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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

England wrap up T4 & retain Ashes. Let the Australian recriminations begin continue

England 513 defeated Australia 98 & 258 (85.4 ov, B Haddin 55*, S Watson 54, T Bresnan 4/50) by an innings & 157 runs: T4D4 at MCG: England retain Ashes, lead series 2-1 with one Test to play. Player of the Match: Jonathon Trott.

There was little deviation from the script that had been written before the day's play began as England completed a massive, and well merited victory over Australia.


Congratulations to them: they are, despite their loss at Perth (which now seems apart from being much more than a fortnight ago difficult to explain, or perhaps to believe) , clearly the better team.

The recriminations will continue, as Australians have become accustomed to beating the Poms here (if more so to losing in England). I have my thoughts but for now I'll keep them to myself.

Depite all the wailing and gnashing of teeth we Australian cricket supporters need to keep things in perspective, as veteran journalist Keith Dunstan in today's Age reminds us.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Australian batting crumbles again to disciplined England bowling: T4D3

Australia 98 & 6/169 (66ov, S Watson 54) need 246 more runs with 4 second innings wickets left to avoid losing by an innings to England 513 (159.4 ov, J Trott 168*, M Prior 85, A Cook 82, A Strauss 69. P Siddle 6/76) : T4 D3 at MCG

Some time, probably before lunch tomorrow, England will take Australia's last three wickets (the injured Ryan Harris is highly unlikely to bat), complete a well deserved innings victory over Australia and retain the Ashes.

Today, another huge crowd (68,773) turned up to watch Peter Siddle continue to bowl his heart out as England lost its last five wickets for 69. Then the Australian batting, set a daunting (?improbable) 515 to make England bat again, fell apart after a foolish runout (once again involving Shane Watson) followed mot long after by Tim Bresnan dismissing Shane Watson, Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey in quick succession.

While Matt Prior didn't get a 100 his aggressive 85/119b (11x4) was a good counterpoint to Jonathan Trott's more measured 168*/345b (13x4). But for Siddle's 33.1-10-75-6 who knows when England would have declared.

Bresnan, as in the first innings, justified his selection. 15-7-26-3 is an excellent analysis, though most of the time, unlike Siddle, he had the benefit of someone keeping the other end tight.

Australia are in disarray. Neither Ponting nor Michael Clarke looked like building a big innings and their futures as captain and vice-captain will be discussed even more in the coming days. Despite their underperformance and, in Ponting's case, yesterday's intemperate on field outburst (for which he was fined 40% of his match fee), I think it's too late in this series to remove them.

But beyond that...


Monday, December 27, 2010

England keep building lead and path to victory:T4D2

England 5/444 (136 ov, J Trott 141*, A Cook 82, M Prior 75*', A Strauss 69. K Pietersen 51) lead Australia 98 by 346 runs with 5 1st innings wickets in hand: T4/5 D2/5 at MCG.

There was little to write home (or blog) about today unless you are a staunch England supporter (perhaps one of the 67,149 spectators who were at the MCG), in which case you are allowed a generous measure of triumphalism at the sight of Australia trailing by 346 runs on the first innings and consequently without any prospect of victory and little of a draw..

Australia did show a little resistance early in the day as Peter Siddle removed both Alistair Cook 82/152b (11x4) and Andrew Strauss 69/167b (5x4) for the addition of only 13 runs. But then Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen steadied the innings (as if at 2/170 it needed steadying) before Siddle returned to claim Pietersen lbw for 51/89b (7x4) and dismiss Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell cheaply, by catching them in the deep, off Mitchell Johnson's (short) bowling.

5/286 turned out to be Australia's last satisfying moment of the day as Trott 141*/278b (12x4) and Matt Prior 75*/105b (10x4) added 158 for the sixth wicket before stumps leaving England, as they were yesterday, dominant. Early in his innings Trott snicked Johnson to the keeper but survived umpire Aleem Dar's self-imposed review after replays showed the delivery was (just) a no ball. Pity about the overstepping as it was Johnson's best ball of the day. As for the other bowlers, Siddle was, as 26-8-58-3 suggests, by far the best. Steven Smith and Ryan Harris bowled the occasional teasing delivery, though Ben Hilfenhaus looked out of puff despite clocking some pacy balls on Channel 9's speed measuring instrument.

So Australia is headed for defeat. Whether it is to be an honourable or dishonourable one will depend on the batters and the captain, who lost his composure at one point by challenging an umpire's decision which was clearly correct. Not a nice sight, but a reflection of the pressure Ricky Ponting is under. He should try to let his bat do the talking.


Fox Sports report.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

England to retain Ashes after dominating T4 first day

England 0/157 (47 ov, A Cook 80*, A Strauss 64*) lead Australia 98 (42.5 ov, C Tremlett 4/26, J Anderson 4/44) by 59 runs with all 2nd innings wickets intact: T4/5, D1/5 at MCG

After as one-sided day as anyone with even a rudimentary grasp of current cricket form could have expected, or as England supporters might have wildly fantasised about, Australia surely can only be saved by the weather from a crushing defeat which will leave the Ashes in England's possession (even though - small comfort- the series could still be drawn 2 all).

Yes, the toss favoured England, but, apart from the first 10 minutes, they made the most of the conditions. Andrew Strauss chose to field on an overcast morning, and from the outset the ball moved around.

Australia's luck ran for the first 10 minutes during which Shane Watson was dropped twice, but after he was c
aught off his gloves for 5, there were few moments when the team looked like getting, let alone holding, the upper hand.

Their quick bowlers Jimmy Anderson , Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan ( who replaced Steve Finn) exploited the English - like conditions magnificently and skittled the home team for 98. Their figures: Tremlett11.5-5-26-4, Anderson 16-4- 44-4, Bresnan 13-6-25-2,
speak for themselves.

None of the Australian top order looked comfortable against them: several were caught playing at balls outside the off stump. Ricky Ponting failed again well caught in the slips - after a slow start, Michael Clarke struggled to the innings top score of 20 while Mike Hussey, as was bound to happen sometime in the series, and Brad Haddin both failed.

I thought that the tailenders should have hit out and, even if it meant a smaller total, got England in before the sun came out. But they didn't, the sun appeared, play was extended to make up for a rain break earlier in the day, and the pitch flattened, making the bowlers' job harder, though Strauss 64*/ 147b (5x4) and Alistair Cook (80*/137b (11x4) played hardly a poor shot between them.

Australia used six bowlers: the four quicks who'd played at Perth (Michael Beer again didn't make the final cut), Watson's medium-fast and Smith's leg spinners. None of them, as the scorecard suggests, really troubled the English openers. Certainly Mitchell Johnson didn't approach anything like his Perth form while none of the others showed many signs of their best. TV graphics showed that the England pace trio were accurate: the Australian quarted tended to spray the ball round a bit more.

So a disastrous day for Australia. Moreover, the hoped for (and hyped for) world record attendance didn't eventuate, even though 84,345 was pretty good given the moderate weather.

Surely Australia can't have another day as bad as (or England another as good as) today....I hope the South Africa - India Test in Durban isn't as one-sided.


Fox Sports report

Monday, December 20, 2010

South Africa do to India what England did to Australia at Adelaide

While the last three matches of the Ashes are being played here the top two ranked world Test teams, South Africa and India, are playing a series in South Africa.

I was expecting a tight contest in the first Test but South Africa did as England did at Adelaide a couple of weeks ago and and trounced their opponents by an innings: 4/620 dec v 136 & 459.

As you'd expect there were some significant performances by the South Africans, notably Jacques Kallis' first ever Test double century, Morne Morkel's 5/20 in India's first innings as well as centuries by Hashim Amla (measured) and A B deVilliers (quickfire). There was also one memorable performance by an Indian amid the wreckage: Sachin Tendulkar's 111*, his 50th in Tests.

Will India be able to effect an Australian style turnaround in the second Test, which begins, as does the fourth Ashes Test (though in different time zones so it will be possible for enthusiasts to watch them in sequence), on Boxing Day? I doubt it. They don't seem to have any ace bowlers up their sleeve.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Harris & Johnson put England out of misery and level series: T3D4

Australia 268 & 309 def England 187 & 123 (37ov. R Harris 6/47, M Johnson 3/44) by 267 runs: T3 D4 at WACA ground, Perth. 5 match series level 1 all.

It didn't take long for Ryan Harris and Mitchell Johnson to scythe through the 5 remaining England wickets, including those of Ian Bell and Matt Prior, and complete a comprehensive victory for Australia over England, one which looked unlikely after the first day.

Johnson was named Man of the Match for his 9 match wickets and team reviving first innings 62, but several others , especially Hussey and Harris in both innings, Shane Watson in the second and Brad Haddin in the first, made vital contributions which papered over the cracks in Australia's batting.

We'll wait to see whether the crack in Ricky Ponting's little finger prevents him from playing in Melbourne. Even though he's not delivered when it matters and age is creeping up on him (the win is a great present for his 36th birhtday today) IMO he is still capable of making runs and moreover is due for some after an unlucky dismissal in the second innings (and he was out to a great catch in the first).

England don't seem to have as many problems, though it's doubtful whether their team structure with only four frontline bowlers will suffice to dismiss Australia twice more for low-to-middling scores
if, as must surely happen, more than two of its top order batters fire.

variable unknown factor will be the MCG wicket. Will it play more like the relatively (pace) bowler friendly Perth than Adelaide or the Gabba, or will it be its own thing? These and other matters will be the subject of much speculation over the next week.

Scorecard .

Saturday, December 18, 2010

England on ropes as batting crumbles after Watson & Hussey set up big target: T3D3

England 187 & 5/81 (27 ov) need 310 more runs with 5 wickets in hand to defeat Australia 268 & 309 (86 ov, M Hussey 116, S Watson 95, C Tremlett 5/87) T3 D3 at WACA ground, Perth.

At the start of play I was hoping that Australia would be able to set England a reasonable target, by lunch hope had become expectation, which the subsequent loss of 6/57 only slightly changed. I didn't even contemplate the prospect of England losing 5 wickets before stumps...I hoped (with fingers crossed) for two or three, but couldn't see the England batting lineup, which in the first two Tests had carried all before it, crumbling on a pitch which while not quite a flat track wasn't a bowler's paradise either.

But it did, and Australia stand on the threshold of a remarkable victory which looked out of the question after Day1 .

Today's heroes were the four quick bowlers, who justified the selectors' decision not to play a specialist spinner, and Mike Hussey and Shane Watson who with their bats fashioned a silk purse out of what could have been a sow's ear.

Watson, perhaps because he hadn't had to bowl in England's first innings, looked on top of his game until, not for the first time, he approached his century when Chris Tremlett had him lbw for 95/174b (11x4). Hussey continued as the England attack, especially Tremlett, regrouped and was last out for a masterly116/172b (11x4). Remember all the calls for his sacking before the series began?

As in they'd done in the first innings, Andrew Strauss and Alistair Cook started well, but they only put on 23 before Ryan Harris broke through. Then it was Mitchell Johnson's turn , then Ben Hilfenhaus' (Kevin Pietersen a well deserved wicket caught at slip for 3), then Johnson and Harris each had a second bite of the cherry as the lineup which recovered from a poor start at the Gabba to look invincible at Adelaide fell apart.

The series has been re-ignited. The last rites of this match should be completed early tomorrow.


Fox Sports report

Friday, December 17, 2010

Johnson's 6/38 revives Australia's fortunes: T3D2

Australia 268 & 3/119 (33ov, S Watson 61*) lead England 187 (62.3 ov, I Bell 53, A Strauss 52, M Johnson 6/38) by 200 runs with 7 2nd innings wkts in hand: T3D2 at WACA ground, Perth.

A fascinating day's cricket began with Alistair Cook and Andrew Strauss continuing from where they'd left off on D1, before Mitchell Johnson ripped through the England top order (much as England has done to Australia this series) to give the home team an unexpected 81 run first innings lead, which it then tenuously bonuilt upon.

An early incident, where Strauss snicked a ball in the air between the keeper and first slip, neither of whom did much to intercept it, seemed to presage another day's struggle for the home team. But at 78, when Johnson had Cook caught in the gully, the match began to change course sharply.

Johnson moved the ball, dismissing (with the aid of some umpire decision reviews) Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood lbw for a total of 9 runs. Ryan Harris chipped in with Strauss' wicket, caught behind for 52/102b (8x4). At lunch England were at 5/119: a situation more familiar to Australia of late.

But there was no Australian style revival. Ian Bell fought pugnaciously for 53/90b (6x4) but he didn't get much support as the four Australian quicks kept the pressure on (only Ben Hilfenhaus, who Johnson singled out for special praise for supporting him, went wicketless ) and worked their way through the lower order.

Australia wobbled again in its second innings, losing Phil Hughes, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke cheaply before Mike Hussey and Shane Watson added 55 to leave the match, with the pitch still playing pretty true, fairly evenly poised.

But it was Johnson's day, as 17.3 - 5 - 38 - 6 attests. Yet he would have mixed memories of another occasion at Perth when his great bowling didn't produce an Australian win.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Another Ashes Test, another Australian collapse: T3D1

England 0/29 (12 ov) trail Australia 268 (76ov, M Johnson 62, M Hussey 61, B Haddin 53) by 239 runs on 1st innings: T3/5 D1/5 at WACA Ground, Perth.

The Third Test began in much the same way as the Second, with an Australian batting collapse against tenacious bowling supported by high quality fielding, followed by a revival of sorts, though not enough to deny England the upper hand at stumps.

But there were some significant differences, notably (1) Andrew Strauss won the toss (2) he sent Australia in. and (3) Australia selected four specialist quick bowlers. Obviously both captains (Ricky Ponting said that he'd have done the same to England if he'd won) felt that, unlike Adelaide, the wicket favoured the bowlers.

As it did, though a generous measure of assistance from several upper order Australian batsmen including the out-of-sorts captain and vice captain contributed to a shaky 5/69 shortly after lunch as the England attack, with Tim Tremlett stepping effectively into the role of the injured Stuart Broad, kept things on a pretty tight leash.

Fortunately for Australia Mike Hussey and Brad Haddin yet again staunched the bleeding (a little) as the pitch eased under the Perth sun, adding 68 for the 6th wkt before Hussey fell (via review of the umpire's not out decision) for a combative yet, because he didn't go on with it, disappointing 61/139b (1x6, 9x4). Haddin went on to make 53/80b (1x6, 6x4), some of it with Mitchell Johnson whose 62/93b (1x6, 8x4)
showed a welcome return to batting form, while Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus biffed some late runs which, welcome as they were, couldn't conceal that Australia's performance, to return to the comparisons with the second Test, put England well on the road to victory.

This impression was not dispelled during England's12 overs at the crease late in the day when Strauss and Alistair Cook batted more or less comfortably (apart from a sharp chance offered by the captain) against some honest Australian pace bowling.

Where the next 10, let alone 20, wickets will come from is hard to tell. There are other issues, such as Ponting's form. which will also be discussed at great length in the coming days.


Fox Sports
report with link to video highlights.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Two interesting historical cricket films

These have recently come to my notice.

1. The earliest surviving film of a Test in Australia

Australia v South Africa SCG 1910

Extract from National Film & Sound Archive notes

It was screened to Australian audiences in December 1910. Filmed at the Sydney Cricket Ground, this is the earliest known surviving Test match action filmed on Australian soil and the first time Australia was playing a test match on home soil against a nation other than England. What a ball however it would be!

Following the opening orange-tinted intertitle of the newsreel, the first scene captures the South African players in good spirits as they prepare for a team photograph. Long before the days of clothing sponsorships and multi-coloured team outfits, two non-selected players can be seen resplendent in their suited civilian attire. Amusingly, and in a far cry from the professional fitness routines of today’s elite athletes, four of the visiting team can be seen happily smoking away on cigarettes and pipes!

Captained by wicketkeeper Percy Sherwell (seen sitting right of the vacant chair in the middle row), the squad included such notable players as batsman Dave Nourse (father of future champion batsmen Dudley Nourse) and all-rounders Jimmy Sinclair and Aubrey Faulkner. The film then switches to the opening day’s play of the First Test on 9 December 1910. Both pieces of footage are the earliest known surviving recordings of test match action filmed on Australian soil and the first time Australia was playing a test match on home soil against a nation other than England.

Facing the bowling of Springbok paceman Jimmy Sinclair, Australian opening batsman Warren Bardsley drives his shot to the left of Charlie Llewellyn stationed at point (just out of frame). With opening partner and fellow New South Welshman Victor Trumper at the non-striker’s end, the pair set off immediately for a dangerous single. Found just short of his ground by a superb direct hit from the left arm of Llewellyn, Trumper’s desperation causes him to drops his bat, slipping over as he pulls up. Cutting short a promising 27 quickly compiled runs from only 38 deliveries, Trumper walked from the ground, never to know the significance of the moment to Australian sporting film history. Disappointment from the 9000 spectators in attendance would however be short-lived. Australia’s end of day total of 494 runs for the loss of six wickets became the new record for the most number of runs scored on the opening day of a test match in Australian cricket history – a record that remains unbroken 100 years on.

This film fragment remains the only known surviving footage of Victor Trumper at the crease spanning the master batsman’s two decade, 255 game first class career, and one of only two surviving films of him with a bat in his hands. It is also believed to be the earliest known film of a South African test team in action. Considered the greatest batsman of his era, the filmed run-out would prove a rare failure in a series Trumper would go on to dominate. Scoring two hundreds and two half centuries in his remaining eight innings of the series, Trumper easily topped the team batting averages with the Bradman-esque figure of 94.42. Achieving his highest test score of 214 not out in the 3rd Test in Adelaide, this series was the pinnacle of Trumper’s test cricket career. In June 1915, less than five years after this film was taken, a nation would mourn his passing at 37 from Bright’s disease. In another morbidly curious piece of trivia, Jimmy Sinclair, the South African bowler in the film, would die mysteriously only 14 months later in Johannesburg, aged 36. Fieldsman Charlie Llewellyn would controversially come to be known as the first (and only) non-white South African test cricketer for the next 82 years until the prison release of Nelson Mandela and the removal of the racially divisive Apartheid legislation. Seventy years after his untimely passing, Trumper would be one of the inaugural members inducted into The Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985.

2. English 1948 doco re cricket inc footage of Eng v Aus at Lord's (with Bradman tossing without wearing blazer and many other interesting scenes).

This one runs for about 17 mins.

Cricket (1948) from British Council Film Archive on Vimeo.

Extract from British Council accompanying notes

.., filmed in 1948, ... demonstrates the traditional rules of the game and how to perform certain bowling actions.

Following that year's 4-0 hammering by Australia in the Ashes series, the narrator tries to reassure the public by saying: "Victory is the least that men play cricket for.

"They play it for a host of reasons, ill-defined and hard to seek. On school ground, on city streets, on village green, they play on. For the urge wells deep from quiet places in men and in the land they spring from."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Australia selects several knowns and one unknown for T3

I'll let everyone else make a pun or other smart comment out of Michael Beer's selection in the 12 for the Third Test in Perth.

The fact is he's new to first class cricket, having made his debut this season for Western Australia (after some years playing for Shane Warne's club St Kilda in Melbourne district cricket). His record is modest: 16 f-c wickets at a tad under 40 apiece so far. He appears to have Warne's blessing, but it's hard to see what up to date first hand information the great man has about him.

Of course he may not make the final eleven: Australia could play four quicks (Harris, Siddle, Hilfenhaus and Johnson) and use Steven Smith, Marcus North's replacement, as the principal (sole?) spinner. Whichever way the selectors go it's hard to see Australia doing any worse with the ball than in Adelaide, but it's also hard to see them doing much better.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

England complete drubbing before drenching rain arrives: T2D5

England 5 /620 dec def Australia 245 & 304 (99.1 ov, M Clarke 80, S Watson 57, M Hussey 52, G Swann 5-91) by an innings and 71 runs: T2 D5 at Adelaide Oval. England lead 5 match series 1-0 .
Player of the match: Kevin Pietersen.

This morning England wrapped up, sooner than most Australian supporters hoped, a victory which had looked pretty much inevitable since the first 15 minutes of the match. Congratulations to them. They played like Australian teams of old (actually not that long ago).

On the last morning they focused on the realities of the situation on the ground, not worrying about the weather. It turned out that the weather wouldn't have saved this abysmal Australian performance as the forecast thunderstorms (with tropical strength precipitation) arrived an hour or so later than expected, bringing some relief from the 30+ degree temperatures (and, on the last 3 days, high humidity ) which had prevailed for the duration of the match.

At 261 Mike Hussey mistimed a pull shot off Steven Finn and was caught at midwicket, leaving Brad Haddin and Marcus North as Austrsalia's last realistic hopes. But neither of them lasted long as Graeme Swann persisted and Jimmy Anderson struck in consecutive balls as the last 6 wickets yielded but 43 runs. Thus the match ended as it had begun, with an Australian batting collapse.

Swann's 5/91 from 41.4 overs was a tribute to both his quality and his stamina, Finn's nip was impressive, Anderson had some good moments intermingled with some wayward ones, while of course Pietersen took that crucial Michael Clarke wicket late yesterday. Only Stuart Broad of the frontline bowlers missed out, partly because he's been injured and will miss the rest of the series. England should have little trouble replacing him from their reserves. Would that Australia could say the same about the changes they must surely have to make to their team.


Fox Sports report and video highlights.

Monday, December 06, 2010

227 runs + 1 ball confirm Pietersen as Player of the Match: T2D4

Australia 245 & 4/238 (79.2 ov, M Clarke 80, S Watson 57) trail England 5/620 dec (152 ov, K Pietersen 227, A Cook 146, I Bell 68*) by 137 runs with 6 second inns wickets in hand.

England batted on this morning and declared with a lead of 375. Kevin Pietersen continued as he'd batted the day before and was eventually dismissed by the hapless Xavier Doherty for 227/308b (1x6, 33x4). This was an innings of tremendous class.

Australia's second innings started reasonably well despite Simon Katich's achilles heel problem which restricted his running between the wickets. 0/78 at lunch and a forecast of rain gave Australian supporters hope that a draw might not be out of the question.

But no. Graeme Swann struck twice, getting Katich caught behind for a valiant 43/85b (6x4) and Ricky Ponting, who'd started assertively, taken well at slip by Paul Collingwood. 2/98.

Michael Clarke joined Shane Watson and looked relatively comfortable, even though Swann was turning the ball. But it was Watson who fell for another score - 57/141b (10x4)- which, worthy though it was, disappointed because it seemed, yet again, that he'd laid the foundation of a much larger one.

Mike Hussey also looked solid when he joined Clarke. The forecast rain came in the form of a brief downpour which, unlike the previous day, didn't stop play for the day.

The players came back and the lights came on. Andrew Strauss opted, wisely given the deteriorating light, not to use his quicker bowlers (the new ball was available for one over) but turned to Kevin Pietersen. This proved to be a masterstroke as Pietersen had Clarke caught at short leg off the second ball of his second over.

Clarke's 80/139b (11x4) was his best innings for some time (he'd struggled in India and in this series so far). He first walked then, seeing that the umpire hadn't actually given him out, waited for the England players to obtain a review which confirmed his own initial reaction. Until then it seemed Australia had a fair to middling chance of saving the match. That may still happen, but it will require substantial interference from the weather, which, most unusually for Adelaide at this time of the year, may actually happen if the forecast isn't too wde of the mark.

But England deserve to win.


Fox Sports video highlights.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Rain falls on England's (and Pietersen's parade: T2D3

England 551/4 (143.0 ov, K Pietersen 213*, A Cook 148, J Trott 78) ) lead Australia 245 by 306 runs with 6 1st innings wickets in hand:L T2/5, D3/5 Adelaide Oval

Kevin Pietersen is batting extremely well, Alistair Cook was eventually dismissed for 148/269b (18x4), Ian Bell looks well set, while Paul Collingwood's 42 in the context of the England innings constitutes a failure: these were the highlights of a rain shortened day where only 54 overs were bowled but England barrelled ahead to add 2/234.

Australia is demoralised: the bowling , Ryan Harris excepted, has been inept, the fielding has been well below Test, let along Australian Test, standard, while Ricky Ponting's field placings haven't borne a sufficiently close relationship to the capabilities of the attack.

But all praise to Pietersen, who continued in Saturday's vein advancing powerfully from 85 to 213*/296b (1x6, 31x4). He played as he's done in many of his recent innings but on this occasion hasn't got out in the 30s or 40s. Great batting, even allowing for the shortcomings of the bowling and the flatness of the Adelaide Oval wicket.

Should England declare at their overnight score? In normal circumstances I'd say they should bat on to 600 or so, but they do if the rain forecast for the last two days may rob them of what would be a well-merited victory.


Fox Sports video highlights.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

A century to Cook and a century in the shade as England press ahead: T2 D2

England 2/317 (89 ov , A Cook 126*, K Pietersen 85*, J Trott 78) lead Australia 245 by 72 runs with 8 first inns wickets in hand: T2/5 D2/5 at Adelaide Oval.

It was, notwithstanding the false dawn of Andrew Strauss being bowled in the first over, unquestionably England's day.

On a flat track Alistair Cook batted through a day where the temperature reached 38deg C (100 deg F) to reach 136*/246b (17x4). Jonathan Trott rode his luck, notably being dropped in the gully when he was 10, and settled down to add 174 with Cook before he was out for 78/144b (11x4). Kevin Pietersen then played an imperious innings in which he showed that reports of his vulnerability to slow left arm bowling are exaggerated. By stumps he'd made 85*/141b (13x4) of 141 as England continued their march towards victory.

Cook batted extremely well, playing few false strokes (one of which resulted in the umpire's caught behind decision being overturned) and, by my reckoning, missing even fewer balls. He looked especially good square of the wicket on both sides. In short, a class player.

Australia looked pretty ordinary, not least in the field where a couple of chances were put down and a run out missed (from side on, but why wasn't anyone up at the bowler's end stumps to take it?) Of the bowlers Ryan Harris, with his extra pace looked the best, while Xavier Doherty's inexperience was exposed.

Scorecard .

Fox Sports video highlights.

Friday, December 03, 2010

England's match for the taking, and after only one day: T2D1

England 0/1 (1 ov) trail Australia 245 (85.5 ov, M Hussey 93, B Haddin 56, S Watson 51, J Anderson 4/51) by 244 runs: T2D1 at Adelaide Oval.

England are in a dominant position after only one day of the Second Test. Their bowling, fielding and general teamwork have squashed Australia's attempts at revival after a disastrous start.

Yes, 245 is much better than 3/2 (see photo on left and note names) but it's a poor total on a wicket which is playing well and on a hot day (almost 35 deg) which might have seen the four pronged English attack wilt. But it didn't: Jimmy Anderson bowled magnificently and was well supported by Graeme Swann (29 overs for 70 runs), Stuart Broad and, after a loose start, Steve Finn.

The first few minutes were bizarre, almost surreal. In the first over Simon Katich was run out by a direct hit from Jonathan Trott at forward square leg before he'd faced a ball. Then Ricky Ponting was well caught in the slips by Graeme Swann from the first ball he faced. Michael Clarke didn't last long and became Jimmy Anderson's (and Swann's) second victim, at which point one wondered (feared?) how low Australia's total would be.

3/2 almost became 4/12 when Anderson missed a hard return catch from Mike Hussey, who then built a partnrship with Shane Watson which took the score to 96 at lunch without further loss.

Alas, Watson fell immediately after the interval for a pugnacious 51/94b (1x6, 7x4), Marcus North got off the mark and then played some good strokes in support of Hussey but just as he seemed to be well set, and not long before tea, he played a causal shot to Finn and was caught behind.

Enter Brad Haddin, who put his head down and supported Hussey, taking the score to 5/159 at tea after a gritty afternoon session saw only 65 runs added from 30 overs. The pair continued in their Gabba vein so it was a surprise when Hussey, who'd looked set for a century was caught at slip off the persistent Swann for an estimable 93/183b (8x4), triggering another,though not unexpected given the reputations and records of numbers 8, 9, 10 and 11, collapse . Ryan Harris was adjudged lbw off the next ball (the second "golden duck" of the innings), and none of the others lasted long apart from Haddin who hit out and was last out for 56/95b (1x6, 3x4), leaving England an over to face, something they and almost everyone else wouldn't have predicted before the first ball was bowled.

Tomorrow England should be able to take a comfortable first innings lead. First innings scores of 500+ have been common in recent Adelaide Tests, so if England manage a lead of, say, 250 Australia will be praying that the rain which is forecast for the last few days of the match falls in sufficient quantities to help it, together with some more resolute second innings batting, to a draw.


Fox Sports report with video highlights

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The struggle continues...

The Second Test starts tomorrow here in Adelaide. There's been some rain this week, and more is forecast later in the match, but it may, if recent precipitation is any guide, take the form of thundery showers ie heavy, brief and local. Whether this means that one side will gain an advantage from the conditions, and whether any such advantage is sufficient to help them achieve a victory, remains to be seen.

England will almost certainly take the field with a settled team, that which played in the First Test (and in two preliminary matches).

Australia will make at least one change: we've been told that Mitchell Johnson will not be playing though he will remain - why I'm not sure - with the squad. Two (probably the first two) of Doug Bollinger, Ryan Harris and Ben Hilfenhaus will join Peter Siddle in the pace attack. After what happened in the second half of the First Test it's hard to conceive that this revamp could be anything other than an improvement, though will it be enough to win the match? Or draw it?

I'm not suggesting that Australia (or England for that matter) will set out to play for a draw (does any team ever?) but I wouldn't be surprised if the match turned out that way. The new curator (groundsman) has claimed that his Adelaide Oval wicket will change in character, from batsman to more bowler friendly, over the five days, but it's hard to envisage anything like a repeat of the 2006 match where 13 wickets (9 of them English) fell on day 5, after only 17 had fallen on the preceding four days. If it does it's more likely to be England who emerge as victors, but I wouldn't put money on them. As Brisbane showed,each team's batting is stronger than its bowling.