Fifth Test, Day 3: We’re in Big Trouble

Australia went into the third day of the Fifth Test looking down the barrel. The Poms, who cling to the weapon that can blow us away, are as surprised as anybody that they indeed hold the upper hand. As the third day begins England is 3/58 with a 230-run lead.

Before this Test got under way England were being written off. Today, all they need is to steel themselves, make as many runs as they can and they will stand on the verge of a remarkable Ashes series victory. We are in big trouble, stacks of trouble; I’m talking Trouble with a capital T.

The big question concerns the state of the pitch. Warnie’s analysis (and hasn’t he been a touchstone commentator throughout the series, managing to combine knowledge, stories and a good natured blokey sense of humour, while conveying succinctly useful concepts and perspective for the average viewer)  of the direction the pitch will take this game is that it is turning to suit spin. Great. England has Swann. We have North(ing).

Siddle opens the bowling for Australia. The first ball of the day is also one of the best. On first view it looked like Trott had nicked it and was out caught behind. Umpire Rauf was unmoved. Replays showed it clipped his back leg. Very good decision, er, I think.

Even in the first hour of play our bowlers didn’t look convincing. They weren’t bowling tight enough. Strauss and Trott were happy to block and chip away and we didn’t put any pressure on that mindset. We allowed them to settle and get their eye in. Through the morning and indeed the day, England kept adding to the stats. At 3/86 Trott flicked a delivery from North off his pads for 4. This was the first 4 of the day and brought up their 50 partnership.

Another two runs to Trott from a drive and England’s lead extends to 264. The significance of this is that the biggest winning run chase at the Oval was back in 1902 when England made 263/9 to beat Joe Darling’s Australian side.

In the few overs before lunch when Clark bowled to Strauss it felt like Clark was getting to him. In this spell Clark bowled 8 overs for 19 runs, with 2 maidens. He bowled mainly at Strauss, who, while taking him for a number of 4’s couldn’t quite read Clark’s action.

Yet England kept on adding to their total. At 139/3 Strauss and Trott brought up their 100 partnership in what was a game changing enterprise. England has control of this game. It is just a matter of how tightly they will screw Australia down. Just before lunch two different events occur that tell us everything and nothing.

First, Strauss lost his wicket at 75. Playing an uncharacteristic lazy drive off North he nicked an outside edge to Michael Clarke at first slip. England is 157/4 and 329 ahead. Then, from the last ball before lunch, new batsman Prior hit Ponting, who was fielding at Silly Mid-Off smack in the mouth. Ponting is stunned and bleeding from the lip area. It looked very painful. Why wasn’t he wearing a protective helmet?

He spat blood. The last tough sportsman to be captured spitting blood was Hodge in last year’s Preliminary Final against St Kilda. In that game the player looked determined and rock steady. In this instance, the act of standing at SMO without protection looked like another example of Ponting trying to prove something he doesn’t have to prove.

During the Lunch break I ponder whether Trott is this Test’s Watson factor. His selection and contribution may well be the difference that wins the game.

When Prior is run-out just after lunch Flintoff comes to the crease to an enormous reception from the English crowd. This is Flintoff last Test. Ponting shakes his hand – lovely gesture. Flintoff goes the big sweep through midwicket and opens his innings with a 4. The crowd goes wild.

Siddle tries to inject some aggression into the attack. He gets some swing and bounce. But it feels manufactured. It’s as if we’re still reeling from the session yesterday when the game all but slipped from Australia’s grasp.

In the next hour or two the English lower order let rip and in doing so, rip Australia a new one. First Flintoff scores 22 from 18 balls with four 4s in the mix. Then Broad picks up 29 runs off 35 balls with five 4s. Broad’s batting is that assured that Warne wonders if Broad is batting on the same pitch as everybody else. We all wonder if Broad may yet be the next Flintoff, a metrosexual Flintoff if you will.

But these efforts are merely entrees. Swann’s innings is the main course. He hits 63 from 55 deliveries. Swann has all the strokes, from his ugly duckling reverse sweeps to glorious, perfectly timed cover drives. At one point it looked like he’d get to a century before Trott.

At Tea England is 290/7 with a lead of 480. We all try to collect our thoughts. It’s late here in Melbourne, so bear with me. Here are a few thoughts at Tea on the Third day:

1. Australia’s bowling has been mostly uninspired and insipid. At times it verges on desperate.

2. The camera keeps showing Ponting spit. Does he spit more than the average Australian cricket captain and or bogan?

3. When your main source of entertainment is the English batting you’re in trouble.

4. I enjoyed seeing the various crowd members who attend in fancy dress. Lily Allen with head gear as if she was a pint of Larger was pretty funny.

5. The situation for Australia is dire. How dire I instinctively hear you ask. Let me put it this way, Warnie believes we will need a miracle and Greg ‘Yeah Yeah Hair’ Matthews implored all Australians to pray.

6. The SBS analysis has been tolerable. I do have trouble with Damien Martyn’s big bug eyes. Gene Wilder was on another TV station tonight, as Willy Wonka. His bug eyes are okay, because you know he is going to crack you up in a minute or two. But Martyn, not so much.

7. The First Test tells you all you need to know about this Series. There, Australia threw away a golden opportunity and England were more committed.

8. Love the “Run Box”.

9. I notice an advertising sidding for Cockspur Rum. I’m not sure about that. I’d hardly drink rum from Bundaberg, I’m certainly not trying rum from the spur of a … anyways, on with the game.

10. If England win Strauss should be named Man of the Series. Not because of his batting. He has managed to keep this rag-tag group of good (but not great) players focused and together. Mighty effort.

Trott is in the nervous 90s. He cuts Hilfenhaus for 4. He’s not that nervous. By now commentators have reconsidered their views on the influence of the pitch. England has managed very nicely on the same pitch that Australia fell apart on. They have a point. England now leads by 500 runs.

On 99 Trott flicks a Hilfenhaus delivery off his pads through midwicket for 4 and achieves a century on debut. A fantastic innings. Well worth watching despite the fact that each run felt like the knife going deeper into our collective heart. When Trott is dismissed for 119 Strauss declares. England is 9/373 and lead by 545. Australia will have to break every kind of record to win this game.

Australia bat for 20 over before stumps. Watson and Katich play very well. The day ends with Australia 0/80. But this is England’s day. They took what they were given on Day 2 of this Test and built it up beyond expectation. For Australia to win from here it is the psychological competition, not the physical competition that is most important. On today’s effort, it is hard to imagine they have the psychological drive to achieve the impossible. But I’d love to eat my words.


  1. Peter Flynn says

    Enjoyed the read.
    Re Deborah Harry, check this out.

  2. Thanks for the link Peter. Man, she still smoulders. “If you say hello, it’ll mean you want to see me … in the flesh. Warm and soft … in the flesh”. I’m 14 all over again. How good is the film clip? The first time you see is on the TV screen. The next time is the sketch of her on the backdrop. Then you see her … in the flesh! A lot of good bands came out of that New York CBGBs scene.

    And I liked your summary of the last day/rites. That series, in semiotic terms signalled the end of the Australian tough bloke era of playing the game. I think post-structuralism may have arrived at cricket.

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