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Authors: Michael Clarke

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Bairstow and Prior went along steadily after tea, before Sidds got one to nip back in to Prior. The umpire gave him not out, and Sidds of course wanted a referral. Hadds and I were toing and froing for a few seconds, neither of us 100 per cent certain, but in the end it was one of those ones where we just said, ‘We don’t really know, but we have a gut feeling, so let’s roll the dice.’ We had a good laugh when it came up our way. The overturning of the decision was due reward for another typically stout effort from Sidds. He’s earned a great deal of respect in England on this tour.

I brought Nathan back on, and he was going so well that I delayed taking the second new ball by four overs. Bairstow tried to sweep him across the line from around the wicket, a risky shot, and was LBW. That gave Gazza a well-deserved four-for. Broad and Swann were caught off the seamers trying to play big shots, and while we’d have liked to finish the England innings off today, a few late blows by Anderson couldn’t take the shine off a performance that continued the upswing we started in Manchester.

We’re still far from completely satisfied, though. After play Darren talked to the boys about execution with the new balls, both first and second, and we recognise a need to make the most of it in the second innings, making the batsmen play as much as possible.

Overall, a very pleasing day. Tomorrow, the battle between our top order and the new ball will be vital. We absolutely must put up a good first-innings score. If we bat like we did in Manchester, we’ll be in a good position to win this Test match.

If cricket was the only important thing in life, that would have been it for today. But I wanted to get back to our hotel overlooking the River Tyne to celebrate one of the biggest days of the year: my beautiful wife’s birthday. Kyly got a few presents from the partners who are still travelling with the team, and her family sent her a gift from Australia. She had a nice day out, and we’ve just had a nice dinner together. I can’t emphasise enough how great it is having her on tour. When I get back to the hotel each night she takes my mind off cricket, which, as any sportsman knows, is essential to keeping your mind fresh. Not only that, of course: this has been a special time for the both of us to spend together.

Saturday 10 August.
Durham.

Today was a highlight of the tour for two teammates. Our position in the game is promising if not secure, but it’s one of those days when we are celebrating each other’s success.

The weather up in the north changes fast, and so do conditions, as we found out this morning. With a bit more cloud cover, combined with the effects of yesterday’s play, there was a considerable amount of swing and seam movement. We discovered this early, in the couple of overs we bowled before we finished England’s innings: our quicks were getting more out of the conditions than they had yesterday. Jackson Bird got plenty of zip and swing, hitting James Anderson on the helmet before bowling him with a big inswinger to the left-hander.

This lateral movement was confirmed when we went out to bat. It looks like a new-ball pitch, and so it proved. Chris Rogers and David Warner had to be very careful. From the first over, Chris was having to control a ball coming off the edge, using soft hands and playing late to keep it down.

We were just showing signs of comfort, with the boys picking off a two, a three, a two and another three off four consecutive balls from Broad. That’s a lot of running. Davey was facing the last ball of the over when he tried to let it go, but it was pitched on a perfect top-of-off length and it clipped off his bails. Usman Khawaja got a nick two overs later, and I was out there with Bucky.

It was quite cool and grey now, and I was wearing my vest. I was out there for a little while before I had to face a ball. Chris was facing Anderson from the Lumley end, and I was busy running – and almost slipping over – while he scored a two, a couple of fours, and a single before I had to take guard the first time.

My first runs came off the inside edge, and I had to stop the game because of some movement behind the bowler at the Finchale end. Chester-le-Street is another ground where seating is allowed below the sight screen, and throughout the series players have asked the stewards to try to minimise the distraction caused by people moving. I was just trying to get through what was a tough period in unfamiliar conditions, but the action started happening at the other end.

Broad was bowling to Chris, and hit him in front of the stumps with a ball that appeared to pitch outside the line of the leg stump. Umpire Tony Hill turned down their appeal, and Cook decided to refer it. As Chris and I expected, the video showed that it was not out. That meant England were down to one more unsuccessful referral.

Chris hit a four off the next ball, a no-ball. Then, the last ball of Broad’s over went through Chris and was caught behind. The English appealed, having heard a noise, and this time Hill raised his finger.

It didn’t take more than a few seconds for Chris and I to agree to review it. Chris asked if umpire Hill had given him out caught or LBW, and Tony said caught. This would prove important. Chris was certain the ball had hit his leg, not his bat, and from where I was standing I thought that could well have been the case.

The replays showed pretty clearly that Chris was right – the ball had missed his bat and clipped his thigh as it went through to the keeper.

But the drama didn’t end there. Hawk-Eye was showing that the ball, even though it hadn’t hit his bat, would have grazed the stumps. If it was an LBW decision, the DRS was saying it was umpire’s call.

Thinking umpire’s call meant that Tony Hill’s decision would be upheld, the English players started celebrating. But they had it wrong. If it was umpire’s call on the LBW, Chris was not out. Tony Hill hadn’t given him out LBW. So, correctly, Tony changed his decision and said Chris was not out.

This set the English players off. They were questioning the umpire about why Chris wasn’t out, when he had given him out and the DRS said it was umpire’s call. I stood by and listened as Tony explained the situation. It was clear that they didn’t know the rule. It was all a lot of confusion and discussion for what was, in the end, the correct result, I felt. Chris hadn’t hit the ball, so he wasn’t out caught. And it couldn’t be given out LBW. So, what it was, after all that, was a dot ball.

After drinks, Tim Bresnan replaced Anderson, but it was Broad who was giving me problems, bowling a very good length from the Finchale end and getting just enough lateral movement to be a handful. He hit me on the pad, and they went up for an appeal, but it was going down the leg side. Then he beat me with a jaffa that passed close to my off stump. I had to focus here.

Chris was settling in well, and needed me to support him. He took two fours off Bresnan’s next over. As I was settling in to face Broad, an elderly lady was moving around behind him. I motioned to have her sit down, and in the end I made the mistake of not backing away and starting my preparation from the beginning, instead just giving a wave while I was in my stance. It was poor mental application, in retrospect. Broad came in and bowled a wide ball. I went for a drive, and edged it high to first slip. Cook took the catch, and I was out for six.

I was cursing myself for giving my wicket away so early, but meanwhile the game was going on. Steve Smith went out there and played very confidently from the start, middling his defensive shots and leaving the ball well. By the time I’d packed up and come out to the balcony to watch, Smithy was in full flight. Anderson came on to replace Broad, and Smithy put away a leg-stump half-volley for a boundary, suggesting he was carrying on his form from Old Trafford.

When they came in for lunch, I was feeling brighter about things. Chris was looking particularly solid, and we had high hopes for a big innings from Smithy.

Unfortunately, he was out to a regulation nick to Bresnan just after the resumption. This brought Watto to the wicket. At 4/76, he was facing a ball not much older than when he’d been opening. So at least he was used to this – and he had, at the other end, the bloke he’d opened with in the first three Test matches.

It’s a wicket that you’re never really ‘in’ on, never more so than today. Chris and Watto went through a very tough period in the hour after lunch. The ball went past the bat a fair bit, and they needed the rub of the green. Shane hit one very hard and straight that Bresnan got a hand to, and then Chris, after having a struggle against Broad, nicked one low to second slip, where Swann put it down. They were both extremely difficult chances, so while you could say the batsmen were lucky, you could also say they would have been unlucky to be dismissed. The single that Chris took from that dropped chance brought up his 50, but he didn’t celebrate much, giving the impression that he was set on bigger things.

Towards drinks, the ball began to soften and the sideways movement eased off. Watto had toughed out a very hard period, but began to open out now, hitting three fours just before the break. When it came we were 4/119, exactly halfway to England’s score.

Jonathan Trott came on for a few overs of medium pace, not a bad move considering the conditions. Swann had a bandage on his third finger after hurting it trying to catch Chris at slip, and wasn’t doing much bowling. But after Watto had hit Trott for a couple of boundaries, Swann came on from the Finchale end. Now came a different kind of test. After the swing and seam earlier, how much turn would there be?

Watto and Chris dealt with it maturely – I’d even say, magnificently. They were building what I believe has been the best partnership by either side in the series so far. To hold their nerve and get through so much pressure, both from the match situation and from the way the ball was ducking about, was just brilliant to watch. The conditions wouldn’t allow them to dominate, but they were asserting control over the bowling.

After passing his half-century, Watto unfurled some superb shots. There was one straight drive off Anderson that he hit so hard, the English gave the ball to the umpire when they’d fetched it from the boundary, thinking it must have been knocked out of shape. Watto was coping with everything they threw at him, and was batting with fantastic determination. Chris, meanwhile, was picking his areas to score, and doing it well. He peeled off a beautiful cover drive from Swann to go to 96. Just one more boundary! But then he tried to turn one off his legs and only managed to pop it up into the infield on the on side. It landed between fielders. On the balcony, with Davey Warner beside me, I let my head fall into my hands. It was so tense, and we wanted this for our teammate so much!

By drinks in the last session, Chris was still 96 and Watto was 68. We were 4/205 and getting very close to overhauling England’s score. If only we could hold it together, we might build a decent lead and apply some scoreboard pressure from our side.

Unfortunately, the partnership wasn’t to continue for much longer. The clouds were closing in and the light was failing. Chris blocked out a maiden from Swann – we were very nervous, but I can’t say how he was. Then Broad came on from the Lumley end, and the last ball of his first over back was a rubbish ball down the leg side. Watto was agonisingly unlucky to get a slight touch to it. He isn’t the first batsman in this series to get out caught down the leg side, but I don’t think there’s been a less fortunate one. He deserved a hundred. His score of 68 doesn’t do justice to a great innings, that’s for sure.

I know, having been there myself, that it must have been unsettling for Chris to lose his long-term partner so close to reaching his century. He then went through another tough period that had us all in agonies. Swann bowled exceptionally well and tied him down. We were praying that he’d get a full toss to put away, or be able to get up the other end and get something easier to score off from the faster bowlers. Hadds, taking on Broad, turned one behind square, and we thought Chris might get up that end – but they took a two, leaving Chris facing Swann again.

He’s scored something like 60 first-class centuries, but later he said that none of them was any kind of preparation for the pressure of doing it in an Ashes Test match that was right on the line. Still, I reckon I was more nervous watching than he was out in the middle. Finally, after half an hour on 96, he took a small risk against Swann by going down and sweeping. He got it away through the gap at square leg, and it was done – he had his century. In three weeks, he’ll be 36 years old. It’s an amazing achievement. I guess the moral of the story is, never give up!

A very short time later, the umpires decided enough was enough, and stopped the game for bad light. That gives an idea of how difficult the conditions were for the batsmen at the end. Hadds was having to play strictly straight, digging out balls that were keeping low, putting every ounce of concentration into the task.

When they came in, the boys were extremely excited for Bucky. We’d all been outside, packing the balcony, when he made his hundred, and we were still out there to cheer him and Hadds in. What a day. He’ll cherish it for the rest of his life.

While still at the ground, we had a beer or a soft drink with Chris. It’s a tradition in the team that we do this to celebrate a player’s success when he scores a hundred or takes five wickets in an innings. I just felt so pleased for him, to have this against his name after so many years when he thought he might not get back into the Test team. It was a great lesson in persistence for everyone.

Tomorrow’s another day, though. The weather changes quickly here, but we’re hoping for some sunshine. The new ball is due more or less immediately, and we’re looking to Chris and Brad to continue where they left off and build us a score somewhere beyond 300. Then we’ll have a chance to turn the screws.

Sunday 11 August.
Durham.

Our first objective for the day was to build a lead. I was hoping for something in the region of 70–100 runs. But it went wrong pretty quickly. Graeme Swann bowled an outstanding spell with the old ball, and turned one sharply in to Hadds in the second over of the day. Hadds had it referred to the DRS, but the ball was going to hit leg stump. It was a big wicket for England.

BOOK: The Ashes Diary
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