Thursday, 30 December 2010

Inapt Reds sunk by fighting Wolves

Sports - Football - Premier League - Liverpool 0:1 Wolverhampton

Last night at Anfield, Liverpool suffered their eighth league defeat of the season and are down to 12th, giving Wolves their first away win since March and lifting them off the bottom of the league table.

Mick McCarthy's men seemed more on the ball from the start, giving the home side only little of the ball and their fans little to sing about apart from sarcastic "Hodgson for England" chants.

Liverpool hadn't played since their 3-1 defeat at Newcastle on 11th December, but had their skipper Steven Gerrard back after his six-week injury layoff.

Little was to be seen of him and the home side's star striker Fernando Torres, with Wolves not giving the Reds over two seconds on the ball. Watching the game, it seemed that the Wolves were the hungrier fighters and the Reds were the struggling failures.

Glen Johnson was lucky to get away with just one booking, the Liverpool defender hugging and wrapping himself around the Wolves attack on more than one occasion.

The Wanderers took the lead on 56, thanks to Stephen Ward's fine finish after a mix-up between Red defenders Martin Skrtel and Sotirios Kyrgiakos handed Sylvan Ebanks-Blake's pass-ball through to the defender.

The goal, lead and result was more than deserved with the Wolves on top for most of the game and fighting hard against an absent and impotent Liverpool.

Skrtel saw his late headed strike hit the back of the net, but it was rightly disallowed as offside.

It is Wolves' first win at Anfield in 26 years, and they well and truely outplayed the home side. Roy Hodgson called it a bad day at the office.

It has been more than just a bad day this season, from what I have seen, I would call the whole side a total embarrassment full stop.

Or as the Wolves fans put it themselves, "How bad must you be? We're playing away"

Liverpool: Reina; Johnson (booked 76), Konchesky (Aurelio 73), Kyrgiakos, Skrtel; Meireles (Cole 73), Gerrard, Lucas, Kuyt; Torres, Ngog (Babel 62).
Subs not used: Jones, Agger, Maxi, Poulsen.

Wolves: Hennessey; Elokobi (booked 31), Stearman, Ward (scored 56, Fletcher 78), Berra; Zubar, Foley, Hunt, Jarvis (Edwards 89); Milijas, Ebanks-Blake.
Subs not used: Hahnemann, Batth, Jones, Mujangi Bia, Bent.

BBC stats:
Attempts: 9-7
On target: 5-3
Corners: 2-8
Free kicks: 11-8
Possession: 55%-45%

Sky Sports stats:
Attempts: 7-6
On target: 3-2
Offsides: 5-4
Corners: 2-8
Free kicks: 11-8
Possession: 56%-44%
Passing Success: 73.8%-64.5%
Tackles/Success: 16/68.8%-20/75%
Territorial Advantage: 39.9%-60.1%

Referee: Peter Walton
Man of the match: Stephen Ward

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

England thrash Australia to retain the Ashes

Sports - Cricket - Ashes - 4th Test - Melbourne - Day 4

My picks of the fourth day:

England have retained the Ashes for the first time in 24 years by thrashing Australia by an innings and 157 runs. It is their biggest win against their bitter rivals since 1956 and made Ricky Ponting the first Australian skipper in 120 years to lose the Ashes three times. Whilst he is out of the last Test and doubtful for keeping the captaincy in general, England captain Andrew Strauss is a proud man and hopeful his side can win the series emphatically by avoiding defeat in the fifth and final Test in Sydney starting on Sunday.

Run of Play: Advantage to...

Australia 258 all out, England beat Australia by an innings and 157 runs: It was only a question of when not if the Aussies would fall and England could celebrate...

Partnerships: Australia resumed batting on day four on 169-6, England needing only three wickets to tie up and finish the match and series successfully with Ryan Harris unable to bat due to injury. Mitchell Johnson (6) fell quickly bowled and beaten by Chris Tremlett's reverse swing (Australia 172-7). But Brad Haddin (55*) and Peter Siddle (40) created a bit of a fight back with a partnership of 86, postponing the inevitable by an hour-and-a-bit. But when Siddle fell, Ben Hilfenhaus (0) followed soon after and after finally getting Australia all out for 258, England were able to let the fun and celebrations begin.

Bowling: Tremlett, Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan took a wicket each on the day making it five and six wickets in the match for the two fast bowlers respectively. Although the bowlers did a great job in the whole match, each chipping in with wickets, James Anderson also with five and Swann finding a bit of his form back with two, batsman Jonathan Trott won the man-of-the-match award and deservedly so for his unbeaten 168 score he contributed to England's staggeringly score of 513 and unreachable lead of 415.

Ups: For the first time I can remember (I was only 1 the last time this happened) England have retained the Ashes and won it Down Under! I am definitely going to buy this DVD-set, that is for sure!!!

Downs: The attendance has fallen just as drastically as and with the Aussies from 84,345 on day one, it went down to 67,149/68,773 the next couple of days and then plummeted to 19,889 on day four. And as far as I could tell, 99% of them were all part of the Barmy Army, chanting and celebrating on!

Hero to zero: It has been confirmed this morning that Aussies skipper Ricky Ponting has been ruled out of the Sydney Test due to aggravation of the fracture to the little finger of his left hand. Michael Clarke will replace him as skipper and Usman Khawaja will make his Test debut with the bat. After scoring only 113 runs in eight innings and averaging only 16.14 this series, I am not too sure whether it Ponting's injury is the only reason which excludes him from Australia's team sheet and would not be surprised if that is the last we have seen of him, as the Aussie skipper at least...

Australia v England fourth Test fourth day as it happened:

Highlights taken from the BBC website:

- WICKET, Johnson bowled Tremlett 6 (Australia 172-7): Brad Haddin is a sinewy character, with uncomplicated with a see-it-and-hit-it philosophy to batting, punching a lovely meaty straight drive past bowler Chris Tremlett towards the mid-on boundary, but Alastair Cook makes an excellent parry to cut the runs down to a single. But Mitchell Johnson's stay ends when he is cleaned up by a Chris Tremlett delivery. It's started...

- Australia 210-7: Siddle gets in on the boundary-scoring antics with an aerial thump over mid-off before adopting similar tactics with a chop over gully down to deep point off Tremlett, who wears the expression of a man who can't quite work out whether he locked the back door before flying out to Australia. Meanwhile, Sid El moves to 14 from 25 deliveries. Decent fight from this eight-wicket duo. Well played.

- DRINKS BREAK, Australia 237-7: Wonderful drift from Swann, moving away from Haddin's bat before turning sharply off the wicket, mesmeric bowling, a real pleasure to watch. Just a single to Haddin from the over and he moves on to 48. A beverage break.

- WICKET, Siddle c Pietersen b Swann 40 (Australia 258-8): Siddle goes for the big guns again and launches another huge swat high into the air, but he doesn't get enough willow to clear the ropes as Kevin Pietersen takes a smart catch just centimetres from the boundary ropes. Get your drink of choice on the go, we're almost there...

- WICKET, Hilfenhaus c Prior b Bresnan 0 (Australia 258-9): That's it - start the car! ENGLAND HAVE RETAINED THE ASHES! Hilfenhaus edges a simple catch to Matt Prior for Tim Bresnan's fourth wicket of the innings. The celebrations have begun - let the fun begin... ENGLAND BEAT AUSTRALIA BY AN INNINGS AND 157 RUNS.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

England move closer to Ashes victory

Sports - Cricket - Ashes - 4th Test - Melbourne - Day 3

My picks of the third day:

England added only 69 runs to their overnight total and were all out for 513, leaving Jonathan Trott unbeaten on 168. That gave Australia a deficit of 415 to make up for. The hosts started steadily, losing only one wicket in the afternoon session, before Tim Bresnan ripped through the heart of their attack taking three wickets for only five runs in the final session, making Australia fall and end the day on 169-6, still 246 runs behind England.

Run of Play: Advantage to...

1st session, England 513 all out, 415 ahead at lunch: As pointless as it was to bat it out, England added 69 runs to their overnight total, losing five wickets in the process, extending their lead to 415 runs and giving Australia an even more impossible, harrowing hill to climb.

2nd session, Australia 95-1, 320 runs behind at tea: Australia will be happy under the given cirumstances, having only lost just the one wicket. Every session from now onwards would have to be the same to give the hosts a chance, which seems less likely and too good to be true...

3rd session, Australia 169-6, 246 behind at the end of day three: England got the breakthrough and broke the Aussies down as it seems all too familiar and typical for this match and series. They will have to wait another day to celebrate their victory, but the last session and wickets will be just rhetorical really in answering the question on who the winner and better side of this match and series is.

Partnerships: Australia's openers Shane Watson and Phillip Hughes had the biggest partnership of the day with 53 runs, followed by Watson and skipper Ricky Ponting with 46. Apart from that, the batting lineup of both sides was all smashed, bashed and crumbled to pieces. England lost their lower half = five wickets for only 69 runs, whilst Australia lost four for only 59 after the first two good-ish parternships. It shows, it definitely has not been a day of batting togetherness, that is for sure, some of the dismissals being pointblank stupid and reckless, the run out of non-striker Hughes especially. And with Ryan Harris looking less likely to bat due to injury, a stress fracture of his left ankle sustained during bowling in the morning session, it leaves the Aussies with only three lower-end wickets left on day four.

Bowling: All four England bowlers looked on fire, in the last session especially. Bresnan got the most crucial break- and shakethroughs taking out opener Watson (lbw 54, Australia 99-2), skipper Ponting (bowled 20, 102-3) and last-match-centurion Mike Hussey (caught by Ian Bell for a duck, 104-4), whilst James Anderson and Graeme Swann contributed one each (bowled Steven Smith for 38, 158-6, and Michael Clarke caught by skipper Andrew Strauss for 13, 134-5, respectively) and Chris Tremlett kept the pressure up inbetween. They have made England proud and moved them closer to retaining the Ashes in Australia for the first time in 24 years with another outstandingly dominant display.

Ups: It is nearly over! We have nearly crushed them and regained the Ashes Down Under!

Downs: Will the last Test match still be a juicy competition? Will the Aussies fight to draw and not let their heads dangle and lose the series? Will England fight and thrash on to win the series emphatically? I hope so!

Hero to zero: Australi-who?

Australia v England fourth Test third day as it happened:

Highlights taken from the BBC website:

1st session:

- WICKET, Prior c Ponting b Siddle 85 (England 459-6): It's all over for Prior, 15 short of his century as he drives the first ball of Siddle's new over straight into the hands of mid-on. A rare moment for Ponting - who's not fielding in the slips in this game because of his fractured finger - to celebrate - and Siddle now has four wickets as well as two catches, so he's been involved with all the wickets.

- WICKET, Bresnan c Haddin b Siddle 4 (England 465-7): Siddle secures his second five-wicket haul of the series as Big Tim gets a faint edge to the keeper.

- England 473-7, TROTT 150: Local hero Siddle takes a rest after taking 2-12 in five overs this morning. Left-arm quick Mitchell Johnson to take up the attack - there's one slip and two gullys in for Trott, who clips him through mid-wicket and they run three - that's 150 for the Warwickshire man, who receives some warm applause from the England fans. Swann shovels a four down to fine leg - Johnson bowled some absolute tripe at times yesterday, as the old nursery rhyme goes "when he's good, he's very very good - but when he's bad, he's horrid."

- DRINKS BREAK, England 473-7: "My short game's better than ever at the moment," purrs golf fan Geoff Boycott on TMS as Hilfenhaus keeps it tight against Trott. Another maiden for big Ben, and time for that large drinks bottle/cart to chug onto the arena for the first time today.

- WICKET, Swann c Haddin b Hilfenhaus 22 (England 508-8): Swann swats a two through mid-wicket, but Hilfenhaus finally gets his man when Swann tries to hook a bouncer and is caught by the leaping wicketkeeper Haddin. England lead by 410.

- WICKET, Tremlett b Hilfenhaus 4 (England 512-9): Tremlett is clean bowled by a reverse-swinging delivery from Hilfenhaus. A shame for Chris, but England will take heart if the ball's reverse-swinging...

- WICKET, Anderson b Siddle 1 (England 513 all out): Siddle bowls Anderson to finish with 6-75. He takes the applause from his home crowd, while there's also a generous ovation for Jonathan Trott who is left unbeaten on 168. Early lunch is taken.

2nd session:

- WICKET, Hughes run out (Trott/Prior) 23 (Australia 53-1): Single from Hughes - then Watson pushes the ball into the covers, Hughes fatally hesitates as they go through for a quick single, Trott slings the ball to Prior who demolishes the stumps, it goes upstairs to the third ump and he's gone!

- DRINKS BREAK, Australia 60-1: Bresnan is still probing outside Watson's off stump (as a Yorkshireman he's probably happy to bowl in Geoffrey's corridor of uncertainty). A maiden over, and it's time for another drinks break.

- APPEAL - NOT OUT, Australia 60-1: Big, big shout for lbw against Ponting, big appeal from Anderson, umpire Tony Hill shakes his head and England decide against a review. It hit the pad above the knee-roll, but there was no inside edge. Virtual Eye thinks it was "Umpire's Call" over whether the ball was hitting the stumps - ie it was very close - so a review would have been fruitless. But in the curious way the DRS works, if Hill had given him out, a review from the batsman would have been equally fruitless... Then there's another big appeal off the last ball, but again England keep their two reviews up their sleeve as it was sailing over the stumps.

- APPEAL - NOT OUT, Australia 71-1: Tremlett returns to the attack in place of Anderson, while TMS summariser Michael Vaughan (who suffered more than his fair share of injuries in his playing career) sympathises with the crocked Ryan Harris. Another big lbw shout as Tremlett thuds one into Watson's pads... yet again, England are right to eschew a review as Virtual Eye suggests it would be "umpire's call" on height. Maiden over from Tremmers.

- APPEAL - NOT OUT, Australia 79-1: With just over 20 minutes until tea (due at 0410 GMT), Jim Maxwell on TMS wonders whether Simon Katich could return to the Australia side for Sydney, as Ponting angles Tremlett for four past gully. A shorter delivery is pulled, safely, to deep backward square leg for a single. There's a big cheer as Watson looks like he's edged behind to Prior... but he's not sure whether it carried. The umps consult the third ump... and it clearly hit the ground before bouncing up into Prior's gloves.

- TEA, Australia 95-1, WATSON FIFTY: Tremlett resumes his duel with Ponting, who has dug in to score 15 from his first 50 balls. The Aussie skipper paddles a single to long leg, Watson pushes a quick single into the covers to reach his 15th Test half century (and fourth of the series). Punter straight-drives for three, and is that tea? Yes, it is, even though I make it only 0409 by my clock...

3rd session:

- UMPIRE REVIEW: Still only two slips in as right-arm seamer Tim Bresnan returns for his second spell of the innings. Watson drives powerfully just past the bowler's left hand for four, but then he's hit on the pad while offering no shot, and umpire Tony Hill raises his finger! After a quick discussion, Watson calls for a review... WICKET: Watson lbw b Bresnan 54 (Australia 99-2), Watson was hit on the knee-roll, the impact (where it hit him) is "umpire's call" but Virtual Eye reckons it was hitting the wickets (just) - and he's out! "Well bowled, Yorkie!" is the reaction of a thrilled Geoff Boycott - and Australia have lost one of their reviews.

- APPEAL - NOT OUT, Australia 102-2: Swann gives it a bit of air against Ponting, Prior scoops the ball up for a one-handed stumping and Umpire Hill at square leg makes the "TV" symbol, but Punter's back foot had slid back behind the popping crease. A loose delivery from Swann is guided behind square for a single by Ponting - then there's another chance of a stumping as Clarke comes out of his crease but Prior can't take the ball cleanly and the chance is gone.

- WICKET, Ponting b Bresnan 20 (Australia 102-3): The Barmy Army make themselves heard as Ponting is resolute in defence against Bresnan - but then he has his stumps splattered with the aid of an inside edge that knocks his middle stump back and England go wild! Big, big wicket.

- WICKET, Hussey c Bell b Bresnan 0 (Australia 104-4): Hussey shoulders arms to Bresnan, there's another lbw shout as he offers no stroke, but it was going over... Bresnan is on fire here, and it would be intriguing if England ended up retaining the Ashes thanks to him and Tremlett, who were considered by some observers to be the two most marginal selections for the Ashes touring squad. Then Mr Cricket departs for a duck when he pokes a catch straight to Bell at short cover! "The Australian innings is in tatters!" says Jim Maxwell on TMS.

- DRINKS BREAK, Australia 117-4: In fact, Tremlett is off the field temporarily, wincing with pain as Swann wheels away to Clarke, who steers a two past mid-off before opening the face to dab a three to third man. England take a well-earned drinks break - Australia still trail by 298.

- WICKET, Clarke c Strauss b Swann 13 (Australia 134-5): Swann has two slips and a helmeted short leg in place as he bowls round the wicket to Clarke... and he's pouched by Cap'n Strauss at second slip!

- DRINKS BREAK, Australia 139-5: Swann continues his round-the-wicket line of attack to Haddin, as Monty Panesar jogs round the boundary (to the inevitable cheers from England fans) in order to give Tremlett a drink. The Aussie keeper is off the mark with an on-driven single. Last drinks break of the day?

- Australia 150-5: Haddin defends fluently against Swann before pushing a single past the bowler. A single from Smith brings up Australia's 150, to barely a glimmer of applause from the increasingly sparse MCG crowd. Six more overs scheduled after this, and England's use of a spinner (coupled with the lack of runs scored in recent overs) means we're unlikely to need the full "overtime" half-hour (0630-0700) in which to complete the alloted 90 overs. BUT if a wicket falls, the extra half-hour (which England could claim) is a different kettle of fish entirely.

- WICKET, Smith b Anderson 38 (Australia 158-6): Short and wide from Anderson, and Smith punishes him with a flashing square cut for four. But the youngster drags the next ball onto his stumps! (A perfect commentator's curse from Michael Vaughan, who had just praised his batting).

- Australia 160-6: There's a slip, short leg, silly point and short extra cover as Swann bowls to Johnson, who turns the ball just wide of Alastair Cook at short leg for a single. Meanwhile, umpire Aleem Dar has a word with Jonathan Trott who appears to be getting a bit over-excited about something. If you've just woken up and are bemused by these references to "Rolf", you may not be aware that Aussie bowler Ryan Harris has a stress fracture of his ankle and may not be able to bat. So Australia only have two more fit players left to bat.

- CLOSE OF PLAY, Australia 169-6: Johnson drives at Anderson and that's nearly a caught-and-bowled chance as the ball hits the bowler on the boot. With nearly the entire team in catching positions, a cover drive brings him three. Haddin defends his stumps, and that's it for the day. England walk off the field, give the Barmy Army a hands-above-the-head clap, and I think it's not premature to say they've got one hand on the urn. Australia still trail by 246 runs, with six wickets down and an injured batsman unlikely (we think) to bat.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Trott century extends England's total & control

Sports - Cricket - Ashes - 4th Test - Melbourne - Day 2

My picks of the second day:

England lost five wickets and fell to 286-5 on day two at Melbourne with Peter Siddle's name written on all of them in one way (caught two) or the other (bowling two catches and one lbw). It all seemed to be going Australia's way after a nightmare of a first day, until Jonathan Trott (141*) and Matt Prior (75*) took over and stabilised England to 444-5 and extending the guest's lead to 346.

Run of Play: Advantage to...

1st session, England 226-2, 128 ahead at lunch: Australia will be happy with the start to the day, happier than on day one that is for sure, taking two early wickets, breaking the opening partnership and taking out the two top scorers of the match so far.

2nd session, England 304-5, 206 ahead at tea: Australia are taking wickets but are nowhere near taking any control, with no decision going their way, England continuing play, scoring and making it as hard as possible for the hosts, whilst their skipper is losing it and making the job even harder for the umpires and his team.

3rd session, England 444-5, 346 ahead at the end of day two: The day continues going and ends up all England's way with Trott and Prior reaching the highest sixth-wicket Test partnership by England at Melbourne, beating the 140 by Patsy Hendren and Maurice Leyland in 1929 and they are still going...

Partnerships: As mentioned above, Australia were happy to get their first breakthrough early on, ending Andrew Strauss (69) and Alastair Cook's partnership (82) with two quick consecutive wickets with just over half an hour played on the day. Then all hell broke out in the second session, Trott and Kevin Pietersen (51) looking to even things out for England again with a partnership of 92, frustrating and angering the Aussies, refusing to go early and easy. A little crumble followed after KP fell though, Paul Collingwood (8) and Ian Bell (1) following the former skipper to the stands in quick succession. But Trott and Prior made sure the Aussies would have nothing to smile about, falling for nothing, no tricks, no quick flashes of disasters or the like, Trott reaching his fifth Tests hundred in the process for England and moving him to second in the highest run scorer lists in 2010 behind India's Sachin Tendulkar.

Bowling: Siddle took three wickets and caught two off Mitchell Johnson on the day, looking like he was the only Australian player to have turned up and in the right mind today. Ricky Ponting made an embarrassment of himself and whatever his side has achieved on the day with his tantrum to the umpires. Just when you thought Siddle and Johnson were clinching on and scrambling back some kind of control for Australia, their skipper and his impatience and impertinence made sure they would have none of it.

Ups: It was everything else but boring, that is for sure. The umpires did a great job in all the ups and downs and controversy, with and without the third umpire and video review, they kept their cool, hats on and doing their job brilliantly and respectfully (unlike one certain skipper). All together, it has certainly added salt onto the hosts' wounds and spice into the whole match and contest.

Downs: I don't like the fact that half the ground ends up empty as soon as things go against the Aussies. Us England fans have and are used to seeing our side down and thrashed often enough through the years (in any sport)but we still stay and sing on. For the first time in decades the same thing is happening to the Aussies and what do they do?! Come on!

Hero to zero: Well, I will give you three guesses who is the booman at the moment. All the posters and newspapers showed his miserable and/or crying face and he underlined that by how he acted today. If Ponting stays on as Australian captain for much longer after this series, I will be very surprised...

Australia v England fourth Test second day as it happened:

Highlights taken from the BBC website:

1st session:

- England 158-0: The sun is shining - no likelihood of four days of rain to save Australia here - as Siddle charges in to Andrew Strauss, facing for the first time today. The England skipper, with plenty of time on his hands, doesn't play anything he doesn't have to and another maiden ensues.

- WICKET, Cook c Watson b Siddle 82 (England 159-1): Australia's first breakthrough as Cook nudges Siddle to Shane Watson at first slip. Is it too late for the worm to turn?

- WICKET, Strauss c Hussey b Siddle 69 (England 170-2): After a single from Trott, Strauss tries to force Siddle to leg, it loops up off the shoulder of the bat and he's caught at gully! (Rather like Tremlett's dismissal of Watson yesterday, if you saw that).

- DRINKS BREAK, England 188-2: "There's a very chilly wind out there," notes Aggers on TMS as he notices the number of people reaching for coats and fleeces at the MCG. That's a maiden over from "Gentle Ben" Hilfenhaus to Trott - and time for drinkies.

- England 226-2: Trott is watchful against Smith, eventually pushing an all-run four to one of those astonishingly long MCG boundaries at mid-wicket. That's lunch - England have scored 69 for the loss of two wickets in this session, and lead by 128.

2nd session:

- England 240-2: NEW BALL AVAILABLE, Australia are a little ragged in the field as KP and Trott plunder three singles from Smith's over. So, will the new cherry enter the fray?

- England 246-2: NEW BALL TAKEN, Ben Hilfenhaus returns to the attack, KP smashes the first ball of the over back past the bowler for four, and the second new ball is then taken. Pietersen defends the sphere nouveau, taking a two off the last ball of the over.

- England 254-2: Trott guides Hilfenhaus for a two and a single, he's up to 44. KP drives fiercely, Hilfy deflects the ball onto the stumps but thankfully Trott had kept his bat firmly grounded.

- UMPIRE REVIEW: Harris spears in one which goes straight through Trott, who is beaten outside off stump as he tries to force the ball to leg. Geoff Boycott on TMS is purring at Harris bowling in his favoured "corridor of uncertainty". Trott stabs a single, KP straight-drives for four to reach 49, then Haddin appeals for a catch behind and Australia invoke the Decision Review System! NOT OUT: Now, did that brush KP's pad? There's certainly nothing on his bat on Hotspot, the ball looked to go between bat and pad. And there's clearly enough doubt for the third ump to signal "not out", and Ricky Ponting isn't happy, having a right go at umpire Aleem Dar. He really harangues Mr Dar - Punter, just accept the decision and move on. I hope the match referee is watching this, as Punter may well end up losing a chunk of his match fee if he continues to harangue the officials like this. He then goes over to have a whinge at the other umpire, Tony Hill! Sorry, Punter, but that's disgraceful. You may have a fractured finger but you should hang your head in shame. England 259-2: That was the last ball of the over, by the way.

- England 261-2, PIETERSEN FIFTY: More and more replays (and Hotspots) are shown - but whether the technology got it right or wrong (and there was enough doubt for the batsman to get the benefit of the doubt), you do not harangue the umpire for that long after a decision, whether you're Ricky Ponting at the MCG or Joe Bloggs on the village green. Even Jim Maxwell on TMS, an Aussie, says "you accept the umpire's decision". Back in the game, Trott adds a single, and Pietersen clips one off his legs to bring up his half century, to the delight of the Barmy Army. But not the Australian crowd, many of whom boo him.

- WICKET, Pietersen lbw b Siddle 51 (England 262-3): Peter Siddle into the attack, KP trapped back on his crease and he walks off before the umpire even raises his finger. The atmosphere at the "G" is quite electric.

- England 270-3: Trott pushes Siddle to leg, Punter gives chase and sends in a return from the long-on boundary, Trott goes for a dodgy third and has to dive for the crease at the bowler's end. It goes up to the third umpire... and it's too close to call. In one frame, Trott is short of the crease and the stumps are intact, in the next frame Trott is home but the stumps are broken. Third ump's verdict... NOT OUT! Punter may well explode.

- DRINKS BREAK, England 277-3, TROTT FIFTY: Trott punches Harris for a single to bring up his half century, then Colly off-drives and Punter (not fielding in the slips because of his fractured finger) is a ball-magnet at the moment, it's following him around the field. They run three. Trott pushes the last ball before the drinks break for three more. Hopefully the drinks cart might bring Punter some cocoa to calm him down a little.

- WICKET, Collingwood c Siddle b Johnson 8 (England 281-4): Mitchell Johnson into the attack in place of Harris, his first ball is wild down the leg side. He bangs in a short ball to Collingwood, who hooks and it's straight down the throat of the man at long leg. That's 10 scores in single figures from his last 12 innings. Oh, Colly...

- WICKET, Bell c Siddle b Johnson 1 (England 286-5): Johnson drops it short, Bell hooks and gets a top edge just like Collingwood... and is caught by Siddle just like Colly was! Great catch though, he really had to run in from fine leg.

- APPEAL - NOT OUT, England 295-5: As if he's trying to replicate the bouncer that removed Colly and Bell, Johnson is banging the ball in all over the place, but when Prior tries to push the ball into the covers, he edges behind to Haddin and is given out. But Prior stays at the pitch after Umpire Dar calls him back - it may have been a no-ball. And the TV replays show... it was a no-ball! And Prior stays! Astonishing scenes - Punter may lose the plot completely here!

- England 304-5: This should be the last over before tea, as Australia fiddle with the field long enough to ensure we'll go past 0410. After a single from Trott, another lovely cover drive from Prior brings him two runs and ends an enthralling session. England lead by 206.

3rd session:

- DRINKS BREAK, England 347-5: Australia persist with Harris even though Peter Siddle, who's been Australia's best bowler today, hasn't bowled since the 95th over and we're now in the 112th... Prior plays out a maiden, and he and Trott (who now averages 88 against Australia) reach the latest drinks break unscathed.

- DRINKS BREAK, England 388-5: Plenty of heart and effort from Siddle, but Trott's unswerving patience ensures another maiden over. Probably the last drinks break of the day...

- England 393-5: Prior begins the "home straight" of day two with a single, Trott despatches a half-volley for four with a fluent on-drive. England lead by 295... and if Australia were to win this Test, it would be a new world record - as the highest first-innings deficit overturned to win a Test is 291 by Australia against Sri Lanka at Colombo in 1992.

- England 400-5: Prior turns Siddle off his legs for a well-run three which takes him to 48, before a marvellous cover-driven four, right off the middle of the bat takes Trott to 125 and England to 400. Rather like yesterday, if you're just waking up in the UK and supporting England... look at the scoreboard and begin the working day with a smile on your face!

- England 404-5, PRIOR FIFTY: Prior latches onto a loose delivery from Smith and smashes it through mid-wicket for four to make sure of his 16th Test fifty. And it's fair to say that from the email reaction his comment has produced, I think Salim at 0610 is on his own with his theory that England may not have a big enough first-innings lead...

- THAT'S A RECORD, England 427-5: Smith takes a rest, Shane Watson is recalled to the attack. Trott helps himself to two with a pull to fine leg, and this is now the highest sixth-wicket Test partnership by England at Melbourne, beating the 140 by Patsy Hendren and Maurice Leyland in 1929. Today's attendance: 67,149.

- CLOSE OF PLAY, England 444-5: Johnson to bowl the last over, and it looks as though he's going to bowl a foot outside off stump with seven men on the off side. Trott won't have anything to do with that. When he does pitch one on the stumps, Trott defends it and Johnson pretends he's going to aggressively throw at the stumps, earning him a pantomime villain-style "boo" from the Barmies. A two off the last ball takes England to 444 - old Shep would be proud. They lead by 346. And that, as they say, is that.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

England down Australia on day 1 at the MCG

Sports - Cricket - Ashes - 4th Test - Melbourne - Day 1

My picks of the first day:

Chris Tremlett and James Anderson bowled beautifully, swung and downed Australia all out for 98 with four wickets each after skipper Andrew Strauss won the important toss on day one of the fourth Test in Melbourne with the series being all square at one all. Michael Clarke was the top scorer for the Aussies with 20, whilst England openers Strauss (64*) and Alastair Cook (80*) remain unbeaten and took the guests to the end of the day on 157, 59 runs ahead.

Run of Play: Advantage to...

1st session, Australia 58-4 at lunch: After dropping two catches and losing their two reviews early on in the match, it looked like England were giving the advantage away, but they did everything else but. The hosts crumbled sad and badly, the rain saving them - FOR NOW - 5 minutes early to lunch...

2nd session, Australia 98 all out at tea: England all joy and on top after seeing Australia fall to their lowest Test score against them at the MCG. It shows how times and teams have changed, especially after the thrashing Strauss and the lads got at the Waca...

3rd session, England 157-0, 59 ahead at the end of day one: Skipper Strauss and Cook take England to the end of the day, with a lead and ten wickets spare. A dream day makes it a dream start to the fourth Test for England, making it harder than ever to imagine how Australia imagine to get out of this one without losing the match and Ashes...

Partnerships: 157 between Strauss and Cook gives England the icing on a very sweet cake on day one after hackling Australia down and all out for 98. They took their time, read the balls and pitch well, gave away nothing too quickly and nothing too flashy, making Australia's bowlers look relatively harmless and unperilous. The hosts' batting lineup and display was just the more fruitless and makes dire reading. Clarke was the top scorer for the Aussies with 20 and their top partnership of the day and match so far being 22 between Phillip Hughes and skipper Ricky Ponting. All their players were caught out, by laymen's errors on the one hand and fantastic bowling on the other, six of them landing in wicketkeeper Matt Prior's gloves.

Bowling: Tremlett and Anderson made England's day and destroyed Australia with four wickets each. Steven Finn's replacement Tim Bresnan contributed with two wickets whilst Graeme Swann was injured during the game and unneeded as it turned out anyway (after bowling only two overs, one maiden and one for just one run). Australia's bowlers' response looked just as effective as their batting, no real threat or appeal. The weather and pitch changed a lot over the day and will change continuously throughout the match. But if you want to win it, you have to be able to go with the flow and take advantage of every change, which England and their skipper Strauss did very well with every bowling change and on every other (batting) step of the way today.

Ups: Winning the toss was crucial in this match and Strauss and co made the best of it! England could not have dreamt of a better start, especially after the thrashing theyr got in the last match!

Downs: The Ashes cannot end up becoming boring can they? If Australia continue like this though, I'm afraid the result looks very obvious to me. They will get a thrashing and drubbing of a lifetime! But since when was I the one to foresee the future and get the predictions spot-on...

Hero to zero: Australia's form and confidence has been like a seesaw/rollercoaster ride this series. From middle/normal to flop to top to bottom again... What on earth will happen next?!

Australia v England fourth Test first day as it happened:

Highlights taken from the BBC website:

1st session:

- England win the toss and field first. Tim Bresnan replaces Steven Finn as captain Andrew Strauss feels the pitch will favour "swing bowling rather than hit-the-deck bowling". Aussie captain Ricky Ponting admits he wasn't completely sure what he'd have done - he's fit to play despite the finger injury he suffered in Perth.

- DROPPED CATCH, Australia 0-0: James Anderson, declared fit despite a side strain, takes the new ball to Shane Watson - and finds the edge with the fifth ball of the day... and it just about carries to Paul Collingwood at third slip, diving forward. A very difficult chance, but still a chance...

- DROPPED CATCH, Australia 15-0: Another chance is put down... Watson flashes hard, Kevin Pietersen is dealt a painful blow as he gets both hands to it at gully. They run two, and KP is still wringing his fingers. Watson cover-drives and they run three - the MCG is quite vast, and not the quickest of outfields.

- WICKET, Watson c Pietersen b Tremlett 5 (Australia 15-1): Having been dropped twice on nought, Shane Watson looks slightly surprised as he fends at a lifter from Tremlett and is caught at gully!

- APPEAL - NOT OUT, Australia 19-1: There's a bit of a breeze at the MCG - as both umpires, who began the game in shirt sleeves, have summoned their big white coats. Tremlett and wicketkeeper Prior appeal for lbw against Punter, but Hotspot shows there was a bit of bat on that - good decision Mr Dar. Neither batsman looks particularly comfortable at the moment - and a maiden over from Tremlett is applauded. (I watched his dad bowl plenty of those in my youth...)

- UMPIRE REVIEW: Hughes is in all sorts of trouble against Anderson, fending one off which nearly hits the stumps - then there's an appeal for a catch down the leg side and England do ask for a review this time... NOT OUT: Hotspot appears to show the ball brushing Hughes on the hip - and third umpire Marais Erasmus agrees, so Hughes carries on and England have lost a review. (Substitute the words "gratuitously wasted" for "lost" if you prefer). Australia 26-1.

- WICKET, Hughes c Pietersen b Bresnan 16 (Australia 37-2): Bresnan tempts Hughes with one outside off stump, the left-hander drives and is caught at gully as KP picks up his second catch of the day!

- WICKET, Ponting c Swann b Tremlett 10 (Australia 37-3): Tremlett back in the attack, and immediately he has Punter caught at second slip! Well taken with both hands by Graeme Swann diving to his left.

- UMPIRE REVIEW: The new batsman is Mike Hussey, who's been the proverbial immovable object so far in this series. (If you haven't read it, I can recommend Tom Fordyce's blog asking how you go about dismissing "Mr Cricket"). Tremlett hits the left-hander on the pad, and Strauss calls for a review... NOT OUT: Aggers on TMS is worried that there haven't been many "not out" lbw decisions overturned via the Decision Review System (DRS) this series - but this has hit him on the flap of the back pad. However, Virtual Eye shows the ball going over the stumps - and England have thrown away both their reviews after barely more than an hour's play. Australia 37-3.

- WICKET, Hussey c Prior b Anderson 8 (Australia 58-4): Anderson returns in place of Bresnan, he somehow induces an edge from Hussey, a grateful Prior takes the catch and the England fielders all go absolutely barmy!

- Steve Smith is the new batsman, nearly nicks his first ball to the keeper! A sudden rain shower then prompts the players to flee to the pavilion - with only five minutes remaining in the session, they may well take lunch immediately, but it's come too late to save Mr Cricket...
RAIN STOPS PLAY, lunch taken early, Australia 58-4.

2nd session:

- WICKET, Smith c Prior b Anderson 6 (Australia 66-5): Smith, who always looks likely to lose his wicket at any time, survives an lbw appeal from Jimmy but then perishes when he pushes forward and gets a thick edge to the keeper.

- WICKET, Clarke c Prior b Anderson 20 (Australia 77-6): Anderson keeps it tight against Clarke, there's another edge and Prior takes another catch! England really have their boot on Australia's jugular there - perfect conditions for the "Burnley Express" and he's running through them like an express train!

- WICKET, Haddin c Strauss b Bresnan 5 (Australia 77-7): Another edge, another regulation catch, this time to Cap'n Strauss at first slip, and Haddin's gone! Yes, you are reading this right - Australia are 77-7!!!

- WICKET, Johnson c Prior b Anderson 0 (Australia 77-8): Another edge to the keeper, another wicket! Johnson gone for a duck, this is becoming a procession!

- DRINKS BREAK, Australia 86-8: Harris aims a meaty pull over mid-wicket, it flies off a top edge and over the slips for four. He then looks to guide one off his hips, it flicks off his backside and sails to the boundary for four... and very harshly, umpire Dar rules that Harris didn't play a shot, so he can't have any runs (or leg byes). Swann is off the field, presumably for finger repairs after that catch attempt in the last over, so Big Tim has a rare chance to stand at second slip in the lead-up to the drinks break.

- WICKET, Siddle c Prior b Tremlett 11 (Australia 92-9): Siddle plays and misses at Tremlett, then he edges to the keeper for Tremlett's third wicket. Nine out of nine wickets caught by the keeper and slips. "An absolute rout," says Aggers on TMS.

- WICKET, Hilfenhaus c Prior b Tremlett 0 (Australia 98 all out): Hilfenhaus is playing and missing at Tremlett again, there's some ironic applause when he finally makes contact with his bat and prods one out to mid-wicket - but the number 11 perishes as an edge presents Prior with his sixth catch of the innings. He's the fourth English keeper to do that in Australia. Tea taken early.

3rd session:

- DRINKS BREAK, England 52-0: Punter shuffles his pace quartet again as Hilfenhaus replaces Harris, while TMS summariser and Aussie batting coach Justin Langer admits "a worrying trend" when questioned about Australia's problems batting against the moving ball. Gentle Ben sends down a maiden to Cook - time for drinks in this marathon final session.

- APPEAL - NOT OUT, England 58-0: Cook tries a fierce square drive at Siddle but a leap by Smith keeps the score on 57. Siddle raps Cook on the thigh pad and lets out a huge yell for lbw. Australia think about the DRS, but wicketkeeper Haddin indicates he thought it was missing for height. And they're right not to call for a review - Virtual Eye indicates it was going over. A single allows Cook to keep the strike.

- UMPIRE REVIEW: Finally the Aussies think they have a breakthrough... Cook is given out lbw to Hilfenhaus but immediately calls for a review. NOT OUT: That's very nearly (but not quite) a no-ball - but Hotspot reveals a big inside edge from Cook, and Umpire Hill is forced to overturn his own decision and make the "safe" signal. England 77-0: The reprieved Cook aims a bloodthirsty pull at Hilfenhaus, doesn't quite middle it but it flies safely off the edge and he picks up two. The "Chelmsford Chiseller" then blasts a straight-driven four, and the Barmy Army are Absolutely Loving It as he nudges a single to move level with Strauss on 34.

- DRINKS BREAK, England 90-0: A single apiece for Cook'n'Strauss take England to within eight runs of their hosts - time for another drinks break.

- COOK FIFTY - England 109-0: Johnson replaces Harris, but it's still England on song as Cook brings up his half century with a savage cut for four. Two more singles are added - and as I observed at 0457, he seems more like (runless, wicketless) Brisbane Johnson than the unplayable Johnson of Perth. Punter chews his nails with the look of a condemned man pondering what he'd like for his last meal befiore he goes to the gallows.

- STRAUSS FIFTY - England 128-0: CMJ on TMS points out that the last time a fair-haired Australian leg-spinner bowled against England at Melbourne, he took his 700th Test wicket - a certain Mr A.J. Strauss. But I think it's safe to say Steve Smith is no Shane Warne - indeed, the blond quiff above his forehead reminds me of Belgium's second most famous detective (ie Tintin, not Hercule Poirot) rather than the maestro from St Kilda. Strauss and Cook look in little danger against the young leggie - and the England skipper reaches his 23rd Test fifty during the over.

- England 151-0: Strauss brings up England's 150 by poking Smith for two through the vacant second slip area. The MCG looks less than a third full now.

- CLOSE OF PLAY, England 157-0: Steve Smith to bowl the last over of the day, and the watchful Cap'n Strauss is happy to play out the six deliveries in question. England lead by 59. What an extraordinary day.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Australia thrash England to level series

Sports - Cricket - Ashes - 3rd Test - Waca, Perth - Day 4

My picks of the fourth day:

After just under an hour's play on day four, Ryan Harris took the stump and honours of this match with his best record of six wickets for only 47 runs this innings, nine in the match, same as Mitchell Johnson (6-38 + 3-44), who missed out on the chance of taking ten in the match.
England have fallen and failed hard with the bat in this match, no batsman really turning up or making a match of it, 187 and 123 all out. Australia won emphatically by 267 runs to level the series 1-1 with two matches left and regaining a lot of confidence. Next is Christmas, then the fourth Test kicks off on Boxing Day in Melbourne, the contest back on.

Australia v England third Test fourth day as it happened

- Michael Clarke is debutising for Australia this morning, as skipper Ricky Ponting is out with a fracture on his left hand (little fingers) which he got with the last ball of the day yesterday, with Paul Collingwood's wicket, the ball deflecting/bouncing off his hand and to the wicket keeper. England need a miracle on 81-5, 310 behind, with nightwatchman James Anderson at the crease, Ian Bell joining him.

- Mitchell Johnson kicks off day four for Australia, 5 runs from the over, 85-5.

- New man Ian Bell faces Ryan Harris at the other end, off the mark with a boundary, England cruising 89-5, ha, Anderson on 3, Bell on 4. Australia need 5 wickets to win, England need 302 runs.

- 89-3 after 3 overs on the day, 30 of the innings, runrate just under 3.

- Harris appeals for lbw against Bell, looks way too high, the ball nipping the top of the batsman's pad, not even worth contemplating. Bell hits a boundary off the next ball. Single. WICKET, Anderson is bowled for 3 for 14, England 94-6, the nightwatchman gone, Matt Prior on, joins Bell who is on 9 off 10, a record partnership needed for England. 94-6 at the end of that over.

- A maiden over by Johnson v Bell.

- New man Prior faces Harris at the other end. A six sees England pass 100, cheeky one behind him by Prior. 10 off the over in total, England 104-6.

- Third boundary of the morning for Bell, England 111-6. 30 runs off 7 overs this morning and one wicket.

- Bell given out lbw 16 off 23 to a full straight delivery, gambles on a review, DEAD OUT, the ball would have knocked out the middle stump, Harris has struck again, career best figures for him with 4 wickets for 41 wickets, England 111-7. Graeme Swann is on and off the mark straight away. And Harris gets his maiden Test FIVE-WICKET-HAUL, Prior caught at gully, out for 10, England 114-8 and collapsing. Chris Tremlett on. Figures of 10-1-44-5 for Harris. England finish the over 114-8, trailing by 277.

- Swann swings the ball over the keeper. OUT next ball for 9 off 5, beaten by a short ball, inside edge onto the stumps, England 120-9. Johnson needs one more wicket to reach 10 in the match. Australia need one more to win. Steven Finn on. 120-9 at the end of the over. The card makes sorry reading for England, Jonathan Trott top scorer with 31.

- Harris finishes England off, Finn caught at slip, OUT for 2 off 7, England 123 all out, Australia win by 267 runs and level the series 1-1 with two matches left and regaining a lot of confidence. After just under an hour's play on day four, Harris takes the stump and honours of this match with his best record of six wickets this innings, nine in the match, same as Johnson who missed out on the chance of taking ten in the match. England have fallen and failed hard with the bat in this match. Next is Christmas, then the fourth Test kicks off on Boxing Day in Melbourne, the contest back on.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Australia poised to thrash England

Sports - Cricket - Ashes - 3rd Test - Waca, Perth - Day 3

My picks of the third day:

Mike Hussey's 13th Test century and Shane Watson's 95 lifted Australia to 309 all out, giving England a target of 391 to win and putting a shadow over Chris Tremlett's first five-wicket haul. But man of the moment Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris took two wickets each late on in the day, crashing and bashing England to 81-5, still 310 behind, at the end of day three. Australia are back on track and look poised to thrash England to make it 1-1 and the contest evenly poised heading to Christmas and the fourth Test starting Boxing Day in Melbourne.

Run of Play: Advantage to...

1st session, Australia 211-4, 292 ahead, at lunch: Australia's morning, Hussey on 69 off 86, England with chances and semi-chances, but after only taking one wicket this morning, the guests are left needing to work hard to get in there and break Australia.

2nd session, Australia 297-8, 378 ahead, at tea: Australia continue building a strong lead, looking strong and comfortable despite losing four wickets this session, Hussey still the main man on 111 and has now more than 500 runs this series and is keeping on scoring, as long as there are partners left for him.

3rd session, Australia 309 all out, 390 ahead, England 81-5, 309 behind, at the end of day three: Australia looking poised to win this match and make the series all evens after three matches at 1-1 tomorrow. England were all over the place, throwing five wickets away, Collingwood caught out by Smith off Harris with the last ball of the day to put the icing on the Aussie's cake.

Partnerships: The 113-partnership between Hussey and Watson frustrated England through the morning session. Eventually Watson was caught out lbw by Tremlett, but that was when Hussey just got started. He held through till the end, being the last wicket to fall, out for 116 off 172, caught at deep square leg by Graeme Swann off Tremlett after Australia scored 82 runs in the morning and 86 in the afternoon, keeping a healthy run rate even when and after the wickets fell, giving England a target of 391 to chase to win.

If openers Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook would have held through the 20ish overs till the end of the day, England would have been in it with a shout on day four, but instead England crumbled devastatingly to 81-5, Paul Collingwood falling off the last ball, caught at third slip by Steven Smith off Harris, not happy he was at the crease as James Anderson was at the other end watching rather than doing his job as the nightwatchman. Dire scorecard reading for England, dire forecast and likely outcome for them on day four.

Bowling: Tremlett's five-wicket haul got lost and forgotten under all the Australian runs and Johnson's and Harris' descruction of England. England didn't bowl bad, although Swann was quickly layed off after he conceded 51 off only 9 overs, the Aussies all after him. I think it was more a case of Australia being pre-warned and more cautious after the first innings and coming into the second innings better prepared and more confident after destroying England 187 all out on day two. Australia's bowling at the end of the day on the other hand, was not destructive-perfect, it was more England's confidence that left them and their rationality and professionalism with it, giving their wickets away rather than staying put. No discrediting Johnson, who has had a fantastic comeback in this match, but it is the difference in pitch and England's fallen ego and confidence that went all for him and Australia in this match. Melbourne will be a cracker to see who can and will take advantage there.

Ups: And it is certainly a competition again! Australia had their doubters, me included, but Johnson and co certainly turned that around. At least that will make the last two matches over Christmas and New Year that more crunchy, topsy, turvy, juicy.

Downs: England can't throw the whole series away like this can they? After all the shine and confidence of the first two Tests, this will hopefully have woken them back up to reality that it is never easy to beat the Aussies, but not impossible either! So, come on, hopefully they will turn it on, up and around again in the fourth Test!

Hero to zero: From double century record scorer to a giveaway clown. Kevin Pietersen took a new bat and gave away a needless wicket going after a wide ball and serving an easy catch to Shane Watson at slip off Ben Hilfenhaus. KP will want to forget this match very quickly after scores of 0 and 3...

Australia v England third Test third day as it happened

1st session:

- Mitchell Magic Johnson is the man of the moment and in the headlines getting 6 of the 13 wickets we saw yesterday at the Waca, destroying England. The England bowlers will have to step up in similar fashion on the third day of the third Test if they want to stay in this match with a shout.

- Chris Tremlett to start the procedings against Mike Hussey who is on 24 (28) and sharing a 55 (74) partnership with Shane Watson 61 (102), Australia 119-3, 200 ahead. A maiden.

- James Anderson against Watson at the other end, who is looking to finally get a three-figure score; and gets a single off the last ball, Australia 120-3, 201 ahead.

- A single off the third over, Australia 121-3, 202 ahead.

- Appeal for a catch by wicket keeper Matt Prior against Watson off Anderson, only Prior shouting. England debate and decide not to review it, replays show the ball give Watson's arm a hint of a brush, nothing on the bat or glove. Wise decision by England. Three runs this over, Australia 124-3, 205 ahead.

- 127-3, 206 ahead after the fifth over of the day, Australia on a 3.33 run rate on day 3 of the 3rd day, is 3 their lucky number? First boundary of the day goes to Watson which takes him to 72. A couple here, inside edge and another run there takes Australia to 134-3, 215 ahead, Watson on 75.

- Singles off the over make it 137-3 after 7 overs, Australia 218 ahead.

- Just a single from the 8th over, Australia 138-3, 219 ahead.

- Steven Finn is brought on for Tremlett, England looking for a breakthrough, no wickets for them yet after 8 overs and 19 runs on the day. Finn starts with a maiden, Australia staying on 138-3, Watson and Hussey on a 74 off 127 balls partnership.

- Anderson stays on at the other end. A communication breakdown between Watson and Hussey nearly costs them a run out, but only nearly, England clutching onto straws... 139-3, Australia 220 ahead at the end of the 10th over of the day.

- Four leg byes off the last ball make it 145-3, slow but happy progress by Australia.

- Nice strike by Watson against Anderson, two off the last ball, takes the opener to 80, Australia 147-3.

- Maiden by Finn, Watson and Hussey staying put at a 83-run partnerhip off 152 balls, the best if the match so far.

- A boundary by Hussey v Anderson brings up the 150 for Australia, Australia 152-3, 233 ahead and finding their stride and hour into day three.

- Watson hits two successful boundaries smoothly through extra cover, England desperate for breakthrough and a breakdown by Australia. Another boundary brings on 100 partnership, 101 off 164, Watson on 90 (169) contributing 60(102), Hussey 36 (62), Australia 165-3, 246 ahead and cruising. Drinks come on. 15 overs so far today, no wickets, 46 runs, just over 3 runs per over.

- Tremlett is back on, three off the first ball after drinks. Problems with the side boards, the players have a break, Kevin Pietersen has a lay-down... Hussey polishes his helmet... Tremlett his face... And cheers go around when the side screen is back moving. Now, the camera keeps blacking out. Problem after problem... About 5 minutes break gone there, can England get the breakthrough after that little interruption? Hussey answers that question by smacking the ball away for four. Australia 174-3 after 49 overs, 16 on the day.

- A couple of singles take Australia to 177-3 after 50 overs, 258 lead, Watson on 95, Hussey on 46.

- WICKET - Watson given OUT lbw off Tremlett, he sends it straight to review on 95, hits him just under the knee pad, the ball hits the wickets, STILL OUT, Watson gone in the 90s again, missing out on another Ashes century, shaking his head saying he has hit it, replays nor hawkeye nor white spot show anything on the ball, looks like he knicked his pad with the bat missing the ball by inches, Australia 177-4, England finally get the breakthrough! They want and need an Aussie collapse now before lunch! Steven Smith in at number six and off the mark with a single. Australia 180-4 at the end of the over, Australia 261 ahead.

- WICKET - Smith caught at slip by Strauss off Finn, sends it straight to review shaking his head, replays shows his bat misses the ball by an inch, but the ball hits his pad, the third umpire checks for lbw, but the ball would have gone over, DECISION OVERTURNED Smith not out, Australia still 180-4. 184-4 at the end of the over, Tremlett had a chance for a dive-catch down the boundary line, but it fell maybe too short for him, Smith safe for nowm Australia 265 ahead, 6 wickets in hand.

- Hussey finds the gap for four, which takes him to his 25th half century, the sixth successive one, a record that is. His average this series so far is 113, one century, two half centuries! Impressive, or what?! Chance for a run out! But Finn misses the stumps at the non-scorers end, Hussey safe and smashes the last ball for four, Australia 197-4, 278 ahead.

- Short leg comes in for Smith against Tremlett, an awkward bouncer bounces off the bat, no one can get to it, three runs bring up the 200 for Australia, followed by a boundary, the partnership races to 27 off 27, Australia 204-4, 285 ahead.

- Anderson is back on before the break. 207-4.

- WICKET for Tremlett - of the last ball before lunch, lbw given out against Hussey, he sends it to review straight away unimpressed, looks high maybe, hawkeye shows the ball goes high over the stumps, DECISION OVERTURNED AGAIN, these reviews are more than paying off for Australia, how England would have loved a wicket off the last ball just before lunch... Australia's morning, 211-4 after 57 overs, 292 ahead, Hussey on 69 off 86 at lunch, England with chances and semi-chances, left needing to work hard to get in there and break Australia.

2nd & 3rd session highlights:

- Due to personal (lack of sleep and optimism) reasons, I didn't catch much of the rest of the day, check out the BBC website for the the full day's action.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Johnson destroys England's batting response

Sports - Cricket - Ashes - 3rd Test - Waca, Perth - Day 2

My picks of the second day:

Mitchell Johnson destroyed England taking six wickets for only 38 runs. Ryan Harris contributed with three wickets, taking out England skipper Andrew Strauss on 52, who will be hoping England can break Australia early and quickly on day three after they finished the day on 119-3, Shane Watson with his 14th Test fifty (61*) and Mike Hussey (24*) holding through with a standing parternship of 55.

Run of Play: Advantage to...

1st session, England 119-5, 149 behind at lunch: What a turnaround for Australia! England collapse losing 5 wickets for as little as 20 runs, Johnson starring and smacking in 4 of them. Australia with a comeback-and-a-half, England stunned.

2nd session, England 187 all out after 62.3 overs, 81 runs behind at tea: Australia complete the perfect turnaround, Johnson finishing England off taking two more wickets making it 6-38 in total for him, Harris improving after a bad start to the day taking three. England destroyed, the last 5 falling for only 42 runs and tea is taken early.

3rd session, Australia 119-3, 200 runs ahead, at the end of the second day of the third Test: Australia hold through after a little collapse, but England will be hoping they can break through them nice and quickly and in similar fashion to this late session, taking three wickets for 33 runs, Watson and Hussey withstanding to the end of the day.

Partnerships: England openers Strauss and Alastair Cook made a promising start to the day and looked to frustrate Australia with the best partnership of the Test so far of 78. They were all smashed and broken to pieces after that, 5 wickets falling for 20 runs and the last 5 falling for only 42 runs. Watson and Hussey held through till the end of the day for Australia after the hosts crumbled a little bit again losing their first three wickets in similar fashion to their first innings. Their partnership stands on 55, England will be hoping it won't go on for much longer on day three or break Strauss and Cook's record partnership (of the match so far that is).

Bowling: From boo to woo man, Johnson turned the match around for Australia and the series around for himself. Much criticised and lambasted after his failures in the first Tests, it looked doubtful whether he would survive and be called up for this Test. Well, well he did with figures of 38-6, making skipper Ricky Ponting smile again. Harris contributed his part too with three wickets and did well and made up for a bad start in the morning. England recovered a little bit by taking three wickets in the last session, although James Anderson still doesn't quite look up to scratch yet. The guests will be hoping they can make Australia tumble and crumble again early on before they reach a credible or unreachable score tomorrow.

Ups: Wickets galore! The crowd got more than their money's worth. All the twists and turns, I will not dare to predict where it will go next...

Downs: Well, I'm eating my words from yesterday, Australia are more than competing, the question now is if England can make a comeback. A true Test of champions it is...

Hero to zero: Yes, what Australia can do, England can do better - collapsing included! Wow! We're snatching the good records off the Aussies but don't want to give away our bad ones...

Australia v England third Test second day as it happened

1st session:

- Hot, sunny and crucial day at the Waga, the second of the third Test. England are on 29-0 after facing 12 overs on day one, 238 behind. Ricky Ponting will want wickets quickly, openers Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook will have other ideas.

- Ryan Harris starts the day against Cook with a maiden.

- Ben Hilfenhaus takes on skipper Strauss at the other end, a couple of runs here and there, four from the over, England 33-0.

- An inside edge by Strauss is dropped or more like ignored by both the Aussies keeper and Watson at first slip. What a contrast to all the spectacluar catches by England yesterday and the Australia side of the old days... A couple of runs from the over and relief for the guests, England 40-0 after 3 overs this morning.

- Remind me what the wicket keeper, slips and fielders in general are there for again?

- A maiden by Hilfenhaus, England 40-0 after 4 overs this morning, 16 in total.

- First boundary of the morning, Straiss with a fine controlled shot down the offside. Not very good bowling by Harris, too wide and high, more easy boundary strokes for Strauss, 3 boundaries of that over England 52-0 after 5 on the day, 17 overs in total. 50 partnership already for England, Strauss on 32 off 58, Cook on 20 off 44 and looking comfortable. The missed catch could prove very costly for Australia.

- England 54-0 after 18 overs, run rate of 3, 214 behind.

- Mitchell Johnson is brought on for Harris, who only had 3 bad overs this morning, and starts very, very short against the England skipper. Another boundary by Straussy, fine stride, and a single from the last ball makes it 59-0 after 19 overs.

- Hilfenhaus stays on at the other end. First boundary of the morning for Cook and a couple of singles make it 65-0 after 20 overs. 8 overs and all England so far this morning, 36 runs from it, 16 over rate, 4.5 run rate after Australia missed/ignored a catch and key wicket off the England skipper Strauss.

- Strauss nearly got Cook in a sweat, calling for a run and then re-thinking and -shouting it, apologises after wards. 4 from the over, England 69-0, 199 behind.

- A couple of singles from the over, England 71-0 after 22 overs. 10 overs so far this morning, 42 runs, England going smoothly and comfortably, the openers on the highest partnership of the match so far. Who can get the breakthrough for the Aussies?

- Another wide, short ball smashed for four by Cook, Ponting is not impressed with Johnson. England 75-0.

- Hilfenhaus no ball, first of the match, he was onto a maiden, 2 runs off the seventh and last ball of the over, England 78-0.

- WICKET - Mike Hussey at gully catches Cook off Johnson, a bit late in the stroke. Cook stays at the crease for a couple of seconds getting his hopes up for a review but it definitely carried. Australia finally get the breakthrough, Englands 78-1, Cook out for 32 of 63. Jonathan Trott comes in at numver 3. You can feel how Australia are lifted up by the wicket straight away. Wicket maiden, a good over for Johnson.

- A maiden for Hilfenhaus too, England 78-0, 190 behind.

- Trott still on 0, bat high, wicket keeper appeals for a catch, no touch and not much of an appeal though, not out. Trott off the mark with a boundary through the slips - and is GONE the next ball. A little swing for Johnson, lbw, Trott out for 4 off 8, England 82-2. Kevin Pietersen is on, given OUT lbw too, sent for a review, looked like a late swinger, pitched in line, hits the stumps hard, wicket stands, England lose a review and the third WICKET, KP out for a duck, England 82-3 after 27 overs and suddenly up against it. 7 overs, 2 maidens, 21 runs and 3 wickets for Johnson, from boo to woo man for Australia, turning the morning around.

- Sweet boundary for the skipper Strauss takes him to 49. How crucial is that missed/ignored catch no?! Straussy gets his 22nd Test half century off 95 balls, he is on 51, England on 88-3 after 28 overs.

- Paul Collingwood faces his first delivery v Johnson and is off the mark with a single from the last ball of the 29th over, England 89-3.

- England 92-3 after 18 overs this morning, Colly doing well v Hilfenhaus.

- Colly nearly caught at slip, just drops short, would have been a spectacular catch. Ponting smiling for the first time. England 94-3 at the end of that over.

- Harris back on for the Aussies, see if he can improve his morning as well v Strauss. Peter Siddle seems to be warming up too. WICKET - outside edge, the skipper caught behind, beaten by a little swing, out for 52 off 102, crucial wicket. England are in trouble collapsing to 94-4. Ian Bell joins Colly on 5 and is off the mark with a boundary. 98-4 at the end of that over, much better by Harris. About half an hour until lunch, suddenly England are sweating and praying for the break, Australia smelling blood with the two new batsmen on.

- Johnson lbw appeal against Collingwood, not given, Ponting sends it for review, no risk no fun, looks high... But the decision is reversed, it is a WICKET, as the hawkeye shows the ball hits the top of middle and on stump, Colly's out for 5 off 1, England are reeling 98-5. Matt Prior comes on, Johnson is on 4 wickets for 24 runs in his 10th over. A wicket maiden it is, successful over for Johnson, what a turnaround for him and Australia! Half an hour to go until lunch. 21 overs so far this morning, 69 runs, 5 wickets. See what England's lower order can do...

- England reach and pass the 100 mark, not much cheers and applause, surprise, surprise. 101-5,167 runs behind.

- Long break and fielding changes by Australia, Johnson bowls short v Bell, another maiden for him, 101-5 it stays.

- 4 leg byes as the wicketkeeper is overstretched and pushes the ball onto the boundary. Prior is the off the mark with a couple off Harris, England 107-5 after 36 overs, 24 overs this session, 161 behind.

- Siddle is on just before lunch, v Bell. 3 fine runs down mid on, brings Bell on the last ball, knicks it wide of Brad Haddin for four. England 114-5 after 37 overs, 154 behind.

- Harris starts with a wide, next ball Haddin is the only one shouting for a catch against Bell, no interest whatsoever in that one, umpires and Australia alike. Some cool and good running takes England to lunch on 119-5 after 38 overs. Bell on 13 off 20, Prior 3 off 16. 26 overs for 90 runs and 5 wickets this morning, 13 over rate and 3.46 run rate. England collapsed losing 5 wickets for as little as 20 runs, Mitchell Johnson starring and smacking in 4 of them. The lower order will have to stand for another 149 runs for England to make up the deficit. Who would have thought that about 90 minutes ago, ey? England on top, cruising, Australia looking all lost hope... Fool me! The match and series is more than on again!

2nd session highlights:

- WICKET - Prior out for 12 off 42, bowled by Siddle, the ball bounces backwards and forwards between bat and body and onto the off stump, an odd/lucky/freaky but one, but welcome wicket for the Aussies, England 145-6, 123 runs behind. Graeme Swann on.

- WICKET - Swann caught behind, out for 11 off 32, England 181-7, second wicket for Harris after taking the crucial one the skipper.

- WICKET - Bell 53 off 90 caught by Ponting at second slip, another one for Harris, England 186-8.

- WICKET - Anderson caught by Watson at first slip, easy catch, a duck for Johnson to finish England off and make it 6-38 for him. England 187 all out after 62.3 overs, 81 runs behind, and tea is taken early. Johnson finished England off taking two more wickets making it 6-38 in total for him, brilliant figures, Harris improving after a bad start to the day taking 3 wickets including the skipper Straussy. We have got a match and series on our hands alright after all!

3rd session highlights:

- England appeal for a catch against Shane Watson, not given, Australia 6-0, England don't go for review. It looked like a serious appeal, so, how come they don't take the review? Replays show the ball hit the trousers, that made the sound, great decision by the umpires, no review wasted for England.

- Aus 31-0 after 12 overs, Watson on 19, Hughes on 12, 112 ahead, at drinks, England need a breakthrough (or 2/3/4/5...) so they can go into day three thinking more positive...

- WICKET! And there it is, England have the breakthrough, Hughes caught at third slip by Colly off Finn, easy comfortable catch shoulder higher, the opener is out for 12 off 31, Australia 31-1. Skipper Ponting is in, looking for a good score desperately, not just for his own record, but for the fate of this series which is hanging in a worrying balance for the Aussies... He is off the mark with a single. Australia 31-1 at the end of that over.

- Ponting faces Anderson, the man who got him out three times this series, the Aussie skipper's demon? The skipper averaging just above 20 runs this series scoring 83 in the six innings so far. England appeal for a catch, umpire doesn't give it, but England seem sure he hit it... Hot spot shows the ball hit his glove... And, the umpire's decision is overturne, Ponting is OUT! For 1 off 9 balls, caught behind, off Steven Finn, Australia 34-2, 115 ahead. Still a miserable series for the skipper so far, run-wise at least...

- WICKET - Michael Clarke bowled by Chris Tremlett for 20 off 18, trying to play an angled bat shot, failed as the ball deflects and crashes into the stumps, Australia 64-3, 145 ahead. Could this be the start of yet another major collapse?

- The answers is no, not yet anyways, Watson with his 14th Test fifty (61*) and Hussey (24*) withstand and hold through till the end of the day, their parternship standing on 55 and Australia on 119-3, 200 runs ahead, at the end of the second day of the thirs Test. England will be hoping they can break through them nice and quickly and in similar fashion to this late session, taking three wickets for 33 runs this session.