Saturday, December 16, 2006

England vs Australia T3D3: A Santa Barbara Yankee in Gilly's Court

Wow. What an innings. You've read all about it by now, and all I can see is that Gilly was magnificent, as was the crowd as they enjoyed a spectacular and brutal assault by one of their favourite sons. I think it's appropriate that Viv's record is intact, but I have to admit, I badly wanted to be able to say "I was there". I was.

Australia were crusing when Gilly came in, probably planning to declare at lunch on Day 4, and then bowl England out by lunch on Day 5. 20 overs and 162 runs later, the declaration arrived. Not one person saw that blitzkrieg coming, especially when Gilchrist was fortunate not to see an edge fly straight to the fielder before he got off the mark.

It's late, so brief highlights of my day:
  • In the queue at 5am, I heard a strong American accent. I was stunned. And that was just the beginning. The American in question was upset because he had overslept, and would not be the first person in the ground today. He's from Santa Barbara. He's been attending Tests at the WACA for a few years. He thinks ODI's and 20/20 are a joke, and Test cricket is the real thing. He must sit behind the bowler's arm. He can't understand how he enjoyed baseball as a youngster in America, when cricket is where it's at. I'm not making any of this up.
  • I don't know why Flintoff started the proceedings with Kevin Pietersen. On the radio, they suggested it was to get an early wicket so that the regular bowlers could come on. I won't even dignify that suggestion with a comment.
  • Hussey's century was the worst knock I've ever seen him play. Just goes to show what a batsman he is. He was patchy, he was lucky to escape when Monty had him caught close in, he was smacked on the helmet by Harmison, and he top edged a few hook shots.
  • One of those was spilled by, you guesst it, Geraint Jones, who called for what was clearly Pietersen's catch, and then made a complete hash of it. This was in addition to missing a regulation stumping when Michael Clarke had just a few runs to his name.
  • When Flintoff took the new ball at 3 for 300, he used it with just one slip. I simply don't understand captains who refuse to attack even for a few overs with a new ball. What can you be scared of at 3 for 300? Conceding a boundary? Sure enough, Strauss dropped Hussey on 78, diving across from 2nd slip to the vacant first slip. Pathetic
  • Monty was the man again. he should have had Clarke early on - the stumping missed by Jones, and it was eventually he who found Hussey's edge, and then followed that up with Symonds wicket.
  • Collingwood is credited with catching Symonds, but what the scoreboard doesn't show is that Jones dropped that catch first. What must Chris Read (and James Foster) be thinking?
  • Why did England bother to play Sajid Mahmood when the captain has no confidence in him? It's a vicious cycle for a bowler - you know your captain doesn't rate you, so when you finally get the ball (once the game is all but gone), you don't run in with the confidence you would otherwise have. You therefore bowl poorly, and the cycle intensifies.
  • Michael Clarke is here to stay. He batted superbly, and as always played Panesar with aplomb for the most part. He's seized his chance, and I'll go out on a limb and say that when Ponting retires, Clarke may well be the one to take the reins. He's pure class, and with Ponting, Hussey and him around for the next few years, the Australian middle order is in good hands.
  • You've got to hand it to Matty Hayden - every time the critics get on his case, he answers them. Not his most fluent knock, but he stood up to be counted.
  • The value of having a 20 minute bowling session before the close was highlighted today. The Aussie bowlers had had a wonderful day's rest, and could bowl with freedom. Little wonder that Brett Lee could therefore send down 95mph outswingers. Strauss got his third bad decision in a row, but as a batsman, you will pay the price for padding up without offering a shot.
And so to day 4. I don't see how England can do it. If Cook and Bell can put on 300 and take it to 350-1 at the close, then there might be a contest. If not, then I see England getting out for between 200-300 depending on just how intent Australia are on delivering a humiliation.

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