The Oval?

I’m glad that Australia had all the momentum today, otherwise it could have gotten messy!

I thought of quite a few witty comments to make while watching the match last night, but I was drinking whisky, so I can’t remember them now, and they probably weren’t that funny anyway.

There was anticipation, excitement, plenty of talk – most of it redundant, and then there was the play.  Today was as disappointing for Australian fan as it was exhilarating for the English.

It would be very easy to concentrate on the obvious deficiencies in the Australian team (a lot caused by selection), but that would take away from the wonderful performance of this English team.

Anderson bowled extremely well, no signs of any problem with his side, although Australia didn’t require him to bowl enough to really test it. After three innings, it is hard to fathom whey Tremlett wasn’t in the side from the beginning.  Apart from seemingly trying to get Ponting out down leg-side for a couple of overs, he was hostile, quick and aggressive.  He is also a giant.  That helps.

If anyone believes in omens and luck going one way or another, then the first three overs would have dispelled that. 

Hughes looked fiery and Watson had been dropped twice. 

Then the usual first innings business resumed.

Watson was lucky to get to 5, and Hughes played a very loose shot after working hard for an hour.  Ponting again got a good ball which moved just enough. 

Ponting looked determined, and seemingly begun to take control with two cracking pulls to the fence off his series nemesis Anderson.  As with much of Ponting’s batting this series, those shots provided false hope.  Throughout his innings, his balance was off, he was falling to the off-side when the ball was going down leg, he was lunging rather than stepping down the wicket and mostly (if I am honest) he looked a shadow of his former self. 

Admittedly I am being somewhat biased, but seeing the great one (Tendulkar) streak away from the Tasmanian is biting a little.  I had always thought that, although Tendulkar slightly edged him, Ponting was up there with him.  Tendulkar is making me feel a little foolish right now.

The ease with which Kallis is making runs is also starting to grate on me.  I don’t like Kallis, never have.  Before Watson, he was the bloke I most despised in world cricket.  Begrudgingly, I am coming to the conclusion, that he is also one of the all-time greats of world cricket.  This hasn’t been a good day for me!

I don’t think Ponting is finished, I think he does still have some good runs at international level left in him.  In fact, on the whole, I’ve thought that a big score was literally just around the corner this series.  He can still bat, he showed that recently in India, which is statistically his worst performed area of the world.  My fear, is that he may not get the chance to pull himself out of this slump.  It will be surprising if he survives this summer as skipper (although I do not agree with that decision, as I can’t see anyone good enough to replace him), and it is not the Australian way to keep playing for long (or usually at all) once the captaincy has been taken away.

Whether you are an English, Australian, or just a cricket fan in general, I think you will have to agree, it is a sad sight seeing him struggle so much at the moment.

Although England bowled very well and suitably for the conditions, the Australians gifted a lot of wickets – Hughes, Clarke, Smith, Haddin especially.  Some of the bowlers did as well, but they aren’t there to bat.  Arguably Hussey played an ill-timed and somewhat loose shot to go out, but his performances this series do give him a bit of leyway in that regard – as it is the first time that he has failed to make at least 50 this series, I think we should give him a break.  Especially when you consider that he has been at the crease very very early – before the 15th over three times this series out of six innings (and twice before 10 had been bowled)!  This is likely to continue with the way the men ahead of him are batting.

I went to bed when Johnson bowled it to fine-leg, so I can’t really talk much about the English openers, other than it looks like a long day in the field today if Australia can’t get back some of that Perth magic.

I feel like I am repeating myself on this, but the selections for this entire series, and especially this match are ludicrous. Unless Hauritz has been stealing the other players wallets, it is simply unfathomable that he is not in this side.  Smith, at his current stage, cannot bat at number 6 – simple as that.  Hughes is not worthy of his place and Clarke should have been dropped.  Siddle, and to an extent Hilfy, are lucky to be playing.  Blokes like Hauritz, D Hussey, McDonald, White, and various others carving up the Shield must be wondering what is going on, and more importantly – what the have to do.  It almost, only almost, makes you feel a little sorry for Hodge!

But when all is said and done, well played England – a thoroughly professional display.

It will be interesting to see whether Katich gets a run in Sydney now that he has indicated that he thinks he is fit.  I would have thought if Australia somehow pull a “centenary test” out of the bag he may, but if the Ashes are lost it may be a chance to play a few new kids.

I would love to see Australia show a little fight today, pull their fingers out and get stuck into the English line up and show some metal with the bat late in the day.  I would like to see that – not only because I am an Aussie, but because I would like to see a contest, a scrap, a good hard match.  The see-saw of this series is giving me indigestion!

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