Things were looking good and the consensus among the radio commentary team seemed to be that wickets tended to fall in the morning against the new ball. They’d made much of the fact that the Broad-Bresnan-Anderson-Swann rear guard had stretched things to the point where Australia would have to negotiate two new balls. 

On that basis, I reasoned, we’d probably have a tricky little chase in the first hour or two on Tuesday night, though I wasn’t confident we’d last.

Firing up the computer this morning, I wasn’t particularly surprised by the final 74 run margin, which seemed to sit comfortably with the long term stats. What really got me was the clatter of wickets from 1-109 (Rogers, 49) to 6-179 (Watson, 2). 

Broad obviously must have bowled well, but a middle order that reads Khawaja 21, Clarke 21, Smith 2, Watson 2, Haddin 4 suggests a lack of stickability in a situation that demands you get your head down and grit it out. 

Possibly, if just one of those five had managed to match their best score for the series (and they’ve all managed at least one fifty) and they’d all managed to bat to their fairly modest series average (Khawaja’s the only one who hasn’t got his average above twenty) we’d probably have been looking at that intriguing little struggle tonight scenario.

Instead, we’re looking to The Oval and wondering what we can salvage from the series.

At least we may have answered one question. I think you can pencil in Rogers and Warner as the opening combination at least until Boxing Day. 

It’s a bit tough for Hughes and Cowan sitting on the side lines, but I’d probably stick with this middle order, Watson’s groin permitting if we were heading straight into the Fifth Test

But we’re not. There’s a tour match against Northamptonshire between now and The Oval, so that presents Hughes and Cowan to stake a claim, and if either can put together a reasonable score, he’d be looking good for Khawaja’s spot, though one assumes Khawaja will be getting time in the middle as well.

On that basis, Cowan or Hughes, with runs against Northants, in to Three, Khawaja or Smith with runs at Northants at Five or Six (or, possibly, both if Watson’s groin doesn’t come good). Faulkner or Agar are the alternative fall backs for Watto, but that’s going to depend on how the track at The Oval looks.

In the longer term we’ve got Rogers and Warner at the top of the order, Clarke in the middle, and three spots to fill. Someone has the opportunity to stake a firm claim on one of those spots over the next fortnight. If no one can manage that we’ve got an interesting few weeks at the start of the domestic season while we look for contenders.

Questions, questions, questions. It’d be nice to get some answers.

© Ian L Hughes 2021