The 2010 Ashes Second Test: day three review

Day three of the Second Test in Adelaide and I’m pleased to report more dazzling cricket from England. As things stand, the biggest threat to the tourists’ chances of winning is the inclement weather. England dominating Australia? Rain down under? Has the world been turned on its head?

Who’ll be sinking the Coopers tonight?
England are loving life in Australia right now. Alastair Cook’s record-breaking  stand between dismissals finally ended when he edged a Ryan Harris delivery into the gloves of nimble-footed Brad Haddin just before lunch (for what it’s worth, Cook’s record is now 1,058-minutes). But Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell continued to pile on the runs before the rain forced the Adelaide Oval’s ground staff to put the covers on for the day. Australia now have to bat for two days to save the match, but Ricky Ponting may take comfort from the fact England salvaged a draw from a similar position in Brisbane.

You beaut!
While the rest of the Australian bowlers struggled on the flat Adelaide pitch, Ryan Harris showed some form, removing Cook and ending day three on 2-84, making him the hosts’ least expensive frontline bowler. But, let’s be honest, the Aussie bowlers had very little answer to England’s batting dominance. If Ponting’s men are to take anything from this match their own batsman need to show real grit and determination against the tourists’ attack, who will be relishing testing the growing patches of rough with the new ball.

Well done old bean
Kevin Pietersen’s unbeaten 213 was arguably his finest knock for England. After a difficult year in which he’d been dropped from the England one-day side, Pietersen bounced back with great footwork, flair and control in this innings and if his celebrations were anything to go by, it meant a lot to him to be back among the runs.

Close of play:
Australia, First Innings: 245 all out, 85.5 overs
England, First Innings: 551-4, 143.0 overs

The Ashes 2010 Second Test: days one and two review

At the beginning of this Ashes series, I was a little concerned about my staying power. In previous years of watching the action down under, the time difference and my own sleep requirements have often combined to send me off to slumberland inside the morning session. This time, things are different. I’m working off pure adrenaline. I’m kept awake by a buzz that works better than any caffeine pills, energy drinks or class-A drugs. Its name? Watching England conquer. Apologies to any Australian readers – you might want to look away now…

Who’ll be sinking the Coopers tonight?
England have been outstanding so far. Jonathan Trott claimed Simon Katich’s wicket after the fourth ball of the first day with a superb run out, setting the tone for the next 48 hours. A ball later, Jimmy Anderson removed Ricky Ponting and the hosts’ bottoms were squeaking so loudly you could hear it from the other side of the planet. By the end of the day, Anderson had four wickets and Australia had been dismissed for 245. Another majestic performance from Alastair Cook on day two, along with impressive cameos from Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen, helped England breeze past that total and into a commanding position, 72 runs ahead having lost just two wickets.

You beaut!
Not much for the Aussies to cheer on the whole, but Shane Watson (51), Mike Hussey (93) and Brad Haddin (56) batted well again on day one. Unfortunately for the hosts, the other eight on the team sheet managed just 37 runs between them. Ricky Ponting’s golden duck summed up his series so far, while Michael Clarke’s batting ability appears to have done a Harold Bishop and disappeared. Like old Jelly Belly, Clarke may need the help of the Salvation Army to overcome his problems.

Well done old bean
Anderson’s first-day figures of 4-51 were just reward for his efforts so far this series. But the real star of the show was once again Alastair Cook, who has now spent longer batting between dismissals than any other Englishman. His second-day knock of 136 not out was a real joy to behold. Cook, and his batting coaches, are the success story of the Ashes so far.

Close of play, day two:
Australia: First Innings – 245 all out, 85.5 overs
England: First Innings – 317 for 2, 89.0 overs

The Ashes 2010 First Test: day five review

After five long nights of rollercoaster drama, nailbiting tension and waking up on the sofa with dribble down my chin, the first Test between England and Australia has ended all square. If the four remaining Tests are anywhere near as exciting as this, we’re in for some superb cricket over the next few weeks. Here’s my review of the final day.

Who finished top of the Gabba ranks?
There’s no denying England will be the happier of the two sides after coming back from 221 runs down to pile on a massive 517-1 in the second innings. Australia had plenty to cheer in the first two days – Peter Siddle’s hat trick and sublime six for, Mike Hussey and Brad Haddin’s gutsy first innings stand – but the tourists have the momentum as attention turns to Adelaide. Ricky Ponting and the Australia team selectors have some big decisions to make over the next few days.

Stick another shrimp on the barbie: Ricky Ponting
Let’s get this straight: things aren’t looking great for the Aussies after a torrid final two days at the Gabba. But while he probably won’t look back fondly over the last five days, their captain looked in good shape with the bat at the end of day five running up an unbeaten 51 from 43 balls. The hosts will certainly need some big performances from Ponting in the forthcoming Tests, especially with Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell showing they’ve got the wherewithal to put runs on the board for England.

Invite to the Royal wedding: Alastair Cook
The England vice captain hit a massive 235 not out in the second innings, a total that smashed so many records it could raise the spirit of Norris McWhirter. Not only did he bat for 10 hours, 25 minutes (longer than any English batsman in Australia), but Cook surpassed Don Bradman’s highest individual Test score at the Gabba. His 329 partnership with Jonathan Trott (in 92 overs) was also the highest for England in Australia.

Roll on Adelaide
Things are looking good for England. In attack, Jimmy Anderson was a threat throughout and his final first innings total of two wickets for 99 runs wasn’t just reward for his efforts. Steven Finn’s 6-125 was encouraging, while Graham Swann can only improve after a disappointing 2-128. Meanwhile, Australian bowlers will be having nightmares after being annihilated by Strauss, Cook and Trott.

The hosts will surely make some changes before the start of the second Test – as one local columnist put it, “Australia’s bowling lacked not just bite, but teeth and gums”. Mitchell Johnson’s figures of 0-170 make him the favourite for the chop, with Ryan Harris likely to be drafted in.

Final score:
England first innings: 260 all out, 76.5 overs
Australia first innings: 481 all out, 158.4 overs
England second innings: 517 for 1, 152 overs
Australia second innings: 107 for 1, 26 overs
Match drawn

The Ashes 2010 First Test: day four review

Hello birds! Hello bees! Life’s great again after England’s heroes dominated the Aussies on day four of the Ashes. Here’s my review of the day’s play…

Who’s top of the Gabba ranks?
Time for a bit of trumpet polishing. Yesterday I suggested this game was far from over and, by goodness, I was right. Andrew Strauss more than made up for his first innings duck, leading by example with a sublime 110, while Alastair Cook finished the day on 132 not out to drag the tourists right back into this contest. Jonathan Trott ably assisted with a solid 54 not out. While a draw looks the most likely outcome, don’t bet against this resilient England side.

Stick another shrimp on the barbie?
Unfortunately for Ricky Ponting’s men, the barbecue has been extinguished. There was very little for the Aussies to cheer on day four – when Andrew Strauss was badly fumbled by Mitchell Johnson on 69 (I’m sure there’s a smutty pun in there somewhere, but we’ll try to ignore…) it summed up the hosts’ day.

Invite to the Royal wedding: Andrew Strauss
Cook’s century was superb, but Strauss’ ton showed grit, determination and bouncebackability. The England captain was furious with himself for giving his wicket away so cheaply in the first innings and this knock displayed real mental toughness. With this man in charge, our boys have got every chance of bringing the urn back home.

Day four in the Sky commentary box, sponsored by Scholl
The cricket was brilliant, but David Gower’s on-air yelp after Nasser Hussein’s chair went on his foot was without doubt the highlight of Sky’s day four coverage.

The Ashes 2010 First Test: day three review

Things I learned on day three of the Ashes: 1) staying up for a third night on the bounce is hard. 2) Staying up for a third night on the bounce after several pints and a few glasses of warm, seasonal alcoholic brew is nigh on impossible. With that in mind, please have a forgiving read of my day three summary…

Who’s top of the Gabba ranks?
Picture the scene: one day you help an old lady cross the road and when you get to the other side she hits you over the head with her handbag. Later, you chase an out-of-control pram down a hill and save the baby inside. The mother accuses you of trying to steal her child. Finally, you help a cat out of a tree and it pees all over your face.

Feeling like you’ve not really achieved the rewards your efforts deserve? Welcome to the world of the England bowling attack. Jimmy Anderson in particular bowled beautifully in the morning session, but was denied Michael Hussey’s wicket by review and later by umpire Aleem Dar’s decision. Mr Cricket, went on to pile more runs on the board and put Australia firmly on top.

Put another shrimp on the Barbie: Mike Hussey
Together with Brad Haddin (who hit 136), the Huss survived the England bowling onslaught early on and registered his third Test hundred against the old enemy, drawing a thoroughly deserved ovation from the Brisbane crowd. His 307 run partnership with Haddin is a record for Tests at the Gabba.

Invite to the Royal wedding: Steven Finn
The giant fast bowler claimed six wickets for 125 runs in his debut Ashes innings to help finally dismiss the Aussies for 481. His bowling efforts could be crucial if England manage to put on a decent total in the second innings.

Shall we put this one down to experience then?
This might sound like the wishful thinking of an England fan (well, actually, it is), but there’s no reason why England’s batsman can’t score 400 in their second innings. Hussey and Haddin have proved the Gabba pitch to be a pretty good batting track and if the tourists can give themselves a lead of 200 or so, Anderson, Swann (who can without doubt bowl better) and the bowling attack could put the Aussies under real pressure. This Test isn’t over just yet.

Close of play:
England 1st innings – 260 all out, 76.5 overs
England 2nd innings – 19-0, 15 overs

Australia 1st innings – 481 all out, 158.4 overs

The Ashes 2010 First Test: day two review

With my sleep pattern and nerves shot to pieces, here’s a review of the second day at the Gabba…

Who’s top of the Gabba ranks?
After a torrid start to the day, England’s bowlers dragged the tourists back into this contest, taking 4-72 in the afternoon session. Mike Hussey’s unbeaten 81 helped the Aussies edge back in the driving seat, but the Gabba gloom interrupted their flow and a couple of early wickets on day three would give England the initiative and hand the Barmy Army bragging rights over their Brisbane hosts.

Stick another shrimp on the Barbie: Mike Hussey
Mr Cricket was on the verge of being dropped from the Australia squad last week. How times change. Having saved his own bacon with a second-innings century against Western Australia, Huss took the Ashes by the scruff of the neck on day two. Aussie’s number five gave the best spin bowler in the world his hardest day at the office for some time and took apparent delight in thrashing anything short to the boundary. His newly-found form couldn’t have come at a better time, with Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke looking out of sorts in the face of Jimmy Anderson and the England attack.

Invite to the Royal wedding: Jimmy Anderson
Having been denied the lbw dismissal of Simon Katich by review, the Burnley Express stormed back, claiming the wickets of Shane Watson (which he clearly enjoyed) and Ricky Ponting (which I think we all did).

BAGA gymnastics award of the day:
Full marks to Steven Finn for getting his six-feet-eight-inch frame down to catch Simon Katich’s dollied effort just after lunch, claiming the first Ashes wicket of his career.

Close of play:
England 1st innings – all out 260, 76.5 overs
Australia 1st innings – 220-5, 80.0 overs

The Ashes 2010 First Test: day one review

Eh? Cricket?! That’s right sports fans. For the next few weeks, I’ll be following England’s willow-wielders and leather slingers on their travels down under, as they do battle against Australia in a war of wicket-taking wits for the contents of a glorified terracotta ash tray.

Obviously, with the time difference and this being a somewhat amateurish review, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that I’ll doze off and miss key wickets/passages of play/post-match Australian interviews beginning with the phrase “Ah look…”. But I’ll do my best to provide a daily guide for those whose matchsticks fell out of their eyes soon after Gower, Warne and co arrived on their screens.

Who’s top of the Gabba ranks?
Despite Andrew Strauss’s disastrous early wicket, the game looked evenly balanced after the first two sessions – England enjoyed identical spells before and after lunch, knocking up 86 runs for two wickets in each. Things started looking pretty rosy in the Pom garden when Alaistair Cook and Ian Bell took the tourists to 197-4. But a spectacular Peter Siddle six-for helped the Aussies end the first day on a high. England’s 260 looks a very achievable target.

Stick another shrimp on the barbie: Peter Siddle
Easily the hosts’ most threatening bowler, Siddle registered his best ever Test figures (6-54) and became only the second Australian to take a hat-trick against England in the last 100 years (the last to achieve the feat was Shane Warne in Melbourne, 1994). It was his 26th birthday too. Could it have gone any better? Well, maybe someone could’ve bought him a new razor. The one he currently uses clearly struggles to tackle the fluff under his lower lip.

Invite to the Royal wedding: Ian Bell
Bell played beautifully for his 76, eventually hitting out with only tail-end support. He’s yet to score a ton against the Aussies, but displayed impeccable timing and seemingly unshakeable confidence here. On this evidence he’s certain to notch up at least one hundred in the series.

Commentator gaffe of the day:
David Gower on Matt Prior: “He’s a very handy man to have coming in at number seven. In the previous Ashes series he scored 261 runs.

“Oh, that’s er… come and gone in a hurry. Well bowled indeed, Peter Siddle. The off stump knocked back. Matt Prior bowled, first ball.”

Bumble brilliance:
Jimmy Anderson clearly fancies himself with the bat in hand. A handsome reverse sweep to Xavier Doherty’s left-arm swing certainly won David Lloyd’s approval: “Jim-my Anderson?! The Burnley roarer! They’ll be singing and dancin’ in Dickie Pinks’ in Burnley after that, I can tell yer!”

Close of play:
England 1st Innings – all out 260, 76.5 overs
Australia 1st innings – 25-0, 7.0 overs