Monday, 13 July 2009

Starting As The Last One Ended...

First Test, Sophia Gardens: England 435 & 252-9 drew with Australia 674-6 declared
So England escaped with a draw in the first test of the 2009 Ashes Series, despite only winning at best 4 out of the 15 sessions. In fact from day one England were in varying degrees of trouble. And it all stems from the poor batting display on day one.

Apart from Collingwood in the second innings, and Prior and Flintoff, who were dismissed by good deliveries by Siddle late on in the first day, none of the recognised batsmen did themselves any justice. Its more annoying that most of the batsmen got themselves in, and promptly got themselves out. The worst culprit here was Kevin Pieterson.

The guy is a talented batsman, but there are times where his concentration is not really test standard. Thursday was one of those moments where had he kept his head, then England would have been in a much better position and KP would have had another Ashes hundred. Instead he went at a wide delivery from Hauritz, and holed out to Katich. The form of the recognised batsmen, who could only muster 435 first time around on a flat slow pitch, is clearly the most worrying aspect fro the England camp. They were given a showing up by the tail-enders, who added 106 runs first time around and took England from 70 for 5 in the second innings. The form of the bowlers could be slightly excused by the slow flat nature of the pitch, but not that much. England’s bowlers need to sharpen up before Thursdays Second Test as well.

Not that England have all the problems. Despite the efforts of Clarke, North and Haddin in making the Australian middle order look at its most stable since the retirement of Steve Waugh, there must be real concern at their inability to kill a game off from 70 for 5. The sign’s were there on the second morning, when England went from 336/7 to 435. Australia missed Brett Lee, and possibly made a blunder in not picking Stuart Clarke, Metronome 2 as the BBC website text commentators took to calling him during the 2006/07 Ashes series. Ponting struggled at times to juggle his misfiring bowlers. Mitchell Johnson looked wayward, not what we were expecting from the man who took an 8 for 61 (in Perth) against South Africa and 33 wickets in the return series in the past year. Then again the last bowler to be singularly unimpressive on his Ashes bow in England would have been Glen McGrath, who went on to take 8 wickets after his thrashing at Edgbaston.

So its still game on as we head to Lords for the second test, starting on Thursday. England have recalled Harmison, possibly to cover an injured Flintoff. Should Harmison play, it would be a return to the stage where he arguably last performed in an England shirt – when he took 5 wickets on the first day of the 2005 Ashes series. It would also be a huge blow to a side who have not won against Australia at Lords for 75 years. History is against England on Thursday.

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