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Finn puts England in touching distance

July 30th, 2015 | by admin
Finn puts England in touching distance

Two years ago Steven Finn was unselectable. Now that statement seems unbelievable. On a dramatic second day at Edgbaston, Finn claimed five wickets and ran through Australia so comprehensively that their survival until stumps was an achievement in itself. They were barely clinging on, though; at 168 for 7 they had a lead of 23, and were relying on Peter Nevill, who was on 36, and Mitchell Starc, who had 7.

From the second over of the morning, when Mitchell Johnson unleashed two terrifying wicket-taking bouncers, it seemed as if this day would produce something special. It didn’t feel like being a day of England dominance though. Fourteen wickets fell, seven to each side, but honours were anything but even by the end. Australia could hope that Nevill and the tail might still push their lead up past 100 but England would have to implode not to win from here.

In the second half of the day, Finn’s wickets were key, but earlier it was a counter-attacking 87-run partnership between Moeen Ali and Stuart Broad that kept England on top. They ensured a lead of 145 and placed the pressure squarely back on the Australians, who didn’t handle it well. Wickets tumbled, and a two-day finish was not only possible but probable. Australia had not lost a Test inside two days since 1890, but this was 19th-century cricket being played by 21st-century professionals.

It threatened to be the ultimate throwback Thursday. A record that has stood since the first Test match in 1877 was in serious danger, as David Warner cruised along at a brisk rate while wickets tumbled around him. The highest percentage of runs in a completed innings remains Charles Bannerman’s 67.34% from Test No. 1 but Warner was on track to break it until he fell for 77.

Steven Smith played a shot more of his 2010 self than the invincible 2015 version, an ugly hoicky pull that was top-edged to Jos Buttler and gave Finn the first of his wickets. But the biggest throwback of them all was Finn, who was axed during the 2013 Ashes in England and had not been given a look-in since. Here, it was impossible to imagine dropping him.

Finn’s precise lines, movement and bounce wrecked the Australia middle order after Broad had Chris Rogers lbw for 6 early in the innings. Smith’s dismissal might have been partly self-inflicted, but Finn’s double-strike in the second over after tea was the big moment of the day. First it was Michael Clarke who edged to slip for 3, squared up beautifully by Finn.

Then next ball, Adam Voges fell in similar fashion when he pushed away from his body and edged to slip for a golden duck. Edgbaston was becoming Edge-baston. Finn missed the hat-trick but soon had added Mitchell Marsh to his tally, bowled for 6 by a ball that moved in just enough to get through the (admittedly large) gate.

Warner was the only member of Australia’s top six who reached double-figures, and it was like he was playing a different game. He crunched boundaries in his usual fashion and raced to a 35-ball fifty as wickets fell around him. But on 77 from 62 balls he fell to James Anderson when he tried to force a ball from outside off through the leg-side gap but top-edged a catch to cover.

From there, Australia were going to be lucky to last the day. Their luck turned slightly, as Nevill and Johnson showed some fight and held off England for 18 overs. Most worryingly for England, during that partnership they lost Anderson to a side injury sustained when he was bowling to Johnson. Although the extent of the injury was not yet known, it was a concern for the rest of the series.

On 14, Johnson gave Finn his five-for when he miscued a swat to leg and was caught at backward point, but there were no more wickets and the match was destined to trickle into day three. After 13 wickets on day one and 14 on day two, it defied belief that Australia could hold off England for very long when they return on Friday.

And yet the day had started so well for them. In the second over Johnson banged in a fearsome bouncer that Jonny Bairstow could only glove through to Nevill for 5. That made Johnson the fifth Australian to reach the 300-wicket milestone in Tests, and it was only two balls before he made it 301. Much like Ronald Reagan, Stokes forgot to duck, or didn’t have time to, and another brutal bumper kissed his gloves through to Nevill.

At the other end, Joe Root continued to score with apparent ease, and brought up his half-century from his 49th delivery with a pull off Mitchell Starc. Scoring off Starc wasn’t exactly difficult though. He was about as accurate as a horoscope. Balls were sprayed down leg and wide of off, byes and wides were gifted. But even a horoscope flukes a hit occasionally, and a full, wide ball from Starc was edged to slip by Root for 63.

Nathan Lyon struck in the first over of a spell for the third time in the innings when he trapped Buttler lbw for a laboured 9, but he was unable to add to his three-wicket tally despite causing Moeen some headaches before lunch. After the break, Moeen played his natural, carefree style and found boundaries all around the ground on the way to a brisk 59.

Josh Hazlewood got rid of Moeen and Broad, and Starc finished the innings by having Anderson caught behind, but England’s 281 was more than double what Australia had managed in the first innings. Finn carried on their good work, and by stumps a 2-1 lead to England seemed inevitable.


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