Bresnan takes England to brink, Melbourne, day three

MCG by night

Close: fourth Test, day three, Melbourne
Match score: Australia 169-6 (Ponting 16*, Watson 50*) and 98 (Anderson 4-44, Tremlett 4-26) trail England 513 (Trott 168*, Siddle 6-75) by 246 runs with four second-innings wickets remaining
Session score: Australia 95-1 Australia win
Session in six words: Watson screws Hughes but stands firm

This was Tim Bresnan’s afternoon. Beware anyone who calls Bresnan average within lunging distance of the Barmy Army, at least until he next plays in an England team on a flat one. It was fitting that a Yorkshireman sprinkled startdust after tea, movement both ways and off the seam leaving Shane Watson, Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey bitter.

It was perfect situation bowling – Bresnan’s spell of 3 for 17 off seven overs mining the last of Australia’s resources. He earned his wickets with his consistency and his reverse swing – Australia took tea at 95-1 and eight overs later were 104-4.

Batting when you are 300 behind is difficult enough, without bowlers denying any scoring opportunities. Watson had gone quiet before tea, and with Bresnan and Swann postage-stamp accurate after the break something had to give. It was Watson, who left one that curved back into his pads after being set-up perfectly by Bresnan. Watson now has 15 50s for two centuries in his Test career, a worse conversion rate than a goalkicker in high heels.

Ponting didn’t last much longer, stuck on his crease defending only to bottom-edge Bresnan onto his stumps. The sight of Ponting’s shoulders slumping as realised his fate was as gutwrenching as watching one of the great batsmen attempt to will himself into one of the great rearguard innings that have defined his career. The mind was there but not the body, and the end of this game could yet be a watershed in Ponting’s career and for Australian cricket.

When he persuaded Hussey to drive on the up to Bell at extra cover Bresnan could hardly believe it. England’s scourge had eight runs in the match. Graeme Swann wheeled on, the wicket of Michael Clarke reward for a spell of 22-11-23-1. He hasn’t had the influence expected on the series, but he has still done more than any Australian spinner could have.

For a while  it looked like England might wrap things up today, but a few more wickets tomorrow and the Ashes are back in England’s hands.

Ponting awaits referral

 

Tea: fourth Test, day three, Melbourne
Match score: Australia 95-1 (Ponting 16*, Watson 50*) and 98 (Anderson 4-44, Tremlett 4-26) trail England 513 (Trott 168*, Siddle 6-75) by 320 runs with nine second-innings wickets remaining
Session score: Australia 95-1 Australia win
Session in six words: Watson screws Hughes but stands firm

Is Ricky Ponting’s luck changing? What an afternoon session. Only one wicket but thrilling stuff – Chris Tremlett wanging it this way and that, James Anderson hitting pads and keepers gloves at pace, Shane Watson seeing off Phil Hughes then Ponting hanging on for dear life.

Tremlett looks a real threat at this level and has given Watson and Ponting an examination of courage and technique. Tremlett’s higher action gives him much more bounce than Steven Finn and it’s causing Watson in particular plenty of problems. Watson is very much a front foot player and against Tremlett the front foot plunge that was so profitable against Finn is comparatively unhelpful.

Watson’s other contribution to the session was hanging Phil Hughes out to dry. Hughes had looked comfortable for 23 when Watson called him for a suicide single on the off side. Like with Simon Katich at Adelaide, Jonathan Trott swooped and Hughes’ game was over. It’s the sixth time in 26 Tests that Watson has been involved in a run out, only once has he been the man walking off. Selfish? Ask his team-mates.

It brought Ponting to the wicket at a moment when the pressure on him is greater than it has ever been. He hasn’t looked fluid, has been sluggish onto the bad balls at times but he’s still there. His closest call came when Anderson curved one back onto his pads but Aleem Dar adjudged it too high. England didn’t refer but the replay revealed the ball was just clipping the stumps. Sometimes careers rest on the finest margins.

Watson reached 50 just before the tea and if this match is even to reach this time tomorrow he must go on to a big one.

Jonathan Trott's 150

Lunch: fourth Test, day three, Melbourne
Match score: England 513 (Trott 168*, Siddle 6-75) lead Australia 98 (Anderson 4-44, Tremlett 4-26) by 415 runs
Session score: England 69-5 Australia win
Session in six words: Siddle gets six but not Trott

No one really thinks Jonathan Trott is the second best batsman of all time but that’s where he sits in the averages at the moment – sandwiched neatly between Bradman and Graeme Pollock – after another epic red-inker here at the MCG. Sure, Trott has only played 17 Tests for his 64 average and he’s bound to dip Mike Hussey style but on that list Pollock himself only played 23, George Headley 22, Eddie Paynter 20. Hussey actually averaged 82 after 17 Tests and is now down to 52. Trott strikes similar dread to opposition bowlers when he is at his attritional best.

This morning was a waiting game from the moment Matt Prior spooned to Ricky Ponting at mid-on, drawing a glare of disgust from Trott. Finally something good for Ponting – his meltdown yesterday was embarrassing. There is a definite feeling here that the poor form, poor team, the temper tantrum and the taunting from the Barmy Army might actually have an end game; we might be witnessing the final throes of a great career. This is not the way for Ponting to go out. I want a Ponting hundred and some Australian fight in their second innings.

Realistically Australia have no hope of getting anything out of this match, trailing by 415 on first innings with eight sessions to survive. They have a tough job even to last the remaining 74 overs today even though the Melbourne sun has finally got out of bed. Graeme Swann will come into the game, and Peter Siddle showed that there is enough uneven bounce and movement out there to make batting uncomfortable. Siddle’s 6 for 75 was a masterclass in perseverance, the best figures by an Aussie seamer since Jason Gillespie took 6 for 40 here 1o years ago. Australia must now show the discipline lacking in their first innings – more wafting outside off stump and the MCG cleaners will have the final two days off.

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