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Thursday, December 14, 2006

England performs with ball, but with the bat...? Third Test day 1

England had a good day, or more accurately first two and a bit sessions. Their loss of two wickets for 51 when they batted in the final session has taken some of the gloss from their earlier efforts, yet they remain in a competitive position after a day of mostly traditional test cricket laced with some one day style bursts.

They'll be very pleased to have bowled Australia out for 244, and especially so that Monty Panesar and Steve Harmison bowled very well. Panesar's ball to dismiss Justin Langer was for me the ball of the day: the TV replays showed it subtly creeping between bat and pad to hit off stump.

Panesar was subsequently handled roughly by Andrew Symonds, who hit him for 17 in one over (including two straight sixes). Both he and his captain showed very good temperament (the latter by not taking him off and Monty by regrouping and inducing an edge from Symonds to which wicketkeeper Jones clung at the second attempt). 5/92 was probably better than most people, including me, would have expected from Panesar in his first Ashes appearance (and at Perth at that), but the figures were well-deserved. They were also, it has since been reported, the best by an English spin bowler at Perth.

The wicket was livelier than those for the previous two tests, but several Australian batsmen including Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer and Michael Clarke got out when they seemed about to go on to bigger things. Symonds delighted spectators with his hitting but he forgot that he was playing in a test match, not a limited overs game. Captain Ponting and vice-captain Gilchrist failed: Harmison's dismissal of Ponting lbw showed how far he's come since that first ball in Brisbane.


All this is very well, but set 2/51 against the Australian 244 and the match looks evenly poised. Think about the fiery opening spells of Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath and the two probing overs bowled by Stuart Clark (during which Collingwood was dropped at slip) and it might even seem that the home team has the edge. The first session tomorrow is likely to be crucial. I'll be glued to my seat.
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