Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Fourth Test, Headingley: Australia 445 beat England 102 & 263 by an innings and 80 runs

As momentum shifts go, this was as unexpected and unforeseen as is possible as Australia’s pace attack found form… and then some. By exposing the technical deficiancies in the England middle order, the Australian bowlers made it doubtful that Ian Bell or Ravi Bhopara would be picked for the 5th Test a week on Thursday.

The technical deficiencies also extended to the England pace bowlers, who bowled too short and gave too many easy shots to the Australian batsmen. England were in a hole very quickly on day one, finding at 71 for 5 at Lunch. Very quickly they were bowled out for 102. Having only seen the highlights, I suspect that technical deficiencies played a part in the batting collapse, with Bell and Bhopara the main culprits. But I suspect that there is a lack of patience here as well. Its no error that Cook prospered, abet briefly, on the first morning. Strauss looked, well, distracted. Hardly surprising as he had lost Flintoff to injury, and had looked like loosing Prior to injury during the warm-up.

Despite only getting 3 wickets in the match, the inclusion on Stuart Clark in the Australian test team seems to have invigorated the other bowlers. Peter Siddle took five wickets in the first innings, however the real bonus was the return to form of Mitchell Johnson. Johnson had so far wilted under the pressure of being the next great Australian spearhead bowler. His 5 for 69 included 3 wickets on Saturday evening (above, getting the wicket of Alistair Cook late on Day 2) which blew away the England middle order. In sharp contrast, England bowled too short. Broad and (to a certain extent) Onions seemed to be the only bowlers who were prepared to bowl line and length balls, and let the ball swing.

Going into the last test, the series is tied at 1-1. Previous results at the Oval are irrelevant, but for the record Australia have only won there 3 times since the Second World War (1948, 1972 and 2001). England seem to have all the selection problems. It is likely that Anderson will be fit, and will be joined by Flintoff, for his last Test. This however leaves the question of what to do with the middle order. The saving grace for Bell and Bhopara is that there really isn’t an obvious replacement for either of them. Personally, I would maybe look to swap Bhopara and Bell, Bhopara is not a Test Number 3, while maybe a change in position would do Bell some good. Australia hold most of the aces, and a momentum they had before, and lost. England must hope that they lose it again.

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