Balance tips to Australia as Hussey exits the Last Chance Saloon
We’ve written recently that Michael Hussey looked shot as a test batsman. Now that we’ve wiped the egg off our face – and in our defence he only averaged 34 in his previous 28 tests – we have to commend him on a courageous innings. Make no mistake when Hussey came to the crease he was playing for his career and when an edge dropped just short of slip to the first ball he faced, the butterflies in his stomach must have been fluttering harder. But he made most of his good fortune and bravely attacked rather than going into his shell – hitting Swann for three boundaries and a six early in his innings and being especially quick onto the pull when the bowlers dropped short. Hussey’s positivity balanced well with an uncharacteristically patient innings from Brad Haddin as Australia recovered from a precarious 143/5 to close just 40 runs behind England’s 260.
A good two days for the Australian selectors
Australia’s selectors took a lot of flak when first naming a 17 man squad for this test and then for a number of contentious selections in the final XI. But Peter Siddle and Xavier Doherty repaid the faith of Chappell, Hilditch and co yesterday and Hussey did the same today. If Marcus North had done the same then the selectors would have had a full house, but three out of four isn’t bad.
Australia’s strategy against Graeme Swann is clear – they intend to attack him and hit him out of the attack. At first, the tactics were a success as the spinner’s first four overs cost 34 runs. But Swann is nothing if not tough and even if it wasn’t one of his better days he fought back well to have North caught at slip and concede just 25 runs from his next 16 overs.
Swann’s refusal to buckle was mirrored by that of his team mates. Previous England teams would have given up the ghost after being bowled out for 260 and then seeing Australia reach 78/0. But Strauss and Flower have created a culture of resilience and with all the seamers bowling well to restrict Australia to a run rate of less than three runs an over, England fought their way back into the match. Australia have the slight edge, but with a new ball available immediately tomorrow morning and his bowlers refreshed from a night’s sleep, Strauss will be confident that they can bounce back again.
Anderson and Watson go toe to toe
The battle in the first session of the day between Anderson and Watson was Test Cricket at its best with some real needle and genuine mutual animosity going on between the pair – indeed it seems clear that Watson is not popular amongst the England players: hmm we wonder why? At first the Australian held the upper hand and was batting well. He looked particularly smug when England’s spurious referral to the third umpire for a leg before that was bouncing over was refused. But maybe it unsettled Watson as he edged the very next ball to Strauss at slip to give Anderson the last laugh this time.
Finn’s spectacular dive
Steve Finn’s inability to stay on his feet has caused much amusement during his short test career. But he used it to good effect to take a sharp full length diving caught and bowled to dismiss Simon Katich. For once, it was Finn that was laughing as he got to his feet. It was a dive of which Cristiano Ronaldo himself would have been proud.
Player of the day
It has to be Hussey for his career saving innings, even if England were guilty of dropping it short to him too often.
Zero of the day
A close call between Ricky Ponting for getting caught down the leg side just after lunch and Michael Clarke for his strange innings of 9 from 50 balls. We go for Clarke.
What happens next?
Tomorrow is boiling up to be the crucial one in the match. If Australia can see-off the new ball then they should be able to carve out a potentially decisive 100-150 run lead. However, if England make early in-roads we are likely to be down to a one innings match.
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