Poor batting show from Australia made things easier for England in the end. Star batsmen Steven Smith, Michael Clarke, Adam Voges and Mitchell Marsh collectively contributed just 50 runs in both innings taken together. Except that Chris Rogers came good in the first innings and Warner in the second with face-saving acts coming from unexpected quarters, there was not much to talk about Australia’s batsmen. In the second innings, Peter Nevill and Mitchell Starc stretched England to the third day. The rank bad performance from Australia raises plenty of questions and one among them is Clarke’s leadership virtues; not to talk about his failure with the bat. It may be argued that such issues arise after every big debacle in sports but despite Australia’s big win at Lords, Clarke’s personal performance was not the reason for victory. As for England, they might have won the third test but there were obvious flaws in their batting as well. After bowling out Australia cheaply, England caved in during the first outing and had to be rescued by Moeen Ali and Stuart Broad. In the second innings too, England openers were taken cheaply before Ian Bell and Joe Root led England to a historic victory.
It has been a funny Ashes Series thus far with furious weight shifting. England took the first test in what looked like a comprehensive victory. At Lords, Australia literally destroyed England by a 405-run victory and at Edbaston, Australia’s collective total in both innings could only reach 401. It could have been much worse, if Peter Nevill and Mitchell Starc had not batted the way they did. In the morning, the overnight not out batsmen; Nevill and Starc came out to lengthen Australian tail from 168/7 onwards. After spending 9 overs together on the third day and 64 runs in the partnership, Nevill finally departed to a terrific catch by Buttler far down on his leg side. That wicket was also Steven Finn’s sixth. Nevill spent three hours on the crease and played 147 balls for his invaluable 59 runs. Starc continued with Hazlewood and added 28 runs for the ninth wicket and another 20 with Nathan Lyon for the tenth. His 58 in 108 balls helped Australia take a 120 run lead over England. If only the other Australian batsmen had contributed, England could have been in trouble.
With all the time in the world, England came on to chase 121 required for victory. After spending almost 2½ hours on the crease with the bat, Mitchell Starc was back immediately with the ball in the opening over. He didn’t allow any liberties to Adam Lyth and walked off with a maiden. After another over from Josh Hazlewood, it was lunch time with England 4/0. Things changed after the teams came out. In the 5th over, Starc produced an express delivery and even as Alastair Cook was shaping into a defensive pose, the ball went through and crashed on the stumps. The silence at Edgbaston was stunning and it was over only when new batsman Ian Bell slapped Starc for four off the next delivery. In the 12th over, Hazlewood accounted for the other opener and England were 51/2. Bell was joined by Joe Root and together they carried England to an eight-wicket victory with more than two days remaining.
After the match, Steven Finn was named Man of the Match for his six-wicket haul but Michael Clarke couldn’t explain Australia’s poor show and ended by saying that credit had to go to England. Clarke’s string of scores in the series tells about his batting. Scores of 38, 4, 7, 32 n.o.,10 & 3 in six innings so far and two losses as captain call for some serious introspection. At this point, Clarke would do well to hand over the reins to Steven Smith, who has already showed his competence as a leader not too long ago.
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