Not even all of the Agar-mania could cloud the reality of these Ashes Series. While Australia leant on a 19-year-old number 11 to resurrect themselves, England trusted its resilience and depth to withstand an Australian assault.
Despite the Trent Bridge test match enduring the unbelievable with Ashton Agar’s history breaking 98, the first test looks to reach a fairly inevitable ending.
England Captain Alistair Cook and Kevin Pietersen laid the solid foundations with a century partnership, and Ian Bell’s unbeaten 95, perhaps his greatest knock for England, ensured England hold a 261 run lead with four wickets in hand.
Sure, Aleem Dar was blinded and apparently deaf to Broad’s blatant nick off Agar, but Australia’s inability to seize the moment and overcome adversity is characteristic of Michael Clarke’s current XI. Broad’s decision to hold his ground caused a volcanic eruption on social media- mostly from tired Australians (c’mon it was the early hours of the morning!) and others who hold a false sense of morality. Do bowlers call back their victims if they know they bluffed the umpire in pulling the trigger? I never did and no respected competitor should. Or should have Tom Hawkins instructed the goal umpire that his ‘goal’ in the 2009 AFL Grand Final was a behind? Playing within the spirit of cricket is accepting the umpire’s decision, even if the umpire’s decision is not favourable, not dictating the umpire’s decision. In fact, Broad’s refusal to walk is symbolically suggestive of England’s agitation to Jonathan Trott’s second innings dismissal.
The problem that lies ahead for Australia is that England have plenty of upside left in their camp. Kevin Pietersen is still shaking the rust after a layoff from test cricket and Stuart Broad is not fully fit. In the immediate future, Australia will mightily struggle to chase anything more than 280 as Graeme Swann awaits them on a crumbling day four and five pitch. Yet, win or lose, Australia’s second innings performance with the bat will be crucial to their long-term ultimate goal of winning the Ashes. A swift capitulation to England would denigrate the memory of Agar’s 98 and severely dent Australia’s belief that they can win the series. On the other hand, a grinding and resolute chase with the bat, successful or not, will maintain a young Australian team’s confidence.
Although, does Australia really believe an Ashes test match can be won with a number 11 top scoring? Some may draw the “what if” card and claim Aleem Dar’s blunder and Broad’s immorality was the decisive stroke. But a five day test match doesn’t lie. The more consistent, assured and killer-minded team survive the marathon, and so far to date, Australia are the ones short of breath.