Close: second Test, day four, Adelaide
Match score: Australia 238-4 (Clarke 80, Hussey 44*) and 245 trail England 620-5 declared (Pietersen 227, Cook 145) by 137 runs with six wickets remaining
Session score: Australia 78-1 England win
Session in six words: Pietersen takes crucial late Clarke wicket
Who writes these scripts anyway? A day that had started with Kevin Pietersen making a Test best 227 ended with his part-time off-spin dismissing a well-set Michael Clarke in the final over of the day. It might just be the wicket that retains England the Ashes, and Pietersen celebrated as if it had done.
Clarke had grafted hard for almost two sessions, playing aggressively when the opportunity arose, surviving an over-turned catch against Swann and numerous half-chances to the close fielders on his way to 80, all this against the backdrop of media criticism and injury that had accompanied his poor start to the series. He had done his job in seeing off a clearly exhausted Swann, when Strauss threw the ball to Pietersen with three overs of the day remaining as a last resort.
It turned out to be an inspired decision by Strauss, Pietersen’s extra height buying him a crucial bit of lift and forcing Clarke to turn it to Cook at short-leg. Extraordinarily Clarke stood his ground, and even more so Umpire Tony Hill refused England’s pleas, this after Pietersen had charged down the wicket like an Ostrich in celebration. To the referral it went, where replays showed the ball to have nothing but the middle of Clarke’s bat. Off he trudged disonsolate – and sufficiently embarrassed to tweet his apologies for not having walked. Strange thing technology.
Before that the rain had come and gone. It may be back tomorrow – Australia’s best hope of avoiding a defeat that would leave them needing to win two of the last three Tests to regain the Ashes. Their other hope is Mr. Cricket, still there and still defiant. For England the onus will rest on Swann, who had a good day but will be keen to make his own headlines tomorrow. How he reacts to the expectation will be the most intriguing sub-plot of the day.
Tea: second Test, day four, Adelaide
Match score: Australia 160-3 (Clarke 36*, Hussey 14*) and 245 trail England 620-5 declared (Pietersen 227, Cook 145) by 215 runs
Session score: Australia 82-3 England win
Session in six words: Swann gets Katich and crucially Ponting
Yesterday a statue of Jason Gillespie was unveiled outside the members stand, today Brett Lee fulfilled TV commitments in the nets as rumours circulated he would consider a return to Test cricket. On the pitch though, today is all about now, and Graeme Swann’s off-spin. Expected to produce on a fourth-day pitch taking turn, he didn’t disappoint – getting just enough turn to grip the edge of Simon Katich’s bat when Katich had 43 to give England the crucial first wicket. Katich was struggling to run throughout with the ankle problem he sustained in Brisbane, and must be a doubt for Perth.
Now Ponting. For three overs a pair looked fated as Swann probed from the Northern end, but finally a cut to the cover fence bought four. A puff of dust and another four soon after, as Ponting swept convincingly and Strauss put the field back. How would Swann respond? A straight-onner straight after caught Ponting on the wrong line, exacting a low, hard nick that Collingwood held rocking forward to his left. The crucial wicket? Maybe. Proof that Swann is the best finger-spinner in the world? Few Englishmen would disagree.
At that stage England would have hoped for five by tea, but Australia fought hard as the weather closed in. They needed to, as Finn bowled one of those spells that make people so excited about his potential. First he dismissed Watson – as stuck in the 50s as the tweed jacket – with one that nipped away. Then he tortured Hussey, coming round the wicket to angle it in and then swing it away, all at 144 km/h. The only thing lacking was another edge.
Despite the apparent return to form of Michael Clarke, England’s main concerns will be the fitness of Stuart Broad and the weather. Broad left the field clutching his side and was seen heavily strapped bowling gingerly in the nets, while the presence of seagulls at the City end is a sure sign rain is on the way if you believe local legend.
Lunch: second Test, day four, Adelaide
Match score: Australia 78-0 (Watson 35*, Katich 43*) and 245 trail England 620-5 declared (Pietersen 227, Cook 145) by 297 runs
Session score: England 69-1, Australia 78-0 Australia win
Session in six words: England declare then can’t find breakthrough
England haven’t done much wrong this morning – 147 runs for one wicket in the session shows just how good this pitch still is. Stuart Broad looked threatening when he pitched the ball up, but Shane Watson and a hobbling Simon Katich set about James Anderson the moment he was too full or short. Anderson went for seven boundaries before lunch (including three in one over from Katich), compared to six in the whole of the Australian first innings.
Being such a long way behind leaves them in a quandary – play to survive or take the game to England? They seem to have decided on the latter. Whether Australia will be able to maintain such a positive approach when a wicket falls is the key. Graeme Swann is the man Australia will fear on this surface although the footholes that will help him are outside the left-handers leg-stump, good news for Katich, Mike Hussey and Marcus North.
Earlier England had used the extra half-hour after the rain to have a bash and boost their score over 60 – Kevin Pietersen playing shots of breathtaking power and placement before following a smash off Doherty with a slash to slip. He was gone for 227, his highest Test score, and a landmark he acknowledged with a raised bat. Ian Bell looked as good as ever, using his feet at every opportunity against the spinners – one eased straight six stands out. He is as dominant now as he looked at Under-19 level.