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.

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