Friday, December 08, 2006

Ashes latest

Well finally another Ashes blog session. The first test proved to be a decisive Aussie victory, England never fought back from dismal bowling performances from Harmison and Anderson. The strangest thing in the first test was the Aussie decision not to enforce the follow on. England had been crushed in the first innings, only lasted a couple of sessions and were miles behind, yet Australia decided to bat again. It was a decision they could have rued. Conceivably the end of the test could have seen England holding on with 9 wickets down and the Aussies praying for extra time. It never eventuated, and the inevitable victory came but the decision was an immensely weird one.

Maybe the Australian Cricket Board wanted them to bat again so that the test would last longer and therefore provide more revenue. Maybe the Aussies didn't want to tire the bowlers, although how bowling a team out in about 2 sessions constitutes getting tired out, goodness only knows.

The second England innings, the afternoon session at least, did provide England with a glimmer of hope for the rest of the summer as both Collingwood and Pieterson made 90's. The only other thing to note was how important Aussie winning the toss seemed to be to the general outcome of the game. All in all though, a very one sided affair in Brisbane --- on to Adelaide.

The second test came and again, much to the chagrin of most cricket nuts, no Monty Panesar! Definitely an example of negativity from an England side lacking in confidence. England did though, after a shaky start, give their fans something to cheer, making 551-6 dec, albeit at a rather slow run rate. Still - it was positive to see England getting the upperhand. Collingwood and Pieterson starring in a magnificent partnership, Collingwood making a double century (206) and Pieterson dismissed for 158, for the third time in his test career! The declaration was made late on day 2, England hadn't really pushed the scoring along but the declaration was a positive mood, in an attempt to look at levelling the series.

But Aussie hit back, easily passing the follow on figure, and finishing up only 38 runs behind after the first innings. It could have been so different had Giles not made a hash of a catch off Ponting, with Ponting continuing on to score another 100+ runs. Hoggard was the hero with 7 wickets. Hoggard is a magnificent bowler who rarely gets the plaudits he deserves. I however rate him very highly, and it's lovely to see a Yorkshireman do well! At the end of the second day the Poms were smiling, especially after picking up an early wicket before stumps but of course (as explained above - this didn't last long!).

Going into the final day the most likely result was a draw, England had a lead of 80 or so runs with 9 wickets in hand. However on the last day, a combination of negative cricket which involved looking to survive rather than score runs, and a rejuvenated Shane Warne (as well as an early dodgy decision by the umpire against Strauss) - conspired to make England have a dismal collapse, and fold to give Aussie a straightforward run chase, and a six wicket win. The about-face which occurred was nothing short of incredible leading many to call the match as one of the biggest turnarounds in cricket, with the likes of Warne and Ponting calling it "the best ever test match".

So with a 2-0 lead to Aussie, England require 2 wins and a draw from the last 3 tests to level the series and retain the ashes. About as likely as the Pope renouncing his Catholicism.

But never say never!

Let's see what Monty can do (or have we billed him up too much?)