Session updates provided by Avinash. Updated at overs 15, 40 and 50.
[First innings – Australia]
Overs 1-15: (Avinash)
It has been a marvellous 15 overs, worthy of a Lord’s final between the two best teams in the world. Glichrist got Australia off to a ripping start and yet again, a buffet of Simon Jones was much too tempting for the Australian openers to pass up on. Fifty came up in short order and Jones was lashed for 29 off his opening three overs, including 16 in four balls from Gilly. Panic Stations, England? An English side might have crumbled in the face of such typically aggressive batting some years earlier but this lot is a bit more resilient. Flintoff has been their most accurate bowler all series so Vaughan turned to him to peg things back a little. And peg them back he did, with beautifully controlled & short of a length fast bowling. Gough prised out Hayden, his first wicket with the new ball all series, and Flintoff bowled one of the best overs anyone has ever bowled to Gilchrist, beating him time and again outside the off stump and forcing him into an injudicious pull that simply went straight up in the air. That was a well-earned wicket, if anything was. Ponting then went on to tickle Harmison’s first delivery down the legside to Geraint Jones and suddenly, Australia were three down in 12 overs. Parity had been restored. Symonds is proving why he doesn’t get to play Test cricket more often, struggling to put bat to ball against Harmison and Flintoff, and Martyn is searching for an aggressive partner he can feed the strike to.
15 overs. 76 runs. 3 wickets. The perfect start, as the first session has been a well fought draw!
Australia will want these two to bat another 15 overs while England will want to get Symonds out while the ball is still a bit new. They know well what can happen otherwise. Once again, Andrew Symonds seems to have the key to the game.
Overs 15-40: (Will)
As befits the middling overs, things have quietened down significantly. England continued to apply pressure via Harmison – who bowled quite beautifully. He dismissed Martyn with a classic delivery, angling in but cutting away – Jones took an easy catch, but one which he might well have dropped a year ago. His ‘keeping standards have certainly improved since working with Jack Russell.
Jones was brought back into the attack; after Gilchrist’s initial onslought, smashing him for 16 in an over, he showed admirable control to keep things quiet, and was too good for Clarke trapping him leg-before. That wicket was the last ball in the 24th, and the 3rd consecutive maiden. The 25th was the 4th maiden in a row, before Symonds and Hussey started to knock it around – but, in the 35th over, Symonds was still demonstrating un-character-like restraint. Even Giles is going at under 4 per over – both he and Collingwood justifying Vaughan’s decision to keep Harmison and Flintoff back for a couple of overs each at the end of the innings.
And Vaughan’s decision is further vindicated. Symonds crashed Collingwood, on the bounce, straight to extra cover, only to repeat the shot next ball into Strauss’ hands. Now is definately the time to bring Harmison back, although I think Collingwood and Giles have done an excellent, containing job (especially considering the awesome form Symonds has been in). Giles though is still bowling in the 39th – come on Vaughan, don’t miss a trick here. Harmison, Flintoff, Gough – 2 of those must be bowling now. Australia will be loving this.
And into the 40th over, it’s Paul Collingwood to continue! Don’t understand this whatsoever…over to you, Avinash.
Overs 40-50: (Avinash)
Australia went into the turn at 153/6. Hogg had just come in, Hussey was still biding his time, Flintoff, Gough and Harmison had 10 overs between them and England could not have hoped for a more perfect situation. Naturally therefore, Vaughan bowled Collingwood in the 41st over and Giles in the 42nd. Harmison was finally given the ball (about 10 overs delayed, by my reckoning) and, immediately, run making got more difficult & dangerous. Staying true to form, Vaughan persisted with Giles from the other end before finally turning, almost reluctantly you’d think were it not such a ludicrous thought, to Flintoff.
6 balls later, Lee had gone, Gillespie had followed his mate first ball and Andrew Flintoff was on a hattrick. As demonstrably QED as you could ever get. A couple of lucky edges, a few scrambles and some fine batting from Hussey coaxed Australia to 196. The obvious question now: is 196 enough? I think they are about 25 short, but with this pitch and the generally overcast conditions, the bowlers will always have a chance. Whether Vaughan will rue not turning to his strike bowlers earlier in the innings only time will tell. Regardless, it is great to have a one day pitch that is doing just enough to make it an even contest between bat and ball.
It is going to be a tremendous spectacle – Ponting does not have the runs to defend for long periods so he will attack constantly. Lee, McGrath and Gillespie will be hard to score consistently off in these conditions but yet again, one senses that the first 10 overs or so of the England response might go a long way towards deciding the fate of this final. After
three gripping sessions of play, it is England 2 and Australia 0. My money is on England the rest of the way, but the two men who can ruin it for the hosts are the men who will share the new ball in just about 40 minutes – Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee.
[Second innings – England]
England have batted twice in this series against Australia and both times, their openers have looked shaky against the new ball, all those hundreds against Bangladesh notwithstanding. Lee and McGrath would have liked their chances therefore, of picking up an early wicket or two. As things turned out, they picked up 4 between themselves in 40 balls and England’s
fraility at the top suddenly threatened to lose them the game.
It was good bowling without a doubt but you would have expected no less from Australia. I grow ever more skeptical though, of Trescothick’s place at the top of the order against Brett Lee, Glen McGrath and a new ball. He can be a punishing batsman on his day, but when the ball is doing a bit England might be better served opening with Vaughan. Not that that would have prevented Strauss from getting comprehensively bowled by Lee.
Back to matters at hand however, and England have Flintoff along with Collingwood at the crease. Flintoff has looked assured at the crease, and is playing well, two sweetly timed fours of Lee proving that danger still lurks for Australia.
Ah, I speak too soon! Flintoff perishes as well, and McGrath has himself another wicket!
Number 7 walks out into the middle in the 10th over and England are now threatening to implode in much the same way that Australia did some weeks ago. That collapse was greeted by much disbelief and so will this one. So there we have it. Lee and McGrath were always the dangermen, and in 40 minutes of work they have hauled Australia into a position of utter dominance. No question whatsoever of who has won this session.
Interesting as the match is, I have a cricket game of my own to play so further commentary and reaction from the venerable Will.