Watson injury puts Australia under pressure
Australia are up against it after another century by Ian Bell and an injury for Shane Watson swung the fourth Ashes Test in England's favour, says Fairfax cricket reporter Chris Barrett.PT0M0S 620 349
One of the many joys of Kanga and pre-teen cricket is that, as everyone gets an equal turn, there is no such thing as a 'batting group' and a 'bowling group'.
Throat ball: Ian Bell avoids a bouncer from Ryan Harris. Photo: Reuters
Socialistic it may be, but in the under-8s you don't get two groups going out to dinner to moan about each other.
It's different in Test cricket, though some would say that in the current Australian team the bowling group is the batting group as well, and those other guys are making up the numbers. There is every ground for a proletarian revolution. If that's not happening, it owes something to the foreman, Ryan Harris.
Here is a snapshot of Harris's effort at Chester-le-Street on Sunday. It's late in the afternoon and he has bowled 36 overs in a match for which many predicted he would have to rest his tender body. Harris has, earlier in the day, removed England's top three batsmen: Joe Root with a snorting outswinger, Alastair Cook by feeding a feeble cover-drive, and Jonathan Trott with a smart, fast bouncer. Each wicket was different, and each was thought-out. Between times, Harris has probed and nagged, switching from new-ball taipan to old-ball python, striker to strangler. His average pace only drops by half a metre but each delivery has subtle differences.
Near miss: Ryan Harris reacts as Kevin Pietersen escapes with a run. Photo: Reuters
As the English batsmen have steadily asserted themselves, Harris has not relented. He has bustled and grunted and kept going. This effort helps explain why, like Kingston Town, he has kept breaking down. He doesn't know how to let up. Meanwhile, Shane Watson drags himself off by the sore hip and/or groin.
Even Peter Siddle is flagging.
Oh, and Harris has also made time, in his day's work, to score 28 valuable runs; and made a noteworthy diving double-save in the field, cutting off a Kevin Pietersen drive. A Kanga cricketer supreme.
Brad Haddin leaps high to dismiss Jonathan Trott from Harris' bowling. Photo: Getty Images
So, amid failing light, in comes Jonny Bairstow to up the run-rate and seize the game. He slaps Harris for two fours. Harris walks to his captain. He looks pained. The chronic knee? The chronic hamstring? No. He would like a leg gully. He is going to bowl around the wicket at Bairstow's throat.
Often, in these circumstances, bowlers play the reverse game and send up a yorker or full-pitched away-swinger. Harris can't be bothered with disguise.
His next three balls are vicious. Even though they are fully predictable, it is all Bairstow can do to get out of their way.
The teams go off, briefly, for bad light. When they return, Harris is still bullocking in from around the wicket, but now he wants his leg gully moved to bat-pad. The ball is nearly 60 overs old, the pitch a good deal older. Harris attacks again. His bouncers are not lame half-trackers, and nor do they pass harmlessly over the top. They are perfectly accurate and harmful.
Ian Bell, the batsman of the series, comes on strike. Harris pitches up and Bell drives him handsomely through cover. That's enough. He wants, he says later, to 'mess up Bell's feet'. Two balls later, Harris delivers a bouncer that pins Bell to an invisible crucifix. The batsman of the series, 84 not out, is momentarily splayed mid-air, head and limbs whiplashing, like a photo from pre-helmet days.
Bell, a model of composure, picks himself up with a blush like a ballroom dancer who has hit the deck. Yes, that messed up his feet, and worked its way up. Harris comes in and bowls him another bouncer, right at the thorax.
Then, to almost everyone's relief, Michael Clarke gives Harris a rest and the light goes out of the contest.
There is no grumbling about team factions from Harris. You would have to travel the world to find a fellow cricketer who will not give him a glowing character reference. He has a British passport, and might have been playing for the other side. Heaven help us. He came to Test cricket late in life, because his skills took time to develop, his body was unreliable, and selectors were not quick to recognise a bowler who wasn't as tall, lithe or fast as fashion dictated. This Ashes cause may be lost, but the series scoreline ought to record such heroes, whether they be unsung or, as Harris deserves, sung.