Monday, August 31, 2009
Oh yes, in these times of despair, it is the Australian way to find someone else who is doing even worse and heap derision on them, as a means of feeling better about ourselves. All the better if they live across the ditch, all have girlfriends call Baaarbaraaaa and keep beating us at a favoured winter equivalent to cricket. No, its not the game they play in heaven, its the game they play in the off season.
Our crossbred brothers across the Tasman have just lost 0-2 from two against those lovely fellas from Sri Lanka who, a long time ago were most famous for tea and Kamahl but by this stage of their cricketing history has passed beyond such lofty achievements and have produced the crankiest and possibly fattest captain in Test history - although The Big Ship Armstrong might present a fair wrestle over a meat pie with Fattytunga - through to giving the cricketing world the most unusual, controversial and successful bowler of all time. Times have changed. In the early sixties, they legislated to get rid of bowlers called Charles but today, with political sensitivities the way they are and with all the money and power residing on the sub continent, we legislate to include them!
Actually, to say New Zealand lost is a gross exaggeration. In truth, they were flogged. Sri Lanka scored 400 plus in both their first innings and New Zealand only managed one total in four innings beyond 300 and then, only when their skipper Dan Vettori scored a heroic 140 batting up the order at 8. In fact, so bad are New Zealand, that Vettori is now considered an all rounder, although not apparently by himself, because he usually bats at 9. The century was no fluke, as Dan the Man scored 272 at 68.0 for the series and was also their top wicket taker with 10 wickets at 32.5.
Do I not rate the Kiwi skipper? Far from it. He's a fine cricketer but his status among NZ's best is what worries me. Admittedly the Sri Lankan series victory lifts them No 2 Test playing nation and yes, they have the remarkable Murali sending them down, all mystery and china plate eye balls and yes, the Sri Lankan batting line up on slower wickets is thick with stroke makers ... it's just that, how does a bowler of reasonable talent who bats with application but little else, became such a dominant force in the NZ side.
Vettori is at best a handy late order bat who plays straight. How can he bat four times in a losing side, mostly at 9, record those numbers without the benefit of not outs? The next best Kiwi batsmen averaged 39 (Taylor) and 31 (Ryder)? Likewise, Chris Martin 5 @ 43, Iain O'Brien 6 @ 53 and Jateel Patel 7 at 55 were all a long way behind their skipper in the bowling numbers.
If I were the Kiwi sellectors, apart from worrying how that ram is looking at my girlfriend, I'd be making sure security is taking good care of one Daniel Vettori. He should be travelling on a separate plane - preferrably QANTAS - because if New Zealand cricket ever has a Man United moment, they could afford to lose the other ten. Don't have Vettori with the rest of the mob (although they are unlikely to use that particular collective noun for fear of untimely arousal).
At least this quandary about how much worse the rest of the Kiwi cricket team are than their skipper and how much better our fallen Aussie side is than them, gives me something else to ponder about the land of the Long White Cloud. For the time being, at least, I can set aside other matters ... such as, how can a two hour flight create such differences between us, here in Dorothy's Land Of Oz and a group of people who can't conquer normal things like vowels and animal husbandry without making themselves sound queer?
Friday, August 28, 2009
"Victory has a thousand fathers but defeat is an orphan"
Postscript - heard on GNW last night ... Mikey Robins "Watch out heaven now the Kennedy Boys are back together."
Ponting has certainly raised some interesting points post Ashes and a few are starting to sound like a naughty boy's panic when he knows the teacher is watching. The concept of splitting the the captaincy is interesting in the light of his original criticisms of the idea when he was One Day Man and Tugger was the Test Elcapitaino. Then, he agitated for the roles to be combined! Its amazing how your perspective changes according to circumstance.
The reality is, Cricket Australia will not remove him from the captaincy for the same reason it won't blame the selectors. To do so would imply complicity in the Ashes failure and weaken the brand. With Tests to market against the West Indies and Pakistan this summer and the Ashes lost, about the only angle they have going for them is to promote Australia's climb off the mat from No 4 in the ICC world rankings. To have Ponting stood down would be an even bigger disincentive for crowds to flock to Australian grounds. Of course, they'll still flock in Melbourne because they are sports crazy flockers down there!
What about it? Would Ponting really stand down or are these just offers of appeasement and humility spun up by a media conscious CA PR wanting to throw balm on the troubled and dissatisfied waters that are the Australia cricket public? Could Ponting bat at three, snare his catches at second slip and let Pup control the levers and pulleys? Should we split the captaincy again?
Thump those thoughts across my electronic desk and lets get cricky with it! Click the "comments" link below and go for it.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
• England will win the series 2-1 The fat lady she has sat down and the guy with swivel hips is on his way to the exit.
• Australia will have shoddy match preparation with few true first class games outside the Tests. This will always be the case. Australia did, however, have the benefit of being knocked out in the first round of the Twenty20 World cup before the Ashes, and two three day games against no one, and will now gain further advantage by playing in a series of seven money spinners of fifty overs each against England. How did we only lose 2-1?
• England has a better balanced bowling attack which will bowl better in the conditions. They have better swingers, cutters and spinners than Australia. Given that the ball swings in England, it probably makes sense to someone why we only played one swing bowler in the first three Tests. The same person might tell us why we didn’t play a spinner on a wicket so dry that Peter O’Toole used to entertain lunchtime crowds by walking up and down the pitch reprising his role as Lawrence of the Oval shouting “no prisoners, no prisoners!”
• England will bat better than Australia because they will face an ill-balanced, inexperienced bowling line up. England didn’t collapse as often
• England are more settled and will make fewer changes. England used 15 players and 7 of them played all five Tests. Pietersen (2) and Flintoff (4) missed games through injury. Panesar and Onions were dropped by choice but Bopara was the only player dropped because of poor form. Australia fielded 14 players and eight of them played in all of the Tests. Hughes (form) and Haddin (injury) were dropped and Hauritz by choice. England used the following numbers of players in previous Ashes series at home: 2005 (12), 2001 (19), 1997 (18), 1993 (24), 1989 (29)
• Strauss will do a better captaincy job than Ponting
• England will be tougher in the tight spots
Things I got right, quoted from “Come In Spinners”
• “I think England will win an exciting series 2-1” Elvis has left the building.
• “Australia will have to be measured against the terms it has exacted on the rest of the cricket word for so long – accurate medium fast men and spin bowling” Australia collapsed three times in the first innings of the five Tests and with the English quicks doing the damage. Swann wasn’t as big a danger but when he had to, he stepped up with 3 four wickets hauls.
• “Andrew Strauss is the best man to lead England and has been for some time. He relishes the tough stuff with a captaincy batting average of 57 in comparison to his career average of nearly 44." 474 at 52.67 (318 at 63.6 in his first innings of the Tests)
Strauss again “He’s lucky at the toss” Strauss won 4 tosses, Ponting only getting the call at Edgbaston.
• “Ravi Bopara averages a tick under fifty and has three hundreds in successive Test innings which places him among a quality English list of Sutcliffe, Compton, Boycott and Gooch who achieved the same. Time will tell if he’s of that pedigree … judgment reserved as yet.” Their selection blunder of the series. He could come back but at No 6.
• Freddie Flintoff “England may be better served with him at 7. Forget the Flintoff we saw burdened by the captaincy in Australia. Unbridled and free to work his magic, he’ll bat well and bowl better.” He did bat at 7, and scored that glorious 74 at Edgbaston after a tail ending 5-92 at Lords. He clearly was well below his best in this series but his presence was still felt.
• “mercurial Ian Bell … will need injuries to force his way into the side. He is a player who fails as often as he succeeds.” Two fifties but could only average 28. He’ll never have a better chance to dominate an Aussie attack. Stick to the provincials Ian.
• “key difference lies in the off spin of Graeme Swann.” He was the key bowler in the 2nd innings at Lords, getting Hussey, Clarke and North in his 4 wickets and then 8 wickets in the last Test but for the rest of the series only took 2 additional wickets.
Swann again “more than half his wickets from bowled and lbw dismissals” 7 of 14 in this series
and again “he’s also a hard hitting No 9 batsman with a Test fifty and an average of 35.” Two half centuries and a 47no. If you remove Trott (1) and Pietersen (2) who didn't play many Tests, he was second in the English batting averages!
• “England will pick two of the remaining four during the series: Graham Onions, Jimmy Anderson, Monty Panesar & Steve Harmison.” Onions (3), Anderson (5), Panesar (1) & Harmison (2)
• Katich “He is also Australia's best spin option but he will likely continue to be ignored by a Captain who thinks spinners are only there to speed up the over rates.” 10-2-27-0 … Clarke bowled 19 overs and North 67
• “Hughes will continue to be plagued by questions over his technique” Apparently the Australian selectors wanted quick answers.
• Hughes “He’ll score early runs” 78 against Sussex in June and 68 against Northants after the 2nd Test, which was enough to help get him dropped.
• Hughes “England is better run and managed and they’ll work him out. He won’t be winning games at Birmingham or Leeds.” Pretty hard to win if you’re not playing.
• “If Hussey fails, Australia can’t win.” That Elvis bloke is leaving again.
• Michael Clarke “he’ll have moments of genius in this series.” He did in each of the first four Tests. Unfortunately, in the 5th he was like Bullwinkle the Magician … nothing up my sleeve, whoops, must be the wrong hat.
• “don’t be surprised if the Golden Wonder Boy of Australian Cricket, Shane Watson plays sooner rather than later.” Took over from Hughes in the 3rd Test and uses his pads more than a roomful of senior citizens watching a comedian.
• Mitchell Johnson “Will he swing the ball? We’ve all seen him do it but will he in England?” No he won’t.
• Stuart Clark “Australia will win Test matches if his fitness holds and he can bowl at his best.” Yes he will.
• “England have the best two spinners available to either side.” Unfair statement really. Australia didn’t have a spinner.
• “Their bowling is better balanced and without question marks.” Completely right on the first part of the quote but maybe some quietly spoken questions about Mr Anderson.
• Ponting “He is no leader of men and it shows. Ponting has no instinct, no feel for the game.” Come back Elvis, come back!
• “England should win if they can be tougher in the tight spots.” This they were. Cardiff at the death; first innings at Lords, Edgbaston & The Oval; and the last day at the Oval. Australia won some tough moments but England the most. Australia constantly lost wickets in groups of two, three and four but England rarely did.
Things I got wrong, quoted from the same source:
• “Collingwood you would have bat for your life” … only if other forms of dispatch were unavailable
• Stuart Broad “looks the most likely to be collared by ruthless destroyers like Ponting and accumulators of the Hussey and Katich ilk. He will battle to hold his spot.” My biggest clanger for the series.
• “Katich will be our best bat.” He was among those that followed Clarke.
• “I think our batting line up is weaker than theirs.” No it’s not. They are about even but we just collapsed more often.
• “Ricky Ponting is the big question mark in the batting line-up because England has long been his Achilles Heel.” This was his best tour of England with the bat. His 78 at Headingley was superb.
• Ben Hilfenhaus “he can be got at and therefore Ponting will shield him and keep him fielding rather than bowling.” Wrong!
• Ponting “Tactically, he has little acumen beyond the game plan.” I think I could defend this one but there were strong signs of Ponting standing up and doing the business on the field. Too little, too late though because he’s still not Taylor’s bootlace.
That's it, my moment of self-aggrandisement. If I wasn't so circumspect, I'd point out that I have called, accurately the last three Ashes series results, missing out only slightly when England last toured, thinking Australia would win 4-1. Luckily, I won't do that.
A brief Ashes review next blog.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
Katich was the first victim, out to an arm ball from Swann coming straight on radar guided to his stumps and astonishingly left, under the circumstances. Nice deception from the bowler and a bad decision from the batsman.
Ponting strode in and received a standing ovation from The Oval crowd and not a hoot in earshot. This not only underlined the innate fairness of the English crowd but also how observant and appreciative they are. Yesterday, when Flintoff came out to bat for the last time for England, Ponting took the time to mark the moment and shake the big man's hand. He, in turn, reaped his reward today.
He had no longer registered his surprise at the crowd reaction than he lost Watson. Broad, bowling cutters, sent one inside the edge of Watson's bat and caught him in front. Watson may think what he likes of the dismissal but it missed the bat and he was out.
In cometh Hussey - a man on a career death wish, batting without any idea where his off stump has been hiding for four and a half Tests and under pressure. Pressure: I meant intense pressure. Hussey said, "Is there any other kind?"
England threw everything except Harmison at the two Australians. Swann was thrown at them from both ends and he bowled tightly without making himself look deadly. Broad's only spell probably made him the pick of the bowlers pre lunch. His cutters made honesty the currency of both batsmen.
It was absorbing.
By lunch, Ponting was timing those pulls and drives in a fashion very typical of any of his best innings and Hussey was hanging around, hoping that long enough in the middle would help him find the form which has been hiding for 18 months. Mixed with good defence and patience were some lovely strokes and runs were coming at three an over.
This was a session that Australia dominated but England ensured they would not get away from them. Australia batted well but as well as they did, England also contained and kept pressure on for all but a handful of deliveries.
Aftre lunch, Ponting wasted little time raising his fifty and later in the first hour Hussey raised his. Both were innings of standing, of grit, of purpose.
... and so to the business of losing ...
It works like this. Hussey pushed the ball not quite wide enough of Flintoff and set off for the single. It was cheeky, it was sharp but it was very much in the Australian style. At the other end, Ponting watched it go to Flintoff and that was his fault ... his fault, not Hussey's. Setting off late, Ponting's Ashes cricket in England ended when the big Lancastrian threw straight and executed the Australian captain. Ponting delayed afterwards, probably too long, not believing it was over but eventually left to the same ovation he started with. Somehow, it was a little sad.
Clarke came and went, adding only 4 balls to his first innings stay of 9 and a second innings duck to go with 3. He was unlucky, driving to leg ... the leg of short leg to be precise ... and Strauss picked up the ricochet around the corner and ran him out.
The two star attractions, captain and vice captain, both run out within six deliveries and the inevitable suddenly became obvious.
North struck a couple of pretty fours but was out a few overs later. Aiming an exaggerated and fairly ugly sweep down on one knee at the long serving Swann, he was a toenail short of staying in his ground. It was the quality of the take from Prior that earned the wicket to a ball that lifted sharply and was then quickly bought down to disturb the bails. This from a man Shane Warne said was an ordinary wicket keeper. There's a consitency to Warne's inaccuracy.
All the while, Hussey was building like a team of termites destroys and went to tea with his head held a lot higher. As long as he kept hitting catches to Collingwood, he'd be okay. For such a star fielder, his attack of dropsy was both unusual but gratefully received by Hussey.
Australia went to tea five down and fighting and in the hour afterwards, Haddin swashed his buckles and rode Lady Luck into the thirties. It was stirring stuff until drinks but not destined to last long as Haddin is no Botham. Jumping down the track one last time, his intention was to put Swann in the stands beyond midwicket. He had been playing "I don't think so Mr Anderson" earlier and had carved fours about the place of the England quick. But Lady Luck is a modern miss and she must have turned away, distracted by a seagull perhaps and Haddin managed only to plop the ball comfortably in the hands of Strauss.
From there, it only took eight overs.
Surprisingly, it was big Steve Harmison who tore the much vaunted tail to shreds. Johnson edged a ball to Collingwood that slanted across him, Siddle got a leading edge pushing to leg and was caught by Flintoff at mid off and Clark was out first ball, popping a catch to Cook at short leg.
Hussey could only watch from the bowlers end, defiant, a little lucky but saving his career like another lefthander did, also in England, near the end of last century ... he also in a losing cause. Remember what became of him?
Finally, in that lovely late afternoon light of the closing days of an English summer, it was over. Hussey pushed Swann to Cook at short leg and the Ashes, spilled at Ponting's feet, were swept up into the arms of Strauss.
This was not a match lost on the last day. It was lost on the second day when eight wickets were lost in a session through a combination of good bowling and ordinary batting. Rolled for 160 after a good opening stand, Australia lost 10 for ... how many? ... 87. You can't win Test matches losing wickets that rapidly or by folding to superstition.
Forget the umpiring who-ha of decisions gained and lost, forget the concept of doctored pitches as these last two days have given that old wives tale to lie, forget even selection howlers - this last request being the hardest - and remember, this was a series of five Test matches and its result was fair and fitting. Our resultant place in world Test standings is the wake-up call we need. It's time for fresh thinking and amongst that, despite his good work in this Test, must be the unthinkable. It's time for a new skipper.
As anyone with any sense of place and time might have told you, this was all foretold.
England 332 (Bell 72, Strauss 55, Trott 41. Siddle 4-75, Hilfenhaus 3-71) and 9 dec 373 (Trott 119, Strauss 75, Swann 63. North 4-98) defeated Australia 160 (Katich 50. Broad 5-37, Swan 4-38) and 348 (Hussey 121, Ponting 66. Swann 4-120, Harmison 3-54) by 197 runs.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Result of the poll as to who will win the match has gone 100% in favour of an England win.
Leaving aside the much there is to say about yesterday's play, I'll instead offer on the chances of Australia winning. After all, with two days left, it won't be a draw and England are short odds.
Can Australia win?
In any two team contest, both sides can always win but as a match ebbs and flows, fortunes and that history I have referred to all change the possibilities. At the moment, a snowballs chance in hell would be my colourful yet accurate assessment of Australia scoring the squillions of runs required.
125 years is a long time. Statistics gathered over such a long time, apart from causing a bout of extreme salivation in statisticians (1-86 Katich 43 lbw Swann), it also provides what is known as and extremely good sample. Variations caused by changes in wickets, the ability of players, developments in wickets etc etc etc are negated by a good sample. In that 125 years, no teams has scored this many (2-90 Watson 40 lbw Broad) runs in the 4th innings to win. No team has got within 150 of the total Stauss has challenged Australia to make. Worse, at The Oval, the highest 4th innings winning total is 263 so to win. Australia has to more than double that stat. Over long periods of time - lets say 125 years - changes in stats tend to be incremental not great leaps and changes that are demanded here.
Then there's a deteriorating wicket, a confident group of bowlers against team of increasing doubt as shown my the constant suggestion that even the umpires are against them.
Can they win? Yes they can. Will they win. Not likely.
To score 546, three of them have to score hundreds and one of those has to score large. Three others in the top eight have score 30-50. That leaves the last three somewhere between 50 and 80 to make between them. The English bowlers have to lose the plot. Strauss has to forget everything he has learned and desired against Australia. These last two have to happen together and for five or six sessions.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
England wasted only 25 minutes of the morning session before being out for 332. Broad, increasingly the strongest candidate for the position The King is abdicating at the conclusion of this Test, scored 37 with the tail. Anderson was the first out, lbw to a lefthander's inswinger from Hilfenhaus and bothering the scorers, for this was his first duck, 54 innings into his injury excited career. Joined by that doyen of strokemakers Steve Harmison, Broad threw back his head, swinging because there was no tomorrow. Hilfenhous via Ponting put an end to that rubbish.
Now, in the context of the dusty collection of dead grass and broken sods that represented the playing surface at this year's - this match's - Oval, 332 looked a good score. A score worthy of knots in green capped stomachs.
Watson took the first ball whilst Katich studied the field and exchanged pleasantries with Asad Rauf,: a man whose name has the phonic reminder of driving home the porcelain bus on a night one drink too long.
It took nine overs for first Watson and then Katich to play competent strokes to the boundary - Watson a trademark square drive from an over pitched Anderson outswinger and Katich a push through midwicket as sweet as a dream may order it.
In the process, Watson survived three shouts each with increasing reason for assurance. The first was close, the second clearly a waste of effort for even the crowd to consider but the third was out. Clearly out. It would have disturbed the stumps in the same place as Anderson's earlier dismissal.
Meanwhile, Katich had borrowed Fred Astaire's feet and his wander into a stance from outside the leg stump was so exaggerated that he seemed to begin his run to the wicket from the company of the square leg umpire. It looked ugly, it is ugly but it's effective. Whatever happened to the stillness and poise at the wicket epitomised by Greg Chappell? I'm getting old and it's just a pity for readers my memory isn't going too to prevent such odious comparisons.
Swann came on for the 13th over and one ball looked dangerous as it went through Watson and somehow forgot to take the top of off stump. There after, he bowled the wrong line - middle and leg - and was milked well by both batsmen. He seemed to have Greg Norman Disorder and just when he should perform, he looked to have that choking feeling.
Harmison bowled four overs before the first of the predicted showers arrived and sent grown men running for shelter lest they should rust. Australia were on top at 0-61.
After a businessman's lunch - an extra 50 minutes lost to the weather - Strauss sent Flintoff charging in with a clever field intended to make scoring difficult for Shane Watson. Good in theory until Watson drove the third ball off his pads to the boundary through the narrowest of gaps forward of midwicket. Flintoff couldn't quite grasp how it had been done.
The Leeds hero, Stuart Broad, was on at the other end for his first bowl of the innings. Katich welcomed him with a cover drive as near as you need to perfect and followed it with two controlled pushes on the leg side for a further three runs. The second of these, a single, bought Watson on strike for the last ball of Broad's first over. It dipped in, cut further and Watson's penchant for using his pads finally earned it's reward and the opening stand was ended at 73. The lesson for those who follow was that you can bat on this pitch but you may never feel you are in.
Ponting entered, to the officially unsanctioned and thankfully minimised hoots and boos and a majority of generous applause which he has earned. Another Katich single from Flintoff bought him on strike and he played the over out confidently with drives to mid off and mid on but no runs.
Broad's next over showed Katich in complete control and Ponting all at sea. He missed one down the legside, inside edged for four in the way of the French and then played and missed at a jaffer from Broad which cut from the leg.
Singles from Flintoff and then back to Broad, a young man whose baby face has added experience's wrinkles in a fetching way. The more said in heat to take him off track, the better he has run along the rails. Ponting was beaten by another delivery bending to slips and then exchanged singles with Katich. Last ball of the over, another angled bat at 45 degrees outside off stump and Ponting, cramped for room, played a shot he has successfully got himself out with before and the castle was down. For a moment, teetering on the edge of the importance of this moment, Ponting looked as though his bat would be an axe and smash those wooden stumps which betrayed him. He didn't and as well. He deserves to be better thought of than his conqueror's father. Australia 2-85.
Katich played another elegant drive from Flintoff while Hussey watched on, knowing his turn to stand up had arrived.
Three balls into the next over, Broad had sat him down again, that old black magic confusion about where his off stump lives was again evident. It's pretty simple. It's just a few inches from middle. Broad swung the ball into his pads and although benefit may have been given, Billy Bowden had none. Hussey a duck and Australia 3-89.
Anderson replaced Flintoff but it mattered very little for this was Broad's show and in his next over he had Clarke driving uppishly at ball that wasn't quite there and he gave it just enough elevation for new boy Trott to snaffle a low catch at short cover that many beginners might have dropped ... remember Pietersen? Australia 4-93 and Broad had four wickets in 21 deliveries.
North, with no Clarke to partner, put his head down anyway as he's a man with a passion for the fight and for a few overs that was enough but when Swann came back on and found his inside edge, he should have been breathing a sigh of relief at a close call. Instead, he was out lbw. Justice is largely about circumstance.
Katich had his fifty soon after, batting it would seem on a different pitch and against different bowlers, for his stay at the crease had been untroubled ... until Swann found his inside edge - a habit he is forming - and the ball ballooned from his pad and into the safe hands of Cook at short leg. Australia's innings had become such a procession, it was a surprise they didn't appear marching behind a banner in the next add break. Oh look ... they did.
Broad's fifth victim was Haddin, trying to dive the ball through mid wicket and getting himself into a squared position only to have the ball shape in the other direction and being bowled neck and crop. He looked like the school boy undone by the cagey veteran in his first game in the seniors, yet the bowler was the one with the look of an innocent. The Australian middle order scores looked like the number for Pizza Hut in Darwin.
Johnson smote a few blows, then with his hitting spots covered by England's best fieldsmen, he dabbled outside off stump and Prior held one of those very good keepers catches standing up.
At tea, Australia 8-133 (Katich 50, Watson 34. Broad 5-37, Swann 3-27) and the Ashes lay scattered on the pitch, the little urn's genie unplugged, it lay tipped and disregarded by the feet of Strauss at slip.Australia stayed on a roll after the break, like a depressives paranoid descent into hell, when Stuart Clark was Cook's second catch of the innings at short leg, from Swann's bowling. Clark only gets an assist though, as Asad Rauf gave a decision which only a dog pound could match as a howler. The disgruntled batsman missed it by nearly a foot, in old money and was caught entirely off the knee roll of his pad. Frankly, it was such a bad decision, England should be ashamed of appealing but Clark's dissent will hurt his pocket. If the ICC are Gollum, umpires are their precious.
Speaking of shame, why is it memories of fusarium come flooding back as I watch the 2nd day's play on a five day old pitch? Before this game started, the spectre of match fixing raised its head again following an approach made to an unnamed Ashes tourist. How is what has happened to the twenty two yards of uncertainty at The Oval any different? Sure it's the same for both sides and a wrong call at a coin toss may be the crucial factor in this game rather than a brilliant innings or super spell of bowling. Further, England's dominance will the ball was not because the wicket was unplayable. If so, how did Katich and Watson prosper? England bowled and fielded like a side that wanted to win. Australia folded like an unneeded map, redundant in the face of a new GPS.
Even so, just like all of the sourest things I have experienced in my life, it leaves a nasty taste.
Following such weighty thoughts, Hilfenhaus could not keep it going and was bowled by Flintoff. Siddle scored handy runs in the tail and with 26, scoring more runs than Ponting, Hussey, Clarke and North combined ... and he didn't get out!
England's session and the doomsday clock chiming two minutes to midnight until it becomes England's match and series. The record 4th innings winning score at The Oval in 118 Tests is 263. England lead by 172 after the completion of the first innings. England only need 92 in their second dig to put Australia's quest outside the realms of history.
By stumps, England are almost safe but another 80 will confirm what our heads know but our hearts patriotically accept. Their second innings wickets are afterthoughts. Miracles can happen but the Australians will need their walking on water boots tomorrow if their are to prevail. Ponting can do it, he has in the past but the difference lies in the company he keeps. Is there a Langer or a Gilchrist or Jones or a Border lurking in these men. Do they have grit, true grit?
Other sports call it stats but we know it as history. New history waits to be written at The Oval and if it is, it will be cricket's greatest escape. Your grandchildren will need to be told about it.
Either way, if you watch closely enough, you'll realise why six point plans and new forms of the game are bunkum. Here at The Oval, the place where cricket history started, new heroes are being forged into legends. Watch and see the real deal.
Three final thoughts.
At a point when it mattered most, Andrew Strauss was mentally tough. He gambled with Broad on the basis of his growing desire to "be there" in the hard moments, at a time when many judges would have taken other options. He used Swann at just the right time. He set fields to get batsmen out, against the modern trend of saving runs. The short cover set to Clarke was just one good example.
Secondly, Ian Chappell has often said that sledging is over done and given the record in that area of the teams he captained, many snicker. The important message from Chappelli is that you should never attack a good player, as it only makes them play better. Think back to the the 3rd Test and the verballing levelled at Broad. The young man stood his ground but reacted gracefully under pressure. Now look what has happened.
Finally, I seem to remember saying if England batted first and were out for 300, they had more chance of winning than scoring a big total and two months before that, predicted a 2-1 series win for the hosts. I'm better than I was but some arrogance still remains.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Cook was gone early enough, going across his stumps if anywhere, and steering a straight one from The Joker - Peter Siddle - comfortably to Ponting at second slip. It was a poor shot and very much the large technical flaw that England's future captain had better set about fixing.
The Joker? Seriously, just look at the lad when he's excited. With zinc in place, Mo Macaki style, he looks as though he's ready to audition for a role left vacant for a want of a sensible approach to medication drugs.
Bell came in and in the commentary box Warne was throwing his usual pointless barbs which had little to do with cricket. On the pitch, Bell was quiet, then uncertain and then quite uncertain. He was jumping at the crease but a nicely guided four down through the gully and four pushed through mid on raised his confidence. In fact, as the morning went on, he played a mixture of Jekyl and Hyde shots for four, often upish through, past or over fieldsmen but such is his way. It has to be said, many of them were very good cricket shots.
For a short spell, when Johnson was introduced at second change, Bell had no idea of what to do with a barrage of short stuff from the left arm quick. Jumping about, he played the ball in the air from the glove, the handle and even the blade and none of them under his control.
The Australians came and went, Hilfenhaus and Siddle having two spells and looking the most likely to snare wickets. Clark bowled a great line and was his usual Uncle Scrooge and even if this pitch spins, Clark will use the pitch well. Remember McGrath on the last day of Tests whilst Warne spun away at the other end?
Through it all, Strauss was completely solid and jumped on anything loose with four 4's from Siddle and three off a wayward Johnson.
The second session was another good one England, despite a setback early in the session when first Billy Bowden and then Andrew Strauss stayed a little longer at lunch and the English captain was on his way. Bowden missed a blatant no ball from Hilfenhaus which Strauss somehow managed to touch through to Haddin. Neither were paying attention.
Collingwood, in at what should be his best position and a spot for him to exert his seniority and responsibility, set his jaw and his bat to building a partnership with Bell. The flow of runs before lunch was now a constipated trickle as Hilfenhaus and Clark tightened the game through bowling a good line. Bell was playing with increased confidence and more patience than we have seen in this series.
Johnson took over from Clark and his four overs were ordinary, providing 21 runs, no swing and an inconsistent line. This was a Johnson closer to the bowler of the 1st and 2nd Test rather than the 4th.
Meanwhile, Hilfenhaus kept going at the other end, on and just outside off stump to Collingwood and off and middle to Bell. He is such an improved bowler and should have been rewarded when he found Collingwood's edge with a feather so light it didn't register on the infared camera. Bowden didn't hear it and ignored the Australians rather than answer their appeal. Little wonder he is disliked by players for his arrogance. In his defence, it was a very faint touch but good umpiring judges such things more accurately, more consistently.
The worrying aspect of this incident was the reaction of Ponting, who until then, had been showing some his best captaincy - using bowlers well, setting tight fields and encouraging his men to discipline. In the second hour, after the Bowden incident, Ponting lost the plot. He sulked for overs and missed some opportunities. How else could you explain a debutant arriving at the crease and being allowed to face a part time bowler?
Siddle started farming the field Johnson had left fallow and after three overs of a very controlled line close to off stump against Collingwood, he sent one a little wider to the Englishman and he lost patience, slashing the ball to a jubilant Hussey in the gully. It has been a poorer series for Collingwood than Bell, if you look at where and when they have scored their runs. Even though he added 62 with Bell, his contribution to England's need wasn't enough.
Jonathon Trott debuted against Siddle, who had successfully tightened knots around the batsmen and the part time off spin of Marcus North, who was harmless but an effective foil. After twelve balls, a push to leg got him his first Test run.
The Australian tactic of tight lines and fielding positions to back them up and stifle the scoring, saw only 18 runs in the last eleven overs before tea and bought them the wicket of Collingwood. Siddle bowled a superb spell. As a result, only 72 runs in the session and 2 wickets lost. We'll call that even and forgive Ricky his little dummy spit.
As did Strauss after lunch, Bell was out immediately after the tea break and again to the Joker. Siddle made the ball move back towards Bell's off stump and the batsman's inside edge finished the job. It may sound strange but it was good to see anger bubbling out of Bell as he made a most disgruntled trek back to the pavilion. He really cared about giving his wicket away.
Prior joined Trott and was worked over by the strong man, Siddle. Either side of tea, Siddle bowled his best spell of the series, returning 2-11 from nine overs. Prior was careful over the next hour, stemming his natural exuberance and strokeplay in adding 48 with Trott. His contribution of 18 was not enough for a serious No 6 but then, he's a No 7 but no one will listen. After an hour of careful batting and with a Mitchell Johnson bouncer still ringing in his helmet, Prior was duped by a clever slower ball and spooned the catch to Watson at point.
At five o'clock on an English late summer's day, one of the greatest knights strode to the centre before a crowd who were here largely to offer their thanks and adulation. Flintoff, thanks to luck and bowler rotations to a plan rather than inspired captaincy from Ponting, had to confront Johnson. The obligatory short ball dropped at his feet, via his helmet. Soon after, Freddie squeezed a ball down through the slips to open his scoring with a controlled boundary. England sensed something special in the air but it must have been the aroma wafting from the kerbab stand because in Johnson's next over, the fairytale ended. Flintoff played a very poor, very human, ungodlike slash straight into the pain killer assisted hands of Brad Haddin.
It was a ragged spell from Johnson and included 6 no balls and 2 wides in 6-0-23-2. Some inspired moments separated by a good deal of dross.
Meanwhile, Jonathon Trott was managing the bowlers comfortably, especially for a man in his first dig. North frightened him with one that went through the surface and kept a smidgeon low and luckily ran of the face of his bat and into his pads. He drove in that elegant Tom Graveney fashion, obviously a student of the game who nad studied well in that popular London suburb of South Africa. He walks across the batting crease to open up the leg side to back foot drives and flicks to the boundary but if this was a fault, Ricky Ponting would not be a batting saint. Those who might question his temprement got their answers this afternoon. Micky Arthur, the Sarth Efrikan coach, might only be prepared to give him a game in that country's seconds, but he'll do for England ... but at 3.
In the midst of one of those "Ponting Periods" of the Australian game, when part timers bowl from both ends in order to soak up overs and therefore releasing the pressure off the batting side, Trott stroked a ball confidently off the front foot into the legside from North. Katich at short leg, snatched it in his left hand and threw down the stumps, leaving Trott in an unsuccessful inglorious dive in search of safety. It was a stunning piece of fielding to end such a composed beginning.
England 7-268 and danger signs for the latter days of the match. North was getting bounce and turn and was going through the top regularly. In the sheds, Hauritz was standing in front of the mirror practising how to say "I told you so" tactfully. North was bowling his 11th over at six o'clock on day one and Australia must bat last!
Extraordinary though it seems, the time for the new ball came and went and still Watson and North kept running up past the umpires. England were plucked and ready for the pot but Ponting fiddled over the garnish. Hilfenhaus hadn't bowled in the final session and Clark hadn't bowled for 90 minutes? Meanwhile, Broad was stroking fours and Swann was providing valuable support to take England beyond 300 for the day.
Finally, twenty minutes too late, The Joker was back to attack the tail with a new cherry. Swann, with half an hour of easy batting behind him, stroked a drive to the extra cover boundary. Broad played a maiden from Hilfenhaus but Swann couldn't resist a leg cutter in the last over from Siddle and the day ended. The last session yielded 127 runs and 5 wickets. Australia's session.
England 8-307 (Bell 72, Strauss 55, Trott 41, Broad 26x. Siddle 4-63) 36 sundries including 12 byes and 17 no balls.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
The batsmen deserve their place through hard work and success in the series. At some stage and sometime, for many of them repeatedly, Watson, Katich, Ponting, Hussey, Clarke and North have all put totals within the totals that have squared this series. Despite his meager efforts, Hussey is climbing back up the form ladder and his second innings 64 at Edgbaston was the pilot light which burned steady and from which Clarke and North ignited their flames. Nothing stirs a fellow more than a team mate fighting and succeeding under pressure. Hussey's effort saved that game and stopped a 2-0 series scoreline after only three Tests.
Haddin, despite broken fingers and bad interviews, will catch the balls that England don't snick to slips and will score handy, quick runs. Nothing else is expected of an Australian keeper, even though the "tradition" is only forty years old. Rod Marsh created it with iron gloves and hefty heaves over mid wicket when I was an impressionable teen still pondering my chances of Baggy Green. The fact a NSW north coast lad went West to perfect the tradition is another story. No matter how long Haddin plays, he won't be the velcro strap on either of their batting pads.
But its not in batting or bowling where Mary McCarthy's words will have resonance, for Australia only has one berth on its Ashes juggernaut to fill. Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson pick themselves for The Oval, as having the benefit of the selectors unalterable belief in the first four outings, its hardly likely that a change of policy would be adopted in connection with their places in the team. No, it's that last spot, the fourth bowler, which has occupied all Australia thought since Onions collected spectacles at Headingley when Johnson bowled him in the second innings.
Thanks to Neilsen, the flip of a coin has become a shell game - possibly in order to keep the senior man, Lee, a happy chappy. Eenie meanie minie moe ... which will it be, Clark, Hauritz or Lee?
A few facts.
The pitch is already drying and will take spin which means nothing to Australia if they bat first and having lost three tosses in this series, Ponting's career average in coin tosses indicates The Oval might be lucky for him. In sixty Tests in the Big Chair, Ponting wins the toss 43% of the time ... in the low end by Australia's longer term skippers. Even Kim Hghes had better luck at the toss. Hauritz is only of use to Australia if they bat first and even then, he is at best a contributor. Unless Saqlain has put some special magic in his back pocket, he's not going to rip England out, even on a bunsen burner.
Clark was Australia's best bowler in Leeds. Forget the overall figures, just focus on what Clark did to the English top order in the first innings because that's where the game was won. International coaches have been staggered by a selection policy which excluded Clark until Headingley, Micky Arthur of South Africa the most outspoken of all. Before the the first skirmish at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff, Clark was everyone's pick to be Australia's best bowler and yet, inexplicably, he mixed the drinks ... and then continued to, even when Johnson looked a shot duck and many called on Siddle to be out of form but in season for scalp hunters. Finally, desperately, Hilditch and Co agreed with the rest of Australia - even those who didn't particularly like cricket -and redeemed Clark for the 4th Test. Hey presto, the series is 1-1. He is the only bowler of his type in the touring party and he's the best in the world at tying knots around batsmen for the man at the other end to target.
Then there's the case for Brett Lee, as decent a cricketer to have pulled on the boot for Australia and without doubt, one of the heroes of the last campaign in England. He's a fine fellow Lee - honest, hard working and talented. Unfortunately, he's also expensive and easily knocked of his pace pedestal and length these days. Neilsen has paraded his reverse swing as a subtle gift but the last time the ball went Irish at The Oval was when Dave Allen stole it after play. Lee has been a grand servant of Australian cricket but wouldn't make any of the first three "best of" teams one might choose in a fit of fantasy. His is a lame case.
So Hauritz or Clark. It shouldn't have come to this if Johnson had been given his dues after the first two Tests, but it has. I'd pick Clark, because for England to win this match, they must score heavily in the first innings. If Hauritz plays, he can't prevent this. If Clark plays, he can. Add to this a loathing or superstition based on experience and logic that you don't change a winning team and enough reasons exist for common sense to prevail. However, the Australian deciders are neither common or sensible, so excuse me if I get this wrong.
My teams in batting order would therefore be:
England Strauss, Cook, Trott, Collingwood, Bell, Prior, Flintoff, Swann, Anderson, Onions, Panesar (Broad 12th)
Australia Katich, Watson, Ponting, Hussey, Clarke, North, Haddin, Johnson, Clark, Siddle, Hilfenhaus (Hauritz 12th)
On with the motley!
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Sunday, August 16, 2009
It's the batting order that I would be tinkering with. As I've mentioned, Bell seems hardly likely to succeed batting at three since he's failed at four, so after Strauss and Cook I'd go Trott, Colly and then Bell, with Prior at six. Flintoff would head a competent tail followed by Broad, Swann, Anderson & Onions. I've changed my mind about Panesar. Flintoff's injury cloud makes him too big a risk.
The latest hint on what the skipper thinks - especially important after Hooker Hilditch's comments re Stuart Clark's place in the pecking order - appeared in certain English papers today. His quote "It's going to be pretty difficult to change a side which has had such an emphatic win" followed comments indicating that the second innings pasting Clark took at the hands of a cavalier tail had no bearing on the selection for the 5th Test. Ponting has a habit of opening the bag in the lead up to the Test and letting the cat scream about for a bit. Taking a line through that, I'll go with Katich, Watson, Ponting, Hussey, Clarke, North, Haddin, Johnson, Clark, Siddle & Hilfenhaus being the Aussie line-up.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Faced with the marketing disaster of a series loss to Bangaldesh, the West Indies BOC decided that their heads would be better where they were and dispatched the former Australian opener's instead. It's a volatile part of the world and the group of countries which make up the Windies and their controlling cricket body have been having a hard time convincing kids to play the game for more than ten years now. In this regard, they are hampered mostly by their own ineptitude.
In the case of Dyson, its a particularly hard call. In the 22 months of his tenure, before the Bangladesh series, there was definite improvement in a side that had been losing pretty consistently for five years. Taking over after the Windies had been flogged in England in 2007, the side went to South Africa for what loomed as a short, three Test hiding but instead, came home with some credits in the bank and a 2-1 series loss. A drawn home series against Sri Lanka and an expected series loss, also at home to the Aussies, were followed by the best away result in five years ... a drawn series in New Zealand.
At this stage, although the one day games were not showing the same encouraging form and returns, these were results that were, to be frank, unexpected.
Then the heroic 1-0 series win at home against England, a series won in two hours of inspired bowling by Taylor and Benn and then the bravery of the Windies tail in subsequent Tests. The return series in England was much poorer and then to the recent debacle which has to be largely ignored, as thanks to the West Indies Board, Dyson was coaching a second XI, after the top fifteen players were excluded because of a pay dispute!
The real story probably lies in two key factors. Firstly, it appears Dyson supported the top players and was quietly critical of his employers. As a former teacher with the NSW Dept of Education, you'd think he'd know better. Secondly, money was being bled from the Board's coffers because of the poor results in one day cricket. Since October 2007, the Windies have only won 3 of 11 one day series and in the process have been thrashed by Australia and South Africa. Don't support the boss and be seen as the reason why the boss is losing money ... well, we don't starnd for dat marn.
Editorials in the West Indies have been highly critical of the Board and have raised the debacle of the abandoned 10 ball Test against England in Antigua and the players pay dispute among other things.
Dyso will walk from this pretty clean but its hard to imagine the Windies Board doing the same. It will be a long time before they will find an outsider willing to take the role and without the input of fresh ideas into Caribbean cricket, resurrection would seem impossible.
No results, even less money and perhaps the loss of West Indies cricket to the world game will be even poorer results. Who will they blame then?
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
So in the last few days we have had post mortems of the most horid and postulations about a future which must return blindly to the past. Demands, threats, panic and all of this just mounts on Strauss and his men as they try and prepare for a match they must win or their task lies undone. A drawn series will be failure: just ask the fish and chip owner on the corner.
Perhaps the most damging revelation is the news of a spat between their best player, Flintoff and the skipper, Strauss. As the story goes, Strauss didn't want Flintoff to play at Headingley despite the big fella making himself available. I'm not sure it plays out quite the way it reads in the papers but regardless, if Flintoff believed he could play, even if in the manner of the de-limbed Black Knight in The Holy Grail, everyone in the cricket world would have backed him to bite the Australians arms off. Strauss and the selectors should have shown faith, after all, they keep picking Bopara at 3 and if that's not an act of faith then you and I are unlikely to ever see one. I'm sure if Ponting could have pushed the green button to include Flintoff or the red to exclude, there would have been no colour blindness problem and like all good snooker players, it would have been the reds first.
The English press, in supposed positive look-to-the-future mode, have called on the selectors to include any combination of Keys, Ramprakash or Trescothick to bolster the English batting. Please! As Nassar Hussain said, "all of thos players had issues when they played for England and we want to call them back?" They are yesterday's men by choice and by age and should stay there. Perhaps Boycott or Botham would consider a return. At least Sir MCC has gone to his rest, perhaps the only way not to be considered for a recall by some quarters of the popluar media.
Until Headingley, England led the series and had won more sessions than the Australians. They had squared a tight draw, had the better of another and won at Lords. At Headingley, they chose their team badly when they had the choice to do otherwise. They have the players in this squad to come back but the real question is do they have the mental toughness for the job against a now rampant Australia? Trott must bat at 3, Collingwood at 4, Bell at 5, Prior 6 and Flintoff 7. As they are playing for a win, Swann and Panesar must play. This leaves only two spots for seamers and Onions should be one of them. Losing seemed to really hurt that lad. That leaves one spot for Broad or Anderson. Both have good claims but Anderson worries me. If he wasn't physically injured as the team media men claim, then he disappeared soon after Australian passed England's first inning total. It was Broad who stood up and its Broad who is a target of the Australians which means they rate him. He is yet to wilt under their pressure. Anderson is the better bowler but Broad turns up for every Test match.
Australian selections later. Some clues already on these pages with the interview of Andrew Hilditch.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
The start went according to plan, with Jimmy Anderson snicking Hilfenhaus to slips when Ponting held yet another catch - now eight for the series. Just six overs later, Prior became the Tasmanian swing bowler's fourth victim when he sent got a low edge on an outswinger and Haddin took a pearler low to his right. 7-120 smiles all round.
Enter Swanny - how they love ya, how they love ya - to join Broad in a flog fest which saw 108 added off less than 13 overs. A few things worked in their favour. Fields were up, leaving gaps for the adventurous to puncture. They also had nothing to lose as if they swung and got out, no one could be any more critical. Broad hit the ball cleanly and long - 10 fours in his 61 - and exacted a massive toll in revenge on Stuart Clark. Australia's best bowler in the first innings had flogged three zacs from Broad yesterday and he repaid in spades today. Two overs cost 32 runs.
As entertaining as this was to the crowd, such things only last in dreams and fairy tales or in sad stories of lost opportunities, which for Australians of my age, mostly all happened in 1981 and mostly all involved Ian Botham. Broad hit another clean blow, this time to square leg, where Watson held a fine catch.
Swann kept swinging but his new partner, Harmison, is generally luckily to grab the bat by the right end.
There has been talk of ghosts. I wonder if Beefy's spirit self is floating about out there in the centre looking for an Englishman to channel him? England need 98 to make Australia bat again and about 200 to make them nervous.
Na. Could never happen ... again ...
... and it didn't. Twenty five minutes after lunch, the Australians were grabbing stumps, having man hugs and shaking hands with the rest after Johnson took care of the rest. Swann was out under the new experimental law called waving the bat closely at the ball but not hitting it and Onions was diced and sauteed when he lost his off stump. Australia won by an innings and 80 and England have so much ground to make up they are like the bloke tying his shoe laces at the starting line in the 100 metres race and Australia are the bloke, chest out, five metres from the tape.
Langos Man of the Match and winner of the Pantene hair lotion, the Fabriani shirt and the $1 bag of mixed lollies, is Ricky Ponting. Many of you would want to reward a bowler - Johnson or Siddle or those who know what you are talking about, Stuart Clark. The overbearing would point to North or at a pinch Michael Clarke who shared that big partnership in Australia's innings. For mine, I think Ponting earns the honours this time. He kept England under pressure as their undies sagged during the first half of the first day and then in the afternoon he set the tone for the Australian innings with an imperious innings of 78. Clarke and North took the game beyond their grasp but it was Ponting who for once, led from the front.
As one of his biggest fans, I owe him that!
The Oval in two weeks but at least Australia's headaches will only be from victory.
Earlier, discussion over cornflakes at the Australian digs this morning must have been the need to bat England out of the game. Certainly not losing wickets is one way but its of little point if you are not scoring runs. So goes the sermon. Brother Clarke and Brother North must have been making notes as well as listening because their delivery was perfect.
For Clarke, this was not a technically correct innings, as many times he looked uncomfortable whether it be against the short, sharp stuff from Harmison or the surprisingly rare ball well pitched up and moving away. He played and missed, he bobbed and weaved but he didn't stop playing shots. His best spell was the attack he launched against Anderson during his poor spell. The standout was an off drive from an Anderson outswinger that scorched to the boundary between mid off and the bowler. With his regular partner in crimes against England, Marcus North with his villian's mask in place, England had the final nails in their coffin driven in in the two hours before lunch. North, who consolidated in the 80 minutes before stumps and was only 3 until a four in the last over, bought up his fifty just before lunch and looks as he has all series, a player who will score many more runs for Australia. Here's hoping the doomsayers who wanted his head on their keyboard pike, are choking on their adjectives.
With Clarke wondering whether it would be the chicken mini strips or the pizza, Onions was finally introduced and soon had Clarke trapped in front - the fourth lbw of five wickets to fall - so very close to a third century of the series and history beckoning. Clarke and The Cardinal added 152 for the fifth wicket and England were deader than road kill on the Stuart Highway and with no signs of ideas which might revive them. Strauss missed some opportunities and might have done more to get Anderson moving again but the major criticism would have to be keeping Onions in the outfield and away from the bowling crease until twenty minutes before lunch. Anderson may be physically fit but his head is an altogether different place and he is a passenger in this Test.
The second session was classic Australian post modern cricket which could have been from anywhere after Mark Taylor became captain ... bowl first and roll the opposition below 200; bat for four or five sessions at 100 runs a session; humble the opposition second innings and have a day off. This was two hours from the second phase.
North was the star performer, raising his second century of the series and in comparison to the more experienced Clarke, his was the more composed and deliberate knock. Upon reaching 96, there was never going to be a repeat of the heartbreak of Edgbaston and a fullish ball from Swann left for happier times well beyond the midwicket fence. Haddin didn't stay long after lunch, misjudging a ball from Harmison as being shorter than it was and scooped an ugly up and under to Bell at backward square leg. Mitch Johnson packed five boundaries into his 27, adding 70 with North for the seventh wicket and Siddle came and went in English style, the next ball, both wickets claimed by Broad. Stuart Clark then played one of his lusty cameos, this one a 22 ball 32 which including one four and three massive sixes, two of which came and went over midwicket and square leg off successive balls from Broad. It couldn't last - it never does -and Broad had his revenge with a good straight ball at off stump.
Broad has had many questions asked of him against the old foe and many, including this correspondent, would have dropped him for this Test but he has been England's best and not just because he collected his second five wicket haul and his best Test bowling figures but because he bowled a better line and a much better length than his more experienced team mates and his has stood toe to toe to Australia most aggressive performers.
With tea pushed back with the fall of the ninth wicket, it was impressive that North didn't play for the red ink but was out swinging. 139 runs added by the Aussies and England took 5 wickets but this was still the visitors session.
England began to dream the impossible dream after tea and for an hour, Strauss and Cook looked firm and secure in putting on 58 for the first wicket but from the moment Hilfenhaus returned for a second spell and speared one into the English captain's back pad, it was a nursery rhyme we were told as children ... this little Englishmen gets lbw, this one gets lbw too. This little Englishman gets caught at slip, this gets lbw again and this little Englishman gets caught behind and goes weeeeee, all the way home. As good as Hilfenhaus and Johnson were, England went from resolute to dreadful in 45 deliveries.
Bopar lasted one ball, also lbw to Hilfenhaus. Even if it was an inside edge, his campaign is over a Test too late. Trott will take his place for the 5th. Bell prodded at Johnson and snicked to a gleeful Ponting. As much as I admire Bell, he hasn't beaten his hoodoo against Australian gurus and Warnie probably sent him a text after he got out. Collingwood, the man I still believe is England's best, at least got out to a corker of a ball from Johnson ... that late inswinger he can't bowl anymore. Vicious and late and no hope. Cook, who had batted well, got another swinger from Johnson and edged to Haddin.
England have provided Australia with the way back into this series which will be one-all after a seven session Test. The momentum once with Australia will not be headed by the English who have been run down by this steam roller before. Its just so sad their selectors and officials staked them out in its path. Apart from anything else, they'll be refunding a lot of revenue in unused tickets.
A nice day to go for a walk and find yourself an Englishman.