Collingwood takes England to a famous victory

A brilliant century by Paul Collingwood has powered England to a four wicket win over Australia at the MCG, chasing down Australia’s 252. Given that England were 3 for 15 when he came in, his coolness and poise is worthy of the highest praise.

England have won three ODI games in a row. If a week is a long time in politics, it might be an even longer time on tour.

The beer worm at Headingley

Even Getty were photographing this during the third Test at Headingley. Cricket: it really is the new football…

(video link)

England beat Australia via Pietersen

After yesterday’s drama, Australia had been expected to bounce back emphatically. Merely in terms of the table, in this competition, they had to win today – but it was their confidence that needed a victory more than anything. Yet they lost a winning position to one man, who did enough to all but book himself in for 5 Tests against the mighty champions. Kevin Pietersen was a man gone beserk today.

Pietersen

Apparently, the Aussies’ day hadn’t started well – they arrived just 30 minutes before play was due to start and, at 63-4, I was starting to wonder whether Ponting’s decision to bat had been made without properly considering the pitch. Those four wickets all fell to Harmison:

1-57 (Gilchrist, 11.1 ov), 2-57 (Ponting, 11.2 ov), 3-57 (Martyn, 11.4 ov), 4-63 (Hayden, 15.3 ov)

He looked strong, fast and accurate but still (pleasing for England) a little short of his lethal best – and to take 5-33 from 10 overs, on a flat pitch, shows the bloke’s confidence has now returned. But Ponting’s decision to bat proved a good one – Hussey, in particular, and Clarke put on a brilliant hundred partnership. Lots of very quick singles, and well placed fours took up the middling overs: even when Hussey was out (220-6), Australia were expected to reach at least 260 and possibly even 275.

England had fought back well to restrict them to 252-9 – and were expected to knock them off relatively easily. Initially, McGrath and – in particular Gillespie – were bowling complete tripe: no-balls, wides: I think Gillespie’s first over (2nd of the innings) lasted 9 balls. “Walk in the park, this” I thought. McGrath, despite the shock of no-balling, bowled Trescothick with the best yorker of the game – and his celebration demonstrated how much it meant to him, tinged with some relief perhaps that he’d got his team going.

The rest of England’s innings never really got going. They got bogged down in the middle overs and kept losing wickets. Vaughan and Pietersen fiddled around, not making much progress – and when Vaughan was dismissed (35th over), the required run rate was up to 7. It was Solanki who provided Pietersen with someone willing to take the bowlers on. They both put on 54 – Solanki only providing 13 – in (I think) 28 balls. Pietersen had smashed Kasprowicz and Hogg for six then started tucking into Shane Watson.

Watson didn’t like this much, and there was much f****** and worse from both of them – great entertainment, and it was at this stage that Pietersen was “in the zone” (hate that bloody expression, but I can’t think of anything else). He was chuntering to himself like a madman – and when Solanki was out, the RRR was down to 5.57: but the tail was in.

Gillespie was the threat, and here’s what happened (Cricinfo):

End of over 43 (9 runs) England 214/7 (RR: 4.98 RRR: 39/7 = 5.57)
SR Watson 9-0-38-0 - Pavilion End
KP Pietersen 60* (50b 5x4 2x6) J Lewis 0* (2b)

       Everyone want to know if Pietersen can take his side home
       Gillespie called in and has had a tough match so far
  43.1 Gillespie to Pietersen, no run, defends a yorker right back
  43.2 Gillespie to Pietersen, FOUR, Shot and a half! Drive all along the
        ground powerfully enough to beat the dive at the rope
  43.3 Gillespie to Pietersen, SIX, does a waltz on the crease; Gillespie
        fooled into a 'length ball; that soars halfway into the midwicket
        stand, monstrous hit

Jason Gillespie

Gillespie isn’t hit for six much, in any form of cricket! Mayhem was about to begin – if it hadn’t already. Jon Lewis (“never knowingly underbowled”) was keeping out McGrath at the other end – who was the only Australia spared Pietersen’s wrath – and it was down to Gillespie to try again. With 23 needed from 5 overs, the game was England’s for the taking. Ponting still refused to have a slip and attack Lewis, who jogged through to get Pietersen on strike. The next 5 balls were monstrous: he hit him out the ground with a six and then took two more fours at the end of the over. The first four was particularly eye-catching, as Ponting had (I think) 3 on the extra-cover boundary: he’d bisected all of them.

17 taken off Gillespie, who was genuinely dumfounded. Although I haven’t seen his entire career, I’ve seen most of it – but never have I seen him look so distraught. He didn’t know what to do – 10 overs, nought for 66. He didn’t even shake his head, McGrath-like – this was brutality no one had seen for years.

An extraordinary innings to end a brilliant game of cricket. It wasn’t quite “victory from the jaws of defeat,” but Australia will wonder just how their world-beating bowling attack were reduced to smithereens…by one man, in 65 balls.

England turn Test on its head

What a Test match this has been. I don’t think anyone, least of all the South Africans, could have imagined the Test panning out like after they bowled England out for 139

Back then, on the first day, there were utterings of complaint from Fletcher and armchair pundits that the pitch was poor. I too agreed, but only to an extent – it was a combination of rain juicing it up, and poor shot selection from England.

Day 2, and Kallis showed how to bat on a flat pitch. It was a masterful, boring and controlling innings – just what SA needed to dent England’s confidence. Indeed, South Africa were miles ahead of the game by close yesterday as Kallis remarked in an interview:

“It was hugely important to bounce back after Port Elizabeth,” added Kallis. “To go 2-0 down was not an option – it would have been the series over. Maybe we let ourselves down a bit this evening by not quite landing enough balls in the right area, but it could be the wake-up call we needed. If we get a few wickets tomorrow, we could make our lives easier.”

And Michael Vaughan looked like this:

After 3 sessions of crunching strokeplay, defiant batting and resiliance from Trescothick and Strauss, it was Smith’s turn to look glum:

They put on 273 for the first wicket – their 4th stand of 150+ opening together in just their 9th Test. Jonathan Agnew wrote:

But of all the teams currently in world cricket, one feels that only Australia could have produced a performance quite like this.

If they can add another 200 runs on the fourth day, they might well complete one of the most astonishing turn-rounds in test history.

England weren’t quite staring down the barrell – they’re a confident team, after all – but the odds were stacked against them, and the situation at start-of-play was tailor-made for a blocker. Such was the rate at which they scored against all but Pollock, that the game has been turned on its head. SA can win it. England can win it. But the force is with England, and they have 9 2nd innings wickets remaining. A truly brilliant Test match, ebbing and flowing – thank God for Cricket!