Brilliant Broad swings series decider England’s way
England 332 (Bell 72, Siddle 4-75, Hilfenhaus 3-71) and 58 for 3 (Strauss 32*, Trott 8*) lead Australia 160 (Broad 5-37, Swann 4-38) by 230 runs
In a fascinating series that has fluctuated both ways, the pendulum swung perhaps decisively to England on a dramatic second day at the Oval. An amazing 15 wickets fell as England closed the day 230 runs ahead at 58 for three in their second innings, with captain Andrew Strauss a resolute 32 not out. This should prove to be a decisive lead with the Oval pitch providing ample help to spinners and seamers alike. How Australia and Ricky Ponting must rue the decision to leave spinner Nathan Hauritz out of their XI.
The unlikely heroes of the day for England were the much maligned Stuart Broad, who took 5 for 37 in an unbroken 12 over spell, and Graham Swann, who took 4 for 38. Between them they demolished Australia, who collapsed from a comfortable 73 without loss to 111 for seven, before eventually succumbing to 160 all out, 172 runs behind England’s first innings of 332.
It was a remarkable turnaround from the start of the day when Australia cleaned up the England tail with the side adding only 25 runs to their overnight 307 for eight. Ben Hilfenhaus picked up both wickets. Firstly, he trapped James Anderson leg before for a duck. This was Anderson’s first duck in Test cricket in his 55th innings, which amazingly placed him behind only Clive Lloyd, Aravinda de Silva and A B de Villiers in Test history. Hilfenhaus picked up his 21st wicket of the series, when he had Broad caught at second slip by Ricky Ponting for another useful contribution of 37. Steve Harmison was left unbeaten on 12 raising his batting average at the Oval to a Bradmanesque 131.
At this point, Australia seemed the happier side as the total of 332 was much less than Strauss would have anticipated when winning the toss and having first use of what is normally an excellent batting strip. However, as the dramatic day unfurled it was to prove to be an excellent effort from England.
Australia’s confidence was compounded as they made a solid start in reaching 61 without loss at lunch, which came slightly earlier due to rain. Shane Watson survived a number of close leg before appeals whilst Simon Katich made a typically dogged start to his innings. Nevertheless, despite this good start, it was clear that the pitch was going to make life increasingly difficult for batsmen.
It was in the delayed afternoon session that the game swung back to England in a dramatic way. Strauss surprisingly opted to give Broad the ball. Broad, who many observers felt should have been dropped earlier in the series, repaid Strauss’ faith in spades by taking four wickets in his first five overs.
First Watson was plumb leg before for 34; the first time he hadn’t reached 50 in the series. Then Ricky Ponting (8) played on to one that nipped back and Michael Hussey continued his disappointing series being out leg before for a duck to one that swung back in late. Finally, Michael Clarke (3), the best batsman in the series so far and number two in the ICC ratings, was tempted to chase a wide ball outside off stump and debutant Jonathan Trott took a sharp low catch at extra cover. Incredibly, Australia had lost four wickets for 20 runs.
It didn’t stop there. Strauss, who had a great day as skipper, introduced off spinner Swann into the attack and he struck quickly having Marcus North (5) adjudged leg before. North was unlucky as replays showed that he got an inside edge on to his pad. That was 108 for five. In Swann’s next over it became 109 for five as Katich, who had just reached a patient 50, gave a bat pad catch to Alistair Cook. Broad then bowled the ball of the day, completely deceiving Brad Haddin and bowling him for 1. Australia was now 111 for seven, and had lost seven wickets for only 38 runs.
Swann then picked up Johnson, brilliantly caught by Matt Prior for 11, and Stuart Clark (6), wrongly adjudged to have given Cook his second bat pad catch of the innings. Finally, Andrew Flintoff, in his last Test, came back into the attack and ripped out Hilfenhaus’ (6) leg stump. Unbelievably, Australia had been bowled out for 160 and with a 172 run lead, England was firmly in the driving seat and the Ashes looked to be coming home.
Maybe not as the drama hadn’t finished there. After a sedate start, England had moved to 27 without loss – a lead of 199, when North had Cook caught at slip for 9. This completed a miserable series for Cook (series average 24.66) whose place may come under threat for the South Africa tour in the winter with Kent opener Joe Denly being called up for the one day series with Australia that follows this Test match.
Mitchell Johnson then bowled a hostile spell and had both Ian Bell (4) and Paul Collingwood (1) caught by Katich at short leg. Collingwood, the hero of Cardiff, has had an extremely disappointing last three Tests and it would seem that he misses Kevin Pietersen more than anyone. Suddenly England was 39 for three and Australia scented a chance to get back into the match. Thankfully for England, Strauss, holding the innings together again, found a willing ally in Trott (8 not out), looking very assured in his first Test, and England reached the close without further loss at 58 for three – a healthy lead of 230.
So, after a dramatic day, England seems to have one hand on regaining the little urn. With the weather forecast good, it will take a monumental effort from Australia to turn this one around. However, against a side including Ponting and Clarke, England will be looking to set Australia a target of at least 400.
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