The Chase

Mapping out the things in Australia's favour, but it will still be a tough chase.

Chases in Tests over 250 usually favour the bowlers. Anyone can chase under 100. From there to 150, it’s rare for a team to fall. At 150-200, both sides have a good chance. The 200 to 250 zone is well in favour of bowlers.

And over 250, the chances of you actually winning the game get slim. People see the magic number as 300. But once you pass 250 with your lead, it’s tough.

England set Australia 281.

That is one more run than in 2005 when England beat Australia by two runs. These chases are not easy. They seem to like it, especially when Ollie Robinson is getting pulled to the boundary like a country trundler who was invited to bowl to the firsts. But there was a twist, even when it looked like Australia were rolling.

There were so many things in favour of the Aussies in this chase. When England batted, they handled Boland and Hazlewood well, but they were undone by Cummins' extra pace and Lyon’s spin.

England’s main spinner is currently reattaching his finger after each delivery. He looks like someone who has squeezed a lemon on a hand with an open wound putting the ball in his fingers. And he’s coming in with the authority of a plastic bag in an updraft.

As for pace, England brought absolutely none of it into this match. Their fastest bowler is Stuart Broad when the kneesupometre has him pumping hard. The only pace we see from the English is when Mark Wood bowls during the lunch break.

Then there is the pitch. Stuart Broad managed to middle a fast ball that was aimed at his nuts while he was backing away to square leg with half a blade. Jimmy Anderson and Ollie Robinson looked pretty comfortable as well. This wicket is pretty easy to bat on, even if it’s not easy to always score on. Getting out can take some time.

This is an English pitch, yet there have been three stumpings and only one catch in the slip cordon, and even that was at gully. From almost the start of the game, both teams have given up on slips outside the very new ball.

England did get an edge into slips of course. Khawaja nicked one there, and they were so surprised that no one even thought to catch it. Bairstow never dived (or moved), and Root almost backed away. It was going to be hard to fight for every chance through funky fields and mind games on a wicket like this, so you want to take the normal ones when you can.

Lastly, Edgbaston is not a ground where chasing has ever been easy. Right up until last year when England suddenly chased 378 for three chasing the total like they were picking up a baguette in some rustic French village. But even when you look beyond that you have South Africa’s chase in 2008, and Australia’s near chase in 2005. So of modern times, batting at Edgbaston has been a lot better at the end than ever before.

Not everything was on Australia’s side, Geoff Lemon tweeted this. So you can see that Australia has not chased a lot of big totals.

But Australia also seems to bat first more than most teams, and a lot of these chases are massive. But they don’t have a history of being a chasing team. In fact, until England started this in BazBall, no other team was ever really thought of as a chasing team.

Historically, batting in the fourth innings has been terrible. Our pitches were made to degrade, and by the end, the normal pressure of a chase and the pitch fun was often too much.

But we have seen a huge rise in chasing in Tests since Stokes and Kusal did it in 2019. It’s still not even a one in ten shot, but this is the best time to chase down a big total. But remember, all these chase stats are a bit whiffy. If you are playing in an era when people are making fewer runs - like the last few years - you aren’t chasing totals like 450 plus. Chances are more of the chases are between 300 and 400, which is a little easier.

But there are signs that batting in the fourth innings has got easier. Last year the fourth innings average was more than the first three combined, that was the first time in more than a decade. And even the two years before it was healthy. This year it has fallen off a cliff though.

What does all this mean for this match? Well, Australia have lost three wickets, have a long tail, and their two best batters are out. England have got the ball swinging, but who knows how long that lasts, and their lack of pace is going to be an issue as is their lack of a spinner with functioning fingers.

What about rain? A run out. Ollie Robinson getting tired. So, much happens in these kinds of chases. This Test has had a million narratives already. And the hardest bit is not even half over.

This chase will be hard, on Australia, England, and anyone watching.