England 307 for 8 (Bell 72, Siddle 4-63)
After 4 Tests, 16 days play, 4542 runs and 116 wickets England and Australia arrived this morning at the Oval in south east London squared at one game all in the 2009 Ashes. Only a win would do for England in their quest to win back the Ashes, and while a draw would be enough for Ricky Ponting’s men there was no way that they would be playing for anything other than a victory.
Australia named an unchanged side meaning that they would have no frontline spinner, and for England Freddie Flintoff returned at the expense of Graeme Onions to make his 79th and final appearance in a test match, and Jonathan Trott makes his debut coming in for Ravi Bopara. Andrew Strauss won the toss and chose to bat.
England made it to lunch for the loss of just one wicket, Alastair Cook again chasing a wide ball outside of his off stump and edging to Ricky Ponting at second slip. It was 50/50 how the first wicket was going to go, Strauss was either going to be LBW to a Hilfenhaus inswinger or Cook was going to do that. Let’s hope with some prolonged net work after this series he can sort this issue out. Ian Bell came in back at number 3 with the score at 12-1, precisely the sort of situation England did not want him to be in. He made it through to drinks with his captain though pushing the score on to 56-1 at exactly four an over. The second hour of the morning created no real alarms for either batsman, Strauss reached his fifty ten minutes or so before the break and a four from Bell brought up the hundred in the very next over. Well played both of them and England would have been happy to have avoided losing anymore early wickets, while Australia will still have felt that 108-1 could easily become 150-5 with the batting England have to come.
This would have been especially so after Strauss, undoubtedly the key man in this England line up, was gone in the third over after lunch thin edging a low catch through to Haddin off the bowling of Hilfenhaus for 55. Later replays would show that Hilfenhaus has overstepped and that was a clear no ball, but it was too late by then. England 114-2 and the horribly out of form Collingwood MBE came in next batting one place higher than usual at number four. Shane Warne wrote this morning in his Times column that it was about time his old friend Collingwood stepped up to the mark and took on more responsibility in the batting line up so all eyes on him.
Meanwhile Ian Bell MBE was continuing nicely along on his merry way, reaching his fifty after just 73 balls. He wasn’t looking great but then to be fair neither was the bowling. It wasn’t bad, but there was very little in the way of threat for the batsmen, both wickets to fall so far went to bad shots at balls that could and should have been left alone.
Bell and Colly made it safely through to drinks with England 158-2 after 40 overs played. Collingwood fell 15 minutes before tea after nudging, nurdling shovelling and scooping his way to a typically ugly 24. There were some nice shots in there to be fair, but he’s just not nice to watch. He too was caught in the corden driving, this time a thick edge to Hussey at gully from the bowling of Siddle. 176-3 and debutant Trott in next. He faced 11 balls before getting off the mark with a clip through midwicket for two in the final over before tea and England finished the second session 180-3. Just 53 overs were bowled by the tea break so the final session would be slightly extended, weather permitting, to reach the full 90.
Ian Bell’s attractive knock came to an end before he reached three figures. How often has that been said? Played a Siddle delivery onto his stumps for 72 in the first over after tea and a sense of déjà vu and here we go again descended over the Brit Oval as long suffering England fans sensed that capitulation for less than 250 was on the cards. Matt Prior in at number six though so all was not lost yet and the 200 came up in the 60th over.
Unfortunately Prior couldn’t hang around too long. Thirty three balls for 18 runs before he spooned a Mitchell Johnson slower ball to point to have England 229-5. Johnson had struggled a little up until this point going at five an over although he was looking dangerous with the short ball. A wicket will have done his confidence wonders. Freddie Flintoff arrived at the crease to a standing ovation from the crowd with 25 overs left in the day.
The great triumphant hero, saviour of English cricket and talisman that England simply cannot cope without lasted nineteen balls and scored 7 before he flashed needlessly at a wide ball from Johnson and edged through to Haddin. Colossal stuff. Six down for less than 250 and Stuart Broad came in to bat at number 8 with twenty overs play remaining.
Jonathan Trott’s debut innings was ended in unfortunate but brilliant fashion by Katich. A maiden fifty looked a certainty until on 41 he clipped the ball off his legs, Katich made a sharp save and as Trott fell forward following through with the shot he threw down stumps with a direct hit and Trott was gone. Bad luck but brilliant stuff from the close fielder. A good start to Test match cricket for Trott through he looked composed and comfortable. England stumbled across the 300 run line with 5 minutes or so to go before stumps, but then lost their 8th wicket from the final ball of the day. The impressive Peter Siddle accounting for Swann as he pushed forward and edged through to Haddin.
At close then England 307-8 which having won the toss and batted represents a poor return for the day. 307 runs is perfectly acceptable and if they were 4 down they would be very happy, but at 8 down they will struggle to reach 350 when 450 would have been their minimum target. Too many lazy wafts outside off stump doing the damage. Of the 8 wickets to fall 3 were caught by the wicketkeeper, 1 in the slips, 1 at gully and 1 dragged onto the stumps reaching for a ball wide of off stump. If Australia had won the toss and batted 600 would have been their target so England should be disappointed and should not believe that 350 represents a decent score. Australia have taken charge of this game and it will take a fine bowling performance to pull England back. Thank goodness we have Freddie.
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