Second Test – Day 4: Australians still in it

Second Test – Day 4

Test cricket is just brilliant. The elements are mixed so perfectly.

The English brains trust was probably thinking of batting for a few more overs on the fourth morning just to grind the Australians into the Lord’s dirt, but the clouds gathered, the trust was re-convened and Andrew Strauss declared.

The equation: Australia was set 522? In two days.

I was strangely bullish about the likelihood of an Australian win, or the clouds gathering even further, and hence a draw. But the clouds also meant the prospect of a moving ball. Ah, those elements.

The situation reminded me of Headingley in 1975. At stumps on the fourth day of that Test Australia was 3/220 chasing about 450. Rick McCosker was in the 90s and K.D. Walters was picking them off. With Edwards, Gilmour, Walker, Lillee to come (Marsh had opened the innings), and Mallett and Thommo if required, I thought we were a chance (Australia was my team in those days).

I was picking onions at Uncle Stan Schultz’s place in the Lockyer Valley on my August school holidays (three terms then) and the day’s toil was made all the easier by the prospect of the BBC coverage, Jim Laker’s coverage, and the possibility of chasing the total successfully. A chase of that size was unheard of then; 250 was considered such a benchmark all fourth innings totals beyond 250 were recorded in the ABC Cricket Book. Even as a 13 year old I knew it was set up deliciously, although I would never have used the term elements.

I remember we were eating cold roast beef and Rosella sweet mustard pickles, mashed potato and veges and salad (picking onions made you hungry) when the news came through. Vandals had ruined the pitch. The world came crumbling down. We’d never know. I despised those vandals. I had no idea of social agitation then. (Although I can’t even remember what the protest was about).

Chasing 522 meant Australia was $17.50 on Betfair which was worth a dabble. It all depended on a solid foundation.

Phil Hughes and Simon Katich had every intention, but Freddy Flintoff, such a magnificent competitor that Strauss threw him the new ball, was steaming in. Using the slope to trail the ball away from the left-handers he had Katich caught by Pietersen at a floating slip and Hughes caught by Strauss at first slip. Somewhat controversially. The English skipper came forward to snap up a sharp chance just as the ball was reaching the ground. Hughes got the nod from Strauss, and began to walk. Ponting told him to stay where he was. Rudi Koertzen walked towards Billy Doctrove who was sufficiently convinced the catch was made not to refer it to the third unpire. No doubt there will be a lot of discussion about this one.

But the focus should be on Hughes’s technique. When Flintoff went around the wicket Hughes back foot seemed to go even further towards square leg and it became difficult for him to protect his off stump convincingly.

When Damien Fleming was on Offsiders I asked him whether Hughes was a Test quality batsman or just a bloke with a good eye. He had reservations but was reasonably confident Hughes would be OK. He  may be re-assessing.

Flintoff was brilliant. Limping back to his mark he’d turn, and steam in, doing everything he could to unsettle Ponting before his gammy leg gave in. He and Anderson both got some nice bounce and movement. Ponting, lunging forward, looked uncomfortable and was caught on the gloves. But he also rocked back and dispatched a couple of short ones over square leg. Flintoff’s spell lasted seven overs.

Michael Hussey looked scratchy but the ones he was missing he was missing by miles. And the pair of them got to lunch at 2/76.

Aggers invited Rolf Harris to be his lunch-break interview guest, in honour of the impact Rolf had had on him as a child. Rolf sounded like he’d started the day with shiraz on his Nutra-Grain. But it was very entertaining.

Things changed when after the resumption when Ponting played Broad on, again showing he can look awkward when the ball jags back (can’t we all).

Clarke came in and was happy to receive a series of full deliveries, four of which he spanked to the extra cover boundary. Hussey was determined, one pull through mid-wicket suggesting he was watching the ball very closely.

Swann was given his chance, although he was asked to turn the ball up the slope. This seemed an unnecessary handicap but that brains trust knew what it was doing. He got one to turn sharply. Hussey waved his wand at it and missed it. But such was the change of direction it traveled past Prior’s gloves and to Collingwood who took a fine catch at slip. Everyone assumed the nick was there. And Hussey was out. But the evidence suggests Hussey missed the ball.

North didn’t look comfortable. Flintoff squeezed from one end. Swann from the other, until he put one through North’s nervous defence with one that kept coming with the arm.

Haddin also scratched around. Clarke continued to play his shots, quite cavalierly really, as if the draw or anything that might precipitate it, was out of his mind. But as the ball lost its wobble, and the batsmen became more comfortable with Swann, things started looking up again.

And they just kept batting.

Once they were comfortable the golf was too attractive. Just as Christopher Martin-Jenkins suggested many people around the world would have been listening to the cricket and watching the British Open from Turnberry.

When the light was offered to the batsmen they had reached 5/313.

At Turnberry Tom Watson, whose approach to the last had skipped through the green, rather unluckily, missed his 10-footer to win his sixth Open, and was preparing for a play-off.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au He has written many columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted j.t.h@footyalmanac.com.au He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo9, Anna7, Evie6. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.

Comments

  1. Brilliant couple sessions from Clarke and Haddin, loving it! Dare to dream, but don’t count on it is my advice…

    Listened to the first session on radio then headed out to Westfield London Each time I checked the radio or the phone today when wandering around London we seemed to have lost another wicket until these two came together. Funny, at around 6ish I was chatting to Cass about how Gilly and Langer pipped Pakistan in Tassie all those years ago, and not long after the BBC guys brought it up. Obviously a different task ahead of us now but do-able. Should be an entertaining final day for all.

    Know what you mean about Rolf Harris, Cassie (the Mrs) thinks when these guys come on British radio/TV and talk about Christmas at the beach etc they (Poms) think that’s what everyone does when in reality we’re all there sweating in hot kitchens pumping out the roast. But very entertaining, as Blowers and Chappelli were again today.

  2. We are about to watch the greatest test victory of all time. The cheating, bleating, smelly Poms will lose the plot. When we hit the winning runs just before tea tomorrow the Poms will be officially buried.

  3. Peter Flynn says:

    Dips,
    Hope you are spot on.
    If the Aussies get going, the biggest worry might be when it dawns on them that they are a real show. That’s when runs dry up.
    I’m also worried by the ‘good luck’ the Poms seem to be enjoying.

    John,
    In regards to Leeds 1975, my vague memory is that George Davis was in jail on armed robbery charges.
    A group of supporters wanted it to be known that it was a case of mistaken identity.
    I think he ended up in the Colonel Klink on other robbery charges subsequent to his release.
    My grandpa was teaching me how to play 500 the night Day 5 was abandoned. He’s 97 and still loves his Cats.

  4. Andrew Starkie says:

    Please God, we deserve it more, we’re nicer than they are. First hour crucial (obviously). Great to see Pup produce when needed. He was confident before play, let’s hope he goes on with it. Poms rely so much on Freddy, if he’s sore, the match may be ours. Broad annoys me – what a prat. Please God!!

  5. Andrew Starkie says:

    Harmsy, what’s this ‘Australia was my team in those days’? They still are, I hope.

    I’m very excited about tonight. Test cricket is the best sport in the world. Particularly when the Roos draw with the Tigers.

  6. If we were bowling, even with our popgun attack, we’d know that with patience and discipline a key wicket would open the door. Aussies need luck and a sore Freddy.The upside is that the pitch has caused no problems and really only two batsmen have been legitimately dismissed. Rudi Koertzen looms as the danger man for a potential five wicket haul and probable knighthood. Australia’s conundrum is like Tom Watson’s. You can get very close, but everything must go right. I fear the pesky final wicket partnership from the other morning could prove decisive.

  7. I know this is random and that i know nothing about cricket BUT i looked in the Herald Sun today and have come to the conclusion that Shane Watson is VERY PRETTY!!
    :)

  8. Peter Flynn says:

    Danielle,
    Tune into the 5th test this week and hopefully see Watson make a hundred.

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