Well well well – at approximately 14:23 on the fifth day of an enthralling test match – Aleem Dar got the confirmation from the third umpire that Brad Haddin had feathered a Jimmy Anderson delivery and the first test of the Ashes summer was over – England victorious by just 14 runs – this kind of excitement could only occur in the test match form of cricket a fantastic advert for the game.
After a first day that saw 14 wickets fall – you could never have imagined the game going deep into the final day. This match ebbed and flowed from the Australians bowling out England on the first day, to the Agar (and Phil Hughes) rearguard on day two, the England recovery on days three and four which included a superb century by Ian Bell to the near last wicket Australian partnership of 65 that nearly saw Australia pull of a remarkable win – but just like at Edgbaston in 2005 – England managed to eek out the last wicket to win a dramatic contest.
One thing this test confirmed to me was that England are clearly not the outstanding cricket team some experts think they are. For me they have are a good solid team – but nothing in my opinion suggests they are anything better. They have a settled batting unit, though it is very inconsistent – they have struggled to build large totals ever since the India tour last winter. The bowling is very good, though I feel that Graeme Swann is definitely not the same bowler as he has been in the last two years – maybe too much cricket and he has had an operation on his elbow this year. Obviously having a certain James Michael Anderson in the form he is adds a major dimension to the attack and England will be praying he does not pick up an injury through the series. He quite rightly was named Man of the Match with 10 wickets and more importantly the last four Aussie wickets in their second innings – see title of this blog 🙂
As for Australia – they too have a very good bowling attack – however their problem is their batting and like England in the bad old days – seem to fall like a pack of cards. This is the key to them having any chance of getting back into the test series now. Its ridiculous really that their combined last wicket pairing run total was 228 runs out of (576) but their top order have not been able to build a substantial total for some time. If they don’t soon maybes the 5-0 scoreline mooted by some people is a possibility if the weather stays as it does (not a typical English summer i.e no rain) as England’s batsmen have to hit form soon. Lots for Messrs Lehmann and Clarke to work on.
Geoffrey Boycott commented after the match that Australia winning would have been the best thing for cricket – I fully agree (happy it did not happen mind). England are a better team than Australia and being one down would have concentrated their minds (like in India last winter) as well as giving the Aussie’s something to defend. My thoughts at the start of this series were that Australia had to come here and be competitive (which they have been so far) but would lose the series – and then be ready to strike back and hard when England go to Australia later in the year. Most Australians don’t expect a win in our summer, but they do in theirs.
So onto Lords for the second test (only four days to get ready) and hopefully another cracking test match. Who will be in the ascendancy before a break to back to back tests at Old Trafford and Chester Le Street. If England leave the home of cricket 2-0 up then its virtually all over for the Aussie’s – work to do for our antipodean cousins this week.
So what do you think, is it gonna be another crazy test match, will England pile on the pressure or will the Australians fight back as they always seem to do. Whatever happens ‘enthralling’ will form part of the description for me.