It’s probably delusional to think that we were right in this game up to that LBW referral, but I think it’s fair to suggest that things would have been at least slightly different if it hadn’t been made.
The Rogers LBW would have been referred, Hughes wouldn’t have come to the crease when he did and mightn’t have gone as quickly as he did and things might, possibly, have been different. We would, just after lunch, have been One-for with two referrals in hand.
As it was, shortly after lunch we were three-for, with none, and that, I think was where things moved out of the challenge and response ebb and flow of a competitive game and the tide started running heavily in one direction.
It’s probably even more delusional to suggest things might become more competitive at Old Trafford, but if they do it’ll be down to the batsmen getting something resembling their collective act together.
There’s not a lot of chopping and changing that can be done at the moment. The only spare batsman on hand is Cowan, and with the A Team in roughly the same time zone in South Africa there might be someone who sticks his hand up and says Hey, pick me. That may or may not be Warner, but it doesn’t alter a fairly straightforward situation in the here and now.
The batting resources are the six from Lords plus Cowan, and the only one who’s safe is Clarke, and that safety only lasts as long as his back does.
Becoming competitive, on the other hand, will require batting time and accumulating runs, so anyone who can do that is giving himself the best chance of holding down a place in the medium to long term, so let’s look at the candidates one by one.
Rogers, in two games, hasn’t done a lot with the bat but can stay for Old Trafford and possibly beyond since he’s out to prove (or should be out to prove) he’s a prospect for the Australian summer rather than an experienced bloke who’s been drafted in to plug a weakness because he’s experiences in English conditions.
Khawaja has, IMHO, the rest of the series to establish that he has what it takes at Test level. It’s not as if he’s going to be facing a bunch of pie chuckers. England are out to knock us over, and they’re not going to be doing anyone any favours, so if Khawaja can stick there and score runs he’s there for the medium to long term.If he doesn’t he’s got the early part of the Shield season to make a case for retaining his place.
You can say the same thing as far as Hughes is concerned. There has been plenty of criticism of his technique, and it’ll be under the microscope for the rest of the series. If it comes through he stays. If it doesn’t, he’s got to perform at Shield level early in the domestic season.
Smith is a slightly different case since he can bowl. He might not be a front line bowler at the moment, but you can possibly class him as a batting all-rounder. If he does a bit with the bat and can continue picking up the odd wicket he might be useful.