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Beware - the kraken stirs

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Tom Fordyce | 11:00 UK time, Friday, 17 December 2010

Perth, Western Australia

For most of this Ashes series so far, England's cricketers have felt like they've been starring in a sequence of feel-good fantasy films - The Miracle of Vulture Street, Life Is Beautiful, The Wizards of Oz.

Friday was the day they woke up to find themselves in an old-fashioned horror flick.

Just 24 hours ago the Australian monster looked dead, slain with a stump through the heart and knife from its own media in the back. But just as England's players turned away, ready for the credits to roll, the beast came back to life.

First the tail twitched. Then the eyes opened, and the teeth were bared. By the time England had turned around, smiles freezing on faces, the brute was all over them.

From 78-0 and cruising an hour into the morning, England collapsed to 98-5. After staggering back to 182-6, they then lost their last four wickets for just six

England's previous six wickets had put on the small matter of 1,215 runs and when Australia were 69-5 just after lunch on Thursday, the series appeared almost safe.

Waking up in the UK over the past three weeks to check the cricket score has brought unprecedented dawn delight. It was wonderful in part precisely because it was so unexpected.

Deep down there was a dread fear it couldn't last. Pessimism is never far from the surface when you've witnessed the horrors of Trent Bridge '89, Perth '98 and Adelaide '06.

Sure enough, as last man James Anderson trudged off with England having shipped a first innings deficit of 81, pillows were being punched across the land.

This being 2010, there was time for another late twist in the plot. With the sun beating down and the home section of the sell-out Waca crowd in full beery voice, three Australian wickets fell quickly in the final session, including the prize scalp of Ricky Ponting for another tail-ender's score. Not every punter will leave this show entirely pleased with what they've seen.

An Aussie lead of 200 with seven wickets in hand and three sunny days in store before the final curtain keeps slim English hopes of a happy ending alive.

South Africa chased down 414 to beat Australia on this ground two years ago. But that was on a different pitch, under different conditions. Since then the entire Waca square has been re-laid by groudsman Cameron Sutherland. Those sort of fourth innings fight-backs don't happen very often.

The stand-out star, remarkably, was Mitchell Johnson, who in Brisbane had by some distance the worst game of his career - combined bowling figures of 0-170 to go with a duck with the bat, missed run-out of double-century maker Alastair Cook and dropped catch off England skipper Andrew Strauss.

Misery in Brisbane turned to redemption in Perth for Mitchell Johnson - photo: Reuters

Having been discarded for the second Test in Adelaide, his inclusion in the cast-list here brought mutterings of discontent from some local critics. But there was a logic to his selection not always present in the Australian picks this summer, and not only because December 17th is National Underdog Day.

Johnson averages 19.44 per wicket in Tests at Perth, compared to his career average of 29. In the first innings of that Test against South Africa two years ago, he had taken his lifetime best of 8-61 and at times looked close to unplayable.

His first spell this time around, tearing in from the Prindiville End, brought him four wickets for 20 runs in nine hostile overs. By the time he'd finished off the innings, wrapped in the back-slaps and embraces of his team-mates, he'd taken 6-38 off 17.

How could he turn his game around so quickly? When he stayed with the Australian team in Adelaide, working in the nets with bowling coach Troy Cooley rather than heading back to state cricket, many old pro's shook their head and muttered about proper practice in proper match conditions.

Others liked what they saw. Out-of-touch golfers rediscover their mojo on the driving-range and putting green, not in the majors. Why shouldn't cricketers do the same?

"I don't think Johnson has made a huge amount of technical changes," says England fast bowler Stuart Broad, guesting on Test Match Special as an expert summariser.

"His confidence is up because he got those runs (top score of 62) in their first innings, which made him feel past of the game. He's come out relaxed and just bowled without worrying about too much.

"The ball swung for him today, but that can be the difference in your wrist position of less than one centimetre.

"Bowling well is a feeling. He's a world-class bowler with a lot of Test match wickets, so it's not as if he became a poor bowler after the first Test match.

"I prefer to be out in the middle, working on getting wickets, feeling the ball go through fast. He just needed to groove a little technique, and he felt that was best done in the nets rather than in the middle. It's obviously worked for him.

"As a player, when you're feeling confident you forget about any technical issues or differences. You just run in fast, hit the pitch hard and bowl. Then you naturally fall back into the technique that works for you. As soon as you start thinking about technical issues, which happens when you're under pressure and not getting wickets, it puts you in the wrong position."

England played a part in their own downfall. When the runs flowed in the first hour, and Brad Haddin and Shane Watson stood motionless as a Strauss edge passed between them at pouching height, the talk was of 350 by the close and five wickets in hand. By Sunday night, said some, the Ashes would be retained.

But loose shots cost wickets. England's top order did exactly what local sages like Justin Langer warn you don't do at the Waca - drive at balls outside your eyeline, assume that because of the big bounce you can sit safely on the back foot to a fast bowler.

For the first time in nine days of cricket, Australia were the team who could crow come the close. And crow they did, at the back of every departing English batsman. Matt Prior might have turned to offer Johnson round the back of the dressing-room, but the round had already been lost.

A press release had been issued by a well-known Aussie bookmaker just before the start of the day's play. In it they boasted of already having paid out on England winning the Ashes - $400,000, to be precise.

Come Sydney in early 2011 it might yet prove a decent business decision. For now, the odds look a little more uncertain.


Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    Today was why you should never feel sympathy for the Australian Cricket team.

    Well done to Johnson though, great bowling sir.

  • Comment number 2.

    Still, I do for sorry for the Aussies (apologies, Tom, just couldn't resist one more crack).

    It was a day we all expected to come, shame it couldn't come when England had already retained though!

    Gameplan for tomorrow is simple in theory, if a different proposition in practice - do what the Aussies did today. Get in there hard and fast and accurate, skittle them over as cheaply as possible and don't have anything bigger than 350 at most to chase.

    350 to retain the Ashes before this Test, most England fans would've confidently been happy with. But now the horror movie has started, The Fear of Johnson, few will believe.

    Got to give yourself the best chance, though.

  • Comment number 3.

    Was quite amusing to read the posts on here yesterday stating England will get 500+ easy on this track.

    Aussie bowlers are useless
    Our batsmen are in the form of their life.


  • Comment number 4.

    A slightly different feeling from yesterday...... Interesting that Mitch the Snitch was written off never to play again and then smacks us about and demolishes our batsmen... Humble Pie all round I feel.... DOH!!!

  • Comment number 5.

    Aussie media needs the biggest slices of humble pie. Tom's comment about the monster having a knife in its back was very well founded.

    Mind you, let's be honest - everyone loves to play the "We're doomed, we're going to get utterly destroyed" card in sport. So you can then get all smug when you don't ;)

  • Comment number 6.

    The Aussies were always going to have a good day at some point, and we were always going to have a wobble. You simply can't play this much cricket without the balance of power shifting from time to time. Now, the question is do we *really* have the mettle to dig ourselves out of this one? I like to think we have but, as Papa Shango would no doubt point out, that's just an opinion based (probably) more on hope than real expectation. Tomorrow is going to tell us an awful lot about the character of the team!

    Fair play to Johnson as well - mark of a true great to answer his critics in such emphatic style.

  • Comment number 7.

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

  • Comment number 8.

    We knew it would happen. We expected it to happen. And, once again, the folly of calling a match after one day has been exposed. Fair play to Mitch for doing the job that he was brought back to do.

    Hughes and Ponting have a double failure and still Australia are in the driving seat and those 100 extra runs that we gave away yesterday are shown to have been crucial. The match is though by no means over and South Africa chased around 400 successfully here not so long ago when they looked dead and buried.

    I wonder how the selectors will react to the struggles of Hughes and Ponting. Even if Australia win, Ricky Ponting's form is beginning to get too alarming to pass over and Hughes looks a shadow of the player who laid waste around him in his first series.

  • Comment number 9.

    So South Africa are able to chase down 400 at the WACA and win but England have no chance despite Adelaide and Brisbane?! A lot of negative talk from the old commentators re our chances of winning this test. I stick with Broad's view that some early wickets from Swann, Tremlett, et al could set this match up nicely.

    Even if we do lose here that means the series is 1-1 going into the MCG and SCG games. Great stuff! Bring it back home England!

  • Comment number 10.

    Fair play to the aussies they absolutely outplayed us today, however the worst thing about this aussie fight back is not the fact that Oz is on top, which is a horrible expierience, put the smug remarks now doubt that a certain papa shango will make. However as always i'm an optimist, so hopefully a couple of quick wickets should deflate Oz and shango a bit, before ripping through the tail after another hussy fight back.

    It's not over yet Lads, were aloud one or two bad days, can still have a victory here.

    P.S as much as it pains me, well bowled mitchell johnson

  • Comment number 11.

    Australia should feel fortunate that Johnson has come back into some form because he opened the door (courtesy of a late shot from Cook) and it all kicked off from there. I didn't think the other seamers for Australia were anything too amazing - Johnson was clearly the big difference. Just a shame from England's point of view that Strauss and Cook couldn't keep it going as they didn't look in an awful lot of trouble. Thank goodness Bell continues to play well. He is a totally different batsmen these days and I think they need to swap him around with Collingwood and get him into 5 - there's an argument for saying he should go in higher as he's clearly a class act with excellent temperament.

    Well played to Johnson, he's finally showed a bit of "ticker" as our Australian cousins call it, although his gesture after taking the third wicket was a little pointless.

    England need a big big morning with quick wickets, particularly Hussey, and then to adjust to the Perth wicket better than they did today. Let's hope from Englands point of view that today doesn't mark a sea-change in the series. If Johnson keeps this bowling form up for the rest of the series, England need to find a way of playing him better.

  • Comment number 12.

    Johnson's half century may well be the turning point of this series. He has a spring in his step after that timely boost of confidence and doesn't look quite as fragile anymore... oh dear!

  • Comment number 13.

    As others have said this was always going to happen. They were always likely to find a bit of form, let's just hope this is the blip and they'll go back to being dreadful again before long!!

    The first innings they put on showed they're still not back to their best but there are good signs for them. As for England it was a disappointing day but the match isn't over yet, lots of work to do to win this one (I don't see draw being at all possible now for either team) but it is achievable. We've seen in the other Tests that they can put on good totals against this Aussie team. My biggest concern though is that our bowlers look jaded. The batsmen didn't stay in long enough to give them all a good rest so hopefully we can make good inroads in the morning session tomorrow to make life a little easier. I see changes being made for the next Test though, possible Finn being rested for Bresnan to give the youngster a break. He's doing well and learning all the time but it's hard work bowling as much as he has in his first Ashes series.

  • Comment number 14.

    Oh dear. I’m expecting to hear a lot from Papa Shango today…

    But let’s put things in perspective, England had won the last 8 days in the series, they were bound to have a bad one sooner or later. It’s just a shame that they chose to have an absolute stinker – 78/0 with the Aussies looking down and out to 187 all out was very poor.

    If Australia extend their lead beyond 320 then we could be in a whole heap of trouble, but this England team is extremely resilient so keep the faith!

    Credit to Mitchell Johnson – we wrote him off after Brisbane like many others. I don’t know whether he was inspired by listening to The Stone Roses ‘I Am the Resurrection’, or whether his Mother gave him a good talking too, but once Cook had given him his first wicket we witnessed arguably the most impressive rise from the dead for circa 2000 years.

    Here are our thoughts on Day 2:

    Day 2 at Perth dissected: Johnson's rendition of 'I Am The Resurrection' reduces England to rubble

    and today's Perth blast from the past: Perth Zero: Alex Tudor

  • Comment number 15.

    Kudos to Johnson for an inspired spell.

    I think that, whether Australia win this test or not, the biggest problem they will come to face is the form of Ricky Ponting. His batting is at a bit of a low ebb right now and his fielding captaincy is hanging on an individual bowler having a great hour or two (re Siddle in the first test and Johnson here). With the exception of Hussey, they don't seem to have any positive consistency anywhere and that just isn't good enough to win tests on a regular basis.

    England needn't panic - even if they lose this test and Australia get a confidence boost from it - just keep trying to play the cricket they have been playing prior to this first innings because I believe the balance of power will still rest with England for the remainder of the series.

    I think. Gulp.

  • Comment number 16.

    I think that, in the same way you shouldn't think it's easy and you can relax when things are going well, you shouldn't get too down on yourself when things haven't gone quite so well. If England continue to play with confidence, there is no reason they should suddenly capitulate against this Australian side.

    Despite the doom-monger, one good day doesn't mean Australia are going to prevent England retaining the Ashes. Ponting is in horrid form, Hughes is in no form, Clark is doing badly most of the time, Watson is a bit up and down, so things aren't on a complete downer for England. Hopefully today will have taught England some useful lessons which they can take forward into the second innings and beyond.

    Bowl well in the morning, put them under pressure, be patient, then learn from the mistakes of the first innings batting, and play better second time around. If they can exert a little pressure on Johnson once more, we will see whether today was a flash in the pan or not.

    I don't think we should start thinking its all going to go wrong - stay positive everyone! Well, nearly everyone anyway.

  • Comment number 17.

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

  • Comment number 18.

    To be fair though Papa the wickets by Johnson were cheap because the conditions clearly suited him. Intrigued though as didn't see you saying Johnson was the key man for this particular innings?

    Also the reason why England has been so good recently is the decision to back players to come good. If the Aussies had stuck by some of their newer players perhaps they wouldn't be one down.

  • Comment number 19.

    Tom I’m staring to wonder was you the only person feeling sorry for the Aussies? Looks a bit silly now

    It seems a bit of complacency and the WAGS turning up have installed a casualness in the England team. Still I think we will win the series in Melbourne after a sharp reminder of what’s at stake.

  • Comment number 20.

    Australia have a 2nd day's good cricket in 2 and a half tests and the doomsayers come out of the woodwork!

    As for Papa Shango - your "prediction" has to be put into perspective with all the other tripe you've trotted out!

    Anybody who thought the Aussies would just roll over was in fantasyland -it doesn't mean they've suddenly become a decent team, never mind the better one than England. most of the predictions prior to the series were for a tight one - it will be with England prevailing.

  • Comment number 21.

    Papa, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

    Sadly you sound more like a broken record.....

  • Comment number 22.

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

  • Comment number 23.

    The only thing to be learnt from a certain individual is how to be utterly boorish. My last reference to the village idiot as I don't wish to feed your ego anymore than it already has been.

  • Comment number 24.

    #21 Quite right, say that something bad will happen, and eventually it will to somebody.

    Right can we please not turn this blog into a circus again and stick to having a proper debate/banter about the day's play?

  • Comment number 25.

    Where exactly did I say that? I think it was a great spell and used the conditions brilliantly. But using logic you've stated before. He got Cook and Collingwood, one out of form the other shouldn't be in the team. Two tail enders as well so can't count them as proper wickets. That means he only took two proper wickets. Not so good by Johnson when you use Shango logic!

  • Comment number 26.

    Oh dear...

    It did take a very good spell from MJ to get us into this trouble but credit where credit is due (and all that). We really needed our tail to wag like the Aussies did because those runs that MJ, Siddle & the Hilf put on could prove vital.

    However, some positives on a bad day:

    1. Bell looks imperious and as I've said before, he should bat at No.5. He really is a class act and it's a shame that he's not been able to have a decent crack at a big ton yet. 4th inning 100* would be good!
    2. We've struck some good psychological blows in their 2nd innings dismissing Hughes, Ponting and Clarke cheaply. Hughes really looks to be found out, dispite having natural talent, whereas Ponting and Clarke are in a woeful patch of form at present. If we keep dismissing an opener early (i.e. Hughes), that'll put a lot of pressure on Punter and Pup!
    3. 119/3 looks good but as Sir Geoffrey would say "Add 2 wickets to that and it all changes". Watson is at his most vulnerable now (between 50-75 - stats back it up!) and at Adelaide the tail fell apart meekly, however it will be harder here.
    4. There have been a lot of high 4th innings scores at the WACA in recent years, including the brilliant 404/3 chase from South Africa. If we can dismiss them for anything around 250-275 we are definitly within a chance of something special, but there is a long way to go.

    Australia will always be dangerous, even when they are not very good, so it is important we take early wickets tomorrow morning.

    C'mon England!

  • Comment number 27.

    #24 I agree. I think Johnson can also call upon a decade of playing experience at the Wacca, with the 'doctor'.

    I have maintained that he is black or white: Unplayable or unbowlable. Very similar to Harmy.

  • Comment number 28.

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

  • Comment number 29.

    papa shango wrote:
    #18 Yesterday you all said it was a flat surface & we would get 500+... so your opinion is wrong. He showed Anderson how to bowl with pace & swing.

    Everyone eh Papa? Another one of your facts!!!!

    For the record, I wasn't gloating or particularly celebrating over the last few weeks - whilst enjoying England's relative success it is, after all, a five match series. They are called "tests" for a reason.

    Most people posting have been the same - "enjoy it while it lasts". I still think the Ashes will remain in England (metaphorically speaking of course as they never leave anyway), it just means cricket lovers will see a contest instead of a walkover (which no-one predicted at the start of the series anyway).

  • Comment number 30.

    why all this doom mongery? One swallow, doesnt make a summer so to speak....It's the Aussies first really good day since the first day of the series! Whats to say we cant them out for 200 (fingers crossed) and chase down 300 which would be very getable. Johnson isnt going to have another spell like that, the same as Siddle hasnt since the first day!

    If they were 150/0 then i would be worried, bowl in the right areas and im sure we will be rewarded....

    We can afford to draw, the Aussies really need a win so the pressure is still on them!

  • Comment number 31.

    Best thing that could have happened, this will keep the series alive and make the still likely outcome of England retaining an all the more rewarding prospect, I was actually allowing my mind to wander to the possibility of a 4-0 series victory. The last few weeks have been England battering the Aussies in every department so I take a masochistic pleasure in watching the Aussies gain a position of dominance, after all, to win at a canter isn't the English way, is it?
    As for this match, the unpredictability of the Aussie team means I could see them compiling 500 odd tomorrow or being skittled out for under 200. With their bowlers, they could rip through the England line up with ease or feed our batsmen dross that allows us to cruise home, anything is possible, that's why we love test match cricket.

  • Comment number 32.

    good day for the aussies, hold my hands up, didn't expect to see MJ bowling that well, the rest obviously did him good. How bad was Siddle though? Test not quite over yet, but would be delightfully surprised now to see anything other than 1-1 going into the 4th test. still think england are comfortable favourites to at the very least retain the ashes and probably will go on to win the series.

  • Comment number 33.

    Some perspective is needed on England's bad day. It is unrealistic to expect the Aussies to capitulate like England have done in past series and most people expected England to lose at least one match in the series before it began. This could well be it. But England remain a better, more settled and more cohesive Unit and it is difficult to see them not winning at least one of the two remaining Tests, which would be enough. Don't forget Sydney is traditionally a spinner's wicket. The Aussies don't have one of Test standard. England have Swann.

  • Comment number 34.

    Yeah, if we lose this one then we still need to win just one of the last two Tests to retain.

    Let's also hope that Johnson's burst is to the Third Test what Siddle's burst was to the First Test ;)

  • Comment number 35.

    The South Africa 414-4 isn't completely exceptional. In the last ten years there's been 6 fourth innings scores of over 280 at the Waca. I didnt know about the new square, so it will be interesting to see how it holds up. Some more stats and thoughts here:

  • Comment number 36.

    #33 England actually have two good spinners with Monty as well, but I guess the SCG pitch curator will receive explicit instructions about not producing a turner!

    Agree with those who are saying don't panic. This test isn't over yet and in any case, this is a five match series and the better team will preveil. And that is unquestionably England.

    If England have to chase 300-350, they may want to tinker with the batting order and promote Bell. The top four may all have scored centuries in the series, but none of them is in better touch than Bell.

    As I said before, it's only one bad day at the office for England. Tomorrow is another day...

  • Comment number 37.

    I felt that Boycs had it right and I had a terrible feeling that the Aussies extra 60-80 runs in the middle/lower order were going to be the problem. Suspect that won't be too far off the winning margin.

  • Comment number 38.

    Totally agree that England were due a bad day - I dont think anyone expected them to continue totally dominating the Aussie's, they were bound to have a decent day at some stage.
    Its how we turn up tomorrow morning which could have the biggest impact on the series so far - lets not right off our chances of still winning here, get Huss and Watson out early and then who knows, although its unlikely who would have thought 1/517 in Brisbane in the second innings was on?

  • Comment number 39.

    Jesus Tom, don't you or anyone else PROOF READ your articles before they're posted? There's no apostrophe in "pro's" & the following excerpt should presumably read "feel part of the game". I'd expect better standards of journalism from the BBC. So, that's a double disappointment today!

  • Comment number 40.

    Again, we get some rather extreme perspectives on here - yes, to wake up this morning to England having been skittled for an embarrassingly low total is a pretty awful feeling, but the game is very much still on. Granted the Aussies are in the dominant position going into day 3, but we all know that things can change very dramatically and there are 2 days to go.

    This is exciting cricket, and highlights again why this is such a captivating game. Before the series began the two teams were closely billed in their ability, and as a result there was always an expectation that this would be a closely fought series - I'd much rather watch (to use Tom's anology) a proper fight with a raging beast than watch an England side torturing a dying animal.

    On a critical note, further vindication for pushing Bell up the order - he is such a controlled batsmen and should be supporting top order batsmen, not struggling for ground with tail-enders. Questions still over Collingwood - his catch in the 1st innings set a new standard in fielding that even Jonty Rhodes would have difficulty matching, but no one should be selected purely on their fielding ability, he needs to find form in the role of stabilising a top order collapse which as it stands Bell appears far more capable of doing.

    First session tomorrow will be crucial - to state the obvious - Australia will be looking to put a large total on the board as quickly as possible to put England under immense pressure to bat for the best part of two days to save.

    Grit teeth, and get some fire in the belly.

    Game on!

  • Comment number 41.

    Couple of quick wickets first up, and pressure will be back on, but realistically, England can hope for 350 minimum to be chasing.

    England always lose at Perth, anyway

  • Comment number 42.

    Its not Tom Fordyce writing these blogs. Its good old Kevin Pieterson! KP

  • Comment number 43.

    #42 don't you have somebody to proof read what you write? Everybody knows its Pietersen!

    (tongue in cheek)

    What England needs tomorrow, regardless of the final result of the match, is to have another good day, and don't allow Australia to maintain the momentum they had today. Don't let them get on a roll.

  • Comment number 44.

    I knew I shouldn't have felt jubilant at the end of day one. Lord help us and save us, I'm old enough to know better. Sackcloth and ashes with a small a if we lose this one.

  • Comment number 45.

    It is now all down to Bell and Cook, they have the technique and attitude to see this through. Well done Australia, for overcoming the doubters. If we collapse in the second innings the Aussies will sweep the rest of the series.

  • Comment number 46.

    'Life is Beautiful' is about the Holocaust, and is set in a Nazi concentration camp. Is it really one of the best examples of a "feel-good fantasy film" you can think of?

  • Comment number 47.

    If we win this it will be a true test of our character, and so far that has been fine.
    One thing for certain, a draw is highly unlikly now.

  • Comment number 48.

    Any truth that Australia had Tom Fordyce's blog from yesterday pinned up for extra motivation?

    But yeah, that is why you don't get over-confident or 'feel sympathy'. I have to remind Tom Fordyce, that this is sport not art. It is competitive and aggressive, not looking for artistically, enriching events.

  • Comment number 49.

    Hello all. Where do we see this Test going from here? There'll be a result, so who thinks Australia will level up and who thinks England can pull it back from here?

    Plow85 - it was more about the title of Life Is Beautiful. Wizard of Oz isn't about cricket either. And Miracle Of Vulture St is entirely made up. But I take your point...

  • Comment number 50.

    The Aussies are allowed a good day now and again. They might go on to win the test, but I don't think it's set in stone, nor do I think the Aussies 'back'. They've had 2 good individual bowling performances in 3 tests which has put them in a winning position both times. The first time, they failed to capitalise.

  • Comment number 51.

    Nice that a few poms gobbing their mouths off of victories within 3 days were proved to be the classic johnny-come-latelies who know zero about the game and about Australia's fighting spirit.

    Hell, we don't have a good side by any stretch but we will smack you out at any time.

    Evenly poised still I think.

  • Comment number 52.

    Johnson says he seems to enjoy "The doctor", explains why he gets so many wickets at Perth.

    Pity for him he won't be able to get the doctor out on call

  • Comment number 53.

    Arsenal 1980. I'm sure you are just one of these underachievers in life. Sure the Ashes never leave the UK.

    I am glad with you your left hand open to Wisden and the right wherever you find it most comfortable that you would have checked the win-loss record in the last 30 years to find the truth of the matter.

    Quite pathetic really.

  • Comment number 54.

    Well done MJ, just proves that you never know if World Class players, they can come good at any time regardless of form. Lets hope Ponting and Clarke don't prove me right in any of the remaining tests.

    Agree slightly with Papa about Finn, I reckon hes gonna be a top class bowler but isn't quite there yet. Would have preferred to see Tremlett from the start instead of him but now with Broad out I'd take Finn over Bresnan or Shazzer.
    Saying all that Finn is only going to get better by playing tests and he might as well play now whilst the rest of our attack can cover for him and the Aussi batting line-up is in shambles.

    Keep the chase under 350 and there is still some hope. It only will take 2 guys to hit big (and we have 5 of our top 6 in real form) and we have a real chance.

    Bell is looking absolute World Class and should bat at 5 with Morgan coming in for Collingwobble.

    Come on the boys!

  • Comment number 55.

    Excellent bowling from Johnson

    Australia are now in an excellent position in the match
    They must now bat most of the day tomorrow and get a lead of 300+
    Australia must now take this chance they got and win the match

    We all knew England batting would collapse soon and it has happened

    From a neutral view it would be good if Australia win this test match and make the series level at 1-1 with 2 more test matches left

  • Comment number 56.

    Lets hope the pitch gets flatter and flatter as the game goes on.

    Concerned that when I wake in the morning, the form players of Hussey and Haddin with the bat, a tonk from Johnson and the tail will see us needing 400+ to win.

    Perfect scenario - We blast them out for 200 and bat well with Bell moved to No.5.
    Worst case - Mr Cricket and Haddin put on a century stand and we are chasing 400+

    Could go either way

  • Comment number 57.

    Despite the comments about Finn, he remains one of the leading wicket takers in tests in 2010. He is certainly not the finished article yet, but then who is at his age in cricket? The more he plays and accrues the experience in different countries against different opposition, the better he will become.

    When the Aussies were on their knees towards the late 80's they persisted with a group of players, and stuck with them. It took Steve Waugh a long time before he scored his first century, he didn't do too badly did he. Australia were successful because they had great players, but those players benefited from a consistent selection policy, and the lack of that lately has contributed to their performances.

    Finn should not be ditched - it would be plain daft to do that. He manages to average around 4-5 wickets every test, and thats pretty handy by most standards. Depending how spinner friendly the next two test pitches will be, Finn could well end up as the leading England wicket-taker in the series, and I wouldn't be surprised if that happens.

  • Comment number 58.

    I'm also going to stick my neck out and say that England will win this Test.

  • Comment number 59.

    Lest we forget the statistics from the last Ashes series......... Aus had most centuries, topped the averages etc but lost 2-1 because of key moments. Johnson's devastating spell could well be one of those moments. Let's hope not but Eng must be on their guard and also seek to produce something similar.

    Well played Aus, sets up a great test match and series.

  • Comment number 60.

    At the start of the series the perception was that these were two pretty evenly balanced sides, some way from being absolutely top class. Both had decent batting line ups nevertheless prone to the odd unexpected collapse and attacks which might struggle to take 20 wickets on a regular basis. As things have played out, England have had a prolonged purple patch from day three at Brisbane until today.

    Like quite a few contributors, I had an uneasy feeling about this match, though my worry was that the Aussie top order would collectively relocate their batting form and post a huge first innings total. That clearly hasn't happened- though it may turn out to be the case that the runs made by their much-derided long tail on first innings turn out to be vital. Instead Johnson has an outstanding day and the rest of the attack give him enough support to skittle England.

    Tomorrow is going to tell a lot about Straus as captain and about the overall solidity of this England team. If they manage to restrict Australia to a total of under 300 then they'll have a longish odds chance of a win (I wouldn't put it better than that, even though "gettable" fourth innings totals have tended to increase in the past few years). If they get smacked all round the park and end up chasing some hypothetical figure of well over 500 then I could well imagine them being skittled for under 200 again.

    If England do lose this one, the margin of defeat is, I think, going to matter. Losing by, say, 50 runs chasing 370 odds would be annoying (the margin being less than the runs added by the Aussie tail yesterday) and frustrating; a wake up call rather than a crisis. Getting hammered by 300 plus runs theoretically chasing 570 would be another matter entirely. I wonder just how deep the confidence in this England side really is, given how many of them have been on the wrong end of stuffings Down Under in the past......

  • Comment number 61.

    brilliant bowling from MJ, poor batting. the Aussies were on the floor, especially after the missed slip chance, and at the exact moment i decided to repair to my chambers for some well earned sleep the floor, roof and walls all fell in. poor shot from cook, bang bang bang, our nervous starting middle order all gone and those big long days of dominance count for little. we need to show up tomorrow and again the next day and if we lose this test [i would give us a 35% win chance from here] well the rest of the series is going to be a firecracker!

  • Comment number 62.

    Gloating is a perverse sentiment if it's done at the expense of your team. People think that PS is a WUM. I doubt it. WUMs eventually come clean. PS thinks this site is akin to a philosophical arena for the pursuit of truth. It isn't. It's a forum for genuine fans and even semi-interested followers to join in, have a stake and be part of the game.

    This absurd fetish for fact and truth is misplaced and badly handled. I suspect that PS wouldn't last very long in an environment that really was about such high ideals as truth, fact, &c. Who knows? Here opinion and well-formed judgement constitute the name of the game. Too little of the latter would trivialise the site, making it like one of those walls given over to graffiti.

    For PS this site has become the road to 15 minutes of low-brow fame. For thé rest of us, it's a place to air our opinions and support England in a remote but nevertheless meaningful way.

    Cricket match: I don't think England are out of this. As for Finn, so what if he went for a few. I've seen Glen McGrath go round the park at the hands of Vaughan, Strauss, Tresco. England's problem is that when they do bad they do shocking. But England need to be tested. Too much of this séries has been soft. We need preparation for sterner tests. Thé time has come to convert thé spirit of Cardiff (Capetown, Centurion Park and Brisbane) into unlikely wins. Aussies used to do that. Good luck England and good luck especially to those players who havé been on thé receiving end of PS's brand of truth and reason.

  • Comment number 63.

    @Stringfellow Hawke: Totally agree about Finn, stick with him, has so much potential and would be stupid to drop him. It was just how often at the start of the series did we have a chance like this to win an ashes series down under and at this stage Tremlett is a better overall bowler.

    @Forthview: Agree Strauss is under pressure tomorrow, don't rate him much as an on field captain (behind the scenes you can't argue hes done well). Think if Hussey, Watson and Hadden get going again Strauss becomes a bit clueless. Lets hope it doesn't come to that tomorrow!

  • Comment number 64.

    R-Brooker, Papa makes me laugh, though i like your sentiments. I think we should let him be [an arse] and crack on with dissecting this wonderful game / series.

    This reminds me of Lords 2005 a little, where we let them go in the third innings after knocking them down and being knocked down for less - i just think that the personnel now means that we can climb into a target of 250-280 if one of the openers drops anchor. I have a concern that we might face a whole day in the field though, and may need our mental strength for the boxing day test.

  • Comment number 65.

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

  • Comment number 66.

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

  • Comment number 67.

    I said on this forum, yesterday that England would do well to be wary of the Aussies. The number of times they have pulled back form the brink are innumerable, but of course, the English team, propelled by their own media, like Aggers, believed in their own hype.

    The fact is they are a good team, not a great one, that being said they caught the Aussies when they were a little bit now, reality has set in, they are facing a team that has got a little wind in the sail and it is just a matter of time before this test match series is level again!!

  • Comment number 68.

    #65 When you consistently bet one way in a two horse race you are eventually going to get one right. 8 days wrong and 1 day right and suddenly you think you are God.

    Gotta say well done to Johnson. Bowled out of his skin for much of the day although a couple of shots played by England were not great. I think Australia might go on to win this one. A lot will depend on how big a lead Australia get. Once it goes much above 300 it will prove tough for England, although this test is not over by a long way

  • Comment number 69.

    Agreed it was a good spell of swing bowling but with so much time left in this game and the pitch unlikely to cut up, if i were england management id be happy enough chasing a 400 score to win, not like we are going to be undone by Spin on day 5.

    The question for Johnson now though is, was this a one off at the WACA or can he now produce when required in Melbourne or Sydney. England only need to win 1 of the 3 tests to retain the ashes, a good start tomorrow and england might become favourites again to win this particular test match. Flower and strauss will be aware of any possible exaggerated swing in the 2nd inns so i dont see it being as big an issue for the england batsman.

  • Comment number 70.

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

  • Comment number 71.

    England's problem was not so much the batting, yes most have made runs but the reality is that in 5 innings, that is twice they have been bowled all out for low scores.

    The euphoria of the 500+ scores does not disguise the fact that there are times where England can look like a accident waiting to happen.

    England are a good side BUT the batting remains flawed, however should they lose this match, its letting the Aussies escape from 60/5 that will have cost them. That is not good enough even if you would have taken 270 before the game started.

  • Comment number 72.

    ahhh shango ever the idiot. England need 2 maybe 3 wickets tomorrow and they are down to the tail, i wouldn't write england off yet the WACA actually gets better the longer the game goes look at recent test matches played there, low first inns scores bigger 2nd inns. Maybe im an optimist but if england had 2 days to score 400-450 on this wicket id back them to do it, especially if the enigmatic Johnson misfires again.

  • Comment number 73.

    Ignore him!!

  • Comment number 74.

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

  • Comment number 75.

    well Cooky is in great form, Strauss seems to find runs in the 2nd inns. Trott has a ton this series KP, Bell and Prior are all have runs on this tour(Colly and Bell should swap positions in the batting order). Couple years ago england would of been certainties to lose, we may still but im more confident that we can draw/win, all depends how well first session goes tomorrow

  • Comment number 76.

    Let me try to sum up the thoughts of papa.

    I am brilliant, significant and omnipotent (had to be careful with the spelling of that one mr moderator but i think most will get the drift)
    Although i am wrong 8 times out of 9 (fact) that is still enough for me to declare my superiority (if only Johnson would declare his love for me in the same way)

    Australia are wonderful and unbeatable and deserve to win the ashes as they did invent the game of cricket afterall.

    Tomorrow will see Australia score 500+ (with a double century from the handsome Johnson) and then bowl England out for 47.

  • Comment number 77.

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

  • Comment number 78.

    Good to see your sense of optimism has not diminished after today

  • Comment number 79.

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

  • Comment number 80.

    you know me so well

  • Comment number 81.

    Tomorrow will be a test for both sides. Lots of opinions being bandied around on this forum, armachair pundits the lot of us!

    The test is stil wide open, TEST being the operative word. Can England regroup? Can Australia maintain their improvement?

    As per my post yesterday (and forgive me for posting the bloomin' obvious again) the first session tomorrow will be crucial. Early England wickets will keep them in the game. If the Australians score quickly, the Test could be lost.

    The game is tantalisingly poised.

    Nice to see the fisherman has baited up today with his 'collingwood lure'. Haven't seen too many nibbles though

  • Comment number 82.

    Oirish wrote:
    "Jesus Tom, don't you or anyone else PROOF READ your articles before they're posted? There's no apostrophe in "pro's" &[etc etc]"

    You're absolutely right. Tom's an old pal of mine and I can tell you always been a rubbbish speller, but to be fair that's more than offset by his insouciant writing style and knowledge of the game. There are other sports writers (who shall remain nameless) with spotless spelling whose style is so inane and lamentably unoriginal it makes me want to sack a small city and replace its population with weebles.

    Enjoy the mind of the Fordyce. It'll keep you alive through the dark hours.

  • Comment number 83.

    @82 Too true,

    Due a promotion I'm sure Mr Fordyce. Let's hope some of the BBC big cats read some of the comments from the reading public (Sadly I doubt this though). Keep up the fantastic work and don't let up even after this series is over!

  • Comment number 84.

    Here here - Fordyce's blog is the highlight of my working day.

  • Comment number 85.

    Find it hilarious to see one individual namely "papa shango" can get up so many peoples skin.

    How many clones are there of him in here. 10, 15? Haha.

  • Comment number 86.

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

  • Comment number 87.

    Time to drop Collingwood and go with 5 bowlers. If Austrailia bat till lunch game over our bowlers not fit enough. They will just flag in the post lunch session. Bell at 5 if not 4 and KP at 5.

  • Comment number 88.

    Very much enjoying the blogs and susbsequent debates.

    Anyway I'm not too downhearted by England's collapse, I don't think the Aussies were quite as bad as was being made out and were due a day in the sun. No doubt they're in a decent position but England have shown their resillience before and can do so again. It's imperative they make it as difficult as possible to get over the finishing line for Ponting, he's not looked too clever so far in the pressure situations. Skittle them out and give ourselves 300 ish to chase and with Strauss and Cook providing a solid base I feel pretty confident of Ponting & Co crumbling under the pressure of throwing away a winning position.

  • Comment number 89.

    If only half of the Australian top order can score runs, and only 2 bowlers in 3 tests can bowl 1 effective spell each, the series is already lost.

    Makes sense for the bookies to pay out.

  • Comment number 90.

    This series is certainly getting more interesting.

    Is MJ going to do a Siddle from the first test or can he keep this up? MJ's performance was more impressive but my guess is that England will be able to deliver a much better score in the second innings. The fact is we can't be sure - but Aus may ultimately regret not having a spinner.

    I think we forget sometimes how uncertain test cricket can be - just look at what is happening with India (number one ranked test team) in South Africa presently.

  • Comment number 91.

    But there is a ' in pro's.

  • Comment number 92.

    Whatever happens the next inns and test we must give Bell more time. Collingwood is a waste at 5.
    1 Struass
    2 Cook
    3 Trott
    4 Bell
    5 KP
    6 Prior
    7 Collingwood
    If Collingwood comes in at 7 he can play his 100 balls for 10 runs game and go for the draw.

  • Comment number 93.

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

  • Comment number 94.

    Don't just drop Collingwood down the order, just drop him. I like the guy and don't want to underestimate what he brings with his fielding (its does make a difference having a fielder of that quality, anyone who has actually played the game can tell you that).

    But at the moment we have an embarrassment of riches. Morgan can tear any attack apart and even Davis has shown he is probably a better batsman than Collingwood.

    Look forward to him now hitting 150 NO for us to win the match and prove me and a few others very wrong.

  • Comment number 95.

    #92 drop kp down the order. his previous inns was over 200 - stupid stupid stupid

  • Comment number 96.

    The reason for dropping KP down the order is because he is our fatest scorer. I am only talking about the next Inns. Bell needs more time if we are in a place to go for the win. Also KP will score faster once the Aussie bowlers are tired. Not stupid just an idea KP is not god he is allowed to play for the team. I think this has to be Collingwoods last game but that will not happen. 1 inns of 200 take that out and look at his average over the last 6 months.

  • Comment number 97.

    Think you'll find Bell#'s scoring rate is fairly impressive currently. What you're suggesting makes little sense. Sure move Bell up the order in front of Colly, but England won't do that as it sends the wrong message. I don't really see the batters changing for the next test. As for Morgan coming in, 1 knock against Pakistan last summer, but still a long way to go to be a test batsman. His time will come I don't doubt, but i suspect it'll happen in our next summer.

  • Comment number 98.

    Not a fantastic day. But we can't panic.

    Even if we lose, I don't think the team will lose that much confidence. The first innings collapse was down to one man - Johnson. We haven't seen a complete Aussie revival. Hughes, Ponting and Clarke all failed again with the bat. Siddle, Hilfenhaus and Harris all did well but not fantastically.

    If you compare that to England, only Colly and Prior haven't scored runs so far (and Prior just got a century in the warm-up), and all the bowlers are picking up wickets (although Finn is beginning to tire and is conceding too many runs).

    If we can work out how to get Hussey out cheaply and how to face Johnson's bowling when he's at his best, a series win is a definite possibility. So it's not all doom and gloom.

    And the only way I can see Colly being dropped is if we win the series with one game to spare and Morgan is brought in for the dead rubber. People may want him dropped, but the selectors won't change the batting line-up unless absolutely.

  • Comment number 99.

    Right! In about seven hours they take the field. Single mindedness, determination and a voracious appetite to get Aussie on the run is what we need. Oh - all the bowling/catching skills too, obviously. That goes without saying.

  • Comment number 100.

    If anyone thought that we would go to Australia and not lose one test match were living with their head in the clouds.

    We know what Johnson is capable of so this should not be that much of a surprise, lets not forget that he, more than anyone else should know how to bowl and bat at this ground. One good game does not win a series.

    If we lose this match which let's be honest is looking likely we should still have confidence in our team. Although my heart says we will win two more test making it 3 - 1, my head has always said 2 - 1 England, there is no reason to panic.


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