The Gabba, day two

Jimmy Anderson and Steven Finn lead England off at tea

EVENING SESSION

Close: first Test, day two, Brisbane
Match score: Australia 220 for 5. (Hussey 81*, Haddin 22*)
Session score: Australia 52 for 0. Australian win
Session in a second: Australia rally before rain frustrates England

A final session that was building to a fascinating finale was halted when rain ended play an hour before the close, and just as England were able to take the new ball. If Michael Hussey and Brad Haddin played really well to put England on the back foot again, Hussey particularly impressive in attack and defence, then England will be aggrieved that they were denied the chance to attack as the clouds drew in. Hussey was closer to the steel door of his first two years in international cricket than the cardboard in the windows of the last few, a transformation of huge importance to his team’s hopes both here and in the rest of the series.

England were thankful Graeme Swann regained some control, bowling 17 overs for 33 after his first three had gone for 26. Steven Finn could not match his pre-tea efforts and looks comparatively expensive to his colleagues in going at four an over, his youth inevitably betrayed by too many boundary balls. Finn says he models himself on Glenn McGrath, who based a career around going for two an over, and has the action to aspire to such consistency.

To that end it’s the figures of Stuart Broad, and to an even greater extent James Anderson that are of most interest today. Broad was unlucky not to get a wicket, bowling with consistent pace and hostility throughout the day, all while going for that magic two. Anderson conceded 4.42 an over as he struggled in 2006-07, and 3.36 as recently as last winter in South Africa. Today his figures were 21-9-40-2, backing up David Saker’s belief that he has eliminated the tendency to drop short and get cut from his game. The ball didn’t really swing for him today – his performance was the perfect riposte to those who said a swing bowler wouldn’t prosper overseas and proved economy, canny and heart can take you a long way too.

The headlines though will belong to Hussey, who won’t mind that the nickname ‘Mr. Cricket’ is back in vogue.

AFTERNOON SESSION

Tea: first Test, day two, Brisbane
Match score: Australia 168 for 5. (Hussey 46*, Haddin 7*)
Session score: Australia 72 for 4. England win
Session in a second: Hussey fights as England batter Australia

It’s not been a good start for the captains. Yesterday morning Andrew Strauss gave it away on the third ball of the session, this afternoon Ricky Ponting took just two to get himself strangled down the leg-side off Jimmy Anderson. Given that Australia’s middle-order has subsequently looked just as ropey as England’s, it emphasises the importance that the form of both captains will have on this series.

The one Australian to look the part has been the one under most pressure recently. It was impossible not to admire the way Mr. Cricket used his feet to disrupt Graeme Swann’s length and the decisiveness with which he punished anything loose. It was no coincidence that Swann had his worst session in an England shirt for a while, although he did get Marcus North, that most generous of hosts.

If Swann was surprisingly wayward, Steven Finn was England’s stand-out in the afternoon. His line was better and his pace up from the morning, and he showed unfeasible agility when stooping to catch a Katich prod from his own bowling. At 21, it was a performance to show that maybe the future starts now.

The talk in the morning was still of Peter Siddle's six-wicket haul on day one

MORNING SESSION

Lunch: first Test, day two, Brisbane
Match score: Australia 96 for 1. (Katich 46*, Ponting 10*)
Session score: Australia 71 for 1. Australia win
Session in six words: Australia grind, England suffer with referrals

Save a few straight drives from Shane Watson, there’s been not been much for the aesthetes here at The Gabba this morning.  Simon ‘the crab’ Katich is never going to be an opposition player you like to see score runs, so the disappointment when the UDRS reversed Doctrove’s LBW decision off Anderson was genuine and widespread among Englishmen in press-box and stands.

The morning got temporarily worse for Anderson and England a few overs later when Watson survived an optimistic England referral, but Anderson got reward for his perseverance with Watson’s wicket from the next ball. There was a good chance he would have exploded had that gone to ground.

One wicket was probably as much as England deserved this morning. They got better as the session went on, Anderson finding his rhythm with a change of end. Steven Finn was the one seamer not to find his length this morning, but has a habit of improving in the second session, while it was a surprise not to see Graham Swann given more than one over.

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