Third Test, Old Trafford, Manchester
Australia 7/527 dec
England 7/294 (K. Pietersen 113)
Taking my lead from intrepid Day 2 reporter, A. Else, shortly after dinner I put another log on the fire and cleared the books, Lego and lidless Textas from the couch.
The fire was well-established. I could thank The Handicapper for that. Fed up with the wet, green wood of our modest pile, she had handed down a decision that allowed for the purchase of wood from the local service station. Clearly she hadn’t completed any due diligence as the bag cost $14 for eight small pieces of red gum which had to be carefully rationed and combined with the wet stuff from out the back to get me to stumps.
But what price a cosy lounge-room filled with the warmth of children, especially those trying to land blows on each other while avoiding teeth-brushing and other important rituals.
I was looking forward to the day’s play, but my attention was grabbed (easily) by the Carlton-Freo match. The watching-proportions would reveal themselves.
In Manchester, it was the opportunity for Nathan Lyon which appealed. He had bowled beautifully the night before, as had Peter Siddle; certainly the cricket was so intriguing I’d gone the full distance, even though suffering at the hands of a North victory (I’ve tipped them all year for nowt result and now they beat my own team! More on that some other time.)
Understandably, Michael Clarke opened with Harris and Siddle. By then Carlton looked harder than I can recall in recent times, not that I commit much about Carlton to memory. They looked quick. They looked tough. And it seemed like Yarran, (especially) Garlett and Betts might find a way to burst through, or get out the back, even if, in the old days, that was cheating. How the game changes.
With the little Cricinfo box in the corner of the lap-top screen to my side, I remained focussed on the relentlessly robust Docklands stoush. However, good fortune did allow me to see Siddle put balls through Trott, whose presence at the crease suggested he was a man in the state of being hungover (there should be a word for that, where is Douglas Adams when you need him?), and Cook, who couldn’t get his feet moving. Interesting.
However, nothing in Manchester, nor in most places on Planet Earth, could rival Hills running goal, after a rugby league half-back’s short off-load from Walters. What a sausage! I was yahoo-ing and clapping. On my own. In acknowledgement of a thing of majesty.
Not to be outdone by his brother brothers, Yarran sprinted away at the other end, and kicked one of the points of the year.
The sun was out in Manchester but it wasn’t as bright as the first day when the light looked positively weird. It was colonial light – Brisbane in October, or Cape Town – not northern English light.
Trott tried to leave one from Harris but somehow nicked it to Clarke who held the catch at second slip. Three down. Kevin Pietersen strode to the crease, looking like a man who should have played No. 5 in the Super 15 final in Hamilton. He is massive and bats as other big men have over the years, making the bowler wonder if there is actually a set of stumps behind the hulk standing at the other end.
Pietersen is, of course, completely unlikable and, even when given the benefit of the doubt, finds a way to piss on it. So he and David Warner would be prefect bedfellows really – which I hope they become.
KP is unlikable. Detestable actually, if you were in the crowd at Adelaide the day he celebrated his double hundred with an arms-raised march of triumph to deep third man (on a long oval) when it was clear he was expecting Miss Brahms to break ranks from the Barmy Army and leave some of her Loreal on his tummy banana. All he’d done was bullied Xavier Doherty and Marcus North in a way which you hardly noticed from the Chappell bar.
Not only is Pietersen unlikeable, he is unpleasant to watch. I’m not sure which English commentator suggested he had the presence of Viv Richards at the crease – it would have been Nasser or Strauss – but it was enough to keep me at the footy.
Zac Tuohy, by contrast, kicked a beautiful running goal from 50, and then followed it up with another, and the Blues were in it.
Starc got Cook, flicking at a glance which he got a bit on. But Brad Haddin thrust himself to his right to take a brilliant diving catch. Four down, and 400 ahead, and the pressure was on the home side. The Australians just needed one more. The quicks probed and probed.
Eventually Clarke threw the ball to Lyon who had the potential to do some damage if he was allowed to dictate terms. He had a nice breeze, a bit of turn, and importantly there was some bounce. Warney talked him up – and I reckon he was genuine. Pietersen and Bell, seeing no merit in the crease-anchored prod, went on the attack, lifting him over mid-on and mid-off for three superb sixes, winning the psychological battle. They virtually knocked him out of contention, which was disappointing. He’ll have another chance on the final day.
Freo landed some final-quarter blows on Carlton as well which made for some interesting Malthouse moments. But not as interesting as Nat Fyfe’s moments. The Dockers won a physical encounter and now enjoy a good run home.
More wood for the fire.
The Australians were up for the fight. The quicks – especially the two right-handers – did not shy away from their task for a second. Bowling at two top-quality Pommy bastards they tried everything. But the partnership crept along and it turned into a slow afternoon where wills battled. Jeffrey Robert Thomson was caught on camera asleep in the outer. Or was he dead? He appeared more dead when he smiled, his supa-white choppers looking like they’d been inserted especially for the journey to the after-life.
Watto was barely with us. He chased a square drive towards the point boundary as only Watto can. There was no hint of kelpie in it at all. It was the way you’d expect Garfield (the cat) to chase – only engaging in the exercise after the nod towards mid-off was unsuccessful.
But Watto was given his chance with the Duke. Always hard to get away, he bowled at the off-stump trying to produce the sort of delivery that would get himself out. Pietersen tried to change the length a little by inching forward and when on 62 he played across a straight one. Watson thought he had his man. But Pietersen’s mini-advance had taken him a stride down the track. That fooled the umpire who gave it not out.
Watson’s bottom lip came out. His brow creased. “That’s out,” he said to the committee in the cordon.
Clarke and Haddin folded their arms and from the corner of their mouths conversed – something about Watto and reviews no doubt. And maybe petulance. There was no review. Pietersen continued.
Over the next few minutes the whole ground looked to the dressing room and there was great amusement (in half the crowd) when it became known that a review would have seen the big lump on his way.
The Australians really are spooked.
Pietersen went on to make 113 – very patient in a time-consuming way in the second half of his innings.
Harris gave the Australians hope forcing a jaffa through Ian Bell which interrupted a Beefy Botham Scunthorpe story. For a moment, I thought Botham was going to finish the tale.
Australia fought through the final session and the Poms finished the day at 7/294.
This is set up for a cracking last couple of days where the Australians must bowl aggressively. Lyon is the key again. He has had half a dozen chances to bowl Australia to victory in the past couple of years. I hope, for his sake, his skipper has the choice to enforce the follow-on.
And that the weather remains colonial.