08.12. Morning all. Bright blue skies here in London – hopefully much the same in Birmingham. Avinash and I will be updating this as the day goes on, so leave any of your thoughts and comments about the day’s play in this post. Excitement is building, again!
I wonder if Glenn McGrath has ever missed an Ashes Test before. More pertinently, I wonder how Australia went, if he did miss any. England batted woefully in the first Test just a week ago, so Ponting naturally inserted England in the first chance he got. So far however, the script for this game seems to have been written by an Englishman. The first day pitch has shown no liking for the bowlers so far, and Australia do not have McGrath to dry up the scoring in these conditions. Lee has kept the ball very full but in the absence of any movement, has been driven repeatedly and comfortably through the offside for boundaries. To make matters worse, Strauss was put down early by Warne off Gillespie but neither bowler has looked particularly threatening. 42/0 England, after a positive, Australia-esque, start.
One hour’s play and England have cruised to 64/0. Both batsmen have had a life each, though – Trescothick was caught off a no-ball and Strauss was put down by Warne in the slips. Tellingly, Ponting turned to Warne after just about 14 overs with the new ball…and Strauss immediately tonked him back over his head for four. If Ponting isn’t rueing his decision to bowl first yet, he should be. Regardless of what happens from this point on, it was a bad decision and I’ll stick my neck out and say that without McGrath, he doesn’t have the bowling, even with Warne in the side, to make up for it on a first day pitch that looks perfect for batting.
132/1 at lunch are England, and once again, they have completely dominated the opening session of the Test Match. Trescothick has been fed buffet balls all morning by Lee to which he added some enterprising strokeplay against Warne. As a result, he went into lunch on a staggering 77 not out, much more than most teams would make in a session against Australia. The bowling has been pretty flat all morning, looking staggeringly innocuous without McGrath. Lee has being particularly ineffective and only Warne has looked likely to produce a wicket taking delivery (which he did, a huge leg break to bowl Strauss). England though, will be eyeing 450 and Australia’s quicks will have to support Warne better if they are to get back into this.
England have somehow contrived to get themselves into a hole, stuttering to 197/4 60 min after lunch, and threatening to let Australia further into the match. Australia did nothing in the post lunch session that they did not before lunch, but prised out wickets with steady bowling against an out-of-sorts middle order. Trescothick started the rot by feathering one through to Gilchrist before Bell followed in almost the same fashion 3 balls later. Vaughan then tried to pull a short one from Gillespie out of Edgbaston only to see it fall into Lee’s hands at long leg. 3 wickets in 15 minutes and parity had been restored. Flintoff walked out to join KP, and Warne came on to bowl. This sets up the afternoon session perfectly. KP and Freddie on a good pitch against a not-so-new ball. The two will have to win this little session if England are not to end up looking Ponting’s gift horse in the mouth.
In 60 minutes of joyous, unfettered, almost audacious strokeplay, England’s two most destructive batsmen hauled their side from a nervous looking 187/4 to a position of dominance at 289/4. Ever since KP was inducted into the Test side, many have salivated at the prospect of these two going off simultaneously against Australia but until today, that had been nothing more than fantasy. After the batting exhibition they put on this afternoon however, we know the extent of the very real destruction these two can wreak together.
Australia weren’t exactly passive spectators through all this. They kept attacking in the field, Warne bowled well all afternoon and Lee turned in a furiously fast spell just before tea. All that resulted though, were a couple of half chances and by the time tea arrived, Flintoff had blitzed 68 from 60, KP had waltzed along to40 of 53 and the crowd were left delirious with joy. Flintoff is in such a zone that he does not want to get carried away so in that sense, the break has come at just the right time for England. Their work is not done yet as they are still over a hundred short of a par score on this wicket. But until Australia find a way to get these two out, they will continue to feel pinned to the wall.