England cricket team


The 2006 Ashes test match in Adelaide was one of the most miserable I’ve ever watched. England batted themselves into a position of authority, with a century from Pietersen and a double from Collingwood, only to throw it away with a disasterous Warne inspired collapse on the final day.

This time round we didn’t make the same mistake. England took their chances, bowled and batted superbly, and ruthlessly annihilated an underperforming Australian team.

Australia don’t have McGrath and Warne anymore, but they have had four years to get used to that. England have gradually lost all of the Ashes winning attack of 2005, but strength in depth has enabled it to put in place a competitive bowling unit that has looked a cut above their Canary counterparts.

England won in Adelaide in a very Australian way. Big runs from a classy and in-form batting line up, penetrative bowling from a bowling attack offering pace, bounce, both kinds of swing and a top class spinner, backed up with very sharp fielding.

Australia have not played like an Australian side so far this series. It remains to be seen whether Ricky Ponting can inspire any kind of turn around.

When you watch Alistair Cook bat you have to admire his grit, determination and concentration. You enjoy his resilience, the ability to churn out runs, even though its not the prettiest to watch. Kevin Pietersen’s batting is different, it can be astonishing.

The phenomenal talent (as well as the hard work he puts into pratice) has been used to tremendous effect in Adelaide over the last couple of nights. He has simply anihilated the Aussie attack.

This was a confident Pietersen, who put right a long run without a ton with a tremendous double. A quick 70 was not what England wanted, and he went big to deliver. England scored at five an over for much of yesterday, and KP could have been much closer to 300 had rain not washed out the entire final session.

Ryan Harris aside, who managed to trouble Pietersen with a couple of new ball bouncers early on, none of the Aussie bowlers could contain him. Bollinger looks well short of his best, and the overs of toil put in at Brisbane must be affecting Siddle.

Australian bowling attacks very rarely get put to the sword as they have over the last couple of tests. They are pretty much used to having things their own way. Xavier Doherty – who can only have been picked because the Aussies think KP is poor against left-arm spinners – is having a far tougher baptism than probably any other Australian bowler in history.

When England last won the Ashes in Australia, a substantial part of that success was down to the weight of runs contributed by a tall, left-handed, opening batsman. His son, a major part of England’s current side, has spent a large part of this test, and the last, watching another tall, left-handed, opening batsman batting better than he ever has before.

Chris Broad, father of Stuart, scored 487 runs in the 1986/87 Ashes series, including three centuries. Alistair Cook – big, not as bad, but much better than Stu’s dad – has already scored 438 runs in the 2010/11 series, broken countless records, and could pass Broad Senior’s run tally tomorrow morning in just his third innings. He’s only been dismissed the once in over 1,000 minutes of batting.

Australia’s day actually started quite brightly, with Andrew Strauss generously leaving a straight delivery from Doug Bollinger that removed his off bail. That was as good as it got for them, however, they returned that generosity in spades. Good England batting, bowling no better than Brisbane and dropped catches allowed Cook, Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen to pile on the runs and the agony for Ricky Ponting.

Bollinger and Ryan Harris have toiled hard, but haven’t added the cutting edge that was badly missed at Brisbane, while England’s batsmen have not allowed the spinner Xavier Doherty to settle. There is a hint of turn already, and Marcus North got at least one delivery to turn sharply out of the footholes.

England are 72 runs ahead at the end of day two. England’s job is to keep batting, grind the Aussie’s already dog-tired bowlers even further into the dirt and aim to have a lead of 500 by lunchtime on day four. With another day of near 40 degree heat, it will be prime opportunity for Swann to attack, attack and attack some more with men around the bat.

A team needs to take 20 wickets to win a match. England’s first day in Adelaide gets them half-way there.

Not that our bowlers needed to take all the wickets today. Some sharp fielding meant that two fell to run outs, and the excellent run out of Simon Katich by Jonathan Trott exposed Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke to the new, swinging ball. Jimmy Anderson and Graeme Swann catching in the slips took full advantage.

Michael Hussey again provided resistance, but on a pitch where conventional wisdom says you should be scoring 500 first up, 245 all out is a woeful effort. Especially after winning the toss and choosing to bat.

England’s bowling and fielding were mostly superb. Anderson was excellent (again) and Swann was better than in Brisbane.

Day was typified when Brad Haddin and Ponting threw their toys out of the pram at the end of play, and tried to lay into Andrew Strauss on the way off the pitch. Probably want to be a bit quieter after you’ve just been spanked!

Shit day for the Aussies, great day for England.

So, England scored 517/1 – saving the test in style and grinding an average Australian attack into the dust. They did a whole lot more than just save the test, they exposed some fundamental weaknesses in the opposition. The Canary’s have problems that they have no choice but to fix.

This is probably the weakest Aussie attack in my lifetime. Siddle is good – and we shouldn’t forget the performance and hat-tick on day one – but he probably won’t last five tests, Hilfenhaus is an antipodean Hoggard that isn’t swinging the ball late enough or quick enough, Johnson could be awesome but appears to have a feeble mind at present. As for the spinner, I didn’t think they’d be able to find someone worse than Hauritz. Doherty has had a tough first test, he must be better than what he’s shown here.

England’s batsmen broke record after record in overhauling the Aussies first innings lead. Of most note (see piece in Sporting Life) was that Alastair Cook’s 235 not out was the highest score at the Gabba (beating Don Bradman’s long standing record) and the partnership between Cook and Jonathan Trott was the highest stand for any wicket at the Gabba.

Cook is like a man reborn this series. He could have missed out on this series. Had England played five bowlers he probably would have done.

Trott’s innings was superb too. He’s played two tests against the Aussies and has scored big hundreds on both occasions.

The overs England bowled at the end of day five showed that it was a very flat pitch, and the Aussie batsmen finished on an optimistic note, however, this shouldn’t take anything away from a terrific recovery from England in this.

Whether the Canary’s stick with this attack, or make changes, it will still be a threat this series, but England have laid down the gauntlet.

Watching the highlights from today’s play at The Gabbatoir again. I am loving the passage of play when Hilfenhaus gets the ball to nip back to Jonathan Trott, who shoulders arms and is hit below the knee-roll close to off stump.

Aleem Dar says not out, to a look of sheer incredulity from the bowler. No-one on the fielding side can believe it hasn’t been given. So, Ricky Ponting signals for the third-umpire to have a look, using his third and possibly final review.

Michael Clark gives Hilfy a high-five, and the stump microphone clearly picks up him telling the bowler “you’ve got him, that’s definitely out”. Every Aussie on the park was convinced it was a wicket.

Hawkeye, however, reveals that the ball didn’t nip back enough to hit the stumps. Not only did that astonish and wipe a smug grin off many of the Aussies, it should make those of us who stand in the field and question umpires decisions every Saturday in club cricket realise that you can never be certain.

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