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Metamorphosis?

The first two days of each of the first two Tests had some interesting similarities. More so, because the 2nd Test represented a role reversal but one that didn’t have any affect on the ultimate result.

In both Tests, the side batting first played well on the first day and was well placed with few wickets down at stumps. In both Tests, the bowling team bounced back on the second day, dismissing the opposition more quickly than they would have hoped and then mounted a strong reply.

There were even some more cryptic similarities. In both Tests, one of the openers batted for all of the first day, making a big score. And both were controversially given not out by the third umpire over disputed catches, early in their innings (who could forget Matthew Hayden and Simon “at least it wasn’t six” Jones and Michael Vaughan and Justin “I definitely caught it” Langer?).
In broad terms, there are similarities but here is why Australia had the upper hand at the end of day 2 in both matches.

In the first Test, England trailed by 334 with 9 wickets in hand at the end of Day 2. Technically not dead but a very long way to go to save the match. In the second Test, Australia was just 95 runs behind with 8 wickets in hand. Still work to be done, but very well placed.

Australia’s first day in the 1st Test was better than England’s first day in the second Test. In fact, Australia made more runs by the end of Day 1 in Brisbane than England ultimately made in their first dig in Adelaide. And they had lost less wickets. When England lost Vaughan in the last over on Day 1 in Adelaide, they suffered a real psychological blow. It underlines Australia’s mental toughness and desire never to give in. It had been a bad day but while there was an over left there was opportunity to improve the situation – and they took the opportunity. Four down seems a lot better then three, especially when it is the number one bat.

Australia lost 8/128 on Day 2 in Brisbane, which is awful. But at least there was some starch in the tail with Warne belting a quick 57 – which is more than the last seven wickets put on for England in Adelaide. They lost 6/47 on the second morning.
As we all now know, England was completely overwhelmed on the third and fourth days and suffered huge defeats in both Test. There was much talk in Brisbane about just how stupid Hussain was to allow Australia to bat first. I’d like to suggest that maybe it won’t matter too much who bats first, regardless of who wins the toss. And there is a good chance that England will bat last in most cases, regardless of who bats first. England showed some encouraging signs in both of the first two Tests but much too little. If you play badly, even for a session or two, Australia will punish very quickly and if you have a really bad day (such as England’s first day of the series), the match can be gone before you can say “stumps”.

And some other matters:

Congratulations to Ricky Ponting who moves up to number two on the Price Waterhouse Test batting ratings with a bullet. Hayden is at 1 and Gilchrist is at 4. http://cricketratings.pwcglobal.com/cricket/cricket.htm Ponting has topped 120 on four occasions in the last five Tests.

http://www.earthsci.unimelb.edu.au/cgi-bin/hsumm?-a+aus+ponting

Even though Australia has won and won well so far, I feel that there are some selection issues to be resolved. I have a new idea that I am unveiling for the ACB and channel 9 later this week. It is called “Selector Cam ™”. Selector Cam uses the latest in fiberoptics and micro cinematography technology to plant a camera with full audio capabilities in the well known moustache of well known selector, David Boon. Footage will be seen on the Cricket Show (screened during lunch breaks) and will be a nice change from the material currently appearing.

We will gain insight into how long Steve Waugh really has. He looked awful in Brisbane but a bit better in Adelaide. Is he guaranteed selection until the end of the series? What about beyond? Will he receive a push, just as AB and Boonie themselves did? Jim Maxwell on ABC radio made the point that the trademark Waugh century is made coming in at 4/96, rather than 4/400 plus. It can be difficult for the warrior to perform to his full potential when the stimulus of adversity is removed (by the way, that’s my own line, not Jim’s).

How safe is Boof Lehmann? He’s hanging on for now but has not been impressive. He has had only two chances but both dismissals were very disappointing. Who is putting on the pressure? Who is next in line?

And is the battle of Brett Lee and Andy Bichel resolved for the rest of the series. Lee has done all that could be asked of him for the Blues but Bichel has done well enough in the Tests. He hasn’t had a bag of wickets (he is the least well performed of the four bowlers) but the wickets have been well shared. And he showed in Adelaide with a classy and important 48 that he is a very useful number 9.

Roll on Perth and roll on Friday.

Life is full of decisions

Here’s how Day One of the 1st Test of the 2002-2003 Ashes series panned out:

9:00 am I bumped into my good friend Rob Brennan down at the punt this morning. He said, “So what do reckon the go will be Dave? Win the toss and bat?”. Absolutely Rob – it’s Brisbane. Beautiful pitch, one of Australia’s openers is the best batsman in the world and playing on his home turf and the best spinner in the world is leaner and meaner than ever. Easy decision.

10:30 am (Eastern summer time): Hussain wins the toss and elects to bowl. Interesting decision. English Tabloids immediately pen their headlines for the end of play. “NASSER YOU …..” is the headline with “FOOL” or “GENIUS” to be inserted at about mid-way through the evening session.

Langer out for 32. 1/68. Simon Jones draws first blood but only after Australia gets away to a good start.

Hayden played a lusty pull shot which carried nearly all the way to the boundary but was very well intercepted by Jones. He caught the ball on the run right on the boundary. He had the presence of mind to prop, hurl the ball over his shoulder, keeping it in the field of play before tumbling over the boundary. The matter was referred to the third umpire, with most commentators expecting Hayden to be out. He was ruled not out and the one run taken stood – no four or six.

The rule reads that the fielder must control the ball (which he had clearly done) AND the player must be in control of his body – which Jones was obviously not. Which was lucky for Hayden.

Simon Jones, England’s great white hope, ruptures a knee ligament in the outfield. Will be out for 6 months.
Hayden makes 10th Test century (from 124 balls).

Hoggard drops Hayden at 1/206 off Caddick (Hayden was 102). They take 2 runs. Hayden launched a big off drive which presented a high, swirling chance at mid-off. Hoggart’s attempt to catch it resembled a movement from the Australian Ballet Company more closely than a Test cricketers attempt to catch a ball. Having completed several pirouettes and with head still spinning, the ball hit the grass. The ball may even have touched his hands on the way down.

Ponting makes his 13th Test century (from 157 balls)

Vaughan misfields allowing the ball through his legs for four.

Next over, Vaughan drops Hayden from White at 1/283 (Hayden was 138). An absolute sitter.

Next ball, Hayden hits White for four.

Key drops Hayden at 1/296 off Giles (Hayden was 148). They take 2 runs. Hayden 150. Difficult chance leaping high in the air. Saves four.

4:55 pm Australia 1/300 from 69 overs (run rate 4.34).

Ponting bowled by Giles. 123 runs (194 balls, 12 x 4, 2 x 6). 2/339.

Partnership of 271.

Close of play. Hayden 186 and Martyn 9.

With more than 360 on the board, Australia already has a respectable score. And with just two wickets down, the expectation of a belter of a track and with a demoralised England a strike bowler down, building a mammoth score seems almost certain.
When England does get a chance to bat, and that may not be until Saturday, they will need to dig deep. Capitulation in the first innings will surely mean their end in this match and probably the series. Which is a great pity. Really. I mean it.
Will Hayden pass the double hundred? Three hundred may not be on Hayden’s mind but although he was dropped three times, I’m thinking three hundred. And 186 x 2 = 372 – what a coincidence – just four more runs and….!

…………..

And now a quick quiz:
What is Matthew Hayden’s highest Test score?
Who was the last Australian to score a Test 200?
Who was the last Australian right-hander to post 200?