Ashes 2013: Talking points from Day 4 of Old Trafford Test

DRS was yet again in the news after David Warner (above) was adjudged not out when Alastair Cook asked for a review. The snickometer later showed Warner had edged the ball © Getty Images

Australia were on the verge of finishing the penultimate day of the Test on a positive note and leave the ball in England’s court ahead of the final day but rain and bad light turned up and disrupted Michael Clarke’s plans. Having said that, the crowds at Old Trafford got their money’s worth on a day that saw a lot of fast-paced action. Wickets were tumbling, batsmen were showing urgency and a possible declaration total was being pondered upon. Prakash Govindasreenivasan has more.

England tail frustrate the Aussies

Having picked seven wickets on the previous day, Michael Clarke would have hoped his bowlers would wrap up the remaining line-up within an hour or so of the fourth day’s play. However, a 58-run stand between Matt Prior and Stuart Broad, 45 of which came in the first session,  put Clarke’s calculations in a fix.  To make matters worse, the last two partnerships added 30 more runs to the total to bring down Australia’s first innings lead to 159.

Stuart Broad’s moral U-turn or simple presence of mind?

After the long break between the second and the third Test match was spent in dissecting Stuart Broad’s decision of not to ‘walk’ after edging a ball to first slip, the same bunch of people watched in horror and bemusement as Broad gave a thin edge on Sunday and just walked away. While most have propagated this as a change of heart, some have claimed that he did it since England were not in a sticky situation. However, there are enough reasons to believe that this move came out of a simple act of being alert. When Broad stood his ground at Lord’s,  he did so at a time when Australia had exhausted all their reviews. The situation in Manchester was not the same. It would have been silly to have known about the edge and still hung around, even when DRS and technological gaffes have dominated the series so far.

David Warner’s lifeline

After bowling out England for 368, Clarke sent out David Warner to open the innings with Chris Rogers, in the hope to get some quick runs. In the 10th over from Broad, Warner went for a pull shot and missed. Wicketkeeper Matt Prior seemed confident and went up right away, and was joined by the rest of the close in fielders. Umpire Tony Hill did not see what England thought they saw and ruled in favour of the visitors. Coook reviewed and there wasn’t enough conclusive evidence that Warner had nicked it. Hot spot gave a blank slate and Warner survived. Later on, however, the snicko showed a slight deflection. Warner got a lifeline as DRS continued to baffle.

Joe Root beats David Warner 

The loudest cheer of the day came when Joe Root, David Warner’s off-field nemesis, took a catch to dismiss the southpaw in the second essay. The crowd welcomed Warner with another round of boos when he walked out and even the close in fielders gave him enough stick pertaining to his infamous bar brawl. The stump mic even picked up audio feed of the first slip fielder shouting ‘C’mon Root’ when Swann came in to bowl to Warner. When he slapped a delivery to the leg side and was caught by Root, many felt it was poetic justice, in a way. Justice or not, England got a big wicket to put brakes on the Australian attack.

Gary Neville on the mic

Former Manchester United skipper was at Old Trafford to share the commentary box with Nasser Hussain. While the two sides were busy playing some attacking cricket, Neville provided rather interesting stories about the influence of cricket and football on his childhood. He spoke about Test cricket being the only form of the game that grabbed his attention and that a lot of footballers in England had a keen eye on cricket and how their cricketers fared every now and then.

Declaration, anybody?

Runs were coming in and the lead was bulging but the wickets were tumbling. Yet, Clarke was not convinced. At one point it seemed like every batsman in the Australian line-up was looking to play a cameo role in a bid to improve the lead as quickly as possible. The flip side was the fall of wickets. James Anderson and Tim Bresnan finished with a brace while Broad and Swann picked up one each. There was also an unexpected mix up that led to Steven Smith’s run out. Between all this madness, Clarke was upto some idea of his own. The rain came down and stopped play for a brief period. Even that did not prompt Clarke to opt for a declaration. Was he looking for a psychological target of 350 or 400? Or was he looking to be extra-cautious and not take a rash decision with the tournament at stake? Only Clarke would know.

Rain and bad light

The dark clouds hovering over Old Trafford got thicker by the passing minute and after some consideration, the on-field umpires deemed it unfit to continue playing. Clarke was miffed and argued with Marais Erasamus while the English players were more than happy to walk back. Clarke could not convince the umpires and had to eventually walk back with Australia’s lead at 331. Most importantly, close to an hour’s play was lost due to bad light.
Australia’s hopes of pulling one back in this series is on tenterhooks as weather forecast predicts persistent showers on Day Five. It would be a rather unfortunate end to Australia’s fighting comeback after being down and out through losses in the first two games. An abandoned fifth day will give both sides a draw and England’s 2-0 lead will be insurmountable, with just two more games to go. If rains decide to give the fifth day a skip, then there could be pulsating turn of events at Old Trafford.

Click here to read all the talking points of Ashes 2013

(Prakash Govindasreenivasan is a reporter with CricketCountry. His Twitter handle is @PrakashG_89)