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Just like starting over

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Tom Fordyce | 08:09 UK time, Monday, 3 January 2011

Sydney, New South Wales

As the old guard fall and fail, Australia's young guns are being marched to the front and exposed to the English arsenal.

Few are escaping unscathed but some are proving more resolute under fire than others.
Here, on the first day at the SCG, the series in desperate need of saving, it was the turn of Usman Khawaja to be called to action.

There have been easier debuts. It was gloomy overhead, damp under foot, more Sydenham than Sydney. There have been easier boots to fill than Ricky Ponting's, who was watching on from the home dressing room like the fading star who cannot tear himself from the stage.

Khawaja's fellow tyro Phillip Hughes had gone to the final ball before lunch, leaving his mate with an entire interval to fiddle with his napkin and push sandwiches anxiously around his plate. His parents sat motionless in the old green-roofed pavilion, 43,000 other spectators in this famous old ground hurrying back to their seats to see the new number three earn his stripes.

ukgetty595.jpgKhawaja showed his class during his innings of 37. Photo: Getty Images

As opening salvos in Test cricket go, it was quite something. His first ball from Chris Tremlett, a fullish one on middle and leg, was tucked away through midwicket for two to appreciate murmurs from all around. His second, shorter and sharper, was pulled in a flash through the same slots for four. Controlled and classy, accompanied all the way by cheers and raucous applause.

Tremlett pushed a tempter across him. He left it and nudged the next delivery he faced away for one more.

Tremlett turned and came in with heels kicking high. This time he found the edge. But Khawaja had let the ball come to bat rather than the other way round and greeted it with the softest of handshakes. It went straight to Graeme Swann at slip but comfortably on the bounce.

Ball six in Test cricket. Khawaja opened the face and ran the ball away through gully for two. Ball seven. Too full on the pads, got the treatment through midwicket for four. The next went wide the other way, was slapped down into the ground and over third slip, racing away to the fence for four more.

Eight balls faced, 15 runs scored. Khawaja, a qualified pilot, was flying. The SCG, quiet throughout an attritional morning session, was alive.

Nowhere was it living the drama quite so intently as in the two wooden seats supporting the young blade's parents.

Father Tariq, who had brought the family over from Islamabad when Usman was three years old, was outwardly calm, radio earpiece in and eyes on the middle. His wife was not. Rocking in her chair, twisting the rings on her right hand, she appeared to be simultaneously loving and hating every second.

Her son has a reputation as a man who can play his shots. Growing up just down the road with posters of Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne on his walls, he had scored six centuries at an average of 50 in his 27 first-class matches to date.

He can also dig in. England's seamers were keeping it tight, the clouds overhead providing enough juice for the ball to dart about nastily. Tremlett had conceded only 12 runs off seven earlier overs, James Anderson five off five.

The innings of Hughes acted as a cautionary tale. All twitching and scratches at the start, he had begun to drive and cut with increasing confidence before falling to a needless backfoot waft.

Khawaja had been given his initial opportunity in the New South Wales first team by a shoulder injury to Hughes. Once again, he looked ready to make the most of his chance.

When skipper Michael Clarke fell to Tim Bresnan for just four, slapping anxiously to gully to bring his already dismal average another few notches lower, Khawaja responded by pirouetting on his back peg to pull a good ball away for four. With heavy rain moving in fast from the west and the light fading, he seemed set for a second day.

Then, at the death, he gave it away, falling into the trap set by Andrew Strauss and top-edging an attempted sweep off Swann to square leg for 37. Even as he began his trudge back to the hutch, the rain began to fall.

parents595getty.jpgUsman Khawaja's parents watch their son in action during the fifth Test. Photo: Getty Images

His mother shut her eyes and clasped her hands together. His father filmed it all on his video camera. Khawaja himself puffed out his cheeks and grimaced.

"I liked a lot of what we saw," said Test Match Special analyst Simon Hughes. "The little tuck for two to get off the mark was good, neat, composed. The second ball was more audacious, a bit of 'this is who I am', showing he had presence. It was a good shot - I think he was expecting it but he took it on, hit it well, kept it down, swivelled on it.

"It totally reminded me of David Gower's first ball in Test cricket, an almost identical shot but against a much better bowler than Liaqat Ali. Tremlett is an intimidating opponent. He then left the next one, which was pitched up, so immediately after three balls he's announced himself with a composed shot, a provocative one and a well-judged one."

When NSW skipper Simon Katich presented Khawaja with his state cap, having already given him his club one at their grade club, Randwick-Petersham, he said of the youngster: "I don't want to boast but I have been raving about him for some time."

"He looks a better player than both Hughes and Steve Smith," reckoned Hughes. "He showed good defensive capabilities, getting right forward, leaving the ball confidently. He put the bowlers on the back foot, made them start thinking more defensively. His reading of length also looked very good. He got a good stride in and got right over the top of the ball. He obviously wasn't at all overawed by the occasion.

"He was helped by the fact that he was playing on his home ground. Using the New South Wales dressing rooms, he would have felt at home. But he absolutely delivered and was looking like he was going to make a 50.

"He has a very low grip on the bat - you can see the top of the handle poking out of the top of his gloves - which means he plays with a lot of bottom hand. His grip suggests he's a puller and cutter - and he's predominantly going to be a square-of-the-wicket player - but he showed good judgement when driving it.

"There was a hint, just a hint, of Lara. It was the backlift - very high, the face of the bat pointing towards point. That was pure Lara. He played a good cut shot off Bresnan that was very Lara-esque."

Should he have survived to the close?

"That was a little bit of inexperience because Swann kept the man at square leg up to tempt him. It was just a bit too tight to sweep and Swann drifted the ball into him so it took the top edge. But he probably hasn't come up a bowler as good as Swann before."

Khawaja's late dismissal means Australia will start again on Tuesday morning on 134-4, neither here nor quite there.

They have a fine one-sided record at the SCG, winning 14 of their last 16 Tests here and every one of the last seven. This match is rather more in the balance.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Khawaja looked good - the way he dismissively pulled Tremlett to the boundary second ball was reminiscent of David Gower doing the same albeit to his first ball)on debut. Could Khawaja's serenity and compusure be a further nail in Ponting's coffin?

    We were impressed with how England picked up the baton from Melbourne. A thoroughly professional and miserly performance in the field, which if they press home their slight advantage tomorrow should help set up victory.

    Our favourite moment of the day? Watson's cry of "oh no" as he realised he had fatally edged to Strauss

    Day 1 at the SCG dissected - Rain the winner in war of attrition http://bit.ly/gs5LGH

  • Comment number 2.

    The new boy done good! I thought he looked a solid player and quite comfortable at the crease with a good range of shots.

    What was better though was the over in which Swann bowled; outstanding, Swann earned that wicket well and truly.

  • Comment number 3.

    Khawaja looked solid for sure. Looked more composed than say MICHAEL CLARKE and looks to have a future in Test cricket.

    Did hit a few balls in the air through gully/point region - none of which found fielders - but overall he could be happy with his debut innings.

    Got more share of bad balls (not that England bowled that many) than any other Aussie batsman but showed the intent and endeavour to deal with them.

    Hughes again just looks like a Saturday afternoon local park player. His technique is shot and he really is no threat when bowlers bowl to his weaknesses.

    Watson again gets a start but fails to go on with it, a cardinal sin for an opener when it happens on a far too regular basis.

  • Comment number 4.

    The new boy did OK but, firtunately for us, not too well. Good luck to him for a long and happy career. Almost everyone can take something out of the day: England kept things tight and nicked out wickets, Australia got past 96 with onely 1 down. The only bad news was for the new captain.

    Day 2 should be a cracker.

    Do Australia push on to a good total or fold?

    Do England apply a coup de grace, or less them off the hook?

    With Old Hand Strauss put one over young gun Clarke?

    Read the next thrilling installment of the Fordyce Saga to find out...

  • Comment number 5.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 6.

    Am i the only one thinking that Clarke called wrong in batting first? I know that traditionally the SCG takes a bit of spin after day 3 and so you would normally bat first to take advantage. However, it needs the sun to break up the wicket/pitch (lets not open that debate again) and looking at the weather forecast i dont think that is likely to happen.

    It looks like England might get the best batting conditions looking at the weather forecast. I think Clarke might have handed the test series to England with that call.

  • Comment number 7.

    papa shamgo, you may be right. We'll have a better idea in 24 hours. It looked like he was scared to insert. One of the tweets pre-start said that it looked like a good toss to lose and that may turn out to be 100% right. Australia wasted a good start, but could still get a decent total, but if England get stuck in, they might struggle to reach 200.

  • Comment number 8.

    Thanks Tom. I thought England did well to keep their discipline after a solid start for once by Australia - harder to do with a four-man attack. I would like to have seen Shazhad bowl in this wicket, but Bresnan again did a good job, and Swann got a critical wicket at a critical time (and I have to mention Collingwood's clinical catching). Khawaja looks impressive and handled his debut well - better than Clarke a skipper at any rate. I thought Watson was doing his best to give us an impression of Bill Lawry for a while, but the old instinct returned too soon.

    I am just wondering which England batting line up will emerge from the pavilion in due course - the Melbourne or Perth model - and what this wicket might be like to bat on in the fourth innings - assuming that is that rain doesn't ruin the game. It looks like the kind of conditions for for the likes of Cook, Trott and Bell to grind out scores based in technique and patience. I include Bell not because of his grafting predisposition but because his technique and concentration look so good at the moment. The dashers like Straus, Pietersen and Colly (ho ho) might struggle.

  • Comment number 9.

    A lot will depend on whether Hussey and Haddin form another civil partnership or get dismissed quickly in the morning. Once either of them is out, England should wrap up the tail for 50 or less.

  • Comment number 10.

    While there was was some movement off the seam, particularly when the ball was new, there was no swing at all, even in the cloudy conditions.

    That levelled the playing field alot, but I thought our blokes bowled really well without much luck. Given that they still are again through to Australia's allrounders without 150 runs on the board.

    Didn't look "hungover to me", as they bowled tight lines and gave away not much at all. If the ball had swung we might have seen Australia 6 or 7 down as well as being held to basically 2 runs an over.

    Great piece of bowling and strategy by Swann/Strauss to get Khawaja with the deep square leg up at normal square leg (a rarity in test cricket when a spinners on these days).

    Swann continues to impress on wickets that hardly suit him and given that historically offspinners struggle in Australia (ask Murali).

  • Comment number 11.

    Latest [Aussie] debutant shows promise during brief innings in Sydney
    ____________________________________________________________________

    That's what I like to see.
    Not the "promise" ..............but the "Brief innings"

    :-)

  • Comment number 12.

    Key we make quick inroads tomorrow - watch out for Siddle, remember what he did in Melbourne...

  • Comment number 13.

    greetings from the besieged city of sydney,

    the highlight of today was 8km's east of the SCG where the notorious "baywatch boozer" was observed delivering plenty of "hoff spin" down on bondi beach! now only if michael clark could tap into the "knight riders" mojo he might have a chance of surviving his upcoming inquisition!!
    what a fabulous debut by "the rocket man" aeronautical engineer usman khawadja though! unfortunately he didn't quite score enough runs, i'm sure there are better days ahead for his mum!!!!
    as for the performance of "YOKO OH NO" I'd like to think just like with the running of the 4min mile and the breaking of the sound barrier he will one day burst through that 50 run demon and score a billion runs before he retires!!!!
    as for phil hughes i think that macksville banana plantation near coffs harbour beckons! they have worked you out sunshine, you would struggle against canada fella!!!!
    btw deepest sympathies with the passing of your godfather though!

    can't wait for what day two brings for aussie cricket!!!


  • Comment number 14.

    is this the signboard with the term "EXIT" for RICKY PONTING?

  • Comment number 15.

    Yeah the Pakistani looked the best of the Australian batsman today............

    (sarcasm intended)

  • Comment number 16.

    More worried about Siddle with the bat, espescially if Mr. Cricket gets going. The real question is how many aussie bowlers turn up and bowl a cricket ball rather than s&k. Is anyone interested/got the answer to my question last night about Colly & Punter

  • Comment number 17.

    Some stats (as in facts) involving Swann vs former offspinners who were/are world record Test wicket holders.......

    Swann in his 5th Test in Australia - 14 wickets/491 runs/35.07 ave so far

    Murali played 4 Tests in Australia - 7 wickets/748 runs/106.86 ave

    Lance Gibbs played 14 Tests in Australia - 59 wickets/1970 runs/33.40 ave

  • Comment number 18.

    I think England missed a trick on the first day. They bowled too short, presumably trying to extract some bounce from an unhelpful pitch, but potential wicket-taking balls were going through to Prior over the top of the stumps, and LBWs were denied because of height. Pitched up a bit more and these deliveries may have resulted in wickets.

    The ball did seem to move slightly off the seem. By pitching the ball up in the right areas, the bowler gives the batter less time to decide whether to play or leave the ball, and the indecision is more likely to lead to a nick.

  • Comment number 19.

    Khawaja looked like a good stroke player and seemed quite relaxed but I think a few commentators have been a bit too effusive. He did at times play some ambitious shots and cut a bit airily. If Australia are thinking of keeping him at three then a top order of Watson, Hughes and Khawaja doesn't look like the most stalwart unit in the world. But it's only been one innings and he played some decent shots so good luck to him.

    I think England bowled pretty well today and you have to give the Aussie openers credit for their leaving ability for most of the day. You get the feeling that if an England side of old faced such resolute concentration then they'd become frustrated and lose their line and length. But Anderson, Tremlett and Bresnan showed their discipline for most of the day and finally got some rewards.

    That said, if conditions remain overcast for most of the match and Hilfenhaus and Siddle find their line and length then 200 could well be a par score on this pitch. If there is a bit of moisture in the air tomorrow morning then our bowlers, particularly Jimmy, need to make absolute best use of it and bowl Australia out cheaply. I actually think that rather than England being on top this match is finely in the balance overnight.

  • Comment number 20.

    It all boils down to the Huss/Haddin partnership tomorrow. If they blow it I think Australia will lose unless saved by the rain. I'm betting on a big innings from Colly to ensure a significant lead on 1st inns. It's difficult to think that at least 2 English bats won't fire.

    Remember, England REALLY want this victory.

  • Comment number 21.

    Yet another great article Tom. I thought the young lad looked composed and settled at this level and could see Ponting play down the order if he's retained as a captain or just as a player. However that could signal the end of Hussey's career.

    Today's was a good, albeit short, day's cricket. The first session would have just been Australia's if Hughes hadn't finally given into temptation as both openers had finally learned Nasser Hussein's favourite shot, the leave.

    England's discipline with the ball was superb and it was good to see some traditional test cricket for a change. Bresnan settled in really well after a slightly dodgy opening spell, and the fact that no England bowler is going for more than 3 an over shows that there was hardly a bad ball delivered.

    With England taking 4 wickets and keeping Australia's scoring rate to under 2.5 per over it must be their day. Get 2 quick wickets in the opening session of day 2 and then we're into the tail. It would be interesting to see if Siddle goes in above Johnson. After all Siddle's looked more dangerous with the bat (and is the only bowler who's stood up and challenged England consistently so should be considered the all rounder now of their team now). At least Siddle's worried the batsmen, Johnson's only worried the stewards sat just beyond the boundary ropes.

    The only down side to this page is yet again Papa Shango Always Right has come on again to peddle more of his filth (not facts). It makes me wonder with his complete lack of knowledge of the game if he actually is a member of Glamorgan's committee. He's certainly as clueless as them.

  • Comment number 22.

    Tom just read your 'In the company of a legend' article about Arthur Morris from yesterday - you've gone from being a great blogger to being a great sports journalist. Well done

  • Comment number 23.

    Yes Khawaja looked promising but Cricket Australia won't bin off Ponting based solely on that cameo, Khawaja has probably put himself in the squad for a stretch and good luck to him. Interesting day tomorrow, Aussies NEED to win the test match so need a bucket load of runs to apply some pressure - but as Tom pointed out, the Aussies are showing more skill in leaving the bad balls but are scoring really slowly. They are caught in a bit of a catch-22....take risks to score big/might get out...play a patient innings/match fizzles to a draw.

  • Comment number 24.

    Yes Usman Khawaja looked fairly assured but there is no need to start raving about the enemy. 37 is not a great score and the timing of the dismissal will have a negative effect in the Australian dressing room and hand the initiative to England. Comparing him with Lara is premature to say the least.

  • Comment number 25.

    Yes, bit premature to start lavishing such praise in my opinion. No doubt he looks a solid cricketer, and may provide a bit of stability and even a touch of class to a woefully inadequate aussie batting line up in the mid to long term. The guy has obviously got some talent, but let's not compare him to the greats of the game just yet! The pitch had something for everyone as the application of hughes and watson showed that it was by no means the bowlers paradise some have made out, so to make 37 and then get out in the way he did seems a shade disappointing.

  • Comment number 26.

    @24 - "Comparing him with Lara is premature to say the least." I gree with your sentiment, however if you read the details, the comparisons are between techniques. There are (probably) hundreds of batsmen who have utterly failed to achieve anything spectacular but swing the bat just like Lara.

    I'd say he looks pretty good, but inexperienced (however the dismissal also shows the class of Swann/Strauss and Colly - who seemed to provide the advice on a potential weakness to Strauss). It will be interesting to see how he develops, but anyone who has gained Justin Langer's admiration has to be considered at least *a bit* of a threat.

    @5 - another good effort at analysis. Next time, just a small request: can you watch the match, or at least the highlights before you contribute. Ta.

  • Comment number 27.

    Following up, it would appear that the BBC website automatically deletes *both* spaces when you double space after a full stop. My apologies.

  • Comment number 28.

    It is all very well saying, he played well and he had a good debut. However he was no better then any of the other batsmen, in terms of his score, and still gave away his wicket at a crucial time. So, all things considered I would call it an average debut

  • Comment number 29.

    Probably the best JL column of the tour so far. He's been rather terse and unedifying in all previous submissions.

  • Comment number 30.

    Ha! Sorry. Just realised it wasn't JL's. I thought it was too good!

  • Comment number 31.

    It's a sign of where Australia are at that Khawaja's innings is being feted so much.

    Yes, he looked decent enough but that's all - he didn't make 137. The way the Aussie commentators were heaping praise on him when he was not out during the first rain break made me laugh - he'd only made 20-odd. The Aussies would have laughed at England doing something similar not so long ago.

    A solid enough start but nothing more. Give the lad a chance to succeed or fail without all this ridiculous hype.

  • Comment number 32.

    26. At 12:13pm on 03 Jan 2011, GeordiePorker wrote:
    It will be interesting to see how he develops, but anyone who has gained Justin Langer's admiration has to be considered at least *a bit* of a threat.

    ...

    Normally I'd agree but Langer has been hyping up all the Aussie batsmen this series. Hughes, Clarke and Ponting have all been on the verge of a big score according to him. As the Aussie batting coach he has a vested interest in talking them up.

  • Comment number 33.

    Happy enough with 134-4, considering just how grimly the Aussies were holding onto their wickets...very slow run rate but they showed the spirit of men staring down the barrel of a gun. Well, all except Clarke who cheerfully rammed his foot right in his mouth again with a careless shot.

    We'll be wanting to get them out for under 300. Hussey and Haddin being the keys as usual. But then it's all about how we bat in our first innings.

    If our response is poor and we end up with a deficit then the Aussies are well on top since we'll have to bat last, and I really don't fancy that with this desperate bunch steaming in eyes-a-boggle looking for a 2-2.

    More than anything though - no more rain please.

  • Comment number 34.

    I find it very strange that the BBC have been reporting this young mans inclusion as being the first Moslem to play cricket for Australia. Exactly what has a persons religion got to do with anything. Now had it been said that he was the first Pakistani born individual to play for Australia then that would be important, but the question now has to be 'and what are the religious beliefs or upbringing of the rest of the Australian team?'.

  • Comment number 35.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 36.

    Shows how desperate Australia is these days when a debutant making 37 is hailed as the second coming of the Messiah!

    Steady on with the hype. Greg Blewett made 102 n.o. on debut against England in 1995 and look what happened with him: A truly average if useful test player. The hype was even more deafening then.

  • Comment number 37.

    Just cannot see why all the hype personally. He edged a few, hit several in the air and got away with them and then got out after 1 over of spin bowling.

    When he hits a ton or big score then he deserves hype but he looked like a fairly average player to me

  • Comment number 38.

    Its interesting that all these teams having one pakistani player in there side.Good to see.Cricket is in pakistani blood.

  • Comment number 39.

    "Khawaja's late dismissal means Australia will start again on Tuesday morning on 134-4, neither here nor quite there.

    They have a fine one-sided record at the SCG, winning 14 of their last 16 Tests here and every one of the last seven. This match is rather more in the balance"

    That seems more accurate to me than all the headlines about England being clearly on top. Maybe it's inbuilt pessimism born of past false hopes, but as others have already said above, with HuHa still there there's work to be done on the second morning - and then it depends on which Aussie bowlers turn up and how the English play them if they resemble the attack at Perth. It wasn't just the bounce at the WACA, it was the movement that Johnson achieved.

  • Comment number 40.

    Good afternoon and a Happy New Year to you all, I have been told off by the beeb so from now on I will be correct.
    I watched the cricket last night until the they went off for bad light, the new lad did impress me a little, however I do think our bowlers could have done better. The Australians are a poor batting side apart from Hussey, only the rain will stp us winning 3-1.
    Thank You.

  • Comment number 41.

    @32 - a good point, well made. I stand by my statement that he looks useful but agree that if Australia were looking better as a unit he would not even be looked at as a batsman and certainly 37 for a no3 isn't enough; 37 for Ponting's replacement is frankly rubbish.

    However in this series, his current average of 37 compares very favourably with Ponting's ;-)

  • Comment number 42.

    @36 & 37

    Hype? Depends how you define 'hype' I suppose. To me, the blog seems measured, and focussed on a point of genuine interest, not only with regard to this game, but with the future.

    Here we have a young man who might be Australa's new #3. As that's been Ponting's spot for years, well of course we're interested in how he got on, especially those of us who cannot watch the game. I'd say that the article puts Khawaja's innings under the microscope and that that is not 'hype!'

  • Comment number 43.

    Young Khawaja dispatched the second delivery he faced in Test cricket to the mid-wicket boundary with authority and aplomb, on the heels of the 2 he tucked neatly off the pads behind square off the first ball.

    Suddenly, the lad is on 6 after 2 deliveries. It is the manner in which he played that second shot that got the Aussie commentators fired up.

    Over all, he looked relatively assured of himself on debut and may have a long and successful career at this level. I believe he may have done far better had the interruptions not fractured his concentration. It is an unfortunate situation for any batsman to deal with.

    As far as England are concerned, there is no point in going full throttle for the win. A draw will suffice, thank you! The weatherman promises fairer weather for the next two days and that will is good news for the batsmen.

    Barring another marathon, Talismanic knock from Hussey and co., England are set to win the series in rather convincingly fashion.

  • Comment number 44.

    Khawaja played very good on his debut today. Australia need more new talented player like him for them to improve their batting line up. Probably need a couple more Pakistan-born Australia player rather than Australian player to improve their batting.

    Clarke has made a big mistake batting first on this pitch. I think England are making advantage of bowling first in these overcast conditions

    If England get Hussey and Haddin cheaply tomorrow, England can bowl Australia all out under 200 and can bat out Day 2 and 3 and build a massive lead and hopefully win this test match

  • Comment number 45.

    #39 I think the reason why England are on top is due to the way the Aussies had the life strangled from them. They were only scoring at 2.2 an over. That is poor by anyones standards and shows how much pressure England had them under. 134-4 is pretty good. If England can get one of the HuHa out early then Australia may be lucky to reach 250.

  • Comment number 46.

    Good day for England.

    Here's my assessment of Day One: http://jamesheneghan.blogspot.com/2011/01/england-on-top-as-khawaja-impresses.html

  • Comment number 47.

    papa, I agree with you there. It's a sign of how much things English have improved that I'm disappointed with 4 wickets on the first day - and a sign of things Australian this winter that clinging on at 2.2 an over rates as a big improvement. If the post that the weather is good for batting over the next two days proves correct there'll be little/no excuse for not racking up an unassailable lead. Fingers crossed.
    I still think Tom's closing sentences are nearer the truth than headlines suggesting the English are completely bossing it already.

  • Comment number 48.

    I do think we shaded the first day. But it's far from over, despite what some people sem to think. A lot can still happen and it's too early to start celebrating a series win yet. Rather like the 3rd test, they might get say 250-300 which might be considered below par. But if we only get sub-200 then we are under the cosh. Ideally, we need to restrict them to a low total, but more importantly we need to make a big first innings score ourselves. If we can match or better their score (esp if we post say 350 or 400+) then we think about winning the series. As we have seen many other times, things can turn in a few overs. I recall us coasting to a draw vs SA a year ago, when Friedel 'whatever happened to him' de Wet ripped through our middle over. With 13 overs to go we were coasting with 5 wickets in hand, and if I'm not mistaken we scraped home with Onions performing the first of his famous match saving innings.
    Tomorrow should give us some clearer answers, but whatever happens I think we need to make a big first innings score
    Otherwise, I have two things to say:
    1 - post #26, nice put down. I like it.
    and
    Yorkshirelad - as a fellow (?) yorkshireman, I have to say that I found the yorkshire dialect posts of the other day slightly iritating at first, and then bl**dy annoying! And it seems I wasn't the only one. So thank you for returning to 'proper' English!

  • Comment number 49.

    Usman Khawaja scored 37 runs and was suckered by Swann into making a poorly judged shot at a time when it was odds on that play would be suspended due to the weather.
    I find it hard to comprehend how this can be considered a great debut.
    I do agree with other comments that the English bowling was not as sharp as before (too many shorter pitched balls) but Clarke goofed by batting first and is reaping what he sowed.
    Hussey and Haddin are the main batting threats and if England can get these guys out quickly tomorrow then the tail will melt like ice cream.
    England must surely beat this makeshift Australian side.

  • Comment number 50.

    Interesting that so much depends on Hussey and Haddin, yet again. But if England don't bowl a fuller length tomorrow, while Australia manage it when their turn comes, then we could find ourselves chasing a big deficit in the fourth innings.

    I'd be disappointed if we failed to go home with a series win, but not that disappointed, as I've had a 5-1 bet riding on just that result for weeks.

  • Comment number 51.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 52.

    I think it's absolutely fair to say it was England's day.

    If England had chosen to bat and their top 4, all batting very slowly, had all got in and got out without making a single 50 between them, we would have been (rightly) criticised.

    Of course it is not over, but it's not been a great start by Australia.

  • Comment number 53.

    #52 - I would agree with that. I would also add (maybe I'm being TOO cautious?) that we must now follow a good day with another good day.

    If you break the series down into sessions, or even days, and look at who has come out on top, it would show that England have bossed far more sessions (or days) than the Aussies. The problem is that you can 'win' say 5 sessions and then have one bad one which loses you the game. In the infamous test in 2006 when we declared on 551 and lost, one bad spell cost us.

    So whilst I agree wholeheartedly that it was our day, I just hope we can keep it that way. Bowl them out cheaply, get a big first innings lead and really put the boot in. It would be a travesty if we didn't win this series after how well we've played.

  • Comment number 54.

    Kawaja looks like the ozzy version of Trott, strong on the leg side, organised and composed.

    A score of 37 and hes being feted as the next Bradman, desperate times for Australia cricket. Lets see after a series whats he made off.

    Hussey/Haddin key for england victory, get them early,build a first innings lead and let Swann spin us to victory.

    Think Clarke wanted to bat first because he was worried about Swann bowling last on this surface.

  • Comment number 55.

    @51 - PSAR, you seem to have simply re-stated your earlier analysis but enhanced it by adding more criticism for Colly. Great work: I though he was shocking with the bat today as well. Stick the knife in, he should have scored at least a century during Australia's innings...

    More seriously though, some of his catches during the series have significantly deflated the Aussies and perhaps he has, psychologically [spelling?!] speaking, retained the Ashes. More likely though, he has been picked because he usually bats well enough, he's great in the field, can bowl and adds a lot of experience to help Strauss out. Or, maybe he's been retained so as to keep the squad fairly settled given that a tour to Australia, even against this weak Aussie team, is tough.

    Pick from any of those reasons, it's slightly more rational than simply criticising him because he once refused to sign an autograph for you or because you just hate Ginger people.

    Finally, once or twice, try adding reasons for what you say - that way you may actually be taken seriously.

  • Comment number 56.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 57.

    @#55 PSAR is always right, even when catigorically proved wrong. (see N.Hussain Stumpings) so its best to never argue with his excelent infallible self and confine your comments to the mere mortals who are the rest of the contributors to these blogs.

    Like all good trolls he only prospers with an audience

    But it has to be said the match is still very much in the ballance after a reasonable day at the office for Straus's boys

  • Comment number 58.

    To the moderator who removed my post. It was a dig at the press for having juxtaposed the two points, with apologies to Shazia Mirza! So it's (1) ironic; (2) an allusion to a famous cultural reference point; (3) funny.

  • Comment number 59.

    105-1 is considered a really good start, but 134-4 is a lot less than expected. A lot depends on Hussey and Haddin, if both go early Australia could fold for 200.
    If Punter was captain, I am sure he would have put England in. It has been the Aussie way for the last 10 years that you put the opposition in. I think that is a long held suspicion with Clarke that he is cautious and not aggressive enough.

  • Comment number 60.

    Pedantry possibly but the score progression was 55-1 105-2 113-3 134-4 55-1 is a ok'ish score for the 1st wicket, in the same way the 2x50run partnerships for the first 2 wickets is ok'ish.

    I dislike the runs scored by the 2nd pair being discussed as if it were 1st drop not 2nd.

    And as many have mentioned the HuHa partnership tomorrow is potentially likely to being the key to who gets the upper hand on 1st innings

  • Comment number 61.

    Far be it from me too often agree with anything boycs ever says, but the old adage of "add 2 wickets to the score" pretty much sums up the whole situation if the next 2 wickets are Hussey and Haddin. Those two go and the batting could collapse like a house of cards. Now, where were those uncovered pitches? Corridor of uncertainty, need to serve up some buffet bowling etc etc....

  • Comment number 62.

    #55 - papa is a muppet, wum, troll - pick from any of these. But experience tells me that the best idea is to ignore her!

    I think that "Colin Wood" has been retained mainly in the interests of keeping the team settled. I have posted before that the 2005 team only made one (enforced) change in the entire series, and that proved to be effective. It was also a different policy to the "pick him-drop him" approach of earlier years.

    Colly might not be the best batsman ever, and he is having a bad run. In some ways, I personally wouldn't have minded if he'd been dropped. But England now seem to have adopted a sensible approach - i.e. don't make a knee jerk reaction. This surely must make all the players more relaxed, knowing that they won't be dropped even if they make a few bad scores and showing them that the management believes in them. That's imporant

    Reasons to keep Colly in the team:

    - his gritty style compliments the flair of Pietersen
    - he has got of out of holes before
    - he has lots of experience
    - he is a good team man, by all accounts
    - you don't become a bad player overnight (and yes papa we can all predict that you'll say 'he was always bad' ha ha)
    - he is a good bowling option, and even gets wickets sometimes
    - he is a great fielder
    - who else is there?

    In answer to the last question, we could have brought Bresnan in for him and kept Finn. But as a batsman, the obvious one is Morgan. But Morgan is inexperienced in test cricket let alone Ashes, and has not really proven himself at Test level.

    Also bear in mind that Collingwood has had fewer innings than most other top order players in the series. He has only batted 5 times, compared to 7, 8 or even 9 for some of the Aussies. If he'd had more chances, he may have got a score. He scored a reasonable 42, and his stats are on a par with (or better) than Ponting, Clarke, North, Katich and Hughes. That might not be saying much, but the glass half full view is that he has failed only 4 times. One (or two) good knocks in this game could change that.

    So overall, he brings a lot to the team other than his batting, there is no obvious better choice right now, and to drop him would cause imbalance. Whether he is retained beyond this series is another matter. I would guess probably not.

    But I hope he goes and gets a ton in this test to keep 'she who shall not be named' quiet.

  • Comment number 63.

    Now normally I quite like Simon Hughes, even if some of what he 'analyses' at such great length is just a tad obvious. But while Australia's born-in-Pakistan batsman (well why shouldn't we, they do!) did OK, this sort of stuff 'There was a hint, just a hint, of Lara. It was the backlift - very high, the face of the bat pointing towards point. That was pure Lara' is frankly ridiculous. He made 37 from 95 balls. Wow.

  • Comment number 64.

    re 55
    GeordiePorker! You had to do it! Not one person bothered to notice PSAR's inane drivel (or had but didn't rise to the bait). You had to poke the troll!
    If you treat him like everyone else does and ignore him, he'll go back to the sites he normally likes to look at (you know, the ones with ladies in lingerie) and leave these blogs to the adults...

  • Comment number 65.

    #64 But now you've gone and done the same thing lol!

    Whoops - now I've done it too :-(

  • Comment number 66.

    telnolies...

    I was talking to Geordie and you're talking to me, so we're ok pal...we're safe...

  • Comment number 67.

    Keep calm and carry on.

  • Comment number 68.

    #66 yeah, but what if it was eaves-dropping..... ;-)

  • Comment number 69.

    And what can it find out? That we despise it? So what, everyone does! It cant hurt us tel!!! (looking round nervously...)

  • Comment number 70.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 71.

    #69 'It cant hurt us tel!!! (looking round nervously...)'

    But what if it comes on and posts meaningless illiterate gibberish that makes no sense....

    Nope, you're right, looks like we can survive that ;-)

  • Comment number 72.

    60. At 5:09pm on 03 Jan 2011, Jonah wrote:
    "Pedantry possibly but the score progression was 55-1 105-2 113-3 134-4 55-1 is a ok'ish score for the 1st wicket, in the same way the 2x50run partnerships for the first 2 wickets is ok'ish.
    I dislike the runs scored by the 2nd pair being discussed as if it were 1st drop not 2nd."

    You might dislike it but the fact is that the ball before the wicket the score was 105-1. If it wasn't for Watson's "Oh no!!" moment they would have continued on 1 down. That is why when describing a collapse you start with the score before the fall of the wicket. Possibly further pedantry but it makes more sense when describing the scale of a collapse or mini-collapse.

    Agree with everyone that HuHa (I like it!) are important but watch out for slap-happy Smith on his home ground. He could add some important runs along with slap-happy Siddle.

    Also keen to see Beer bowl in what will be only his 7th or 8th first class game. No pressure there then?


  • Comment number 73.

    @ 'Papa Shango is always right'

    Thanks for that,

    their was me thinking number 2 in the world bowling ranks was world class but oh well

  • Comment number 74.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 75.

    I think papa has the germ of a point here.

    Collingwood does not deserve his place in the side on current form. It is his job to score runs. His position is beginning to resemble a sinecure!

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, I think all the quicks bowled too short. Height then took LBW and cleaned bowled out of the equation, and served up deliveries, which, when slightly off line, were meat and drink to the Aussie top order – prolific cutters and pullers. It looked like a team tactic, since the fielders tended to be square of the wicket with no mid on or mid off. In my view, with the ball seaming, the ball should have been pitched up, making the batter drive or catching him in the fabled corridor of uncertainty, risking a nick in both cases.

  • Comment number 76.

    The test will end in a draw due to bad weather. Khawaja may be the future, but the future is not the present and Australia won't be as good a side as they have been for another few years yet.

  • Comment number 77.

    "70. At 5:47pm on 03 Jan 2011, papa shango always right wrote:
    #62 all your points are well thought out but wrong."

    Thanks for the compliment, but actually I'm afraid that (not for the first time) you are the one that's wrong. The points I made aren't right or wrong and I'm not claiming that they are. They aren't even necessarily my opinions. They are simply possible reasons why the selectors have stuck with Colingwood. The fact is that they have stuck with him, so some or other of these points must be valid, don't you think?

  • Comment number 78.

    This is probably the first day's cricket in the whole series which has been at all evenly matched. England's day, I'd say, but if you were to score it in combat sport terms, a definite 10-9 in a series where there's been an awful lot of 10-8 'rounds'.

    As for the call to bat first; it was a day where I'd rather be bowling than batting, but the SCG pitch is traditionally not one on which you ever want to bat last, so unless the cloud cover clears significantly - and I've seen one five-day forecast for Sydney that suggests overcast conditions all week, with light rain possible every day bar Wednesday - not the worst decision to bat first. One of those tosses I'd secretly want to lose in honesty.

  • Comment number 79.

    Well I hope our bowlers pitch it up tomorrow because thats the only way we will win the game, Hussey will smack half trackers all day.
    I won't be watching it tonight, have to get back to Oxford in the morning

  • Comment number 80.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 81.

    Reading through, I think there is only one thing on here that almost everyone agrees.

  • Comment number 82.

    I've enjoyed reading the blogs during the Ashes series, but I've found reading the debating after the blogs increasingly annoying, and found them to be ruined by some silly individuals. Its frustrating that blogs such as yesterdays about Arthur Morris with all the comments coming after it get invaded and ruined slightly by continuously posted inane messages.

    Its even worse on todays version. I don't understand the mentality of people who just seem to want attention, and don't give a damn about the game itself. I wish even more that the moderator's would do something about it as someone saying the following:

    none of your points are valid. Think we all agree on that.

    can clearly be nothing about the blog and is just someones silly, puerile little game. I'm not the only one who feels like this as several colleagues who also love cricket have been put off engaging with others on here because of all the other rubbish that seems to have taken over the proper cricket chat.

    I guess there will be some stupid comment from one of these imbeciles but I won't be lowering myself to the same level by replying directly.

    I think it would be a lot better to ignore sad individuals like that, and concentrate on the cricket instead!

    Pradeep

  • Comment number 83.

    I was just sitting here thinking 'must not respond, must not respond'.

    However after post #81 I can't help it:

    LMAO!!!!

  • Comment number 84.

    Is this the best catch ever: http://jamesheneghan.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 85.

    #82 'I think it would be a lot better to ignore sad individuals like that'

    Maybe so, but you've just written 15 lines about it lol! Personally it actually doesn't bother me at all, people can ignore or be derisive as they feel fit, will make no difference. If people ignore him he will just set up another ID and talk to himself (as on previous occasions methinks). Just wish if he must troll he'd make some effort to be humorous rather than repetitively dull and witless.

  • Comment number 86.

    #82 - you're right when you say that it's "just someones silly, puerile little game". Unfortunately, the game appears to be to get attention, of any kind. You've been had! But I guess now I have too!

    Back to the cricket, I have to say that I'm impressed with both Bresnan and Tremlett. I liked the look of our attack at the start, but when Broad got injured I was worried, then I wasn't sure that Bresnan was up to it. But he's proved a few people wrong. I hope they return to top form tomorrow, cos if they don't then hussey might cash in. If we can get them out for under 250 then I like our chances. Over 300 and it becomes interesting.

    BTW I loved the blog the other day that likened Bresnan to a "circus strongman" too!

  • Comment number 87.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 88.

    #84 - maybe, but actually this might be better:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtReQn4Zsb8&feature=related

  • Comment number 89.

    Watching live feed from Channel 9 Oz on TV here in Canada it was disturbing how much ex-players like Slater, Healy & Co were eulogizing about Khawaja; it just shows how desperate the Aussies are to find a new hero, for once Ponting goes there doesn't appear to be much talent about. Khawaja showed a compact forward defensive but got square on a bit on the back foot, played a pull for four which would have been caught if Trott had been at square leg (you could clearly see the anxious look on Khawaja's face on slo-mo) and a rash drive through third slip was not under control. And don't forget he scored 13 and 0 (first ball?) for Australia A v England, caught behind both times. He might go on to become a good Test player but, for now, what's all the fuss about? Overall a B- debut, not the drooling A+ of the commentary box.

    BTW the best way to deal with an ego (you know who I'm talking about) is to ignore it.

    Great writing Tom, an absolute pleasure to read, I've enjoyed your offerings immensely, but especially the interview with Arthur Morris.

  • Comment number 90.

    Re # 60 Jonah wrote:
    Pedantry possibly but the score progression was 55-1 105-2 113-3 134-4 55-1 is a ok'ish score for the 1st wicket, in the same way the 2x50run partnerships for the first 2 wickets is ok'ish.

    I dislike the runs scored by the 2nd pair being discussed as if it were 1st drop not 2nd.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    You might not like looking at it that way, and you make some legitimate points. But IMHO, it is the better analysis that 3 wickets went in the space of 29 runs, rather than the last 3 wickets fell for 89 runs.
    If the day had ended at 105-1 it would have reflected as a decent start by Australia.
    Watson, Hughes, Khawaja all got off to good starts but nobody scored 50 runs or more. I would have thought 350 would be par for a side batting first at Sydney.

  • Comment number 91.

    #75

    Pretty much everyone replying to this blog will agree with you. Collingwood cannot justify his place in the team based on his current run of BATTING form. He is batting number 5 in the third best team in the world. He is woefully short of runs. What all the nibblers have taken offence to is the accusation that he is not test-class and also that we have a bowling attack of county trundlers. Many people have offered opinions as to why this is not the case. At a rough estimate 99%of posters are in agreement.

    To all the nibblers - Leave it at that, ignore the WUM.

    On another note, according to the BBC weather (so take with a pinch of salt) Sydney is set fair for the next four days so a result is likely.

  • Comment number 92.

    Happy Days!!! My hotel room has Sky Sports. I can actually watch a bit tonight before going to sleep.

    Plenty of good points above. 134-4 is neither one thing nor the other. Certainly, when Australia must win at all costs, to scramble alongt at 2.3 per over despite having been in a position of some strength at 105-1, with two well-set batsmen is only going to benefit one side. Australia will want to get past 300 and then take some wickets. England will still be thinking that they could be kept to around 200. With Smith exposed at 6, England know that 1 wicket in the morning could become 2 very quickly.

    England's day on points, mainly because Australia need to set the pace and have not done it.

  • Comment number 93.

    Shame we couldn't get more overs bowled due to weather as I think the score would look rosier for us if it'd stayed playable.

    Still with the weather being partly cloudy I fancy we'll get plenty more chances to finish them off.

    If the Aussies continue scoring at this rate through the match the draw is looking fairly likely though.

  • Comment number 94.

    #91... You've just spent 6 lines answering his ranting in detail, then tell everyone to ignore him PMSL! Ignore or not as people think fit, but don't start taking his comments as in any way serious or worthy of debate, because they aren't even intended to be.

    More importantly - #92, yep, I think that's a pretty fair summation. Even if you haven't mentioned that Colly failed to score a single run in the entire day, exactly as predicted! ;-)

  • Comment number 95.

    Telnolies, I will be happy for him not to score a single run in the first two days if it means that Australia are all out for 180 and we are 200-1 at the close! (a man can dream)

    The bottom line:

    Have Australia set up a winning position?

    No! Let's hope that it's still that way this time tomorrow. I want 3-1. Nothing less is acceptable.

  • Comment number 96.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 97.

    If we get them all out for 180 I can't see us having that low a score at close of play.

    Good to see our spinner get a wicket on the opening day, always harder to bowl spin at the start of a test match and bodes well for the second innings.

  • Comment number 98.

    Khawaja's was a perfectly respectable debut. I'm not sure it would merit as much exposure and discussion as it's receiving, but for the young man's racial origins and what, arguably, it says about Australia that it's taken so long for a player with his background to make it into the national side.
    More interesting from a purely cricketing point of view is Clarke's performance as captain, given his longstanding role as vice-captain and the long held perception of him as the heir apparent.
    Does anyone agree that he messed up with the toss? A must win game, with no benefit to your side in drawing it - surely your first priority is to take 20 wickets? With rain threatening throughout the match, don't you start the job of taking the 20 wickets ASAP and put the other side in? By batting first, he's prevented his bowlers starting on the main job until his side are all out, or until he declares, which at 2 runs an over may be some way away.
    Difficult (but not impossible!) to see England losing from here.

  • Comment number 99.

    Pondlife, you are right. 180 and 200-1 is only likely of there is more time lost to rain, but I think that I made the point (300-1 sounds a little arrogant).

  • Comment number 100.

    #95 - well I'm off to bed in a minute and I hope your dream comes true. I can't help thinking of Tom's blog before the 3rd test where he asked whether we should feel sorry for the Aussies. Next thing we knew we got hammered!

    Whilst I feel that we did 'win' today, it could still go one of several ways. Hussey and Haddin might bat on and get them to 350 or even 400+, then their bowlers might get us in trouble. Or they might only get 180 and then we come in and get 200-odd for 1. Or they might get 300 odd but get them so slowly that they run out of time and its a draw.

    It's a tough one to call. I feel that this test could turn on one or two key moments, like a sudden burst of wickets (hopefully from Bresnan!) that triggers a collapse.

    I want to wake up tomorrow with them all out for +/-200 and us 150 or so for 1 or 2. Please!

    Like #95, I want 3-1. But in truth would be very satisfied with 2-1.

 

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