England v Australia, NatWest Challenge, The Oval, Game 3

Can’t contribute much…but any thoughts on the game, feel free to leave a comment. England are (groan) bowling second, but the pitch is good so we should expect them to post a bloody big score…

England v Australia, NatWest Challenge – Game 2, Lord’s

Australia v England – Natwest Challenge. “Sessions won” (at 15, 40 and 50 over intervals)

[First innings – England]

Overs 1-15 (Will):

Australia won the toss on a beautiful, summer’s morning, and asked England to bat. Ponting chose to have Brad Hadden as their sub, which – on the face of it – could benefit them hugely. I’m still getting my head around these new rules; they seem to favour the side batting second though. Ponting’s opening bowlers started very well, restricting England to 20-0 in the first six overs – but, confusingly, he refused to attack with three slips. Lee looking very good this morning – and very quick.

A great start for Kasprowicz – Strauss chopping the ball onto his stumps from Kasper’s first delivery of the game. England were just threatening to get away – 25 for 1

Vaughan left a straight one from McGrath (as Lehmann said on commentary, “You’ve got a bat, Michael: use it”), and Trescothick is out caught behind. 28 for 3 and Pietersen and Flintoff are now both in. Big debate now is when England decide on their sub (Vikram Solanki). 12 overs gone – decision will need to be made pretty soon…

Australia’s session without a doubt

Overs 15-40 (Avinash):

Kevin Pietersen’s cross-bat shot ends his brief innings, the second player to chop the ball onto his stumps. 45 for 4.

That brought Flintoff and Collingwood together in the 16th over with Jones to follow. Time, perhaps, for England to consider Super Sub Solanki? A fifth wicket anytime soon will almost certainly bring him into action and common wisdom suggests that Ashley Giles will be the bowler to make way for him.

Gillespie finally came on to bowl the 18th over of the innings and was promptly sent to the fence twice by Flintoff, two dismissive pulls of two woefully short deliveries. More importantly for Ponting, Lee, McGrath and Kasper have bowled 6 overs apiece inside the first 20, which leaves the attack largely in the hands of Symonds and Gillespie for the next hour. This could well be the defining passage of play in this innings, especially if Flintoff and Collingwood continue to take toll of a clearly out of sorts Dizzy.

Symonds has settled into a tidy line and length, but Gillespie is still having problems. Collingwood just survived a stumping down the legside off Symonds, but England are looking far more comfortable now against these two. The challenge for England is that this is a good pitch for batting, firm and a fair amount of bounce. It will ease out some more and get even better when Australia bat and England will therefore want to get close to 250. One suspects that Flintoff holds the key to their batting fortunes at this point. 74 for 4, 25 overs

Flintoff continues to bat well and Gillespie continues to offer just enough boundary balls to keep England ticking reasonably along. Ponting will start to think now about how he is going to get through 20 overs between Gillespie, Symonds and anyone else he chooses to bowl. Clarke and Hussey are the two obvious names, although Clarke’s first over which just ended was fairly innocuous. The fourth and fifth bowlers have bowled 13 of 20 at this point, but Ponting can’t afford to let England continue to build the innings at almost zero risk, so he has brought McGrath on to bowl the 33rd. One bad ball in McGrath’s 7th over however, duly directed to the ropes by Freddie.

What’s going to be interesting now is to see when England decide to shift gears. It will depend largely on how many runs England feel they need on the board, but if 230 is the target, as it must, they have to begin now. Flintoff will look to bat through the innings and will fancy his chances of going after McGrath and company with the older ball but Collingwood must be the man to change tempo now and allow Flintoff to continue to pick his spots to attack. 125 for 4, 35 overs. Collingwood dismissed in the 38th over, a fish outside off-stump. England 100 runs short with 10 to go…

Overs 40-50: (Will)

Jones now in, and facing Lee. Flintoff well set, but it’s a lot to ask of him to score at 10/over for the final 10 overs. 154 for 5.

England, in the 43rd over, are still unable to really get after the bowling. 168 for 5, and the Australians are only conceding a run a ball at the moment. Unless England can snick out four or five early wickets, this game should be Australia’s for the taking.

Kasprowicz was expensive in his final few overs, conceding 24 from his final three, however he’s certainly bowled the best spell in his tour so far. 2 for 40 from 10 overs, as Flintoff climbs into Symonds, smashing him over mid-wicket for four. Symonds then reverted to his spin for the final ball of the 45th over, Flintoff dispatching it into the Grandstand for another huge six. 87* from 111 balls 192 for 5 at the end of the 45th over, Brett Lee back on.

Lee breaks the back of England’s innings – Flintoff gone for 87, 193 for 6. Superb innings given the calamatous start by England’s top-order. England, still, are way too short and it’ll need a very special bowling performance to dig them out of it (or a very dodgy batting performance by Australia). Giles now in – Solanki not super-subbing after all.

Jones hits two fours off Glenn McGrath in the 47th over – 11 runs from the over, but Brett Lee dismisses him in the first ball of the 48th. Lee really has bowled well today – his fourth wicket so far, and England might struggle to bat out the remaining 11 balls of the innings. 210 for 7

Giles magnificently caught by Ponting! What a catch. Driven hard to extra cover, Ponting sticks out a hand and takes it horizontally, two inches above the ground. Fantastic! Lee takes five wickets, and books himself a spot in the first Test here at Lord’s, in 10 days time. 216 for 6 and it’s over to Avinash for the first instalment of Australia’s innings. (What a catch that was! Good catches stir the spirit)

[Second innings – Australia]
So Australia need to get 224 to even the series up, a task that most agree should prove quite comfortable. It is by no means a foregone conclusion however, but what will help England considerably is early wickets. Early wickets of course is exactly what England’s new ball bowlers have completely failed to give their side throughout the series, but Gough and Jones must reverse that trend here. Harmison and Flintoff will like the bounce this pitch will provide them, but the match might be won or lost by how the remaining 30 overs go. It will be interesting also, to see how attacking Vaughan will get. Much like Ponting in the last game, England have to bowl Australia out to win and they will need to be aggressive with their defence, a curious phrase that I can only put down to early morning stupor. Australia to start as favourites then and the chase begins in just a couple of minutes.

Overs 1-15: (Avinash)
A slash over the slip cordon for four, a wicket off a no-ball, a flick for four, two successive plays and misses, and a near LBW to round off Gough’s opening over. 12 for 0 in the second over and this looks like it’s going to be fun.

After seeing his new ball bowlers slapped all over Lords, Vaughan decides to give the ball to his two best bowlers. Harmison bowled a warm-up first over but Flintoff was much more accurate and got Gilchrist just a couple of balls into his spell. The ball that got him was similar to the one he bowled on the same ground a week ago – short of length, just outside off, and a fair amount of bounce. In that game, Gilly tried to pull but scooped it up in the air, this time he tried to force on the off side but edged to the keeper.

So Ponting strides to the crease, and he hasn’t looked very comfortable against either Flintoff or Harmison all series. Australia however have shown that they intend to make these good batting conditions count. They are going to try and rush to the finish, rather than work themselves towards the target and in that lies England’s best chance, as long as they continue to attack. Ponting has begun in a hurry as well, meanwhile. However, like we said earlier it will be the 30 overs that Freddie and Harmison don’t bowl which could decide the game. 53 for 1, 7.4 overs

Overs 15-40:
Australia ended the first 10 at 63/1 and at this stage, look completely in command. Harmison has not had a good day with the ball, and even Flintoff has been a little below his best. Vaughan has therefore turned to Giles, but he has too many men out patrolling the boundary for my liking. England will need to create (and maintain) pressure via dotballs and wickets for long periods and that will only happen if most of the field is up.

Too easy at the moment and it is still advantage Australia at Lords, but England have shown already that they aren’t going to submit meekly whatever the situation. Further twists might yet be in store and Will will tell you all about them shortly. 68 for 1, 12.5 overs

Still nothing to report. 119 for 2 and it’s a predictable walk in the park for the Aussies. England’s batsmen, Flintoff apart, were ropey today. Ponting and Martyn are a joy to watch, and are just knocking the ball around as though it’s a Sunday afternoon (which it is!). 27 runs have been made down to fine leg, though – poor. Ponting one short of his fifty.

The game continues to go Australia’s way at 161 for 2, with only a further 63 runs required. Vaughan’s not had much to work with – the pitch is so flat, and the game is an almost a complete mirror-copy (albeit a reversal, as it’s Australia winning) of the game at Leeds. There was a fly-by to commemorate the ending of World War II – which was quite something to see. A capacity crowd cheering and whooping at the Lancasters, Spitfires and Hurricane fighters.


Australia won by 7 wickets

Australia need a Lord’s victory

It is odd to be thinking this, let alone writing it – but I firmly beleive Australia need to win tomorrow far more than England. And not just to save the series from being won by England, but to gain vital initiative and momentum – both of which are lacking from most of their players, and of their team as a whole. Of the batsmen, only Hussey looks threatening and, of the bowlers, only McGrath looks like he can be relied upon.

Stuart, commenting before the first ODI, reckoned “England can only lose from this odd little one day series.” And, perhaps predictably, I’d like to reverse that. Stuart goes on to say that England wouldn’t be considered favourites for the Test series “even if England win all three one dayers, by substantial margins.”

I’d agree with that last sentiment – England wouldn’t be considered favourites. But not for a long time has an Australian side had to work so hard for so long, at the start of a series. Yes it’s ODIs; yes they have [some] different players for the Test side but, nevertheless, I know for certain that the form of this Aussie side has had many die-hard fans (maybe some reading this…!) scratching their head, with more than a little concern.

They do have to win tomorrow. In under two weeks, they’ll face England at the very same ground – and history is by far on Australia’s side there, where they have beaten England there since about 1930 (I’m not joking – 1930!).

Will Gillespie play, and if so, will he find enough form?

Will Ponting fall over? Again.

Will McGrath no-ball? Again.

Has Lee really worked Strauss out? Is he too much of a liability for the Test side?

Can Vaughan dominate the Australian bowlers again, and get into some form himself?

Will Australia cope better with Flintoff and Harmison this time?

All these fascinating little battles (hence my love of this game) will be unfolding tomorrow morning – hopefully amid glorious sunshine. Avinash and I will be providing updates – him more than I, initially – so let’s get chatting about it.

Eng v Aus – Natwest Challenge, first game

Jones just taken a “useful” catch – thought I’d open a post and leave it open for comments etc as the day goes on. Too busy to contribute anything until tonight though…

Hope none of you have any friends or family in today’s London bombings

Nothing to report

Perfect couple of days for my hiatus – nothing of note has happened. The Aussies did do some training but that’s about it…krazy kricket returns on Thursday