen said. "Their bowlers also bowled really well. We had to play with a lot of discipline. Siddle runs in all day. It is like he has Duracell batteries in him. He is a fantastic cricketer for Australia. He is a typical die hard serve your country bowler. They all bowled with discipline and good areas. It was important for Chef and I to set a foundation certainly last night to get to the end of play and set foundation for our players to go out and play today."

Even accounting for the time and effort put in by Pietersen and Cook, they did not get away from Clarke's men, nor from Agar. Pressure was sustained over upon over, and was rewarded when James Pattinson coaxed a Pietersen drag onto the stumps. Cook then fell 10 runs later, defeated by lovely loop and line from Agar, plus the spectre of the rough, which caused him to close the face of his bat in expectation of turn and offer a front edge well held by Clarke. Agar's celebrations were well earned, but he was not content with one.

Jonny Bairstow became Agar's second victim, a ball spinning just enough to slide across the bat's slightly open face and nestle into Brad Haddin's gloves. In those two balls Agar had done close to everything a spin bowler must to succeed over a long period - one that spins, another that doesn't and both delivered with teasing flight and drop. He gained in accuracy and poise with each successive over, already far more confident than the naturally nervous figure he appeared on the first morning.

Matt Prior held the Australians up for a time, but it is clear that they have done a great deal of planning for the strengths of England's counterpunching wicketkeeper. A shortish square cover was posted, as it had been in the first innings, while men stationed at gully, point and a slightly deeper midwicket waited for airy, aggressive shots. The first chance Prior offered did not go to hand, when an ill Ed Cowan was unable to jump high enough to clasp a slice behind point. But another was not long in following, ironically to Cowan at midwicket from a pull shot after Steve Smith had been sent to roam the offside region.

To this point it was Australia's day, reflecting a good deal of credit on the bowlers, their captain and the coaching staff who had prepared them for Trent Bridge. The burning of the team's referrals on a pair of somewhat speculative lbw appeals sat in the back of English minds, and so too the decision to exchange an old ball that was reverse swinging notably for a new projectile that did not immediately deign to bend. But the overall impression was of a team working neatly and intelligently together, Agar's spin losing little by comparison with that of the off spinner Nathan Lyon, who he had edged out for this match.

Broad's innings would start in fortunate fashion, an inside edge preventing the tourists from raising their voices fully in an lbw appeal, and several other edges slid out of the reach of Clarke's fields. While Ian Bell was near enough to impassable, demonstrating the purity of his technique against the moving or spinning ball, Broad's survival after snicking Agar to slip was enough to test the patience of any team. The next over, Haddin was unable to grasp the toughest of low chances to his right from Bell, enhancing the opportunity for frustration.

But even in this moment the Australians showed something that was admirable, and worth savouring. Clarke's remonstrations against Dar were sharp, but short, and the final 15 overs of the day gave up only another 29 runs. It had been a staunch effort under-rewarded, and only occasionally blighted by flawed judgement. Better was deserved, and in this series there will surely be other days when Agar and Australia benefit from greater fortune than they received on this one.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Donna on July 15, 2013, 15:14 GMT

    Mitty 2, the article begins by saying that "Australia didn't deserve it". If we are missing the point of the article then it was very badly written. That inflammatory statement would overshadow anything else coming after it. That's because we all know that Australia deserves that and a whole lot more. We can be almost positive that every single Australian on that team would have done what Broad did and a whole lot more! The 'spirit of the game' according to all the Aussies I've watched over the last 40+ years is the spirit of WINNING!

  • David on July 14, 2013, 17:13 GMT

    @ OhhhhhMattyMatty How could Agar have known he was short when he was pushing his back leg back and could not even see the stumps being broken. The call by the umpire was based simply on the vision that showed a small part of Agars foot behind the line. What was unknown was whether any of it was grounded.

    And tell me why if Starc knew Trott had hit the cover of it, would he refer it? He had no knowledge that Hot Spot was not available. The answer is players like Umpires often get it wrong.

    Finally there have been 6 times in the game where Oz has been on the wrong end of 50 50 lbw decisions. 4 times with England batting Hawk Eye has shown the ball hitting the stumps with 3 being the outer portion of leg stump. The Umpires have given ALL of these not out and 3 times OZ have lost the referral. Not howler decisions at all but if umps had given them out , any referrals by England would have still resulted in them being out. In short, England has clearly had the superior rub of the green

  • Dummy4 on July 14, 2013, 14:03 GMT

    may be the author can explain how many times the Australians walked. I know their current caption walks. how about their previous famous captions and players. Be fair when writing otherwise dont write

  • Mashuq on July 14, 2013, 5:14 GMT

    The issue of desert is simply to contentious to entertain. Hoping for a good fight, as has been shown in this test (weather and pitch conditions played their part in the first innings, as well as excellent bowling by Anderson). Whatever the result, Aus must expect similar conditions at Lords (probably more bounce, though). Our much vaunted attack ought to have done much better than permit 375. Therefore our best reverse-swinger, Harris, must play for Starc. Mostly agree, @ Wefinishthis on (July 13, 2013, 0:39 GMT) about dropping Starc and Cowan, but Watson deserves to be retained atm. Khawaja for Cowan and Harris for Starc. Warner goes to Zimbabwe for practice and should come into reckoning for 3rd test. I, too, like Bird, so not sure if he too should come in atm. Maybe wait to see how he bowls v Sussex. Patto did not have a great test, but that might just be nerves. Posters criticizing Agar's bowling should acknowledge that an injury to his bowling hand hindered him in spinning.

  • Mervin on July 13, 2013, 15:28 GMT

    We need to stop covering and protecting umpires. We need to stop saying that Aleem Dar did not see it. He knew that there was an edge, he just did not feel like giving it out. In a situation so, why didn't the third umpire come in? Need to start penalizing umpires for such obvious and blatant mistakes. Stop rely on team reviews. Give umpires more authority to review if they are in doubt.

  • Dummy4 on July 13, 2013, 10:27 GMT

    I'm amazed that this article has not mentioned why Australia could not review the decision i.e. they had used them up on speculative appeals getting the "undeserved" wicket of Trott into the bargain. Without that information it rings pretty hollow.

  • Dummy4 on July 13, 2013, 10:26 GMT

    So Agar "did not deserve" to have an incorrect decision go against him when he was bowling. Did he "deserve" to have an incorrect decision go in his favour when he was batting, without which Australia would have trailed by 80+ on first innings and there would have been no "teenager scores 98 on debut from number 11" fairytale?

  • John on July 13, 2013, 9:48 GMT

    I'm sure Clarke gambling on marginal LBWs (which DRS was NOT designed for) had nothing to do with it, right?

  • malcolm on July 13, 2013, 9:40 GMT

    Remember Clarke didn't walk either. In a test at Adelaide, saw it on sky. As an Aussie living in London, Australia are just not good enough. Rememeber if it wasn't for Agar & Hughes's unbelievable partnership, Australia would of been all out for 120. Game over. I agree Starc is a very average bowler but so is Pattinson. Warner should open in the next test with Watto and Rogers at 3. Ed needs to go back to the Aust A team. I think Faulker would be a good one to have in.

  • Hamish on July 13, 2013, 9:02 GMT

    People are missing the point of this article. Daniel is barely even focusing on the controversial dismissal (and btw, on all available evidence, trott was OUT, with no deviation on the front on view and no sound whatsoever) and is focusing on the fact that Australia has shown fight and grit, has defied the critics who predicted subversive whitewashed, and have just been unlucky on day 3. We bowled economically and with pressure, there have been 4 dropped catches just from memory, an LBW decision and a catch not being able to be reviewed that were out, and numerous edges that dropped short and inside edges that missed the stumps. The fact of the matter is is that we will most likely lose this match despite having the better of England for most of the test and on day 3 (because Eng have won the crucial sessions), but we have performed admirably, above expectations, and have played so much better than we did in India that it's not funny. That's why this article is necessary (kitschiguy).

  • No featured comments at the moment.