Ashes 2019: ‘Steve Smith and the wind steal England’s momentum at Old Trafford’

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By Tom Fordyce
Chief sports author
There was a moment, just as tea was predicted on the first evening of this hugely anticipated and possibly decisive fourth Ashes Test, that summed up all that had arrived in the hours earlier.
As the rain came in sideways on thumping squalls, tearing the flapping beige covers out of the frozen hands of the floor team, delivering a steward in a clear plastic poncho staggering sideways as he strove to keep his toes on the outfield like a fisherman onto the deck of a North Sea trawler, a New Orleans-style marching group arose, enjoying”When the Saints Go Marching In” at full volume.
For those who have observed cricket in England it was the type of twisted, and idiosyncratic pathos which seems comfortingly familiar.
This is the way the summertime game functions. You arrive in shorts and leave in the early stages of hypothermia. You come to view Australia wrapped and yet reserve your loudest cheer to get a beach ball which escapes one grandstand and bounces clear across the pitch to another.
People who might have thrilled about the preceding day of activity in this show, if Ben Stokes shattered documents – and the boundaries of the previously thought possible – from the balmy sunshine and deafening sound of Headingley, there may only happen to be confusion.
There were winter coats where there was heat. There had been sheltering beneath any accessible overhang where there cavorted in the aisles. Where there was Stokes laying waste there was Steve Smith accumulating and accumulating, most of it using a proto-Smith doing exactly the same at the opposite end in the shape of both Marnus Labuschagne.
From beautiful into the Beaufort Scale. Among the items that were ignored by the howling winds would be the original set of bails, the umpire’s hat along with the umpire’s sunglasses.
At one stage we went bail-free. No bail was available that could cope with conditions. You began to panic for the milder members of England’s outfielders. You started to believe the next umpire-related thing to take flight might be Kumar Dharmasena himself.
Gone were the terms bleaker than at the peak of this vast temporary stand, which sticks out of the Stretford skyline lineup such as a cricketing mountain and turned out as exposed in the gales and the chilly rain as the ridge line of a Alpine peak.
Because there is always fancy-dress at an England match, there has been fancy-dress there. There were many Jack Leachs, all in eyeglasses and white tops with his name across the waist, and there were still many in brick red with white royal stripes since the Leach walls, graffiti scanning 1in tribute to the bespectacled spinner’s doughty role in the Miracle of Leeds.
There were four Beatles, their Sergeant Pepper wigs being discounted forward at any given moment, their own stick-on moustaches to stick-off that is threatening across their faces.
To have been a beginner to Test cricket changed by the last day in Headingley and arriving at Old Trafford anticipating the same that it must have been similar to listening to the Fab Four, thinking just how much you enjoyed that the songwriting of John Lennon and creating your next buy his extreme avant-garde Two Virgins album.
Around the momentum currently being with England, much of the talk between the end of the Test and the start of this was. If this felt a little one-eyed – it took one of the terrific Test innings to rescue themtheir best four still mainly from form, their all-time top wicket-taker out of the show – it felt more curious nonetheless when Smith returned to the crease.
Can England have won in Leeds had Smith been overlooking through concussion? How he batted on Wednesday, as uniquely quirky between deliveries because he is unobtrusive in the true set of his runs, so you tried not to consider it too much.
Than retained racing from east to west to Smith innings, there was lots of momentum behind the sharp packets.
Stuart Broad had looked very Stuart Broad in getting rid of David Warner for yet a second duck – his sixth score of less than 10 in this show – then Marcus Harris together with the score on 28, all oohs and aggression and appeals. Slowly, as during many current Ashes battles, the game was away from England and Smith started flicking and nudging and under his control.
Smith finished on 60 not out, as unflustered from the weather as if he were batting on a toasty Boxing Day at the MCG. This was his eighth successive Ashes half-century. No person has ever scored more than half the trot.
He is currently averaging 146 in this set. Despite that it can be tough to recall a number. Stokes bulldozed Australia’s attack at Headingley. Smith interrupts the bases.
It’s a fantastic thing for Australia their former priest is in unmatched type. Their opening stands in this series so much have gone 2, 13, 11, 13, 12, 101.
It is terrifying for England because it threatens to trump whatever else that they have.
Stokes finished off his eight overs that were hard-working, and bowled, to appreciative bellows from individuals in the crowd warm enough to suck the atmosphere. Leach bowled in at slip and discovered a twist and his span , even though Labuschagne did push him off the back foot for two fours in his very first over.
The other good expect of England, To get Jofra Archer, it had been a day. So immediate has his effect in this group been that it’s easy for forget this is just his third game.
He found the ball of day but struggled to keep the threat he had posed in Leeds and in Lord’s.
Additional days He’ll have. Not every one will be as grim as this, though the faint-hearted should ignore the forecast for Friday.

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