Not so Keane
Being a Pom and a Liverpool supporter, we’ve always likened the Australian cricket team to Manchester United. But even we wouldn’t expect to have seen Ricky Ponting doing a passable impersonation of Roy Keane when he led a posse of players in haranguing and chasing referee Andy D’Urso in a Premier League match against Middlesborough in 2000. Ponting was furious when a review to give Pietersen not out to a caught behind was correctly upheld by the video umpire. His subsequent gesticulations and animated debate with Aleem Dar may not have been as bad as Keane’s antics, but they have no place in cricket – even if it was a case of a frustrated captain who knows that the writing is on the wall as far as regaining the Ashes are concerned.
Form is temporary…
When you are out of form with the bat, judgement can be impaired and a large slice of fortune may be required to get you firing on all cylinders again. Both of these facets were on display at the MCG today. After seemingly getting his innings started with an edged four through the slip cordon, Paul Collingwood unwisely decided to hook a long hop from Mitchell Johnson straight down the throat of fine-leg. When Ian Bell followed in similar fashion soon after, it brought the out of touch Matt Prior to the crease. England’s keeper proceeded to enjoy more luck than your average lottery winner with top edges and skied hooks falling out of reach of the fielders. Then Prior’s jackpot arrived when umpire Dar asked for the review after Prior had edged Johnson behind – and sure enough Johnson had stepped over the line. With this many breaks, Prior was bound to get some runs and that is exactly what he did.
…class is permanent
When Pietersen arrived at the crease to join Trott, Australia sensed a chance to get back into the game. Would the Pietersen of Perth or Adelaide turn up? Fortunately for England it was the latter, as KP played a watchful innings sprinkled with a series of classy straight drives and a couple of brutal boundaries off Steve Smith. He added 92 with Trott to put England back in the box seat and having just reached his 50, looked set for a big one before getting caught in front to one from Siddle that kept low. The plaudits for the day will rightly go to Trott, but Pietersen looks back to his best on this showing.
…and Trott is relentless
Perhaps Ponting’s ire with the umpires came about because of the sheer frustration of trying to get Trott’s wicket. Having made that dream debut at the Oval in the Ashes decider of 2009, England’s number three has continued to make waves in test cricket. His only real problem today was when on 72 an inside edge cannoned onto his right knee and sent him to the canvas. For a while, Trott looked in trouble and Bell was even ready to come on as a runner, but he soon recovered his composure and continued in that serene and relentless fashion we are all becoming very accustomed to.
Siddle walks the walk
Peter Siddle certainly talked the talk in the run-up to this Test, but to be fair he really put his money where his mouth is today. After inducing an edge from Alastair Cook in just the fifth over of the day, he surprised Andrew Strauss with a lifter soon after as Australia made life difficult for England in the first hour. Whilst his side’s fightback petered out, Siddle kept going and picked up Pietersen in the second session as well as two excellent catches from injudicious hooks by Collingwood and Bell.
Player of the day
Australia must be sick of the sight of Jonathan Trott, who now has three hundreds in just five tests against them. Given the amount of conferences between the bowlers and Ponting, they still haven’t worked out how to bowl to him. Trott’s test average now stands at a touch under a remarkable 63 from 17 Tests – second only to a certain Don Bradman and against Australia it is even better – a staggering 104.5. Not bad for someone whom Mickey Arthur once said wasn’t good enough to get into South Africa’s side.
Zero of the day
Shane Watson’s wayward over first up after the lunch break would normally have won the day, but it has to be Ricky Ponting for his prolonged haranguing of Dar. He may have been frustrated and he probably knows that the Ashes and maybe his captaincy are slipping away, but this level of disent is inexcusable. And it’s not as if it is the first time either…
What happens next?
Can Trott get England’s third double hundred of the series and Prior their seventh three figure score? Those are the two sideshows before England declare and try and take the ten wickets they need to retain the Ashes. A second innings defeat in the series beckons for Australia.
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