So in the end the inevitable happened. Those of us who woke early on Wednesday morning to – hopefully – see England close in on an unlikely and barely deserved victory in the second test match suffered the usual disappointment. Nothing surprising there but the manner in which the team folded was another embarrassment. Ricky Ponting, himself briefly a Somerset player in 2004, got it absolutely spot on in his post-match summary when he suggested this was not a good Australian team we are witnessing but a poor England team.
Whatever the case the Australians 120 run win takes them two up in the series and this will be a very steep hill for England to climb if they are to get anything out of this Ashes campaign.
What may have softened the blow a bit for Somerset supporters was the arrival on the international stage of our own Craig Overton. His three wickets for 105 runs in Australia’s first innings led the way for his team. Steve Smith was the first of these victims – not a bad way to make your mark on your international career – who was bowled a ball or two after he kindly informed Craig that he wasn’t bowling particularly fast. I have to say the one that whipped through to wipe his stumps out looked a little nippy. Paine and Cummins provided Craig’s other wickets.
But it was with the bat that Craig shone. His team-mates had batted rather pathetically and the score was 142 for 7 when Craig strode out to join Chris Woakes. The two batted well adding 62 for the eighth wicket, the highest England partnership in the innings. Craig top scored with an undefeated 41, only the third time an England number 9 has top scored for his team in a test match with the other two way back in the 1890s.
Craig’s efforts certainly put England back in with a shout of getting something from this game even if the Aussies first innings lead was a whopping 215 runs.
But it wasn’t to be despite inspired bowling from veteran Jimmy Anderson. The game was lost and, one would suggest, so is the Ashes.
Craig has certainly done enough to retain his place in the team but, as we know only too well, England selectors don’t always make radical decisions and may make changes for changes sake in light of this embarrassing defeat. The summarisers on Test Match Special suggested Craig was brought in to stiffen a rather brittle lower order and, if so, Craig justified his inclusion. He bowled well and took a stunning catch too.
I suppose much will depend on whether the selectors do what they should have done in the first place and play Ben Stokes. It has been aggravating watching Avon & Somerset’s finest groping around to make a case against Stokes after the incidents inside and outside a Bristol nightclub in September. I am in no doubt he should be in Australia now preparing for the third test that starts in Perth on December 14th.
Stokes has been called up for the ODI squad alongside Alex Hales, who was also involved in the shenanigans in Bristol, but it has been said it is unlikely Stokes will play.
So it looks like carry on Craig. And so it should be. Although I would like to see him line up alongside Ben Stokes not in place of him.