Monday, December 18, 2006

England vs Australia T3D4: The Tease

Okay, so I admit it. Against my own better judgement, I dared to hope for a while. For half a day, England toyed with those of us who were supporting them. And then they reverted to type. We gave up hope, only to be brought right back to the brink, this time Pietersen being Cook's ally. Of course, the moment we dared to hope once more, we were let down with a resounding crash. You know the feeling - the guy or girl you've been eyeing flashes you a flirtatious smile. You hesitate, before concluding that it can be only you she is looking at. You settle your nerves, rehearse your best line, and just as you are all set to go, Brad Pitt steps forward from right behind you and steals your thunder. Suddenly, you know that it was never meant to be.

The cricket itself continued the trend of the game - intensity and quality were to be found from various corners. Cook and Bell had a great morning session. Bell, known to Warne as the Shermantor (from the movie American Pie), came out with positive intent against his tormentor, and delighted the crowd by coming down the track several times. He was far from dominant however - Warne bowled superbly, and the contest teetered and wobbled in every direction.

Cook had a lot more trouble with the leggie, and in fact was not especially fluent in general. However, even more so than Bell, he appeared absolutely determined to knuckle down and bat until the match was over. He might have been dismissed just before lunch, when he pulled carelessly and McGrath completely misjudged at deep square leg, allowing the ball to drop over his head, but inside the boundary rope. It doesn't get more embarrassing than that, and coupled with his drop in the first innings which resulted in a humiliating change of position with Michael Clarke, it capped a poor match in the outfield for McGrath.

The highlight of the bowling was Stuart Clark's spell of 6 overs for 9 runs. Clark is often referred to as a McGrath clone, but I'm starting to think that's a little unfair. He gets sharper bounce than McGrath does, and moves the ball more. He's more the next generation than an exact replica, and I see no reason that he won't lead the Australian attack (as he already is) for the next three or four years.

The lunch break, as usual, was devoted to the inflation of a huge blow-up can of Milo, which always takes about 20 minutes to raise, for a 5 minute showing as the young kids wind down their kanga cricket knockabout. It's actually been quite entertaining to watch, as have the interviews with the young cricketer of the day, who is invariably a five year old whose vocabulary is limited to the word "Yes!" I also used this time to learn that Billy Birmingham has some recordings that pre-date the Twelfth Man, so that's something I'll be hunting for over the next few days.

The post lunch session was dominated by Shane Warne. His bowling was nothing short of superb and his display made you realise that bowling is not just about the ball you deliver. Warne has raised it to a psychological art form, appealing to make a batsman see demons that aren't there in the pitch, staring, muttering, delaying the game, and using every ploy available to exert pressure on Bell and Cook. And it worked in the end - late in the session, Bell tamely patted one to short cover, and you knew from the Aussies' celebration that they now had one hand firmly on the little urn. Warney even bowled a rare googly at Alistair Cook during this period, surprising everyone, including Adam Gilchrist, who could only deflect it to an equally stunned Hayden at first slip.

Paul Collingwood once again looked out of his depth, as he has done intermittently during his Test career. I haven't got a lock on him, but my best guess is that he's the quintessential utility player, only he has sufficient determination and grit to occasionally punch above his weight class. He'll be found wanting at times - here he was brutally exposed yet again by Stuart Clark - but he may have a few more Adelaides, though I'd expect more 50s than 200s.

Pietersen and Cook looked good together after tea, but just when it looked like England might make the game last well into the fifth day, the skies started clouding over. As the darkness set in, the floodlights came on, and Cook nicked one through to Gilchrist, probably not for the last time in this series.

Hoggard had been waiting nervously in the dressing room, and walked out looking like he didn't really want to be out there. Fortunately for him, McGrath didn't want him there either, and a rare yorker had him back in the hutch faster than Geoffrey Boycott could say back in the hutch. The dream over finished with two leg cutters that had Flintoff completely flummoxed, and the day ended with the series all but over.

England have just one big hope for tomorrow - that the dark clouds of tonight turn into a massive thundershower. It would be nice to think that Flintoff and Pietersen can hang around for a couple of sessions, but quite frankly, I don't remotely believe that they can. I expect a finish in the morning session tomorrow, although I will be putting a few extra dollars in the parking meter just in case. The bottom line is that Shane Warne is just bowling far too well, on a pitch that is offering him (and the pacemen) turn and bounce.

A couple of other observations on the day's play:
  • The crowd, even in the members section, can be really annoying. What ever happened to not moving around or getting out of your seat while an over is in progress? Why can't the event staff control this behaviour?
  • What is it with short mid ons and mid offs standing next to the non-striker alongside the pitch? Do they serve any purpose at all? Has anyone ever seen a catch taken there? Actually, I think I have, once, but I simply don't understand it. Batsmen at this level should be too good to be distracted by such a presence.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Great stuff mate; as you predicted, England's last day resistance was pretty feeble.

I'm going to be in Sydney but have been unable to get tickets so far. How many tickets are sold on the morning of each day? Is it worth me trying my luck?

Thanks a lot.