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Thursday, January 04, 2007

England again fail to grasp opportunities so face defeat: Fifth Test Day 3

The Channel 9 review of the day called it "morning madness". The first session, extended to make up for time lost to the weather on previous days, began with James Anderson having Michael Hussey caught behind: 5/190. Adam Gilchrist, in his customary aggressive mode, and a more circumspect Andrew Symonds took the score to 260 before Monty Panesar lured Symonds into a swing and a miss which bowled him.

Enter Warne, who immediately began to bat as if there were no tomorrow (for the game, not just his career). His aggression and good fortune in not being given out caught behind off Panesar, being missed once or twice (depending on how rigorously you assess chances) and escaping a run out chance, rattled England. Their only compensation was having Gilchrist adjudged caught behind for 62, by which time Australia 7/318 had already taken a first innings lead.

To my mind the missed run out chance was a turning point: Sajjid Mahmood did not observe the elementary principle of getting behind the stumps at the bowler's end. Had he done so he would have been able to gather a slightly wide return and break the wicket with Warne still out of his ground. At lunch Australia were 7/325. Lee was out immediately on the resumption of play but, as in the first session, the wicket signalled a further Australian revival as Warne continued to ride his luck (and play some very good strokes) with robust support from Stuart Clark.

Warne didn't get his hundred, as he was last out stumped off Panesar for a quickfire 71, the highest score of the innings. 393 looked 50 more than it should have been.

England's reply was in keeping with so much of its cricket in the series: an early wicket (Cook), 1/43 at tea (with 12 taken from Warne's only over offering them a scintilla of hope)), but then back to the past with a collapse leading to 5/114 at stumps. Strauss, Bell and Collingwood all, as previously in the series, got a start. Strauss was hit on the helmet by Lee and visibly distressed (though he batted on until Clark got him lbw) and Collingwood was well caught by Hayden in the gully. The worst offender was Bell, who flashed at a ball from Lee which was well wide of his off stump (as Flintoff and Jones had done in that second innings in Adelaide).

Flintoff himself dragged his back foot on to the crease to a classic leg break from Warne. The third umpire took an eternity to decide (and I'd have understood if he'd given Flintoff the benefit of the doubt), leaving Pietersen, resolute as usual on 29 not out, and Panesar, sent in as nightwatchman ahead of Read, to await tomorrow to try to build on their 12 run lead.

Barring monsoon rain, the only question is when Australia will complete the 5 - 0 whitewash, which will be only the second in Ashes history and the first since 1920 - 21 that this has occurred. (Gideon Haigh in The Guardian has written a good little piece about that occasion).

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