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Arthur's theme plays loudly in Australian performance at Trent Bridge

The 46 scored by Shane Watson was a typical score by the opener but the innings was not.

The 46 scored by Shane Watson was a typical score by the opener but the innings was not. Photo: AP

Ian Bell of England walks back to the pavilion after being dismissed for 109. Click for more photos

Day four, first Ashes Test

A collapse late in the day leaves Australia on the back foot. Photo: Getty Images

The English team are leaving Nottingham with a bloodied nose and a bad conscience. Their belief in their overwhelming favouritism for the series now has, like Stuart Broad's innocent face, less authenticity and more bluff.

If there was arrogance, it has been punctured. The style of Australia's plucky performance, when examined closely, owes less to their present coach than to his predecessor.

Darren Lehmann has been ascribed magical powers in the lead-up to the Trent Bridge Test match. The Boof Factor has been credited with putting smiles back on faces, unlocking root chakras, setting free the dove that is Ashton Agar, and bringing days of glorious sunshine to the Midlands. But Australia's terrific fight, particularly in the second half of the match, has not been the vaunted Lehmannstyle 'go out there and have fun' kind of cricket. It hasn't had the Lehmann mystique of good fortune. Rather, it has been disciplined and almost scientific, a direct result of the lessons learnt in India that Arthur and Michael Clarke have been imparting since April, and which Lehmann, all myths aside, has been continuing.

The bowlers in the second innings followed plans like boys doing Airfix models. But it was the run chase that was a revelation. In popular myth, the Lehmann regime is about Shane Watson going out and tonking like it's a one-dayer, Agar swinging away like a willow in a fresh breeze, and all the batsmen 'backing themselves' and 'playing their natural game'. Instead, we saw something much more impressive.

A blasting Watson innings might have been tempting, but it would have been a short cut. And this team, so far, is determined to be known as one that no longer takes short cuts. Watson played straight, hit the ball under his nose, exhibited strong concentration, and was unluckily out. He scored only marginally faster than Chris Rogers, the senior craftsman jobbing away in his workshop. Forty-six was a typical Watson score, but this was not a typical Watson innings. It was, as much as Rogers's half-century, a real opener's innings.

As the ball softened, the Australians played straight, almost without relent. They went after the runs one at a time, just like their compatriots in the New Stand accumulating the cups for their daily beer snake.

They didn't get the rub of the green, which they needed against such a strong opponent. There were the various umpiring controversies, but luck went against the Australians on Saturday in a more telling way. Every time they erred, it seemed, they lost their wickets. Sometimes cricket matches seem to be decided this way – how many batting errors actually lead to wickets – and in this one, Australia generally seemed to be paying a higher price than England.

Rogers only made one mistake, getting squared up by James Anderson. Ed Cowan could not afford to put a step wrong, and when he did, he was out. Michael Clarke and Steve Smith batted entirely against nature: grafting, nudging, glancing, seldom flashing. Both were out playing defensive strokes.

When everyone expected them to go out Braveheart-style, for death or glory, the Australians batted the way Arthur and Clarke had been schooling them to do since India. Apart from the first morning, this has been very much like an Indian Test match, with the new ball easiest to bat against and the danger of reverse swing appearing from about the 30th over. If Australia had batted like this in India they would have emerged with their heads held high. Finally, they have multi-faceted 'natural games', not just one.

Arthur said, when he was sacked, that he felt this team was on the cusp of realising its potential. Trent Bridge has provided supporting evidence. Whether or not he was the coach who could take them the next step will not be known.

Perhaps he is the Brian Smith of cricket, the rugby league coach who rebuilt an inexperienced team without necessarily taking them to the premiership. But whatever success Australia has during Lehmann's tenure, its foundations lie in what Arthur and Clarke achieved in the first half of this year. Among those building blocks are the introduction of Rogers and Agar, the drilling of bowlers in the fundamentals of reverse swing and patience, and the renewed focus on defence as the keystone of batsmanship. That Australia are giving England a genuine contest is due to their preparation over three months, not three weeks. Arthur won't get the credit for this, but he deserves at least a fair payout.


  • Without agar's miracle knock Oz would be dead and buried already. Oz are not close and should lose tomorrow. Good to see the Oz captain 'walk' this afternoon yeah?

    Date and time
    July 14, 2013, 6:43AM
    • What total rubbish. Without the Agar shocking decision and the Trott howler Australua would be 180 runs worse off. Even with all that England are still going to win. 5-0 it will be. P.s. England please drop Finn one loose ball an over just isn't good enough !!!!!

      Date and time
      July 14, 2013, 11:34AM
    • I agree. Finn made Agar's 50. He is giving the Australian batsmen a free pass every over just as Watson is playing a 'get out of jail free' card each innings. Everyone of his outs is reviewed leaving just the 1 for Clarke when he is dismissed. Sod the rest of the team and any real mistakes by the umpires.

      Joe the POM
      Date and time
      July 14, 2013, 12:27PM
  • It appears that DRS decisions are only "contentious" when they go against Australia; after his petulance on Day 3, Clarke was a disgrace this afternoon. Firstly he decided not to walk when he knew he had got a nick (by the way, umpire Dharmasina was asking his on-field colleague whether it had carried, not the 3rd umpire which rather indicated that he knew the Australian captain had hit the ball) despite his faux outrage at Broad's behaviour yesterday and his camping on the moral high ground. Even when the umpire gave him out, it was Clarke's arrogance - not England's - that made him incapable of losing face and accepting the decision, so instead selfishly and without any regard to his team or their predicament, he wasted the Australians final review.

    The fact that this test is so close is down to 2 factors; TV umpire Erasmus not knowing the laws of the game on 2 occasions (the Agar stumping and over-turning Dar's not out decision of Trott) and Agar heroically making the most of that let off.

    If Australia really believe that they have been genuinely competitive in this match, then they are deluding themselves.

    Royals Steve
    Date and time
    July 14, 2013, 7:04AM
    • why should england have a bad conscience? Australia have surprised because of a miracle 11th man stand. Its great to see a genuine contest in which both teams have had a fair share of debatable decisions.

      Date and time
      July 14, 2013, 7:04AM
      • Strange how Agar was not even in Arthur's head eh? What an unbelievable article in places..."Rogers made one mistake "..."Cowan couldn't afford to put a step wrong" So and so batted against their natural ways....and were out! Erm .....that's called cricket and that's what happens!

        And another article suggests further DRS controversy!! Watson was out, no matter if Hawkeye suggests it was merely shaving the stump. Clarke was out but again reviewed.....and guess what? he was out.....what is controversial about that?

        Date and time
        July 14, 2013, 7:15AM
        • We can still win this but we need at 80 runs partnership from the current pair. Cowan was dismissed in exactly the same manner in the first innings, except that it was against a pace
          bowler. I think his time is up. No doubt that Khawaja is due to come in, he is one of the best options we have at 3 and i am sure boof will get this right. Meanwhile people should be fired for not having Rogers a couple of years ago after Katich was dumped. Imagine the runs he would have gotten if he had played the tests Cowan had played in recent times.

          Date and time
          July 14, 2013, 11:43AM
        • Watson should not have been given out in the first place, as it was 50/50 at best, and DRS showed that clearly - significantly less than 50% of the ball clipping the stumps. The benefit of the doubt goes to the batsman, not the bowler. That one poor decision changed the course of the match - yet again.

          Date and time
          July 14, 2013, 12:09PM
      • Wellness reports - ridiculous. That was enough for me.

        Date and time
        July 14, 2013, 8:10AM
        • My God! Stop whinging Australia! We benefited to the tune of 160 runs when Agar was given not out,a howler.Thats the only reason we've even been competitive in this game.Twatto out,again reviews straight away again and...he's out,again.Clarke hit it and he's out,fairly straight forward I would have seems our brave Aussie lads are battling not only a better team but the DRS too.Harden the f*** up,whinging,whining millionares.Nothing worse.

          Liam Brady
          Date and time
          July 14, 2013, 8:47AM

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