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Ashes washout will provide a timely test of Mark Taylor’s theory

Rain at the cricket brings on these questions that go to the root of existence, but that way lies madness, so the issues of the day are herded back within the narrow scope of cricket’s visual field. This also defies logic, but it’s a kind of madness that everyone buys into.

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So: the vital second match of the 2019 Ashes has become a four-day Test, unless more forecast rain reduces it to the duration of Test matches in England more than a century ago, when the Australians kept their international encounters to three days so that they could rush off to more lucrative matches against the counties.

The shortening of this match provides a timely test of Mark Taylor’s theory that the five-day Test is headed for history’s scrapheap. Is it going to be a better form of entertainment when compressed into four days? Are the teams going to press more aggressively for a result? (Can either of these batting orders last through four days anyway?) We’re about to find out.

There was talk of a toss, but the umpires postponed it. Certainly it would have been a travesty if the toss had taken place, for whoever won it might have been seriously disadvantaged. The umpires, for once, had caught a break. Let’s hope their luck is turning. And so the only meaningful action was England’s cap presentation to Jofra Archer, made by his fellow Bajan-turned-Englishman Chris Jordan. It won’t be the only time in Archer’s career when he is the highlight act of the day.

Spectators shelter under umbrellas as rain falls on day one of the 2nd Ashes Test.

Spectators shelter under umbrellas as rain falls on day one of the 2nd Ashes Test.Credit:AP

Meanwhile Justin Langer met the press, to give a little more clarity on the change to the Australian team. Josh Hazlewood is definitely replacing James Pattinson, a move that was heavily hinted but not confirmed earlier in the week.

Langer said the selection was horses-for-courses, with Hazlewood’s record on the ground being rewarded. Hazlewood played a Test match here in 2015, and took five wickets for 88 in two innings. Based on that, you could as easily pick Mitchell Marsh (three wickets for 31, plus 39 runs with the bat), or even the trim and young-looking Mitchell Johnson (six wickets for 80). Or Glenn McGrath, who is also here (dozens of wickets for not many).

Nathan Lyon walks off the pitch after speaking to the 4th umpire Alex Wharf.

Nathan Lyon walks off the pitch after speaking to the 4th umpire Alex Wharf. Credit:AP

The counter-theory is that Australia are trying to be too clever by half, in breaking up the winning combination from Edgbaston two weeks ago, over-managing their bowling attack and not just picking their best team to win this match as if it is their last. In keeping England off-balance, they might unbalance themselves. So thinks Shane Warne. But that could just be cabin fever, which was
contagious under the downpour.

While we contemplate what might have been – an indoor cricket stadium in London, a game that could be played with a wet-weather ball, a toss that could have twisted the series out of shape – we can contemplate that the emerald stage, having been set for this highly anticipated match, is now re-set, in concentrated form, even more anticipated, and set to erupt into action.

Unless it rains again.

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