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England toil as Australia flourish

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Tom Fordyce | 09:08 UK time, Saturday, 27 November 2010

The Gabba, Brisbane

As an England cricket supporter in Australia, you become accustomed to dealing with all sorts of misery - the stabbing pain of a sudden collapse like Thursday's, the overall melancholy of a long-term losing record, the attritional agony of having all hope slowly squeezed out of you.

Saturday at The Gabba was a classic of the latter kind. After an opening hour when England bowled beautifully for absolutely no reward, Mike Hussey and Brad Haddin did what Australian batsman seem to have been doing for time immemorial - piling on the runs, hour after hour, until the idea of a wicket ever falling again seems utterly impossible.

When the two came together, Australia were 143-5, 117 runs in arrears and in deep trouble. When they were finally parted, well over a day later, they were 450-6, 190 runs in front and in seventh heaven.

It was the highest partnership in Test history at this famous old ground, blowing away the 64-year-old record of Don Bradman and Lindsay Hassett. More than that, it was a brutal lesson in top-class batting - hanging in there when times are tough, starting to accelerate, and then grinding the opposition into the dirt.

Midway through the afternoon, four and a half hours into the day's play, England fans staring on glumly from the stands began to fear a repeat of the ultimate Ashes horror - Mark Taylor and Geoff Marsh at Trent Bridge in 1989, batting through an entire day without losing a wicket.

Hussey, on the brink of being dropped from the side before this match, cantered to his highest ever Test score - 195 almost chanceless runs, including 24 fours, off 330 balls.

James Anderson and Mike Hussey

Anderson will rarely have bowled better, yet the wickets refused to come (Picture: Getty)

Farewell, humble Mr Cricket. Arise, Sir Cricket of the Gabba.

Haddin played the time-honoured part of Aussie wicketkeeper to perfection. Whoever pulls on the stumper's gloves for Australia seems destined to ruin things for English bowlers, just when they think they've done the hard bit of getting rid of the frontline batsman.

Ian Healy used to revel in it. Adam Gilchrist made an art form of it, at least until 2005. Here in Brisbane, Haddin continued that fine tradition with an innings that was everything his counterpart Matthew Prior's was not.

Both are naturally attacking batsmen. But while Prior decided to blaze away from the very first ball he faced and saw his stumps splayed as a result, Haddin dug in for an eternity and only went for his shots once the momentum was his.

His first 25 runs came off 106 balls, his next 75 off 117. When he went to his ton with a straight six off the toiling Graeme Swann, the symbolism was obvious.

Hope remains for the weary tourists. After that fifth wicket partnership had piled on 307 mighty runs, the last five Australian wickets went for 31. England survived a horrendously nervy last hour to go into the fourth day with all 10 wickets intact, albeit at a deficit of 202.

What will haunt them is that it could have all been so different. Just maybe it should have been.

As England came out of the traps at pace in the first hour of the day, Anderson bowled one of the great wicketless spells anyone could remember - sliding some past the outside edge, dipping others back in to the pads, beating both batsmen time and time again.

Steaming in from the Vulture Street end with the new ball in his hand, he produced a faultless maiden with the first over of the day and then had Hussey given out lbw by umpire Aleem Dar with the sixth ball of his second.

England celebrated with the sort of giddy fervour you'd expect when the key man has been sent back to the hutch with just one run added to his overnight score. A first innings lead seemed a real possibility.

Hussey stayed calm. Encouraged by a nod from his partner Haddin down the other end, he signalled for a referral. Replays showed the ball pitching fractionally outside off stump. The original decision was reversed.

Painful though that was for the tourists, it was an example of the DRS (decision review system) working well - a wrong decision instantly corrected. The same could not be said two overs later.

Close to lbw to the first ball, Hussey looked absolutely plumb to the second - trapped on the back pad, bang in front. Anderson, Prior and all three slips all went ripe bananas, convinced that this time they had their man.

Dar thought otherwise. And with England already having burned up their two allotted referrals (DRS regulation 3.5a) with an unsuccessful lbw shout against Shane Watson before lunch on Friday and appeal for caught behind against Michael Clarke in the afternoon, there was nothing they could do about it.
Which is where England supporters could start to feel aggrieved. Replays showed that Hussey was indeed plumb. The ball would have taken out middle and leg stumps.

The premise behind the DRS is to make decisions as accurate as possible. Here was a case where television replays showed almost instantly that the umpire had clearly got it wrong, yet nothing could be done about it.

Had Dar's judgement or instinctive reaction been affected, even subconsciously and momentarily, by having his previous decision reversed? It may be that he heard two noises - the ball flicked the front pad on the way through - and assumed the first came from the bat. He is a fine umpire having an excellent match. But one glance at the replay could have put him right.

The number of unsuccessful referrals was set at two an innings to prevent players sending every decision upstairs, slowing the game down and constantly questioning the authority of the umpire. Many in the game feel two is not enough. England's players certainly do, having seen Snicko (too slow to be used by the third umpire) back up their belief that Clarke had indeed edged the chance that cost them the key review.

In rugby, control lies with the officials. If a referee is unsure if a try has been scored, he can ask the TMO to have a look. Players cannot get involved.

What's to stop cricket adopting the same system? If an umpire is in any way unsure, he sends it upstairs to his colleague. Power remains with the official. His authority is
underlined, not undermined.

None of which should take anything away from Hussey and Haddin, who batted with enormous resolve during that sticky first hour and then gradually accelerated until England were well and truly flattened under the wheels.

England, so full of confidence when they arrived at the Gabba, are likely to leave it both chastened and concerned.
Their successes of the past 18 months have been based around a four-man bowling attack. Even before the first ball was bowled here many wondered whether that could work on these pitches and with this Kookaburra ball. An opposition partnership that lasts over a day would suggest it might not.

Then there's the question of recovery. Anderson has already bowled 37 overs in punishing conditions, Broad 33, Swann 43, Finn 34. Broad, yet to take a single wicket, is suffering with blisters, and spent a large chunk of Saturday unable to bowl. And there are just four days between the scheduled fifth day here and the first day of the second Test in Adelaide.

Then there's the question of who might come in. Would Tim Bresnan have any more success in these conditions? Does Chris Tremlett have the pedigree to take enough wickets? If Ajmal Shazad was brought in from the performance squad, what sort of message would it send to those two?

Nothing, of course, is yet lost. We are a single Test into a five-match battle. England were similarly battered in the first match of the 2009 Ashes, escaped with a draw and went on to win the series.

Even if they go on to lose heavily here, recent history offers hope. Last summer they lost by an innings and 80 runs at Headingley, yet won the next match - and the series - at The Oval by a massive 197 runs.

There are silver linings. But there are also plenty of clouds.


  • Comment number 1.

    So... three days in and the England performance so far is lacklustre batting, toothless bowling and slack fielding. So much for all the hype.

  • Comment number 2.

    Great article. However, if a batsman is out- even if not given by a clueless umpire- his runs cannot be considered 'chanceless'.
    England in real trouble and I fear for the 1st session.

  • Comment number 3.

    It must be remembered this really wasn't a bad bowling performance for the most part. Anderson bowled beautifully, and the fact remains that it would really help if a batsmen was given out when he was out.

    Nothing more frustrating- Tom, your idea is a good one, and so is Aggers'- unlimited referrals, but a 5 run penalty if the original decision is correct.
    Incredible that even in an age of technology being available in 5 seconds the wrong decisions are still being made. Just as bad as football with goal line technology.

  • Comment number 4.

    You have admit that Haddin and Hussey certainly took their irish charm pills before the start of play, Hussey was absolutely plumb LBW and not given, Haddin played and missed so many times it was like watching a magic show... unbelieveable...

    The only thing that is likely to save england now is that the australia haven't picked a particularly threatening spinner... and that might come back to haunt them over the next couple of days... I can't see the quicks doing much damage - famous last words!

  • Comment number 5.

    so the excuses start already, seems some people forgot the dodgy decisions against australia last ashes series. Bottom line is Haddin and hussey batted well, lets see what tomorrow brings

  • Comment number 6.

    Right with your comments Rasher though from well before this Test I was concerned that England would be exposed, as they have been, virtually as descibed by you. In addition to ability and experience, the players do not have the determination, fitness and grit of the Aussies. Australia must surely win and falling behind at the first hurdle will scar the England players emotionally as well as making the chance of a come back down the track impossible. They had been hyped into beleving that they were players, and a team, that were World Beaters - you don't get near that unless/until you beat the Aussies in Australia. Here we go again....

  • Comment number 7.

    Do England have an outstanding strike bowler? No.

    Do you look at any English batsmen and think ' If he gets in he could be there all day- a la Ponting or Hussey' No.

    Can you honestly see England winning any Test, bar Austrailian failure? No.

    Do Sky and the BBC have a self interest in hyping the series up? Yes.

    Enough said.

  • Comment number 8.

    We have been really unlucky so far this series. Hussey inches away from being caught first ball, the referred lbw last night must have been a millimeter outside leg stump, the two noises on the next shout and then Haddin slicing one just short of Pietersen. On another day even Cook might have caught Haddin's skyer of Collingwood but that is more debateable...

    Anderson and Broad beat the bat numerous other times. It is strange to read of Broad's performance as inconsistent - he was always a threat and just had no luck at all.

    What comes around goes around though - I'm hoping for rain!

  • Comment number 9.

    Australia have had so much luck in this test it's almost unbelievable, even more than England had in the last series. That's the way it goes but if the luck had gone England's way the Australians wouldn't have got 200.

    To knock England for their performance is ridiculous they bowled very well without any luck and look like losing a test match that the Australians always win.

    England are a superior team to Australia and in the next few tests I think they will show that.

  • Comment number 10.

    Yea, England arn't getting a grilling by any means. We could have had Australia out for 300 yesterday if things had gone our way.

    Got through that spell yesterday without losing any wickets so if we get through the first 10 overs tomorrow without losing a wicket we'll be in good shape.

  • Comment number 11.

    I'm fed up with all the doom merchants on here. Let's face it, there has not been much between the two teams despite Australia's massive first innings lead. Apart from Siddle, the Australian strike bowlers are pretty ordinary. And take away the contributions of Hussey and Haddin and our bowlers were all over the remainder of their batting lineup. Two positive things we should take into account. Hussey and Haddin were dead lucky to survive the first hour today. And our batting order now know what they have to do. One thing worries me. Swanny's run of form appears to have ended. Apart from that and notwithstanding the fact that we will probably lose this Test, I am optimistic. This England team are a good deal more resilient than the 2006 lot.

  • Comment number 12.

    England were a bit unlucky - especially Anderson - in the first hour. If they had struck then the day would have been very different. But hats off to Hussey and Haddin for a magnificent partnership.

    England now need to show plenty of the resilience that they have demonstrated since Andy Flower came to the helm and maybe even some of the bravado of Tony Greig at the same ground in 1974.

    The Hussey & Haddin Show - Brisbane, Day Three

    Brisbane Hero: Tony Greig

  • Comment number 13.

    C`mon England dont embarrass us again its gettin a little tedious! Whats it take to find 11 talented players who consistently play to the best of their abilities.

  • Comment number 14.

    Bigbaldboab....I have one thing to say to you....who has the ashes...England...who will retain them ....England...enough said

  • Comment number 15.

    Well, well!

    Defeat now stares England head on! They did not get the early breakthrough yesterday.

    AUstralia, with a solid middle-order effort, are firmly in the driver seat, at this stage, thereby emphasising how difficult it is to beat them at home!

    The pre-series talk about an England landslide this Ashes might have been exaggerated self-confidence or trash-talking hype. But, there is still a long way to go!

    We shall see!

  • Comment number 16.

    Bowlers did an OK job on the whole, but 260 is not a par score. If you choose to bat first on an aussie wicket you need 400+. 260 is what you get with a duke ball in leeds in may, not the gabba on a hot day against a decent but not totally awesome aussie attack. 360 would have been close to it (still not enough) which is why we need 6 batters. I said it before the series WE DONT SCORE ENOUGH RUNS. We just havent got the mentality for it. Well Cook and colly have but havent really got the talent.

    If I was an england fan out there I'd be booking excursions for monday because it will be all over by close tonight.

  • Comment number 17.

    Why is there no discussion board open in the just concluded W.I./SL series. Is this a fixation with only what goes on Down Under or a case of sports chauvinism?

  • Comment number 18.

    One of the best articals I have ever read , well done.

  • Comment number 19.

    thats a bit of a downbeat article for you tom, i am surprised. i guess all that toiling in the heat got to you too.

    3 things can happen from here;

    > england lose by an innings and the wheels begin to fall off
    > we get beat but bat better in 2nd innings and take down 5 aussie wickets or so, so it isnt a thrashing we usually get at woolloongabba
    > we get out with a draw after doing some grinding down of our own!

    glad to see andy flower is on the mend, best of health to him.

  • Comment number 20.

    Well done Lord Cricket! Hats off despite the dodgy LBW, that was a big innings from a man under pressure for his place. As always the Aussies are most dangerous with backs to the wall.
    However, these 2 sides are very evenly matched. I hope we will see better batting 2nd time round from England, even so they will struggle to save this game but still Finn's performance has shown he can be a game changer, Anderson has bowled very well (as often for little reward) and Swann will get his length right - you would be a brave man to bet against him getting a few in the 2nd innings (assuming England can get a lead!).

  • Comment number 21.

    Well, what a day's play. :)

    Given that Hussey, of all the players in recent years, has been the one most OUT when IN time and again, prior to the DRS, I'm not going to begrudge him one umpiring screw-up.

    Also, as the DRS is there to correct such howlers and England rushed through both of their referral chances with giddy eagerness questioning borderline decisions...and's their own fault.

    They failed to play these aces up their sleeve at the right time and it cost them. Bad luck. As always, getting stuck on a batsman getting a lucky break is profitless, as it goes against them often enough too.

    Anderson did bowl superbly and deserved to take wickets, but Hussey and Haddin had the resolve and self-control lacking from the English batting order first time around to last them out.

    They earned every run and ground it out in classic test match fashion. They deserve all the plaudits and showed up all that pre-series self-indulgent waffle that the English players and the media had been spraying about.

    Still two very evenly matched sides (only the english fans are surprised about this reality check lol) and a long way to go in the series.

    But I won't be surprised if Australia don't bat again at the Gabba this match.


  • Comment number 22.

    It's not been that bad for England; plenty of the batsmen looked in good touch, they've actually bowled quite well, and plenty of the Australian batsmen have looked suspect, with nobody really promising available to replace them. England still favourites to retain the Ashes for mine.

  • Comment number 23.


    ...given that one Australian batting patnership in their first innings scored more than all the English batsmen combined you still want to interpret events to view England as clearly superior...rather than admit the closeness of the teams?

    Oh forget it. All the best. Clearly the early signs are a white wash to England, overpowering the pub team that is Aus at home. lol.

  • Comment number 24.

    Why the surprise about England's performance? The Australian's were never going to be a pushover at home. What's surprising is that everybody seems to have expected England to give Australia a 5-0 spanking on their own turf!

  • Comment number 25.

    Not sure how people on here can say that Australia has had a mountain of luck and can compare the woeful umpiring last time out to ONE decision.

    Lets check the facts:

    Before going into the series both teams, sets of commentators and fans KNEW that snicko cannot be used in referrals. Even then it was the smallest of noises and Hotspot did not show anything. (Clarkes referral) Waste by Strauss!

    The referral by Hussey came up with the correct decision. Fact, simple and end of story. It pitched outside leg.

    Umpires for years have given people out having heard 2 noises and the fact is that Dar is prob the best Ump in the world at the moment and apart from 2 very close calls he has got everything spot on in this test.

    Sure the England bowlers had a great 1st hour, but the fact is that as good as they bowled and the fact Haddin and Hussey just kept missing the edge. At the end of the day they did miss the edge so it can't be classed as a chance.

    The fact is that England threw away too many of their wickets, fielded poorly, made wrong choices and tired out too quickly. The Aussies on the other hand rode their luck and made England pay with some sublime at times batting from Haddin and Hussey.

    I am not some arrogant Aussie who is going to come out and say we are all over you and will beat you easily, but having had to put up with alot of big talk leading into this serious I will reiterate that this will be a very close series which could go either way. First blood Australia, but a long way to go.

  • Comment number 26.

    Reviewing the DRS:

    If the premise to use the DRS is to get the decisions correct, then the current system needs to be amended to allow for that...where, for example, the third umpire can intervene to reverse an error.

    Clearly, there needs to me improvement to the current system!

    So, ICC, what are your thoughts?

  • Comment number 27.

    Does anyone else think England were arrogant with their batting? I concede the opposite with their bowling, where they stuck manfully to the task without any luck whatsoever. It struck me watching live in Canada (yes, in Canada!) that Strauss was irresponsible playing that shot, the third ball of the Ashes. He could easily have let it go and, one hopes go on from their - he didn't try it in the second innings did he? It was as if the batsmen were looking to get after the bowlers too much, as if they wanted to make a statement and impose themselves on the Aussies instead of being a bit more circumspect. If a few had batted like Cooke or Haddin we might not be in quite such a predicament. Just a thought!

  • Comment number 28.

    England haven't lost yet. As Austrailia showed you need one big partnership to build an innings around so I hope England can get a good start and then take the game to Austrailia. Even if they end up losing I feel they have shown enough fight in this match to suggest that the series will not be as one sided as the last few ashes series in Austrailia. I hope so anyway.
    All credit to Hussey and Haddin with how they played. Their batting was brilliant to watch, even if it wasn't pleasant to see as an Englishman. Anderson will have better luck later in the series and will bag a load of wickets so there is plenty of hope for England to hold on to.
    This test has been brilliant to watch and a great example of why test cricket will always be the ultimate challenge of a batsman and bowler. Lets hope the next two days remain as hard fought as the first 3.

  • Comment number 29.

    Im sorry if this has been mentioned before but.......

    Doesnt Tom Fordyce look like Kevin Pieterson's long lost twin!

  • Comment number 30.

    Have to say this article seems a little one-eyed. To say the Aussies progressed almost chanceless is pure drivel. Hussey could've been out twice in the opening hour, Anderson had him on toast. Haddin flashed wildly at the ball early and Anderson and Broad beat the bat repeatedly. Had things gone a little differently Australia could've been all out by lunchtime.

    Admittedly, having ridden their luck early on Hussey and Haddin started playing really well, and then England just weren't aggressive or attacking enough to get them out. It speaks volumes both of the batsmen's characters, and of England's misfortune that Australia were bailed out from a very iffy 143-5, by two batsman producing probably their best ever test innings' in tandem when it really mattered. Even then there were still chances.

    Australia will be favourites now for this one, but in my opinion all three results are still possible. England are more than capable of posting 450 on this pitch, and Australia are quite capable of collapsing.

  • Comment number 31.

    Good to look back at this article one day later and reconsider what you said about mental toughness, England having to look again at their plans, etc. What a difference a day makes. And it's that difference that makes test cricket the best sport in the world despite what the cynical press expect: seasoned journos like yourself basically writing England off, while they totally pull it out of the bag, just as Hussey did the day before.

    By the way, when that happens, it often shows up all the hyperbole used to back up the original "Australia are great, England have much to learn" theory - and is another example of how journalists ignore the facts if they don't fit the theory. This is a case in point. The facts that didn't fit, as any serious cricket fan knows, are that a) Hussey would have been out first ball for a duck if a risky dab outside off had carried two inches further, so he wasn't in control, and b) he should have been out on 85 but Dar - an otherwise almost perfect ump - made his one bad call, presumably because he thought Hussey got bat on it. So it calling it a chanceless innings may be technically correct (ie, England had no chance on either) but is misleading.

  • Comment number 32.

    Australia had their luck on Saturday and England had their luck today
    So they are both even in terms of luck

    I don't understand why the ICC cannot increase the number of reviews to 4 to 5 reviews per innings for both sides. This will reduce the wrong mistakes

    Very good batting by England today and I expect this test match to end as a draw

  • Comment number 33.

    Fantastic performance from England's batsmen to follow their unlucky bowling performance. In less than one days play they have turned probable defeat into certain safety, they are now the only team that can possibly win this, even though that is very unlikely.


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