As I’ve been such a good boy this year, please can you let me win the toss on a typical greenish English seamer. Can our bowlers consistently put the ball on a testing full length. Please can the opposition batsmen play a series of loose and airy shots outside off-stump to give the keeper and slips catching practice. Please can the opposition pick an all-seam attack and Gabba Johnson and not WACA Johnson turns up. Please can Cooky and I surpass Australia’s total on our own and be no wickets down by the close. Finally, can I record my 6,000th test match run to put the icing on what would be a very sumptuous Christmas Cake. There’s some mince pies and Delamain brandy for you and some straw for the reindeer by the door. Many thanks, Captain A.J Strauss.
Third time lucky
Shane Watson certainly has the capacity to annoy. He has niggled England since coming in to open the innings at Edgbaston in 2009 and prior to Perth had scored between 34 and 62 in each of his nine Ashes innings. At the WACA he could only manage 13 in this 1st innings, but then bounced back with 95 second time around. So when England dropped him twice this morning, the decision to bowl first could have backfired badly on Strauss. But thankfully, Chris Tremlett produced a beautiful rising delivery that caught Watson’s glove and looped to Kevin Pietersen at gully -England were off and running – albeit belatedly.
One of the reasons attributed to why England left Steven Finn out of their XI here was that despite his 14 wickets in the series, he had gone at over four runs an over. Certainly, the pressure that England’s bowlers exerted today with 16 maidens out of the 42.5 that they bowled indirectly led to a number of the wickets that fell. Given that Finn’s replacement Tim Bresnan bowled six of them – and got two wickets to boot – the selectors tough call has been vindicated so far.
A Tale of Two Pitches?
In the run-up to this Test, most of the talk has been about the late switch in pitch. Well, today it looked like each team was batting on a different wicket. When the Australians were batting, the ball was nipping around and the batsmen looked hesitant in their strokeplay. Then when England batted the ball went gunbarrel straight and Strauss and Cook looked completely untroubled and left expertly. The natural state of order seems to have been restored in the series after what would appear to now be a blip for England at the WACA.
Cook steals a march on Hussey
One of the quirks of this series, has been that the batsman on each side most under pressure at the outset have turned out to be the two most prolific batsmen. Hussey edged ahead of Cook at Perth, but his first failure in the series came at just the wrong time for Australia – only two balls before rain brought about a premature lunch break. Cook, on the other hand, left the ball beautifully and by the close had moved within sight of his third ton of the series. He is now back at head of the table of leading run scorers in the series with 575. How many more can he add tomorrow?
Player of the day
All the England seamers deserve high praise, but James Anderson just pips Tremlett and Bresnan for this honour. He bowled beautifully in his first spell but saw Watson dropped twice. Then with the second ball of his second spell he got the key man Mike Hussey and followed it up with the wickets of Smith, Clarke and Johnson – all caught by Prior. Anderson arrived in Australia with many doubting whether he could be effective on the pitches here, but he now has 16 wickets at 26.68 and is the leading wicket taker in the series.
Zero of the day
It’s difficult to pick out one of Australia’s top six, because all of them looked poor today. But Phillip Hughes‘ dismissal was particularly dismal given that he had been at the crease for nearly an hour and had seemingly done the hard work until he slashed wildly at Bresnan to get caught in the gully. One wonders if someone if Hughes’ technique – what there is of it – can ever be a long term success in test cricket.
What happens next?
Is the game over already? If England bat well on day two it surely is as Graeme Swann would then be able to wreak havoc in Australia’s 2nd innings. Just as in 1986, barring a minor miracle, England look set to retain the Ashes in Melbourne.
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