3rd Test (Old Trafford)
Like all of England's big cricket grounds, Old Trafford has had an expensive refit to help it compete in this bizarre bidding process to host test and ODI's. It's bizarre because it's the ECB that fund the grounds and make them bid against each other, reason enough for Giles Clarke to resign. It puts massive debt on the game because of ... the new build and five Ashes tests simply don't go around the nine big grounds. Edgbaston missed out on an Ashes test this year because of this absurdity.
OT recently dug up the square and rolled it 180 degrees, the plan to introduce better pitches and line it up with the new media centre and corporate area. Old Trafford was an ugly old dump back in the day and just a chunk of huge stands and a rickety pavilion. Today it looks much better but still lots of uncovered stands you can get a healthy soaking in under that fabled Manchester weather.
The capacity is now 25,000 and the tickets not cheap, although always better than Lords. But if it's your annual day out at the cricket then good value. Transport to the ground is excellent on the trams, trains and busses and access much quicker than the London grounds. It's hard to get beer and food in though.
The seating areas are great for views and some areas rowdy. I haven't been since the refit so not sure where the beer boys go now. They have family areas for the big matches and they also reserve seats to move people away from the noise and beer slop gets too much in your area. But this is Manchester so bring a brolly. I also enjoyed the museum as Lancashire has a tremendous cricket history like neighbors Yorkshire. It, does, however, remain a mystery why there are no notable Scouse crickets.
A draw would be enough for England at a packed Old Trafford to reclaim the Ashes, Australia winning a critical toss on the opening day. Clarke needed to win the flip to have the best chance to keep the series alive. It landed heads but the DRS said it was tails. The square at the ground has been spun around 180 degrees like the coin and the pitchers faster and bouncier. England threatened to play two spinners but no changes in the side. Australia dropped hero Agar for Nathan Lyons (perhaps an admission that they should have picked Lyons in the first place) and he became the most capped Australian in history without playing a previous Ashes test in the process. Starc also returned, bad boy Warner back in at five, mechanic Clarke moving up to four to get nearer the problem. Fix the first four and the engine will purr.
Australia were positive from the off and scored quickly, 60-0 after the first hour. England struck back with two wickets before lunch, one extremely controversial. Khawaja isn't much of a player but unlucky to be given out caught behind, only stump - mic picking up a sound. Hotspot showed no nick, nor did snicko, the sound, the tip off the bat hitting the ground, 82-2. The DRS system is simply being overwhelmed as umpires lose confidence in given the calls the system was set up exactly for, benefit of the doubt lost from the game. Even the Aussie Prime Minister Twittered his disapproval. It was clearly not out and I think its time to refresh the whole system.
Australia had the lead as they raced to 189-3 at tea, Rogers (89) and Clarke well set on 70*. It got better after tea, Smith (clearly out LBW but no appeals left) and Clarke piling on 174 to close on 303-3. Clarke would crack his 24th test century, level 6th in the all-time Aussie list. England have problems. I suspect we will see scores like this Down Under soon on a very Australian looking pitch.
===Australia's leading Test centurions===
41: Ricky Ponting (168 matches)
32: Steve Waugh (168)
30: Matthew Hayden (103)
29: Donald Bradman (52)
27: Allan Border (156)
24: Greg Chappell (87),
24: Michael Clarke (95)
The runaround continued on day two, Smith out for 89 after numerous escapes, Clarke finally removed for 187. Clarke is a big hundred guy and has triples and doubles on his CV. If he scores, Australia scores big. It would be a record 214 partnership at OT in The Ashes. Warner was booed on to the park and booed off pretty quickly, wasting a review when he clearly nicked out for 9. Haddin (65*) and Starc (69*) attacked to set up the declaration with a 97 partnership off 118 balls. 527-7 declared seemed light to me with bad weather forecast, Swann 5-159, his 17th test fiverfor. Stuart Broad would claim his 200th test wicket.
===Australia Ist Innings===
Aussie continued the dominance to close England on 52-2, night watchman Bresnan foolishly refusing to use the DRS after being given out after the ball brushed the trouser pocket. But Cook was in and he generally stays in. If England score 328 and save the follow on the Ashes would be retained, rain expected on Monday.
Day three was a stunner, weather-wise, as England set about retaining the Ashes by batting out the day, closing on 294-7, still 34 short. Kevin Pietersen dominated with his 23rd test century, but 113 not quite enough to get England home after putting on 113 with Bell (60). KP is second in the all-time English century list and now top international run scorer ever for England (ODI +Test+T20) with 13,224 runs, surpassing the great Graeme Gooch. Yes, a South African has the most runs for England, all you need know about modern money led English cricket.
===Test, ODI, T20, Total===
Kevin Pietersen - Runs 7,697 + 4,351 + 1,176 = 13,224
Graham Gooch - 8,900 + 4,290 + 0 = 13,190
Alec Stewart - 8,463 + 4,677 + 0 = 13,140
David Gower - 8,231 + 3,170 + 0 = 11,401
Andrew Strauss - 7,037 + 4,205 + 73 = 11,315
Ian Bell - 6,302 + 4,428 + 175 = 10,905
Day Four and the rain began to dictate the test and so the Ashes destiny. Bullied by that fact, England whacked the follow on first thing, Broad 32*, Prior 30 and settled for 368 all out. Australia had a first innings lead of 159 as the skies darkened.
===England 1st Innings===
368 All Out.
Australia needed quick runs and sacrifice, ending day four on 172-7 as bad light and rain closed the cloak of defeat around Australia as far as recovering The Ashes goes, Warner caught by Root after a lazy right hook - literally! Clarke was not happy when they had to go off for that bad light with the floodlights blazing. Bad light is the biggest bugbear for cricket fans; first-class matches often seeing the guys come off for health & safety reasons in conditions they really should be playing in but Twenty20 games going ahead in all weathers and with lethal gas burners on the rope to take you out if you mistimed that catch.
And, as per usual, the weather forecast was a bit off, play beginning at 11:30. On the last day if you pay on the gate there is no refunds but if you prepay and they get ten overs in you also lose your money, the plan here. England took the field for 20 overs on a soggy outfield before the rain swept in under angry skies. England were rocking at 27-3, the fourth time in the series the first three were gone early, Cook getting his first duck as captain. But the Ashes were retained at 4:03 pm as play was called off for the day, 37-3 and match drawn. It was the fastest Ashes victory since the series became five tests, done and dusted in just 14 hours of cricket. Job done!
===England 2nd Innings===
England leads 2-0 with 2 Tests to go, as holders, keep The Ashes.
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Never again I went into the supercuts in Sheffield . After being to one in Scarborough and not to much of a bad cut there. This was Friday 13th July 2013 maybe a omen. But the middle aged about 49 to 52. Who had an haircut herself like the Annette Kranky. She was a ringer for her. Sat me down for a cut and blowdry. She ... went to pick up random layers from the middle of my hair and what only can be best discribed hacking at it. I expressed concern . And told her are you not meant to start from the crown. She shrugged and said every hair dresser does it different. God I so wished I had walked out at that point.
But I really throught it would get better. But looking at her own hair I should of known.
I have ended up with the most badly hair cut in the Uk. It honestly could not be any worse if you had put your head in a strimmer.
Been British still paid even though I told her I was not happy. But she looked blank. I walked out of the meadowhall branch.
Vowing never to go near another super cuts as long has I live.
Please be warned the staff in there if they are hairdressers then the school of hairdressing needs regulating more.
So be warned.....
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Third Test - Trent Bridge
Its 16 years since England won the first test of an Ashes series and so not a good sign for Australia after the thrilling England victory at Trent Bridge. The test was only close because of the misuse of DRS review system and if young Agar was given out stumped at 6 when he was in the first innings Australia would have been thrashed. ... But no one really wanted that result and Australia really needed to get those 14 runs on Sunday to make this a thrilling series it clearly could be.
Trent Bridge was the ideal test ground to kick off the current Ashes series. It was always going to produce good wickets on day one but with the added venom of swing the new stand generates and a full house there to enjoy the cricket it was an exciting test. Traditionally the summer test series started at Lords but England were regularly beaten there because that's the one test the visitors get really up for and so a disadvantage the ECB could eliminate. Australia had secured a first-innings lead in the first Test of an Ashes series seven times time in a row going into Trent Bridge. Edgebaston took over as the opener and now it's Trent Bridge. It's a great venue and sits nice and proud in the city centre bowl by the sweeping River Trent and so you can nip out in the lunch hour to get your shopping. Tickets are not cheap and a decent seat pushing £70 but it's easy to get to by bus and car and just a fabulous place to enjoy the beautiful game.
Like most of the great old cricket stadiums it's had a fancy refit and now a great place to watch cricket with plenty of bars, eateries and relaxing areas to enjoy the day. The architectural gem that is the Fox Stand at TB was designed with an airplane style wing roof, and it's that which is causing the excessive swing at the ground in recent seasons as warm air cools in the shadow and then heats up on the edges. The ECBs bonkers strategy of making the traditional test grounds pitch against the new stadiums to tender for tests has put the pressure on the big city grounds as nine stadiums pitched for just five Ashes Tests. This simply means two or three stadiums hemorrhage money and the ECB have to subsidize that loss. A test match keeps them in the black for the year but the occasional one-day match may not and that's what's causing the problem, Durham CCC having to hand back a match as they couldn't afford to host it.
Team wise for England and Nick Compton was unlucky to lose out, his 3 centuries in nine tests deemed not good enough. He was bought in to replace fellow South African KP and so can have no complainants now he is back. England wanted Root to open and so Compton had to go, young Bairstow retained at five in Roots old spot as the more attacking option. One side of me hopes Compton returns but another side hates the fact we stuff an England side with South Africans. How can you prove England is a great test nation by using guys who were raised by the South African system?
Ashton Agar was the surprise selection for Australia, their twelfth spinner since Warne to earn the fabled green and gold cap, the kid plucked from the obscurity of the Hampshire League, just the third teenager to be capped since the 1960s for Australia. The talk was of 'leggy' Fawad Ahmed being played, the asylum seeker controversially fast-tracked to Australian citizenship because of his sporting prowess. Normally they are dumped on an island prison camp near East Timor but the Aussie coast guard must have been instructed to shout down to the rickety boats bobbing on the waves to see if there were any spinners onboard, Cricket Australia that desperate!
Agar, of a Sri-Lankan mum and Aussie dad, was one of six young Australian cricketers who arrived in England in April as part of an agreement between Cricket Australia and Hampshire. He was allocated a club side and played for Henley in the Home Counties Premier Cricket League Division 1 although his figures with bat and ball did not suggest he would become an Ashes star. His first competitive match against High Wycombe saw him take 2-33 but score just 4 runs off the edge. In his two other appearances, he did not bat but took 1-19 against Welwyn Garden City, and grabbed a hat-trick against North Mymms in figures of 4-36! There has never been a jump like this in modern day cricket. But sometimes you need a big stage to perform. Bob Willis was rubbish in county cricket but he had angry pace and that was enough for England, test cricket making him the player he was and the grumpy old sod he is today.
=== The Match===
England won the toss and batted in front of a capacity 17,000 crowd to the warble of Jerusalem, overcast but the pitch looking good. Very few England captains put the Aussies in these days after Nasser Hussein famously did in 2003 as Australia cruised to 324-4 at the close on the way to 550 at Brisbane. At 92-2 at lunch all looked well but when the ball starts to reverse swing between overs 30 and 50 you can have mayhem at any ground, as proved the case here, England in disarray and skittled for 215, Siddle 5- 50. Game on!
If that was dramatic enough for the opening day it finished with Australia on 53-4 and rocking. But day two would be just as thrilling, if not more so, Australia tumbling from 108-4 to 117-9, Anderson bananering the ball for 5 - 85 to pass Freddie Truman's 307 test wickets, great Aussie white hope Steve Smith squeezing out a half-century in the chaos. On hard test pitches on the first day or so with a fresh cherry the seam tends to grip for the first day or so and you can get a clatter of wickets with skillful swing and seam, Andersen the best in the world right now at this.
So enter young Agar, a Headingleyesque recovery as the unknown spinner Agar (98) piled on a world record 163 for the last wicket with Phillip Hughes (81*). The previous 10th-wicket record of 151 was set by New Zealand's Brian Hastings and Richard Collinge against Pakistan at Auckland way back in 1973, and equalled in 1997 by Pakistan's Azhar Mahmood and Mushtaq Ahmed against South Africa in Rawalpindi. Agar would be the youngest ever number eleven to score a test fifty on debut (45* the previous highest 110 years ago by Warwick Armstrong for Australia against England at Melbourne) and just two runs short of an astounding century when Stuart Broad ended the torture when he wholed out in the deep, 98 the highest ever number eleven test score, beating Tino Best against England only last year with 95 crazy runs. It was no slog, either, a stylish and vibrant 12 fours and 2 sixes all around the park.
Australia had earned an astonishing 65 first run lead but it should have been 131 all out as Agar was stumped and the replay said so, the fourth umpire not budging. It was a freakish partnership cricket often throws up. Alex Tudor did something similar in 2002-03 against New Zealand but never to be seen again, ending his career four years later after Freddie Flintoff took 34 off him in a county match in just one over (6-4-4-4-4-6-6-0)!!! Aussie number eleven Jason Gillespie made a bizarre unbeaten double hundred in a test against Bangladesh but, like Tudor, he came in at number four as night watchman. The highest first-class score by a number eleven is Peter Smith with 163 for Derbyshire in 1947, putting on 218 with his brother Roger (63) for the last wicket. The world record is 307 between Kippax and Hooper for NSW against Victoria at the MCG in 1928. I was very close to being the only reporter to record the world record 9th wicket first-class stand when Derbyshire's Masden and Poyton put on 261 at Northampton last year, just 23 runs short. All the broadsheet guys had left knowing it was a draw an hour earlier and I was alone in the press box awaiting the phone to ring of they did break it. Who the f**k are you would have been the BBCS first question!
===Top scores by number 11s in Test matches===
* Ashton Agar (Australia) - 98 v England at Trent Bridge 2013.
* Tino Best (West Indies) - 95 v England at Edgbaston 2012.
* Zaheer Khan (India) - 75 v Bangladesh at Dhaka 2004.
* Richard Collinge (New Zealand) - 68* v Pakistan at Auckland 1973.
* Bert Vogler (South Africa) - 62* v England at Cape Town 1906.
===Australia Ist innings===
280 all out.
England closed the second day on 90-2 with Cook and KP set. Earlier Trott became a victim of the over pedantic fourth umpire appeals system when the bowler appealed for LBW and the umpire gave not out. It looked plum and so Stark appealed for the review, which gave him out and left the umpire feeling like a plonker. The basic TV replay suggested a nick on to pad, which Trott clearly thought the case but Hotspot didn't pick it up the edge, because it wasn't switch on, and so he had to go. Although the players and umpires have accepted the arbitration of modern technology on tight decisions I have been in a TV hut and when you see the normal TV replay overlaid on Hawkeye trajectories they rarely match. Hawkeye simply doesn't work well enough to arbitrate, as does Hotspot, judging by this error. It's the same at Wimbledon with line decisions, why they rarely replay the standard slow motion there on top of Hawkeye.
Day three and England had to bat the day out to get back in control. With Pietersen (67) and Cook (50) gone by lunch England were still behind the game at 154-4. At tea it was even with England at 248-6. Critically, Bell was going well on a still slowish pitch, his type of top, play straight and late. The biggest moment of controversy came when broad clearly nicked to first slip of Agar. There were splinters in the ball and first slips fingers but the umpire not giving it. Australia had used both their DRS appeals and so heated words exchanged as a sheepish Broad sniggered and kept his ground. I would run him out in the in wicket conference. The point of the DRS was only appeal if you know its out and the umpire missed it, not for maybe LBW appeals, what's happened. Thereafter England simply took the game away from Australia, closing the day on 326/6 with Broad (47*) and Bell (95*) nailed to the crease, 261 on. The highest fourth innings score to win here in a test was 284 by England.
Day four and England were 375 all out, the pitch now starting to turn and Swann itching to bowl as England bated on. Broad walked on 66 and Bell nicked out for 109 as England led by 311, only 4% of test teams set that 300 total chasing it down successfully, pitch degradation and wobbly knees the problem.
===England 2nd Innings===
375 all out
Australia started well and at 111-1 (Watson 46) the win looked a possibility but Rogers going for 52 started the first wobble and they closed on 176-6, the Aussie skipper Clarke foolishly using one of their two appeals for a ball he edged (and knew he had edged, clearly), somewhat of a hypocrite.
Day five was just as taught, the sun continuing to blaze down and the beer flowing, a rare full house on the fifth day with good Aussie support. Keeper Haddin was determined to take it as close as possible but at 231-9 it looked all over. But we know Australia like a last wicket partnership and were not going away, just twenty to win at lunch, Edgbaston 2005 all over again. But it was not to be and fitting that in a thrilling test decided by the uselessness of its technology the DRS would decide the match, Andersen claiming his fifth wicket as the keeper nicked out with just 14 to win, a two minute wait until the offending hot spot was confirmed, like getting the results on cancer test for Australia, big relief for England and Cook. Q wild celebrations! The losing 65 partnership claimed the tenth wicket aggregate world record for Australia and a 1-0 lead for England. 77 was the highest tenth wicket partnership to win a first-class match, way back in 1928. Brad Haddin and James Pattinson's stand of 65 was the highest last-wicket partnership in the fourth Test innings played in England though. But it was not to be. I think they will need a lot more of those records to beat this powerful England bowling side. James Anderson has now taken two 10-wicket match hauls in Test cricket - and both have been at Trent Bridge. He has also claimed six of his 15 five-wicket Test innings hauls in Nottingham. You're not going to beat England at TB on the swing pitch. He will be the difference in this series bowling wise, carrying the attack here, Broad and Finn slightly off it and Swann rarely taking wickets at his home pitch for some reason in tests.
===Australia 2nd Innings===
296 all out
Andersen 5-73 (10 - 158) Man of the Match
===England win by 14 runs===
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