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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Aust biff 1/195 , England scratch 2/20 in short day's play: Ashes 09 T1 D4

England 435 and 2/20 trail Australia 6/674 dec (R Ponting 150, M North 125*, S Katich 122, B Haddin 121) by 219 runs with 8 second inns wickets in hand: Ashes T#1, D4 at Cardiff.

The forecast rain did not eventuate until tea, when it terminated play for the day. Marcus North's 125* and Brad Haddin's 121, were the high points of the two sessions but, without taking anything away from them, England's tactics, general lassitude (as if they were waiting for the rain to come) and blatant attempts to slow the game down backfired. This was particularly evident in the pre-lunch session where only 27 wicketless overs, 10 - the best 10 - by spinners were bowled for 98 runs.

Why Stuart Broad, the weakest of the frontline bowlers, opened the bowling instead of Andrew Flintoff (weary?) or a spinner, was beyond me. I couldn't see why a new ball was taken when Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar in tandem were getting some sharp spin. A few overs' delay would probably have made North work harder for his century and Haddin for his 50. Given the acceleration which accompanied, as it often does, the taking of the new ball, the achievement of those milestones would almost certainly have been deferred until after lunch.

As it was the lunch score of 5/557, the late arrival of the rain and England's dropping its collective bundle provided a perfect launching pad for Haddin to gallop to a hundred in the afternoon. He was out, caught by Ravi Bopara in the outfield off Paul Collingwood's medium pace (which looked worth more than 9 of the 181 overs bowled) for a devastating
121 (151b/11x4, 3x6). Marcus North remained not out 125 (232b/13x4) as Australia posted its highest total against England for a long, long time.

Mentally shattered (check the TV footage and pictures if you require corroboration) and with only a draw to play for, England faltered against the rested Australian attack. On the radio Geoffrey Boycott wrote off Mitchell Johnson's first over as "tripe", though he did have a good word for Ben Hilfenhaus, before each of them struck: Alastair Cook lbw Johnson 6 and Ravi Bopara (unluckily) judged lbw Hilfenhaus 1.

Assuming there are no further weather interruptions, England need to bat for 98 overs to save the match. Not bloomin' likely.

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