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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Strengthened Australia outplay weakened England: T4 D1

England 102 (33.5 ov, P Siddle 5/21, S Clark 3/18) v Australia 4/196 (47 ov, R Ponting 78, S Watson 50): Ashes 09 T4 D1 at Headingley, Leeds

298 runs and 14 wickets from 80.5 overs.

Not a bad day's cricket, eh? Up to a point, depending on your allegiance.

It was a disastrous one for England, weakened by the withdrawal of Andrew Flintoff, whose batters crumbled in the face of an Australian bowling attack strengthened and refocused by the selection of Stuart Clark.

Andrew Strauss must have been discombobulated by all the last minute uncertainty about whether Matt Prior - yet another casualty of the modern warm up regime - was able to play. The keeper was, and top scored with 37* as all around him succumbed to the four Australian quick bowlers.

Strauss, having been reprieved by Umpire Bowden from an lbw verdict from the first ball of the match, started the procession when he was well caught in the gully off Peter Siddle. Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson picked up a wicket apiece but it was Clark's combination, not often seen so far this series, of movement and accuracy which ripped the heart out of the middle order and set the scene for Siddle to mop up the tail. He finished with 9.5-0-21-5, Clark 10-4-18-3.

With his characteristic lucidityGideon Haigh in The Times summed up the difference Clark made:

Australia have wanted all summer for a bowler who understands line as a cardinal virtue, who strives above all for consistency, who tries to make batsmen play but is averse to surrendering easy runs off the pads — now they had him. He bowled the day’s first maiden, didn’t concede a first run until his seventeenth delivery, claimed his first wicket with his 21st — and every bowler around him benefited ... The question inevitably will arise why Clark has been made to wait so long for his chance on this trip, when his experience, especially of Lord’s as a former Middlesex player, would have been invaluable.

When Australia batted Simon Katich failed but Shane Watson with yet another 50 (51/67b, 9x4) and Ricky Ponting despite (or maybe because of) the booing which greeted him overhauled the England first innings total before Graham Onions and Stuart Broad took three late wickets including Ponting's for a belligerent 78 (101b/12x4, 1 x6) to give England some small consolation for an other wise appalling day.

Disclosure: I thought that Siddle should make way for Clark, leaving Nathan Hauritz in the team to provide some front line spin. So far I've been proved wrong.

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