Andrew Strauss revels in day of perfection

They came in their tens of thousands, not quite in record numbers, but many tens of thousands nonetheless, sore heads and all, flocking down by the Yarra, through the Birrarung Mar, over the William Barak footbridge and into the ‘G’, and they came to see what they had been assured was a resurgent Australia team. Instead, they left thoroughly disillusioned, many thousands of them before the end of play, the day’s events confirming beyond all doubt that Perth was an aberration rather than a return to normality.

This was England’s day – all lock, stock and two smoking barrels of it – another day when the remarkable vulnerability of Australia’s batting was exposed for all to see by a bowling unit that rose rather than fell to the grandest of occasions. The scale of the demolition was that, in being bowled out on 42.5 overs for just 98, this was Australia’s lowest total against England at Melbourne, lower even than the 104 scored in the first Test between these two teams here in 1877.

Andrew Strauss could not have penned a more perfect script: winning a good toss, then making the right decision; standing at slip and having to do little other than orchestrate some bowling changes – which brought rewards with unerring accuracy in the morning – as his bowlers delivered to order, and then watching the sun come out to take the sting out of the pitch just as he and Alastair Cook set about England’s reply.

For Ricky Ponting, though, there was only the unhappy reminder of how things have changed, for himself and his team. He failed again with the bat, unfurling a couple of trademark swivel pulls but making only 10 before he edged a lifter from Chris Tremlett to slip. Later in the field, he could only hope and pray for another Mitchell Johnson-inspired miracle, but there was no swing for the left-armer, only a wonky radar, one waist-high full toss that fizzed past Strauss a reminder that for such a bowler there will always be as many bad days as there are good.

Whereas Australia could not muster a hundred between them, Strauss and Cook breezed to a three-figure partnership, so that within 30 overs, and with still an hour of the day to go, England were in credit on first innings. It was as if all the drama had been played out in the first half of the day, because they were virtually untroubled. Cook was forced to send for help on 27 when given out leg-before to Ben Hilfenhaus, and he did so with such a knowing smile that it was no surprise when the review showed a clear inside edge. Occasionally Strauss was ruffled by the short ball. But other than that their passage was as calm as Australia’s had been rough.

The morning conditions were favourable for bowling to be sure. The pitch was green-tinged and the cloud cover heavy and near-permanent throughout the session, but that no Australian batsman scored more than 20 was testament as much to their own failings as the excellence on England’s part. All 10 wickets fell in the arc between the wicket-keeper and gully, as England mercilessly exploited a series a flawed strokes, Matt Prior cheerfully accepting the lion’s share with six catches, all of them regulation.

England’s bowlers were excellent, led by Jimmy Anderson who, in a nine-over spell from the Members End either side of lunch, found the kind of sweet rhythm that comes to bowlers all too rarely and often only in their dreams. Twelve rhythmical paces to the crease; lithe and whippy in his action and with masterful control, he reduced Australia’s batting line-up to rubble, taking the key wicket of Mike Hussey on the stroke of lunch and adding Michael Clarke, Steven Smith, Brad Haddin and Johnson just after. There was no way back for the home side from that.

He was assisted superbly by Tremlett, who bowled quickly at times with disconcerting bounce, and by Tim Bresnan, who was preferred in the morning to Steven Finn. Tremlett added four more wickets to his haul at Perth, starting the rot by taking the shoulder of Shane Watson’s bat, ending Ponting’s stay and hoovering up the tail. Bresnan did precisely the job he was selected to do, which was to act as a sponge and dry up the runs, so that England bowled 16 maidens in all, more than twice as many as they bowled in the first innings at Perth, in slightly more than half as many overs.

Finn, no doubt, would have reckoned to do a decent job as well and he would have been rightly frustrated not to have been given the opportunity, but there was no denying Bresnan’s accuracy or suitability for the job; a very English bowler, for unusually English-style conditions. He picked up a couple of wickets, too, that of Haddin, who played a curiously twitchy innings, and Phillip Hughes, who, if he continues to play as he is, will be looked upon in time as something of a curio himself. How, people may ask, did such a technically inept batsman ever come to open for Australia?

Hughes had fought hard for an hour, both against England’s new-ball attack and his own instincts, when he launched himself at the kind of delivery an opening batsman really should regard with disdain. Three stumps wide, and two feet short of being a half-volley, he threw his hands at the ball from a stiff-legged base, only to see it slice to gully, where Kevin Pietersen, who had already put down a difficult chance when Watson toe-ended a cut, accepted gratefully.

Hughes’s dismissal was the most egregious example of poor batsmanship, but it was by no means the only one. Clarke, Smith and Haddin were all guilty of pushing hard at balls that were well outside their eye-line, so that any bounce or late movement, of the kind on offer during the first half of the day, was bound to bring their downfall. Haddin’s brief innings, full of wild swishes and swipes, hinted that the batsman’s earlier indiscretions were having a knock-on effect. Steve Waugh, watching on in the crowd, must have wondered at the generosity of it all.

With three early wickets, Australia’s innings took on a familiar pattern, until the failure that is of Hussey. Called upon to fire-fight in each of the three Tests so far, it was inevitable, perhaps, that he would fail to answer the call at some stage. It took a good one from Anderson to get him, though, a full, curling delivery that took the edge before the batsman’s feet had found their intended position. Anderson’s delight, and his team-mates’, knew no bounds.

From making the right call with the team and the toss, to batting staunchly at the end, there is not much the England captain is flunking right now. He was right about Hussey, too: when asked before the game how they were going to get him out, Strauss had shrugged and said, simply, ‘he’s due to nick one’. It sounded a little hopeful at the time, but he was, and he did. Maybe Strauss can turn his hand to the national debt next. The Times, 27 December 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

They came in their tens of thousands, not quite in record numbers, but many tens of thousands nonetheless, sore heads and all, flocking down by the Yarra, through the Birrarung Mar, over the William Barak footbridge and into the ‘G’, and they came to see what they had been assured was a resurgent Australia team. Instead, they left thoroughly disillusioned, many thousands of them before the end of play, the day’s events confirming beyond all doubt that Perth was an aberration rather than a return to normality.

This was England’s day – all lock, stock and two smoking barrels of it – another day when the remarkable vulnerability of Australia’s batting was exposed for all to see by a bowling unit that rose rather than fell to the grandest of occasions. The scale of the demolition was that, in being bowled out on 42.5 overs for just 98, this was Australia’s lowest total against England at Melbourne, lower even than the 104 scored in the first Test between these two teams here in 1877.

Andrew Strauss could not have penned a more perfect script: winning a good toss, then making the right decision; standing at slip and having to do little other than orchestrate some bowling changes – which brought rewards with unerring accuracy in the morning – as his bowlers delivered to order, and then watching the sun come out to take the sting out of the pitch just as he and Alastair Cook set about England’s reply.

For Ricky Ponting, though, there was only the unhappy reminder of how things have changed, for himself and his team. He failed again with the bat, unfurling a couple of trademark swivel pulls but making only 10 before he edged a lifter from Chris Tremlett to slip. Later in the field, he could only hope and pray for another Mitchell Johnson-inspired miracle, but there was no swing for the left-armer, only a wonky radar, one waist-high full toss that fizzed past Strauss a reminder that for such a bowler there will always be as many bad days as there are good.

Whereas Australia could not muster a hundred between them, Strauss and Cook breezed to a three-figure partnership, so that within 30 overs, and with still an hour of the day to go, England were in credit on first innings. It was as if all the drama had been played out in the first half of the day, because they were virtually untroubled. Cook was forced to send for help on 27 when given out leg-before to Ben Hilfenhaus, and he did so with such a knowing smile that it was no surprise when the review showed a clear inside edge. Occasionally Strauss was ruffled by the short ball. But other than that their passage was as calm as Australia’s had been rough.

The morning conditions were favourable for bowling to be sure. The pitch was green-tinged and the cloud cover heavy and near-permanent throughout the session, but that no Australian batsman scored more than 20 was testament as much to their own failings as the excellence on England’s part. All 10 wickets fell in the arc between the wicket-keeper and gully, as England mercilessly exploited a series a flawed strokes, Matt Prior cheerfully accepting the lion’s share with six catches, all of them regulation.

England’s bowlers were excellent, led by Jimmy Anderson who, in a nine-over spell from the Members End either side of lunch, found the kind of sweet rhythm that comes to bowlers all too rarely and often only in their dreams. Twelve rhythmical paces to the crease; lithe and whippy in his action and with masterful control, he reduced Australia’s batting line-up to rubble, taking the key wicket of Mike Hussey on the stroke of lunch and adding Michael Clarke, Steven Smith, Brad Haddin and Johnson just after. There was no way back for the home side from that.

He was assisted superbly by Tremlett, who bowled quickly at times with disconcerting bounce, and by Tim Bresnan, who was preferred in the morning to Steven Finn. Tremlett added four more wickets to his haul at Perth, starting the rot by taking the shoulder of Shane Watson’s bat, ending Ponting’s stay and hoovering up the tail. Bresnan did precisely the job he was selected to do, which was to act as a sponge and dry up the runs, so that England bowled 16 maidens in all, more than twice as many as they bowled in the first innings at Perth, in slightly more than half as many overs.

Finn, no doubt, would have reckoned to do a decent job as well and he would have been rightly frustrated not to have been given the opportunity, but there was no denying Bresnan’s accuracy or suitability for the job; a very English bowler, for unusually English-style conditions. He picked up a couple of wickets, too, that of Haddin, who played a curiously twitchy innings, and Phillip Hughes, who, if he continues to play as he is, will be looked upon in time as something of a curio himself. How, people may ask, did such a technically inept batsman ever come to open for Australia?

Hughes had fought hard for an hour, both against England’s new-ball attack and his own instincts, when he launched himself at the kind of delivery an opening batsman really should regard with disdain. Three stumps wide, and two feet short of being a half-volley, he threw his hands at the ball from a stiff-legged base, only to see it slice to gully, where Kevin Pietersen, who had already put down a difficult chance when Watson toe-ended a cut, accepted gratefully.

Hughes’s dismissal was the most egregious example of poor batsmanship, but it was by no means the only one. Clarke, Smith and Haddin were all guilty of pushing hard at balls that were well outside their eye-line, so that any bounce or late movement, of the kind on offer during the first half of the day, was bound to bring their downfall. Haddin’s brief innings, full of wild swishes and swipes, hinted that the batsman’s earlier indiscretions were having a knock-on effect. Steve Waugh, watching on in the crowd, must have wondered at the generosity of it all.

With three early wickets, Australia’s innings took on a familiar pattern, until the failure that is of Hussey. Called upon to fire-fight in each of the three Tests so far, it was inevitable, perhaps, that he would fail to answer the call at some stage. It took a good one from Anderson to get him, though, a full, curling delivery that took the edge before the batsman’s feet had found their intended position. Anderson’s delight, and his team-mates’, knew no bounds.

From making the right call with the team and the toss, to batting staunchly at the end, there is not much the England captain is flunking right now. He was right about Hussey, too: when asked before the game how they were going to get him out, Strauss had shrugged and said, simply, ‘he’s due to nick one’. It sounded a little hopeful at the time, but he was, and he did. Maybe Strauss can turn his hand to the national debt next. The Times, 27 December 2010

 

 

They came in their tens of thousands, not quite in record numbers, but many tens of thousands nonetheless, sore heads and all, flocking down by the Yarra, through the Birrarung Mar, over the William Barak footbridge and into the ‘G’, and they came to see what they had been assured was a resurgent Australia team. Instead, they left thoroughly disillusioned, many thousands of them before the end of play, the day’s events confirming beyond all doubt that Perth was an aberration rather than a return to normality.

This was England’s day – all lock, stock and two smoking barrels of it – another day when the remarkable vulnerability of Australia’s batting was exposed for all to see by a bowling unit that rose rather than fell to the grandest of occasions. The scale of the demolition was that, in being bowled out on 42.5 overs for just 98, this was Australia’s lowest total against England at Melbourne, lower even than the 104 scored in the first Test between these two teams here in 1877.

Andrew Strauss could not have penned a more perfect script: winning a good toss, then making the right decision; standing at slip and having to do little other than orchestrate some bowling changes – which brought rewards with unerring accuracy in the morning – as his bowlers delivered to order, and then watching the sun come out to take the sting out of the pitch just as he and Alastair Cook set about England’s reply.

For Ricky Ponting, though, there was only the unhappy reminder of how things have changed, for himself and his team. He failed again with the bat, unfurling a couple of trademark swivel pulls but making only 10 before he edged a lifter from Chris Tremlett to slip. Later in the field, he could only hope and pray for another Mitchell Johnson-inspired miracle, but there was no swing for the left-armer, only a wonky radar, one waist-high full toss that fizzed past Strauss a reminder that for such a bowler there will always be as many bad days as there are good.

Whereas Australia could not muster a hundred between them, Strauss and Cook breezed to a three-figure partnership, so that within 30 overs, and with still an hour of the day to go, England were in credit on first innings. It was as if all the drama had been played out in the first half of the day, because they were virtually untroubled. Cook was forced to send for help on 27 when given out leg-before to Ben Hilfenhaus, and he did so with such a knowing smile that it was no surprise when the review showed a clear inside edge. Occasionally Strauss was ruffled by the short ball. But other than that their passage was as calm as Australia’s had been rough.

The morning conditions were favourable for bowling to be sure. The pitch was green-tinged and the cloud cover heavy and near-permanent throughout the session, but that no Australian batsman scored more than 20 was testament as much to their own failings as the excellence on England’s part. All 10 wickets fell in the arc between the wicket-keeper and gully, as England mercilessly exploited a series a flawed strokes, Matt Prior cheerfully accepting the lion’s share with six catches, all of them regulation.

England’s bowlers were excellent, led by Jimmy Anderson who, in a nine-over spell from the Members End either side of lunch, found the kind of sweet rhythm that comes to bowlers all too rarely and often only in their dreams. Twelve rhythmical paces to the crease; lithe and whippy in his action and with masterful control, he reduced Australia’s batting line-up to rubble, taking the key wicket of Mike Hussey on the stroke of lunch and adding Michael Clarke, Steven Smith, Brad Haddin and Johnson just after. There was no way back for the home side from that.

He was assisted superbly by Tremlett, who bowled quickly at times with disconcerting bounce, and by Tim Bresnan, who was preferred in the morning to Steven Finn. Tremlett added four more wickets to his haul at Perth, starting the rot by taking the shoulder of Shane Watson’s bat, ending Ponting’s stay and hoovering up the tail. Bresnan did precisely the job he was selected to do, which was to act as a sponge and dry up the runs, so that England bowled 16 maidens in all, more than twice as many as they bowled in the first innings at Perth, in slightly more than half as many overs.

Finn, no doubt, would have reckoned to do a decent job as well and he would have been rightly frustrated not to have been given the opportunity, but there was no denying Bresnan’s accuracy or suitability for the job; a very English bowler, for unusually English-style conditions. He picked up a couple of wickets, too, that of Haddin, who played a curiously twitchy innings, and Phillip Hughes, who, if he continues to play as he is, will be looked upon in time as something of a curio himself. How, people may ask, did such a technically inept batsman ever come to open for Australia?

Hughes had fought hard for an hour, both against England’s new-ball attack and his own instincts, when he launched himself at the kind of delivery an opening batsman really should regard with disdain. Three stumps wide, and two feet short of being a half-volley, he threw his hands at the ball from a stiff-legged base, only to see it slice to gully, where Kevin Pietersen, who had already put down a difficult chance when Watson toe-ended a cut, accepted gratefully.

Hughes’s dismissal was the most egregious example of poor batsmanship, but it was by no means the only one. Clarke, Smith and Haddin were all guilty of pushing hard at balls that were well outside their eye-line, so that any bounce or late movement, of the kind on offer during the first half of the day, was bound to bring their downfall. Haddin’s brief innings, full of wild swishes and swipes, hinted that the batsman’s earlier indiscretions were having a knock-on effect. Steve Waugh, watching on in the crowd, must have wondered at the generosity of it all.

With three early wickets, Australia’s innings took on a familiar pattern, until the failure that is of Hussey. Called upon to fire-fight in each of the three Tests so far, it was inevitable, perhaps, that he would fail to answer the call at some stage. It took a good one from Anderson to get him, though, a full, curling delivery that took the edge before the batsman’s feet had found their intended position. Anderson’s delight, and his team-mates’, knew no bounds.

From making the right call with the team and the toss, to batting staunchly at the end, there is not much the England captain is flunking right now. He was right about Hussey, too: when asked before the game how they were going to get him out, Strauss had shrugged and said, simply, ‘he’s due to nick one’. It sounded a little hopeful at the time, but he was, and he did. Maybe Strauss can turn his hand to the national debt next. The Times, 27 December 2010