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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Australia looks good on paper, despite obvious cracks

Australians 8/337 (90 ov, M Hussey 143* S Katich 95, T Bresnan 3/36, S Harmison 3/67) v England Lions: Day 1 at Worcester.

After all sorts of off-field distractions including Michael Vaughan's retirement , Andrew Flintoff's reprimand for missing a team bonding trip to Ypres and a crackbrained proposal from the ICC president to reduce Tests to four days traditional first class cricket for the Australians resumed today at Worcester, a traditional English cricket ground.

Unlike the days when Worcester hosted the first in a series of preliminary matches (and Don Bradman invariably produced a century or double century) this is the only scheduled first class match before the Test series begins

While the 8/337 doesn't seem a bad day's work for the batting side, the scorecard reveals that without Mike Hussey's 143* and Simon Katich's 95 there's little scope for complacency, let alone hubris. Phil Hughes' weakness outside off stump was exposed, Ricky Ponting played an uncharacteristically airy shot to slip, Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin were ordinary, while Marcus North looked out of his depth.

The Lions' pace attack did well: Steve "Lazarus" Harmison bowled with both fire and accuracy, the wiry Graeme Onions continued his excellent 2009 county form while the stockier Tim Bresnan came back well after a wobbly start . Sajjid Mahmood had a few moments, though Adil Rashid looked as if he needs more time to prepare himself for the longest form of the game (but I still believe he's a great prospect).

The Sky Sports TV coverage was most appropriate: its customary professionalism ( underlined by occasional crosses to the England v Warwickshire practice match) had a bucolic tinge which reminded me of a line from John Arlott's poem about cricket at Worcester "And the bar stayed open all day". In these politically correct times no commentator would dare admit on air (or in verse) to having a drink in the workplace (aka at the ground) : Michael Atherton's icecream (from the Dean's Ices van) was the closest to this, but if the obesity police have their way perhaps he'll be either reprimanded a la Flintoff or, as we say in these parts, on the outer. I hope not.
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