What an amazing game test cricket is. The ebbs and flows are just astounding. As I laid my head to rest late in the Australian night, Shane Warne and Nasser Hussain were looking forward to the next test, chatting about the likely changes to the Australian team. At that point the Aussies were 5 for 150odd, and were hurtling toward a very rare Ashes loss at Lords.
Imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning and saw Australia at 5/313, and now back in the driving seat in this match. This wasn’t the new Australia I was reading about…sure maybe back in the days of Steve Waugh (that master of batting with the bowlers) this comeback may not have surprised me, but Clarke and Haddin seemed the most unlikely of heroes in this position. The two of them have batted together a hell of a lot over the years. Both are from NSW, and have played heaps of limited overs and domestic cricket together. Interestingly enough one of the commentators last night did refer to Pietersen and Collingwood and their comfort in batting with each other. Perhaps more than any other duo in the Aussie team, this is the case with Haddin and Clarke.
Early in the day England were dominant. They got a few lucky umpiring decisions, but all of these even up in the wash (though Strauss’ catch to dismiss Hughes was very suspect). I think that umpiring decisions tend to go with the side that has the momentum, and England surely had that. Freddie ripped through both openers, before a fight back from Ponting and Hussey. Stuart Broad came through and dismissed Ponting, before Swann accounted for Hussey and then North not long after. The ball to dismiss North was a beauty, holding its line from a spot that others had turned square. And yet, all this hard work may prove to no avail. It seemed certain that Australia were down and out, but with only 209 to score in an entire day, and with two batsmen more than set…gee…it’s a close thing.
I have to mention that Strauss’ fielding positions when England was firing were just ridiculous. Surely the main skill of a captain is to recognise when his bowlers are up and about, and nothing could have been more the case during Flintoff’s fiery spell in the second session. He had Clarke and Haddin, then new at the case, jumping, yelping and nicking. However, Strauss just didn’t back up his talisman. Edges flew into vacant 3rd slip, gloved balls dropped right where a short-leg, or leg gully, would be, and as a result Flintoff’s head began to drop. Surely with a lead of such epic proportions at that stage, and with his team firing, Strauss should have gone for the kill. This lack of gumption when the iron was hot may prove to be the difference between a historic win and Lords, or the most embarrassing of defeats.
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