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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

England batting more determined but match too early to call: Fifth Test Day 1

On a day where rain delayed the start of play England won the toss, batted and reached 4/234 from 80 overs.

Had they lost one or two fewer wickets England would have had more cause to be pleased with their day's efforts, but at least the batsmen displayed more collective determination than they have done since the first innings at Adelaide. Unlike Adelaide, however, nobody played a big innings: the openers grafted but both were out caught at the wicket by the time the total had crept to 58. Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen steadied things with a 108 run partnership (when a 208 run one was needed) but both were out to Glenn McGrath within a run of each other (Pietersen well caught by Michael Hussey from a mistimed pull, Bell bowled), leaving their team 4/167. Fortunately captain Flintoff, who looked as good if not better than he's done in the series, and Paul Collingwood stayed together until bad light stopped play.

While the match is still alive, and it's hard to pick a clear winner on the strength of an abbreviated day's play, I think that Australia had the better of what play there was. England would be disappointed that each of the four batsmen dismissed got a start yet none really went on with it. Bell in particular looked very solid and I was surprised to see him bowled off an inside edge.

The Australian bowlers, each of whom bowled tightly if without quite the same degree of menace they have displayed for much of the rest of the series, will be looking for an early breakthrough when play resumes. England will be hoping to bat on and on and to get well beyond 400: in practical terms this means that Flintoff and Collingwood will have to stay together for some considerable time. Both sides are well aware of the brittleness of England's lower order batting, so the first hour or so's play will very likely give a pointer to the ultimate result.

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