Ashes 3rd Test, England vs Australia Day 4

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Australia 263 and 88 for 2 (Watson 34*, Hussey 18*) trail England 376 (Strauss 69, Bell 53, Flintoff 74, Broad 55, Hilfenhaus 4-109) by 25 runs

flintoff_shotAs we look forward to Day 5 of the third test, there seems little doubt that the result will have to be a draw. What an unfortunate situation, as this pitch has for once provided a really fair chance for the bowlers. With all the pitches that are tailor-made for batsmen these days, it is great to be reminded of just how exciting a seaming, swinging deck is.

That said, I don’t imagine that England were particularly enjoying proceedings early on Day 4 as they lost Strauss, Collingwood and Bell all within about 20 runs. It was an impressive opening spell from predominantly Hilfenhaus, but also Mitch Johnson. There were certainly some signs that his radar, and his self-belief are coming back. At times he was unplayable, and he hit the body of the batsmen on numerous occasions.

However, as they must surely be saying over in England, cometh the moment, cometh the Freddie; and boy did he deliver. Flintoff (74) and Prior (41) put on a blistering display of calculated attacking batting, which was great to watch. A part of this was perhaps the most uninspiring spell of bowling for Australia’s late inclusion Shane Watson. At one point the usually reserved Michael Atherton referred to his bowling as ‘utter rubbish’, and I felt the former England captain was being kind. Watson just wasn’t up to it.

As he tends to do, Prior found a way of getting himself out to an unusually wayward Pete Siddle, but that brought Stuart Broad to the crease who made an impressive 55. Broad must surely realise that if it wasn’t for his batting, he would be playing county cricket at the moment, as his bowling is really challenging Shane Watson for its lack of quality. After Freddie was removed he and Graeme Swann pushed England’s lead above 100, which insures that they really can’t be beaten in this game.

Australia on the other hand CAN lose. The wicket of Ponting was absolutely crucial, as well as Katich who is one of the Aussies who can stick around, particularly if they are just playing for a draw. Much will rely on Mr. Cricket, Mike Hussey. His form has been poor, but if there were ever a player to stick around and ground out a draw, it would be him.

The draw is odds-on, but I’m sure the English will dare to dream.

Lets look at some live blogging from the game. . .

The morning session commences an hour later than it should and Australia get the ball to swing. Hilfenhaus impeccable as ever, moves it a long way. Johnson actually looks good.

Bell has another plumb looking lbw, given not out once more. Hawkeye shows the ball going over the top. But to the naked eye and Shane Warne it looked out, just like Mitchell Johnson’s on day 2. Warney remarks Hawkeye has got it wrong, and Greg Matthews agrees. Siddle looks even more angry than normal.

Hilfenhaus dismisses Strauss, a ball that got big on him jammed him for room. Strauss tried to force the issue with a cut shot but in the end it was a very soft dismissal as the ball flied through to the slips.

Strauss   c †Manou b Hilfenhaus 69

After a flurry of boundaries from Collingwood, he flashes outside the off stump to give Hilfenhaus his second wicket of the day with an easy catch to second slip. In the process he becomes the leading wicket taker in the series. What a blow, right before lunch. Who would have thought he would be the most feared of the Australian bowlers at this stage?

Collingwood  c Ponting b Hilfenhaus 13

Afternoon session:

Johnson traps Bell on the crease, the shermanator does not have a third life as Coertzen cannot say no to this one. Bell needs to stop planting that front foot as he looks a prime lbw candidate.

Bell lbw b Johnson 53

In a bizarre incident, Michael Clarked shyed at the stumps as Prior was still posing for the cameras short of his ground. Could have been a huge egg on face moment then.

Watson into the attack for the first time. Flintoff traight drives powerfully down the ground for 4. He then gets spanked for 11 in an over as Fred and Prior pick their spots.

Partnership moved on to 81 off 88.

Prior is playing a shot to every ball now and surprise surprise it’s his downfall. A fluid 41 off 59 balls as he miscues two pulls in a row with the second attempt looping to mid on.

Prior c sub (PJ Hughes) b Siddle 41

Freddie takes a liking to Hauritz going 6, then 4 to bring up his half century and take England past the Australian total.

300 up as we head towards the new ball. It’s such an exciting prospect Flintoff with his eye in v new ball.

Flintoff then gets out leaving an innocuous Hauritz ball outside off stump that spins sharply off the foot-holes and climbs hitting Fred on the gloves carrying to Clarke in the slips. A slow motion dismissal that disappoints the Edgbaston faithful. Flintoff played brilliantly for a brisk 74 off 79.

Flintoff c Clarke b Hauritz 74

Tea, England added 157 runs at a fair lick, 5 per over.

Afternoon session, Johnson is given the new ball by Ponting. The banter and the crowd reach fever pitch as Swann, Broad and Johnson exchange heated words. Swann smashes Johnson to the point boundary. Next ball a change of angle prompts Swann to play a feeble shot that goes straight to the covers.

GP Swann c North b Johnson 24 (20b 5×4 0x6) SR: 120.00

Broad takes up Swann’s mantle as he belts him through mid on for four. More words as Johnson and Broad go face to face – FACE OFF. The play today has been enthralling today.

Anderson of course avoids a duck – 52nd innings in a row – but then edges behind off the bowling of Hilfenhaus, that makes 4 for.

JM Anderson c †Manou b Hilfenhaus 1 (6b 0x4 0x6) SR: 16.66

As England look to play their shots, Hilfenhaus comes within a whisker of his first Test five for but it falls agonizing short of first slip. Broad rubs salt into the wounds by belting him through mid-wicket to bring up his fifty. Next ball he smashes a full toss straight past Hilf. He’s rattled the Aussies here. Don’t be fooled by his angelic looks or his pretty boy demeanor.

Broad’s aggressive continues but does not get hold of a Siddle delivery that he can only slap straight back to the bowler. England finish all out  for 376, England’s tail continues to wag and they lead by 113 with two hours of play scheduled.

SCJ Broad c & b Siddle 55 (64b 9×4 0x6) SR: 85.93

Australia innings begins with a Jimmy Anderson maiden. But Jimmy and Flintoff fail to get any swing and hardly look threatening. The baton is passed to Onions and Swann.

Despite going for 12 in his first over Onions strikes in his third drawing a thin edge from Katich as he slants it across the left-hander. Cracking stuff.

SM Katich c †Prior b Onions 26 (47b 2×4 0x6) SR: 55.31

The Australian captain comes to the crease to a sea of boos. Baffling really.

Swann then bowls a mesmerizing over against Ponting that features big ripping turn, an lbw shout that hawkeye deemed out, culminating in the eventual wicket to one that turned through the gate. A classical off spinner’s dismissal.

RT Ponting b Swann 5 (7b 0x4 0x6) SR: 71.42

Hussey comes to the crease on a King pair. To say he looks nervous is an understatement. Can he live up to his nickname? It’s that man Onions again. Hussey gets a huge inside edge on to his pad that loops up in the air but agonizingly falls just short of a caught and bowled. Mr Cricket then follows up with a 4 straight down the ground in traditional fashion.

Hussey and Watto bat out to close as they are offered the light. The sledging/banter is colossal from both sides. Feisty from Anderson. Bring on day 5.

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