Close: fourth Test, day two, Melbourne
Match score: England 444–5 (Trott 141*, Prior 75*) lead Australia 98 (Anderson 4-44, Tremlett 4-26) by 346 runs with five first-innings wickets remaining
Session score: England 140-0 England win
Session in six words: Trott and Prior cement England’s position
It always looks like it will be someone else’s day, yet invariably it is Jonathan Trott who goes home with the hundred slung over his shoulder. Tonight he will be limping after an inside-edge onto his knee, but such is Trott’s remorseless love of the run that you sense he will almost enjoy the pain. “How do we get him out? A machete”, wondered Kerry O’Keefe in the commentary box.
If Australia have helped him – 85 of his first 107 runs had come on the leg side – then he has bored them into coercion by the sort of disciplined shot selection that their batsmen were utterly incapable of yesterday. He has as pleasing an off-drive as you’ll see, but today he has eliminated all risk. It was Trott’s third hundred in five Ashes Tests, how they must hate the sight of him.
Matt Prior was a willing accomplice, Australian animosity clear when not one applauded when he reached his half-century. That is unlikely to have fazed the abrasive Prior, and he delighted in milking and then bunting Steve Smith over mid-on in a way that said, “This is your spinner? Ha. Ha. Ha”.
Ricky Ponting didn’t help himself. Peter Siddle took a blow just before Prior came to the wicket and didn’t get another go until two hours later. Given that no one else has threatened, it was curious to allow the partnership between England’s last two batsmen to develop unhindered. England would have been 295-6 if Johnson had not overstepped before tea. Now 149 runs later, Australia are out of this game.
Tea: fourth Test, day two, Melbourne
Match score: England 304-5 (Trott 65*, Prior 12*) lead Australia 98 (Anderson 4-44, Tremlett 4-26) by 206 runs with five first-innings wickets remaining
Session score: England 78-3 Australia win
Session in six words: Ricky Ponting loses the plot again
You’re under pressure, you’re out of form, your team are being humped and your little finger hurts a little bit more than the rest of your ageing body. A national newspaper has your picture on the front next to the words “A disgrace”. The opposition are two hundred and plenty for two and the umpire turns down an appeal for a nick behind – their gun batsman, the one you dislike the most. You lose it. You can see the nick on the screen – the nick that leaves no mark on hotspot, causes no sound on snicko, and that you didn’t even appeal for in the first place – so why can’t he? Why can’t the crowd who are singing louder and louder, “Sacked in the morning, you’re getting sacked in the morning, sacked in the morning”?
If Australia sending Michael Clarke to last night’s press conference was a clue as to Ricky Ponting’s mental state, his 2005 Trent Bridge-style meltdown this afternoon was an uncomfortably voyeuristic ride into a troubled mind. He space-invaded, he harangued both umpires – for a moment Australia were being led by John Terry. Will this go down as the day Australia realised they must move on?
Coupled with some high-octane Peter Siddle, a return of sorts by Mitchell Johnson and shot-selection out of mugs corner from Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell it made for an absorbing afternoon of Test cricket. If only this had been day one, it would be a very different game – England would be 147-5 and far from coasting.
Siddle started the rot, breaking Pietersen and Trott soon after the Ponting hullaballoo with one that kept low. It was a surprise – Pietersen had looked nailed on for a century, and his dismissal brought Collingwood to the crease, a sight that has given constant cheer to Australian bowlers this series. Johnson was back by now, given a one word brief – PACE. It was too much for Collingwood, who helped a lame hook straight to Siddle at fine leg. If Collingwood is still playing Test cricket for England this time next year then I’m a Dutchman’s uncle.
Bell followed in similar fashion a few overs later to a slightly less controlled shot. It’s a worry for England – Australia shouldn’t have a sniff in this game, yet now through this carelessness they had a full on whiff of possibility. Fortunately Aleem Dar was to the rescue, extraordinarily referring a front foot no-ball after Johnson had had Matt Prior caught behind.
Throughout all this Jonathan Trott plodded on, a model of the patience required to bat on this surface.
Lunch: fourth Test, day two, Melbourne
Match score: England 226–2 (Trott 31*, Pietersen 30*) lead Australia 98 (Anderson 4-44, Tremlett 4-26) by 128 runs with eight first-innings wickets remaining
Session score: England 69-2 Australia win
Session in six words: Siddle gives Australia reason to smile
A week ago in Perth I spent a giddy hour topless on the beach and got third-degree burns. If I were to go topless for ten minutes today in Melbourne I’d get hypothermia. Times change – Australia are well aware of that. Last week cricket here was back, yesterday it was a long way back.
But if yesterday was watching a friend get cheated on at his own wedding, this morning was him back on the town with gusto. Australia finally grasped that application is needed on this surface, and their first 11 overs this morning cost just 15 runs and earned them two wickets. Peter Siddle was superb, at one stage he had figures of 16-6-18-2 and they did not flatter him. Siddle bowled a fuller length here than in Adelaide and Perth and was rewarded with the wickets of Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss. Game changed? Not quite, but it was a start.
Siddle announced himself in Test cricket with a ferocious spell against the South Africans here in 2008, and today was similar, roaring in from the Members end with his home crowd behind him. This Australian team seem unusually parochial – Hussey and Johnson performing in WA, now Siddle here. Maybe Australia really should have picked a team of Victorians as the crowd are demanding.
It all meant that Kevin Pietersen entered to more pressure than you would expect with the scoreboard reading 170-2. He had spoken of his lack of preparation for Mitchell Johnson pre-Perth, but seems in the groove here. Solidly forward in defence and crisp in the drive with his weight in the right place, the Boxing Day Test is his stage. The duel with Steve Smith before lunch was interesting – Smith has done enough today to suggest that he has a future at this level.
The problem for Australia is the weather. As Peter Roebuck observed, when it is overcast this pitch resembles Headingley, when the sun shines it is a road. England lead by 128 with eight wickets remaining – Australia need some more cloud and must get those eight wickets fast when the new ball comes in a few overs.