Off with their heads?
Ricky Ponting’s reign as Australian captain is starting to presage the last days of Louis XVI of France. Revolution is nigh with the likes of Steve Waugh promoting Tim Paine as a young, fresh captain to lead the rebuilding effort. After his temper tantrum of yesterday, Ponting was desperate to finally make his mark on the series with the bat. Alas it was not to be and after struggling to 20 off 73 balls, Ponting got a fatal inside edge to precipitate the dreaded death rattle. Ponting’s nominated heir Michael Clarke fared little better with Graeme Swann inducing an edge to second slip after another scratchy innings from the vice-captain. Australia needed Ponting and Clarke to come to the party this series and both have failed dismally – Ponting has 113 runs at 16 and Clarke 148 at 21. Louis lost his head at the guillotine – will Ponting and Clarke be decpitated leaders too?
Not bad for a fat lad
When we completed our England Ashes Squad – Player Profilesbefore the series, we suggested that the selection of Tim Bresnan could be explained as thus: “When a group of Englishmen go abroad, there is normally one fat lad in their number…even if he won’t see much action” We’re always happy to be proved wrong and after playing a miserly support role in the 1st innings, the larger than life Yorkshireman was the main attraction today getting Watson, Ponting and Hussey in the space of 18 balls. Bresnan has bowled surprisingly well in this Test – being parsimonious, accurate and quick in equal measure – and fully justifying his selection ahead of Steve Finn. Not bad for a fat lad, indeed.
The Incredible Sulk
If an Australian batsmen needs a runner, it’s safe to assume that Shane Watson won’t be top of the list. As at Adelaide, when a furious Simon Katich was left stranded by an optimistic call, so Phillip Hughes was sold short by the self-obsessed Watson here in Melbourne. He then compounded his mistake by inexplicably leaving a straight one from Bresnan to be trapped in front – once again failing to convert a 50 into three figures. The body language on both occasions from the sulky Watson was absolutely dreadful and it was a surprise that he didn’t try and take the stumps with him and burst into tears as he slouched off the ground.
Joy, despair and relief
Cricket is a game of vastly varying emotions and this was epitomised in the contrasting fortunes today of Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris and Ben Hilfenhaus. There was joy for Siddle as he took a much deserved second six for of the series on his home ground. But for Harris there was only despair as his injury curse came back to haunt him, pulling up lame in his fourth over of the day due to what was later revealed to be a stress fracture in his left foot. Whilst for Hilfenhaus there was just relief after he doubled his wicket tally for the series to four in a ten minute spell that saw him account for Swann and Tremlett – relief for us at the Reverse Sweep too as we had Hilfenhaus down as the leading wicket taker in the series. Oh dear! – see Australia Ashes Squad: Player Profiles.
Second to Bradman
Jonathan Trott may have been left high and dry on 168 by England’s late order collapse in the first session of the day, but his disappointment at not being able to complete a double hundred may have been lessened statistically at least by his not out. Of those batsmen who have completed 20 or more test innings, Trott now stands second on the list – behind some bloke called Bradman – with an average of exactly 64 – see full list.
Player of the day
All the England bowlers performed well, but it was Tim Bresnan who played the starring role with three quickfire wickets after tea – any thoughts of a miraculous Australian escape went with it.
Zero of the day
He may have scored a fifty, but for running out his opening partner and then causing a mini-collapse with his ridiculous leave, Shane Watson takes the honours here. If he has any pretensions of being a future captain (and Australians must spit into their tasteless beer at the propsect of that) then he has to improve his body language tenfold.
What happens next?
What else? England to retain the Ashes some time either side of lunch tomorrow. Arise Sir Andrew of Strauss – who seems set to join an exclusive club of Middlesex players to captain England to Ashes success in Australia. If the inevitable happens, Strauss will follow in the footsteps of Pelham Warner, Mike Brearley and Mike Gatting.
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