Saturday, December 16, 2006

England vs Australia T3D2: Monty and Harmy Take Two


Well, who would have thought that after taking 9 wickets between them on the first day, it would be Monty Panesar and Steve Harmison who provided England their best partnership with the bat as well!

My overnight prediction appeared to be bang on target until these two somehow contrived to add 40 in 10 overs for the tenth wicket. I say contrived, but they deserve credit for some great cricketing shots, most notably Monty's cracking straight drive for four.

Unfortunately for England supporters, although the day had it's twists, the end result was that Australia cemented their position of control, and set themselves up for a terrifyingly big day tomorrow. Hayden and Ponting had a couple of close shaves each, but with both unbeaten on 57 at the close, you wouldn't bet against Australia racking up a lead of 500 tomorrow, and possibly even batting into day 4. England's struggle now is that only Monty Panesar looks likely to take a wicket, and he can't do it single handedly in his first Ashes Test!

I managed to snag a great seat again this morning, having shown up a little earlier to get in the queue. My neighbour for the day was a fascinating gentleman who was a 60 year WACA veteran, with awesome stories to tell in great detail about cricket and cricketers on and off the pitch. The two highlights of his viewing career appeared to be Barry Richards scoring 300 in a day, and Sunny GasGiver (his words, not mine) getting out twice in the same session one morning.

The other non-cricketing highlight of the day would have been seeing Tony Greig get sledged in the toilet by a patron, after the commentator had kindly helped out another man who was having some toilet paper problems. Got to say, Tony appeared to take it very well.

The cricket itself wasn't quite the perfect day of Test cricket of the previous day, perhaps because England didn't have a Mike Hussey to impress me. Sure, Kevin Pietersen doggedly made his way to 70, but it didn't have the same stamp of class over it at all.

What did come out was that my contention that England really need to play 6+1+4 was proven out once again. In fact, the ABC Grandstand commentators suggested the same thing at the end of the day - perhaps they've been reading the blog in the spare time!

Andrew Strauss certainly got a poor decision, but none of the batsmen looked interested in sticking around or gritting it out as Hussey had done, and the Australian bowling juggernaut was relentless, with every ball pitched in the right spot and causing problems. Even Andy Symonds got in on the act, taking two cheap wickets, including that of the quite pathetic Geraint Jones.

While I'm mentioning Symonds, I have to call out his stupendous performance in the field. His batting is not temperamentally up to scratch, but the man has got to be saving 20-30 runs per innings in the field, and given his ability as a bowling option, it may well be worth giving him a bit of a run in the side.

The atmosphere in the ground was much improved today. The Aussies in the crowd tend to get going when their men are steaming in, and the Barmy Army used the Panesar-Harmison partnership as an opportunity to get their own in.

England did much the same, taking some of that momentum and sending Justin Langer back to the pavilion as a contributor to the Primary Club, but they simply couldn't carry on from there. Frankly, I lay some of that blame at the feet (and hands) of an iffy keeper. The pressure is clearly writ over Jones' face, and if Fletcher likes him as much as he apparently does, he needs to get him out of there as soon as possible.

Panesar looks the only bowler worth a wicket. He had Hayden missed by Jones (and Collingwood off the same delivery), and had Ponting edging inches short of first slip. If England are to salvage anything from this game, they need to make the half chances count, and someone other than Panesar needs to step up and create opportunities. Frankly, I don't see who it could be, and I think Australia have every chance of establishing a 500 run lead and batting till lunch on day 4.

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