Here’s Tom van der Gucht.
“In many ways, I’m more excited about tomorrow’s England v England Lions match. The opportunity for young upstarts to make a point is always exciting and I still remember the thrill of the Lions beating the main team on the run up to the 2010 T20 World Cup, leading to a complete change in personnel, direction and tactics.”
Em in Newcastle writes in. “Aside from congratulations Travis Head for the 100, what’s more pointless than this ODI series? How about a frisbee? That’s got no points either. What’s got more point? How about the 109th Grey Cup in Canadian Football League won by Toronto at the weekend?”
Well, I would direct people back to the Sam Billings interview at the start of the blog to find some point for the players ahead of next year’s World Cup. As for the Grey Cup, that doesn’t sound very colourful. Well done Toronto – if my very distant understanding is correct, they haven’t been swimming in titles with Blue Jays, Raptors, Leafs and the like.
Here comes the rain again. Just a light drizzle, but it’ll be enough to take some time and probably cost us some overs. Wonder what Duckworth and Lewis will make of things if Australia’s innings is curtailed now? And that’s before old mate Stern gets involved.
42nd over: Australia 290-2 (Smith 10, Stoinis 11) Woakes bashes away on a hard length, hoping to use the big square boundaries as protection or a wicket-taking device. Smith backs away and misses a swish, then backs away and plays the forehand overhead smash! Only gets one run for it, to mid on, but I recall him playing that in 2014 when he made that 192 against India batting for declaration runs. No boundaries from the over, only five singles, well bowled.
41st over: Australia 285-2 (Smith 8, Stoinis 8) Dancing shoes on for Smith, who hops outside his leg stump and cuts Dawson for four. Some sharp running for twos as well. Three leg-side boundary riders for Stoinis, who isn’t ready to play any huge shots yet. Hits a run past the bowler to keep the strike.
40th over: Australia 276-2 (Smith 3, Stoinis 4) Woakes returns. He’s had moderate success against Smith, as much as anyone can claim to have had. Wonder if that’s a planned rotation or a tactical move? Three overs left for him. Bowls four balls of six to Stoinis.
Phil Withall is watching from behind the sofa. “As an Englishman the disappointment of this Australian innings is only being compounded by the emptiness of the weather radar. I can see no hope in either…”
39th over: Australia 270-2 (Smith 1, Stoinis 0) Interesting that Smith got the nod at three, but Stoinis gets elevated above Labuschagne. Two wickets and one run from the Stone over!
WICKET! Head b Stone 152, Australia 270-2
And one brings two! Head steps away to the leg side, looking to play through or over cover. Stone perhaps has time to follow him a touch. The line of the ball is just outside leg stump, and it clips the outer edge of the timber after Head’s shot misses. That cheers up Olly Stone’s day a touch. Not sure he’ll be turning cartwheels about 2 for 66 in his eighth, but it’s better than not getting them.
WICKET! Warner c Willey b Stone 106, Australia 269-1
Finally the partnership breaks. Olly Stone has been turned into a bowling machine set to slot, but he gets one lucky break. Warner pulls to deep midwicket, hits the gap between the two outfielders quite well, but just has too much elevation or not enough depth on the hit, and Willey is able to make up a lot of ground running parallel to the trajectory and pull off a wonderful catch.
38th over: Australia 269-0 (Head 152, Warner 106) Even Curran is going now, with Head smacking him to the leg side through midwicket and then the other side of the wicket through cover, both length balls that the batter could set himself up to attack by shifting position.
Century! David Warner 101 from 97 balls
37th over: Australia 257-0 (Head 143, Warner 103) Goodness me. Travis Head is just pumping them now. Stone returns, first ball after drinks, and Head blasts him over long on and over the rope. Slashes away another boundary over the non-existent cordon. Takes a two and a one, gives strike to Warner, and Stone dishes him up an absolute freebie, low full toss with width, perfect for Warner to redirect through cover for four!
That’s ODI century #19 for Warner, which takes him ahead of Mark Waugh and behind only Ricky Ponting’s 29 for his country.
And Stone’s over has gone for 19.
36th over: Australia 239-0 (Head 130, Warner 97) A rare boundary from Curran, glanced through fine leg. This pair still running the second as hard as they did 36 overs ago, as Warner places the ball to deep midwicket. Warner has been out in the 90s four times before in ODI cricket. Gets off strike. Curran oversteps bowling to Head, has to deliver a free hit, and only gives away one run to deep point. Still the only England bowler today going at less than six per over. Drinks.
35th over: Australia 228-0 (Head 129, Warner 90) It’s the Richie Benaud over, the 35th. That old rule of thumb doesn’t quite work anymore. But let’s say that Australia are on track for… lots. And England’s only chance of pulling them back is if they go too hard and lose a bunch of wickets too quickly. There’s another six for Head, stepping well outside his leg stump and down the pitch to Dawson, contorting himself into a weird pretzel shape as he thumps a ball long over midwicket. Shades of Rishabh Pant in that one.
34th over: Australia 217-0 (Head 120, Warner 88) Curran has been useful so far, he’ll have some death overs to manage as well though you’d think. Tries the yorker, tries the slow bouncer, anything to draw a mistake, but these batters just keep collecting.
33rd over: Australia 212-0 (Head 118, Warner 86) Head charges Dawson, in the end cramping himself for room and pulling a single. Warner walks at the bowler to check a drive to mid off. Batting with restraint, got time to do so. He fell short of a hundred in the first match and won’t want to do that again. Head goes hard at Dawson’s last ball but Woakes saves it on the straight boundary. At some point this innings is going to light up, and everyone will have freedom to swing.
32nd over: Australia 206-0 (Head 114, Warner 83) There’s the 200 partnership for this pair, the second time they’ve done it in 13 innings together. Last time they went on to 284, the Australian ODI record. They take a single from every ball of Willey’s over, plus a wide. England looking flat as.
31st over: Australia 199-0 (Head 111, Warner 80) Nothing outrageous against Dawson, Warner relying on placement and running to score four from the over, Head content to knock a single to square leg.
30th over: Australia 194-0 (Head 110, Warner 76) The run rate is pushing 6.5 now, they’ve taken 38 off the last four overs. And we’re not even in the hitting stage of the innings yet. Willey manages to conjure a quiet over into existence, still six from it though. Dawson is about to come back.
29th over: Australia 188-0 (Head 108, Warner 74) Head plays his first post-ton slog, up high but with enough on it to clear mid on. It plugs for a single. That’s the second ball of the over. From the sixth, Head gets the shot more cleanly, hitting Woakes flat and wide of that fielder for four.
We’re crossing genres! Ground announcing / OBO coverage.
28th over: Australia 180-0 (Head 101, Warner 73) Ton’s up, fun’s up – but Warner is the one who decides to go big. Willey comes on to replace the struggling Stone, and Warner drop-kicks his first ball over wide long-on, the exact same spot where he hit Dawson. Six. Then closes out the over by shovelling a shorter ball over Buttler and away for four. Does Warner want to catch up?
Century! Travis Head 100 from 91 balls
27th over: Australia 168-0 (Head 100, Warner 62) A very sad sounding trumpeter is playing We Are the Champions, with all of the gusto of a deflating balloon. And Travis Head adds the final puncture, pop, by slashing World Cup winner Woakes away through backward point for four and for his century.
That’s his third for Australia, as well as nine others in List A cricket. He likes the 50-over format, for sure. Has applied his buccaneering style to this match, had some trouble early, but just ignored it and kept sailing. By now he looks completely in control.
26th over: Australia 161-0 (Head 95, Warner 60) Simple approach, and it keeps working today. Travis Head strides into that delivery from Stone, hitting it off a length over the bowler’s head, using a straight bat. Four. Tries to feather an uppercut through the vacant area by the keeper and misses that one. But if at first you don’t succeed… next ball, same ball, same shot, full face over the keeper, bat pointing back towards the boundary line. Top shot.
25th over: Australia 150-0 (Head 86, Warner 58) Moeen is looking after some of the scant fans in the ground, taking selfies down on the boundary between overs. Chris Woakes has the ball now from the Shane Warne End, England increasingly desperate for a breakthrough. No risks against the main man, but Head uses that trick again of moving to the off side and glancing fine for four. The rain didn’t cost us any overs, so it’s halfway through the innings and Australia should be thinking well over 300 by now.
24th over: Australia 143-0 (Head 81, Warner 56) Travis Head just keeps on keeping on! Stone is bowling a bit faster now, trying a short-pitched attack, but Head flat-bats him back down the ground for four, then slashes him to deep third for a couple. No fear.
23rd over: Australia 135-0 (Head 75, Warner 55) Quiet over for Dawson in contrast, four singles, but a couple of well struck shots to the boundary riders. Bold of Buttler to keep him on, that’s a test of nerve. For the bowler and the captain.
22nd over: Australia 131-0 (Head 73, Warner 53) Given that Moeen has replaced a specialist bat, he’s allowed to bat but not bowl. So go the substitution guidelines. Interesting argument as to what constitutes an all-rounder, then. Malan bowls occasionally, could he swap in both disciplines for Moeen?
Olly Stone has swung around to the MCC end, and bowls better, two singles off the over. Does bowl one down leg, Blocker Wilson is about to signal wide, but Buttler has a big appeal and then a long chat about whether to review for a catch. Wilson has to delay his signal, and by the time England’s confab is over, he has decided that the ball must have clipped clothing or pad to make a noise. Because no wide is signalled. You could say that’s tricky from England, or you could say it’s good umpiring to reconsider a decision when the first reaction was wrong.
Half century! Warner 50 from 53 balls
21st over: Australia 129-0 (Head 72, Warner 52) Now it’s Warner’s turn to swat Dawson for six. First ball of the over, lifted over wide long on and just over the rope. Neatly placed. A few singles to follow, and suddenly Dawson’s 2 overs, 0 for 7 has turned into 4 overs, 0 for 30.
20th over: Australia 118-0 (Head 70, Warner 43) Curran finishes off his interrupted over, but Head gets the better of him, finally latching onto a pull shot and hitting it for four. While you were sleeping, Phil Salt has been assessed after hitting his head while trying to save one of the Olly Stone boundaries earlier. He has been replaced via a concussion substitute by Moeen Ali, who I’m sure is thrilled. Cold, wet, fielding to another huge Australian partnership.
And we’re back.
Looks pretty clear out there. The tractors are doing the rope, and as I type the small cover starts to come off. They didn’t even put down the covers for the full square. Should be back on shortly.
And the rain is back. Nothing much on the radar, a few scattered fluffs of cloud, but enough to delay us briefly. Stand by.
19th over: Australia 111-0 (Head 65, Warner 41) There’s the team hundred, and the hundred partnership, as Head drives Dawson to long off for one. Warner starts to advance but checks his shot and dabs a single behind point. He chatters and scolds himself at the non-striker’s end for some reason or other. Head though is running nicely now, and threads a shot via an angled bat between cover and point, picking up three runs after a hard chase from Willey. Head gets the strike back from Warner, then ices the over with a six! Straight hit after a little shuffle towards Dawson, and the spinner cops his first full whack.
18th over: Australia 99-0 (Head 55, Warner 39) No run from the over for Curran! Just testing Warner out by maintaining a very tight line on the off stump, and Warner won’t take a risk at this stage. The run rate is down to 5.6 per over.
17th over: Australia 99-0 (Head 55, Warner 39) Dawson into his second over, Head cracks the sweep shot but can’t beat the outfielder, two runs. Only four from the over. Dawson has been… curiously effective in this series. Wonder if we’ll see anyone take him on.
Half century! Travis Head 51 from 55 balls
16th over: Australia 95-0 (Head 52, Warner 38) Width from Curran, cracked but to deep point where there’s a sweeper. Deep third, long leg and square leg are the other boundary riders. Backward point, cover, mid off, mid on, midwicket in the ring. Too much bounce for Curran now, as Blocker Wilson wides his bouncer, so he pitches right up to follow and Head cracks the off-drive back past him. Four! And fifty. And after another single, drinks.
15th over: Australia 88-0 (Head 47, Warner 37) Spin time. I wonder, later in life when his knees complain from bowling, whether Liam will call it Dawson’s creak? He’s got a walk-up start, eight paces and then into his delivery movement. Lands the first set pretty well, aside from a short one that Warner pulls over midwicket but sees it saved in the deep. Two runs from that, plus a single.
14th over: Australia 85-0 (Head 47, Warner 34) Curran is getting good bounce from his not very considerable height, and the Australians are wary of taking him on cross-batted. We saw Shan Masood come unstuck like that in the World Cup final here. A couple of little dinks via the pull shot in this over, but no full swings of the bat. Then he beats Head’s cut shot over the top edge to close.
13th over: Australia 81-0 (Head 44, Warner 33) Most of the bleeding keeps coming from a Stone. Head rides the bounce to crack a couple to deep cover, then Warner ends the over with another back-cut for four. Stone has given width more often than anyone today.
12th over: Australia 73-0 (Head 41, Warner 28) Here goes Scurran, scurrying in as he does. His first ball of the day is a perfect yorker, making Head work to keep it out. Low full toss second ball but Head only gets a run to mid off. Four singles from the over.
11th over: Australia 69-0 (Head 39, Warner 26) Stone continues, and this time Warner pays him some respect for a few balls. He’s starting from beyond the fielding circle, running in and hitting low 140s in the kph range. He should have been here for the World Cup, when the radars were juiced like 90s wrestling.
10th over: Australia 64-0 (Head 37, Warner 23) The Australians close out the first ten overs with five runs from Willey, knocking the ball around. A few opportunities for England but the opening bats are still there, having gone at six per over.
9th over: Australia 59-0 (Head 33, Warner 22) A slow start from Warner, but he opts to get going as soon as Olly Stone comes on. Too short, too wide from England’s recovering quick, and Warner forehands him through cover before pulling him past mid on, two boundaries in succession. Another wide on beats the top edge with bounce, but could have been demolished. Warner doesn’t miss out to follow it though, driving a full ball on bent knee between the cover fielders in the circle. A lazy dozen for him, and the small crowd finds voice.
8th over: Australia 47-0 (Head 33, Warner 10) Live tally suggests fewer than 5000 spectators were here at the start of play. Most of those that I can see are in the Members Stand, where they don’t pay admission. Travis Head is giving them some high-wire entertainment though, clearing his front foot and pumping Willey down the ground for six. Again, the big shot is the only score from the over, as Head can’t beat the field afterwards.
7th over: Australia 41-0 (Head 27, Warner 10) Have to keep reminding myself that the 6th over doesn’t mean anything in 50-over cricket. The conditioning has been relentless. As it has for Head, who hasn’t been playing T20 stuff, but sees a barely short ball from Woakes and has to throw the bat at it. Only around waist height when his bat comes across its line, and it’s so hard to control a shot from there. He gets a looping top edge over the keeper for another dicey four.
Much better from the fifth ball, as he gets proper width from Woakes and crashed it through cover. But misses the inside edge and takes it on the pad to end the over. One of these misses is surely going to be his undoing…
6th over: Australia 32-0 (Head 19, Warner 10) Willey still swinging it, and Head is now muddled. Leaves, blocks, then hurls his bat through an off-drive for four. Streaky as, airborne and flapped away with a bent back knee, but straight of the field. Takes the next ball on the pad but too high to threaten, enough contact to scurry off strike. Warner reaches and nearly kisses width from the last of the over.
5th over: Australia 27-0 (Head 15, Warner 10) There goes Warner at last. Gets the whisper of width he wants from Woakes and plays his vintage back-cut, forcing the ball away with such timing that it speeds to the rope. Always such economy of movement in that shot that’s barely a shot. Follows up with three runs through cover. They’re going at a decent clip despite some good bowling.
4th over: Australia 19-0 (Head 14, Warner 3) There is some assistance for bowlers! Willey got one to jag in his last over, but it started wide and went wider. Now he gets a couple to swing in, it looks like live. And some seam movement away on the replay. There’s some graft for this batting pair in the near term. Head respects it and gets forward to defend for just about the first time today. Has to take his hand off the handle when the next ball bounces at him. Good contest. And brave from Head to end the over: guessing Willey’s line, he shifts over a mite and opens up a leg glance very fine. Four! The only scoring shot.
3rd over: Australia 15-0 (Head 10, Warner 3) Overturned on review! The luck is running for Head. Woakes nails him in line with the stumps, and Pistol Reiffel pulls the trigger, but Head was up on his toes and has cause for concern about the height. As it turns out, the review shows it pitching a millimetre outside leg stump, so the ball-tracking doesn’t even come into it. Warner demonstrates to him how to play a leave after that, then all but chips a catch to mid off, landing just wide and short. Which is also a description of the batsman.
2nd over: Australia 12-0 (Head 9, Warner 1) Head: dropped! And England drop heads. Willey the bowler this time, from the Members End. Another flash from Head, another edge, this one fine enough to hit the second slip, but above his head. Dawson in that spot, tips it over the bar and away for four runs.
1st over: Australia 5-0 (Head 4, Warner 1) Away we go. Two slips and a backward point in for Travis Head. Do you think that stops him hurling his hands at a line outside off stump? Don’t be daft. The edge flies fine to deep third and is well saved by Curran sliding across. Warner adds a single, Head clips three runs to leg. Chris Woakes adds another good over to his good last match.
The rain has gone, the covers too, and the players are walking out to the middle.
In fact, if you’re wondering about the significance of this series for some of the players, I had a long conversation with Sam Billings about it only yesterday at the very ground we’re sitting in. Forgive the pragmatism but it seems relevant.
There’s a video version or the audio interview is part of a podcast here.
A bit more drizzle at the ground, so the hessian is going back on. This should pass quickly, the sky is bright. The ground announcer is still getting very pumped up announcing all of the players. “Number 33, Mah-nus Lllllllaba-shane!”
Starc goes out for Hazlewood under the rotation policy. Ashton Agar is replaced after playing well for Abbott’s first match of the series. Stoinis and Marsh stay in rather than Cameron Green. England go with one spinner in Dawson as Stone comes back for Adil Rashid. Moeen Ali makes way for Buttler to return as captain.
Alex Carey +
Pat Cummins *
Jos Buttler * +
England win the toss and bowl
The visitors chased in the second match and couldn’t get there, despite good innings from James Vince and Sam Billings. Mitchell Starc was back on song, taking four wickets as did Adam Zampa. England will choose to chase again though, on what historically would be a good batting track at the G, but in the last two or three years has been a lively bowling surface. Matt Page the head curator has done wonders here. Interested to see what he serves up for a one-dayer.
As far as excitement goes, this is the third match in a decided series, it was raining up until a few minutes ago, and I can tell you from recently entering the ground that there is not a torrent of eager Melburnians flocking to this game. So far the seating bowl looks about the same as a healthy Sheffield Shield crowd.
Here we go for one more time. The third instalment in… well, is it fair to say the least popular ODI series ever? There have been series between smaller teams with fewer people in attendance and smaller television audience, but there’s a difference between being ignored and having active antipathy towards matches actually existing.
That’s not for everybody, of course: plenty of the players in these matches have a point to make and the opportunity to do so. Not everybody is comfortably ensconced in the England squad with multiple World Cup medals. Nor do the Australians know exactly how they want to structure their team ahead of next year’s Cup, without a whole lot of runway left.
Anyway, it’s cricket, we like it, I’m watching it, you’re reading about it, so perhaps we should just enjoy it?