The 1st Test is in the Bell-ance! — Ian Bell on day 2 at the Gabba
Welcome back once again to my cricket column! I’m going to try very hard to write down some of my thoughts every day, which won’t be easy given all the other responsibilities and duties I have as a modern father and husband. Sure I’m desperate to be out there with them, but being dropped from the thing you were born to do has its advantages!
The best thing you can say about the second day is we still don’t know who’s on top in this match, with Joe Root and the boys fighting hard to stay with the Aussies in their special lucky stadium. During the last Ashes in Australia, day 2 was when Mitchell Johnson was able to tear his way through our batting line-up with his moustache and fast, skiddy action which was harder to pick up than a conker on a brown background. Not that we can make any excuses — we were beaten by the better man.
England will be frustrated by their collapse on day 2. It all started out pretty easily for them, with Moeen and Dawid Malan — both good buddies of mine — able to score quickly without too many alarms or surprises. But with the rest of the lower order falling away quickly, England missed either Ben Stokes or another player who looked to have made the number 6 position his own a few years back, before being promoted up the order.
England did really well to get Australia four down for 76, silencing the crowd and revealing Joe Root had really done his homework on Usman Khawaja, who infamously didn’t do his in India. Darren Lehmann is a very different kind of coach to Micky Arthur, but even he will be wondering whether Khawaja needs to be made to write “I will not be out lbw to the spinner” 500 times on the dressing room walls. Sometimes funky punishments gets real results.
Unfortunately your correspondent fell asleep soon after tea, but it sounds like Smith and Shaun Marsh — one of Australia’s five question marks going into this match — managed to bat with skill and attrition through to the close. The concern, if you’re an England fan, is that Australia’s tail will prove harder to winkle out than England’s, and a lead of 50–100 runs on the first innings could be crucial in deciding the match — and with it, the series.
On the other hand, if England can grab a couple of early wickets, they could find themselves in a position to push for their first Gabba victory since the year of the Chernobyl disaster.