Andrew Starkie’s Ashes Diary (3)


Entry 3

Sunday November 28, 2010

In a Test bossed by bowlers over the first two days, there was always the chance this match may be ultimately determined by batsmen.

Bell, Cook and Pietersen threatened big scores on day one, only to be stopped by Sidds’ slice of history and debutant Doherty who helped rid the English tail.  It could be suggested their efforts were wallpaper over cracks.  Hilfenhaus and Johnson weren’t overly impressive and England’s batsmen suggested more was to come in the second innings.

Australia were choking and spluttering at 5/143 on day two.  Watson and Katich had opened with promise before the former yet again fell after a solid start.  Watson’s concentration wanders and it costs him.  Katich reached 50 before Finn, in his first Ashes Test, bent down from an impressive height and clasped a fine caught and bowled.  Ponting appeared to tighten under the pressure of the  occasion and responsibility.  Clarke batted for an hour and a quarter for his 9.  He appears unfit and probably shouldn’t be playing.  To simply keep saying he has lived with a bad back for years and knows how to manage it, should be no reason for his being out there.  If the final decision to play was his, it shouldn’t have been.  More qualified medical staff need to make that decision.  North went the way he quite often does early in an innings.

Hussey and Haddin guided Australia to stumps.  Hussey did what those those before him could not – he attacked.  He displayed admirable courage for a player many believe has had his time.  His pulling to Swann upset the spinner’s line and confidence.  Hussey finished the day on 81 and the challenge was there for him to take hold of this Test.

England bowled with purpose and menace early on day 3.  Scoring was difficult.  Anderson hit the pads more than the bat.   Hussey was given out LBW by Umpire Dar, only for it to be overturned on challenge.  This may have rocked the Pakistani umpire who rejected a similar appeal on Hussey a short time later.  Strauss could not refer the decision to the TV umpire as he had already used his team’s allotted challenges.  Hussey was plum and that decision may decide this Test match.

The referral system is a good idea, however, should not be in the hands of the players.  The central umpires should have the power to send all difficult decisions upstairs where a colleague can adjudicate upon viewing TV replays.  The current system, like that employed in grand slam tennis tournaments, undermines the authority of the umpires.

Thereafter, Hussey and Haddin wrestled control.  Hussey crept and eventually rushed to his century and celebrated as if released from prison.  Haddin is a beautiful player to watch when in form. He gives a straight and full bat to everything and drives splendidly.  He was initially careful as the situation required and opened his shoulders after reaching 50.

Broad bowled too short and his bottom lip quivered.  Anderson argued with the Australians and Swann was bullied.  Two catches were dropped and Pietersen fielded poorly.

Hussey and Haddin carried on and on.  Their 307 run partnership was the largest ever at the Gabba and lasted almost 100 overs.  Haddin finally fell to Swann for 136 and Hussey was caught in the deep off Finn on 195 – his highest Test score.  The Australian tail didn’t last long, however, the damage was done.  One partnership had seized control of this match and Australia had a first innings lead of 221.

In reply, Strauss shouldered arms first ball to Hilfenhaus and was very fortunate to survive.  He and Cook shepherded England to stumps.

At the time of writing, midway through the second session, day 4, Strauss has reached his 100 and England are closing in on the deficit.  Another day of bat over ball is unfolding and Australia will hope for the same tomorrow when its their turn at the crease again.  They may be chasing a cheeky total for victory.

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