Thursday, December 14, 2006

England vs Australia T3D1: Monty and Harmy

Now that's what I call Test Cricket. This was exactly what it should be all about. And it started with the pitch - which offered a touch of pace and bounce for the bowlers, along with some non-extravagant turn. A capacity crowd, on a near-perfect day weather wise, enjoyed some class batsmanship, quality spin bowling, and even some good seam bowling under blue skies and a light breeze.

Contrary to popular belief, I think Australia actually ended the day on top. My rationale is simple - England don't have a lot of batting at all, given that the tail really starts with Flintoff in his current form. The wickets of Cook and Bell have set them back a long way, and I suspect it will take something special for them to get near Australia's score, given the way the Aussies have bowled thus far.

I was at the ground at 5:20am, thinking that I'd be near the front of the member's queue to get in. No such luck. The crowds had started coming in at 4am as it turned out, and I was probably about a thousand people back, and that's not counting the priority queue for loyal (40 consecutive years) members and others.

Once I got into the ground at 7:45am, I was lucky enough to find a single seat in a perfect position, right behind the bowlers arm on the second level of the Lillee-Marsh stand, just in front of the press box and below the TV/Radio box.

The day started with the singing of the national anthems, the most interesting part of which was the 'special appearance' of Graham Mackenzie and Geoff Boycott, who bowled and faced the first Test match delivery at the WACA 36 years ago. The outfield looked fantastic, and the binoculars revealed that the pitch was apparently a hard one, but clearly with some moisture in it to help the bowlers.

Australia won the toss and batted, and Langer and Hayden, both having quiet series' thus far, looked as if they were going to take control, despite a typically impressive opening spell from Hoggard. Harmison was as wayward as ever to begin with, but the complexion of the game changed completely when Hoggard had Hayden caught behind, and then out of the blue, Harmison trapped Ricky Ponting bang in front.

You could see the realisation suddenly dawn on England that they truly were in this contest. Harmison was a man transformed - not near his best, but the radar switched on, then length shortened up, and he reverted to type, doing his Curtly Ambrose impressions.

The story of the day, of course, was Monty Panesar. He showed himself to be a top quality spinner, and the only batsmen to play him confidently, Symonds little assault notwithstanding, were Clarke, and to a lesser extent, Hussey. Panesar's 5 wickets were well deserved, his dismissal of Symonds being particularly impressive given that he had been hit for two massive sixes in the previous over. The entire crowd enjoyed his boyish enthusiasm - in an age of automaton cricketers, it is lovely to see someone who genuinely relishes every moment out there on the field.

Other bits of interest during the day:
  • Flintoff looked lost at times, unsure how or where to place his field. It was interesting to note that Geraint Jones often made decisions with regard to field placing, adding credence to the strong rumour that Jones is an advisor to the team selection committee on tour! One wag in the members politely enquired, to the amusement of all around him, whether he should call Michael Vaughan to get an opinion on what to do next.
  • The over-rate was terrible, even with the spinner on. It'll be interesting to see what fines, if any, are imposed.
  • Apparently daylight saving time, recently introduced in Western Australia, is a terrible thing, because it causes curtains and carpets to fade. Okay, that's not cricket related, but I overheard someone complaining about this, and thought it was worth a mention :-)
  • Geraint Jones' keeping was shoddy, at best. He dropped a couple of catches, fumbled a few non-catches, and nearly dropped Symonds before holding on at the second attempt. It is beyond comprehension how he manages to retain his place ahead of Chris Read, particularly given that his batting is a disaster these days as well.
  • Australia's dismissal of Cook was brilliantly engineered - Ponting and McGrath had a long discussion, moved Justin Langer to a very carefully positioned second gully, and he dutifully took the catch which went straight to him 2 balls later. That spoke volumes about just how good a bowler Glenn McGrath really is.
  • And he's not even Australia's best bowler. Stewart Clark quite simply blew me away with his over to Collingwood, in which he beat and found the outside edge about 10 times in six deliveries, or so it seemed.
  • How good is Mike Hussey? I posted about Dravid and Ponting the other day. Hussey is making a damn good case to be added to that list.

At the end of the day, as I said, Australia are on top, having taken two key wickets, and I think England will struggle to make 200 tomorrow, if Australia bowl as well as they did tonight.


Tim Wigmore said...

Nice blog mate!

I run and have added your link, and would greatly appreciate if you returned the favour!

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