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Ashes reckoning approaches

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Tom Fordyce | 08:21 UK time, Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Sydney, New South Wales

The closer we get to the finishing line, the faster the heart beats.

Tuesday at the SCG was a nerve-jangler of the sort that only a tight Test can produce - see-sawing this way and that, the crowd baying and bawling, punches aimed and traded but the knockout blow never quite landing.

At stumps England were 167-3, 113 runs in arrears. It could have been a lot better. It could have been a lot worse. After three completely one-sided contests, we find ourselves in an old-fashioned ding-dong. It feels both thrilling and rather awful.

Barring some sort of meteorological mayhem - which you probably can't, bearing in mind the summer Australia has experienced so far - this match is likely to end in a result, which is imbuing every session and individual innings with the sort of series-deciding significance that sees nails chewed off and hair pulled out.

Who will emerge as the hero in this final act? Which is key plot development? Like the series itself, it is still up for grabs.

Three little moments stood out amid the tension.

In the morning session, Australia on the ropes at 190-8, Mitchell Johnson wafted wildly at a tempter from James Anderson and was a bat sticker away from an edge. He survived, and Australia prospered to add another 90 runs as they were eventually bowled out for 280.

Could Cook's reprieve after being caught off a no-ball swing the Ashes fate?

Could Cook's reprieve after being caught off a no-ball swing the final Ashes Test fate? Photo: Reuters

Four hours later, England themselves wobbling, England's leading run-scorer Alastair Cook aimed a horrible clout at debutant Michael Beer and was caught at mid-on, only for umpire Billy Bowden to call for a replay that showed a half-inch no-ball. Cook, walking off for 46, was reprieved and ended unbeaten on 61.

Then, the close of play in sight and England cruising at 165-2, Kevin Pietersen aimed a needless, adrenalised hook at a well-signalled Johnson bouncer and was caught on the fence for 36.

The stage is set for someone. But no-one has yet made the decisive move.

Australia's innings had been a strangely two-paced affair, Usain Bolt at one end and Geoff Capes at the other.

Resuming on 134-4, they lost Brad Haddin to Anderson's ninth ball of the day to a horrible slash outside off and then, as if collectively aghast at that profligacy, decided to play with all the brio of a hungover Chris Tavare.

Between 67 and 77 overs only 13 runs were scored. A run-rate that was already pedestrian sat on its backside, folded its arms and refused to come out to play.

In their first innings at the MCG a week ago the Australian top order had thrown themselves over the cliff without bothering to look. Here at the SCG they spotted the signs reading 'DANGER' and decided against going anywhere near the edge.

It was Australia's slowest innings for 12 years, just one four coming in the first 75 minutes as England's bowlers kept the tourniquet tight and their fielders stopped everything that came within diving reach.

When Mike Hussey went for 33 from 99 balls to an inside edge by Paul Collingwood - the final delivery with the old ball - England looked likely to see Australia off for under 200 and take a decisive grip on the match, only for the ghosts of the Waca to suddenly start rattling their chains.

In Perth Australia's last two wickets had stuck on 67 runs, slapping and slogging their side back into contention after they had been eight down for 201.

Here they did even better. When Ben Hilfenhaus, a nailed-on number 11 in any other team, came to the crease to join Johnson, they were 189-8. By the time he departed they had reached the comparative high ground of 280, alive in both game and series and with momentum and noise behind them.

Johnson's 53 came off 66 balls, with five fours and a huge slogged six off Graeme Swann. Hilfenhaus was so inspired by what he saw that he took a little sashay down the track to launch Tim Bresnan deep into the crowd at midwicket.

As if on cue, England's reply also followed the Perth plan. In that third Test Strauss and Cook had strolled to 78 without loss, only for a rapid clatter of wickets to throw the game wide open.

Here they breezed to 98 for no wicket, the Australian bowling as inconsistent as England's had been miserly. Johnson shipped 23 from his first five overs, Hilfenhaus 35 from his first eight. Strauss had raced to the fastest half-century of his Test career, Cook offering steady support.

Hilfenhaus's cunning off-cutter changed all that. When Jonathan Trott went in the next over, playing on to a ball from Johnson he could have ignored to record his first duck in 30 Test innings, Australian danders were up. While Cook's escape stunned the home supporters into silence, KP's ill-advised and poorly-timed aggression sent them out into the streets in full voice.

English hopes rest heavily on Cook. Already in this innings he has passed several personal landmarks - 5,000 Test runs at a younger age than anyone bar Sachin Tendulkar, becoming only the second Englishman since 1970/1 to score 600 runs in an Ashes series down under and then going past the total scored by the other, Michael Vaughan with three days left to fill his boots.

Vaughan's runs could not alter the outcome of the series in 2002/3. Cook's already have, and could yet decide the final reckoning.

Johnson, that most perplexing and indiscriminate of fast bowlers, could yet be his side's match-winner. Top scorer in their first innings, he produced both filth and fury with the ball, alternating vicious and village green with seemingly no idea of what might happen next.

His fifth over showcased it beautifully. The first ball, full on leg stump, was clipped away for three. The second was short and wide of off and went for two in the opposite direction. His third, a full toss a yard wide of leg stump, drew jeers and laughter in equal measure. The fourth was fast and nasty, the fifth short and spitting and the sixth another full bunger.

In his next over he got Trott's wicket and suddenly became unplayable. Work that one out, because he certainly can't.

The pitch is doing something, but will be at its best for batting on day three. An England lead of 100 would put them in a box seat. A fourth-innings target of anything close to 250 would not.

It will not be for the faint-hearted.


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  • Comment number 1.

    I have no nails left, and barely no fingers. It couldn't get closer than this. Thanks AGAIN Tom for a fantastic article.

  • Comment number 2.

    thanks for another great blog Tom, you have summed up perfectly how finely balanced this test match is. I believe England will have the character and skill to produce another win! Keep the faith!

  • Comment number 3.

    Finally, a match to get excited about. Where's the fun in watching one team dominate another? I want to see Hilfenhaus and Beer, or Anderson and Tremlett together at the crease in the final few overs on the final day, batting to win, or save, the match. Now that'll be exciting.

  • Comment number 4.

    Got a horrible feeling this one won't go our way, i would Kevin Keegan styley 'love it' if it did. It seems we are lacking that killer instinct at the moment - at two crucial periods when the test was for the taking (Perth at 201/8 and today at 189/8) we foiled. However with the match being neck-and-neck at the moment if England squeese out a victory it will show how far England has come

  • Comment number 5.

    Once again England fail to get out the last few wickets. 70 unnecessary runs in my opinion. And the late wicket of Pietersen is a worry. You have to put 9, 10 and jack under pressure. No cheap runs.

  • Comment number 6.

    At last a truly competitive Test match and as you say, Tom, the outcome is too uncertain and too dependent on unknown factors to predict,save unless there is seriously intrusive rain, it will not be a draw.

    I think that Australia will win if they get off to a good start bowling tomorrow, especially in the first hour and England have lost 3-4 wickets and are still 40 odd runs behind at Lunch. Mainly the problem for England is batting last though Beer is a Test novice and Johnstone remains an enigma.

    My thoughts like most others on the result don't count for much but England want the Series win and must go for this Test win. Australian cricketers are tough, proud and determined and those are the qualities they will need to take them to a win. England have done well but I feel that when pressure is applied (eg Perth) they are never far away from old frailties and disaster. Time will tell and the Summer series with India will be worth watching. And, with no Tests before August, i expect to see a largely revamped Australian team coming back with a vengeance against all other Countries.

    Perhaps, as is right, Cricket itself will be the winner.

  • Comment number 7.

    Objectively, England are still in control. The decision to bat first has put pressure a-plenty on Australia and their new (?temporary?) captain. Assume, for the sake of the debate, that England get to about 275-285 all out by mid-afternoon tomorrow. It becomes a one innings match that Australia have to win. But, on the evidence of this pitch so far, they will struggle to score runs fast enough to set England a challenging target.
    So, what does Clarke do? Does he aim to score as fast as possible, and risk losing wickets to the generally impressively miserly English bowling? Or, does he simply accumulate runs at the speed at which they come, running the risk either that he will have to declare earlier than he would like (to give his bowlers a chance to take 10 wickets), or that England will not have to bat for long to gain the draw that will secure the series?
    Of course, an England collapse to 200 all out, or an England lead of 150+, would blow that careful analysis out of the water, but this doesn't seem so far to be either a minefield or a featherbed of a pitch, such that collapses or huge totals are likely.
    Like most of us, I wish Pietersen hadn't holed out, but I do hope (possibly in vain!) that we aren't in for a day of Pietersen bashing on this curiously addictive and very entertaining blog.

  • Comment number 8.

    Looks like it's going to go to the wire. I wonder what odds you can get on Collingwood emerging as the hero tomorrow and saving his place into the bargain?

    Australia could come to rue that no-ball as Cook looks a good bet for a third ton of the series.

    Test cricket at its best...

    Day 2 at the SCG dissected: England progress after sting in the tail from Johnson

  • Comment number 9.

    anybody able to comment on whenever hilfenhaus was batting, which was virtually a free wicket for any bowler , why theres was no yorkers bowled and we decided to just channel it outside off stump to a guy who doesnt know which end of the bat to hold!
    England should have wrapped this aussie innings up for less than 220 yet now we have let them back into the game

  • Comment number 10.

    Perfectly poised, as you say Tom someone needs to step up and stand out - I've got a sneaky feeling that Collingwood could be that man - let's hope so!

  • Comment number 11.


    I think you are overstating the case with "lack the killer instinct" and "once again fail to get the last few wickets".

    Actually England have wrapped up the tail very cheaply in 5 innings so far, and in 1 of the 3 that they didn't the match was dead anyway (Siddle & Haddin blasting away in the 2nd innings at Melbourne). In modern cricket that is a pretty good strike rate- pretty much all tail enders can hold a bat now and 9,10,J are expected to strike a few and/or keep a batsman company. Sure it could bite them- it could also be irrelevant.

    Nicely balanced game

  • Comment number 12.

    Tom, old chap, Geoff Capes held the British record for the 40 metres! He had explosive pace over short distances, so maybe the Bolt/Capes comparison is suggesting that Bolt is the sluggard out of the blocks?

    England need Alistair Cook to go on to a century and beyond and for two of Collingwood, Bell and Prior to score 50s. If that happens, we will have a significant first innings lead and be in the box seat.

    And, once again, England's bowlers have maintained their record of only conceeding 310 or more runs once during the entire tour.

  • Comment number 13.

    Exciting stuff!! My gut feeling is that as England gave away 2 of their 3 wickets our batmen can command if they stay focused. I hope the Cook will serve up 3 figures and I'd like to think this could be Bell's big moment to ring true. While both teams desire a win I think secretly they fear the bigger backlash from losing more, but as neither side has the batmen with the Boycott-esque temperament to see out a draw (maybe Hussey, Cook & Trott excluded) we are game on for a result.

  • Comment number 14.

    Why so negative guys, look we bowled well, their tail wgged a bit but then they were throwing the bat at everything. It seems to be that sort of wicket. There's a ball with your name on it coming what we should eb thankful for is that their top order decided to try to play properly and consistantly got that ball.
    Great bowling by Anderson averaging 2.2 and over, Swann averaging 2.3 an over (was very unlucky not to take more wickets) and colly at 1.25 an over and the prize of Hussey (impressive). The others were banging it in a bit, doesn't seem to be that sort of wicket.
    If Cook concentrates, he knows how to do that we should pass them and move onto a decent score, I don't buy this we gave them 90 odd runs rubbish at the end, it was a good performance by the tail and shows what can be achieve on this wicket with a bit of application.
    Cook and Colly will grind us out a lead, then its up to the bowlers to prevent them getting a 200 lead which could be interesting on this wicket to get 4th innings.
    We are going to win 3-1 and my bank manager is going to be a lot happier!

  • Comment number 15.

    They also scored way to slowly down to our attack getting on top of them, if we rattle along at 3.5 an over like we are doing we should ahve a healthy lead by tea tomorrow.

  • Comment number 16.

    Tomorrow is the key day - if England bat for most of it and get a decent lead then Australia will only have 2 days to overhaul that lead, set England a decent total, and give themselves time to bowl england out again. Some thoughts:

    1) The aussie tail has outperformed England's thus far and arguably done most to keep them in the series. A strong performance from the england tail tomorrow could well decide the game.

    2) This innings will surely decide Collingwood's test future. The stage is set, vintage Colly would come in and get a battling and time consuming half century at the very least.

    3) The next 3 days are about stamina as much as anything else. This england team came over early and have worked incredibly hard to overcome some considerable australian momentum (the Brisbane first innings and Perth) to retain the ashes with a test to spare. They must be pretty tired now, can Strauss and Flower motivate them for one last time or will they settle for a drawn series?


  • Comment number 17.

    #9 - We are all as frustrated as you with the runs that the lower order batsman added, however the Aussies still scored a below par total for this ground. Yes it would have been nice to get them all out for 220 or less but we still remain the team most in control of this match. It is now upto our batsman to get us a lead of about 120/150 which I think they are more than capable of which would put enormous pressure on the Aussies to get quick runs to give themselves a chance of bowling us out in the final day. I still think England are the ones most likely to win providing we dont collapse tomorrow morning.

  • Comment number 18.


    I don't buy comment 3, I think we are fitted than we used to be our attack is so much better than theirs at the moment. I was reading int he telegraph the other day all our bowlers are ahead of theirs (of course it helps if you have 2 innings victories but then our bowlers can't be blamed for poor Australian batting).
    Collingwood is probably going to retire from test cricket after this match (at least I predict he will) to concentrate on one dayers. So I don't think ti will matter what happens this test.
    What would beice and would shut certain bloggers up on here would be if they get ahead and Colly scores the winning runs day 4 or 5. That would be a fitting end to a fine test career.

  • Comment number 19.


    Spot on, with application this should be ours for the taking and history will be made!

  • Comment number 20.

    Thanks Tom; great blog as ever! This one is set up perfectly....
    Who will come to the party? Can Anderson stick around and irritate the bowlers? Will Collingwood finally score some runs this series? Can Bell deliver under pressure? And which Mitchell Johnson will turn up; the one that bowls worse than I did at school, or the one that strikes fear into the hearts of Englishmen?
    England have dominated this series (with the exception of Perth and one and a half days in Brisbane) so completely, that they haven't been made to graft. Now things are different, and they will have to perform under intense pressure.
    I back Cook to show that he really is 'F.E.C' material and score a big one, even with batsmen falling around him. If we can scrape a lead of 80 - 130 then we're in prime position. Tremlett and Anderson to then steam into their fragile batting lineup.....
    It'll be close, but game on!

  • Comment number 21.

    I don't really want to kick-off the Pietersen bashing but you do have to wonder where he leaves his brains when he goes out to bat. He was looking in great form and had been ultra-disciplined for about 30-40 minutes before his dismissal, ignoring a succession of drivable wide balls from Beer, but then goes and gives it away with the close in sight. What should have been 170 odd for 2 will now most probably be 170 odd for 4 if Anderson goes early tomorrow. I still think we'll get a decent lead of 80 or so but it's certainly made me more than a bit nervous!

    Collingwood surely has to make a significant contribution with the bat at some point in this series. I suggest tomorrow would be a good time.

  • Comment number 22.


    I like the Johnson description made a few days ago.

    'He's got a suprise new delivery, one that's aimed at the stumps'

    The wickets got some uneven bounce but the Sydney day 3,4 and 5 starts to turn and I doubt Swann will be as unlucky as he was first innings 150 would be a great lead if it starts turning a bit.

  • Comment number 23.

    England to win by 2 wickets

  • Comment number 24.

    #18 - we certainly are a lot fitter (and better), we proved that at the MCG. But this is about mental strength as well as physical fitness - having been on tour for so long and already secured the ashes, keeping the mind focused will be difficult. How many times have you seen the home side win a final test to square/win a tight series?

  • Comment number 25.


    Mama its what I was pointing out yesterday KP's average minus that 227 he scored in Adelaide isn't that much better than Colly's.

    Pietersens averages over the last few series compared against Colly (Colly on left KP on right)

    Colly KP

    2008 v SA 58.00......46.50
    2008/09 v India 42.66......49.66
    2008/09 v WI 61.42......58.00
    2009 v WI 68 ......24.5
    2009 v Aus 27.77......38.25
    2009/10 v SA 57.33......25.28
    2009/10 v Bang 49.33......83.33
    2010 v Bang DNP......46.00
    2010 v Pak 19.83......23.33
    2010/11 v Aus 14.00......64.80

    Lose that 227 runs and its decidely ordinary. Lots have been calling for Colly's head how about KP stepping up tot he plate some of the shots he's got himself out with have been loose to say the least.

  • Comment number 26.


    A few times yes but I think this time we are differnet you get this feeling that we believe we can beat them now where as before it was more in hope.

  • Comment number 27.

    We have been told constantly over the past few weeks how poor this Oz side is by ex-players, jounalists, pundits, 'experts' etc etc and yet there is a chance we may draw the series with them.

    I think that says a lot lot more about how good this England side REALLY are, than it does how bad Australia currently are.......

  • Comment number 28.

    Finally - a situation made for Collingwood ...!

  • Comment number 29.

    OH DEAR, Looks like Papa Shango is wrong again:

    9:08pm on 03 Jan 2011, papa shango always right wrote:
    #113 Haddin & Hussey to be unbeaten at lunch & scoring at 4 an over. Would be 6 an over if Finn was trundling in.

    Haddin's gone already 15 minutes in. Wrong AGAIN!

  • Comment number 30.

    #25 I should have copyrighted that research!
    #27 England are a good side, not necessarily great, but going in the right direction. On the same note Aus or not completely rubbish but have been generally outplayed by a better side. Not many teams go to Aus and win a test series, so if England do manage to win or draw this test, they will certainly deserve all of their plaudits.

  • Comment number 31.

    England have done superbly well to retain the Ashes but why oh why do they make their mouths go about what they are going to do before matches.
    Remember pre Perth, Ashes before Xmas and all that rubbish.England had two bad sessions and ended up losing by 1 run short of an innings
    This is Australia in their own back yard and however good or bad they may be they are always scrappers and we would do well to remember that

  • Comment number 32.

    Jimmy Anderson to bag a 50!!! Wishful I know, but heres hoping!!!

  • Comment number 33.

    Lose that 227 runs and its decidely ordinary.


    This argument (not just when it's about KP) is quite possibly the most ludicrous argument to be posted about cricket. "Take away his decent scores, what's he done?"

  • Comment number 34.

    Perhaps I am confused? Why barring weather will there be a result? If England bat well all day today it gives us, assuming a reasonable run rate a lead of nearing 200, Australia then start off early on day four, at best get a 100 run lead by the end of day 4, bat another session and a bit to get a lead of say 200-250 and its game on, all three results are possible. Whilst this does rely on England batting well i see no reason why if Cook doesn't stay out there and he gets some help from bell, prior, swann and bresnan this can't be achieved. The only part of my scenario that is implausible would be Australia scoring 400-450 to have any kind of a significant lead! But at the run rate they batted at in their first innings to get any kind of a lead will take them till lunch on day 5 if England can produce with the bat

  • Comment number 35.

    England's batting aside for a second:

    Have I been living under stone? Where did Chris Tremlett come from? This guy has been outstanding, consistent line and length.... His physical size is enough to have the batsmen reaching for the Imodium!

    Looking ahead to our series against the world's best 'ehem' batting lineup this summer.... Tremlett fit and firing, Anderson swinging it all over the place, Broad back from a bad tum, Swann on song.... A fourth seamer to complete a pretty frightning attack?

  • Comment number 36.

    Sydney's weather forecast is rain for the next 2 days according to the papers...

  • Comment number 37.

    I was surprised to see the words "Pietersen" and "brains" mentioned in the same sentence (#21)

  • Comment number 38.

    30. At 12:39pm on 04 Jan 2011, Smudger wrote:
    #27 England are a good side, not necessarily great, but going in the right direction. On the same note Aus or not completely rubbish but have been generally outplayed by a better side. Not many teams go to Aus and win a test series, so if England do manage to win or draw this test, they will certainly deserve all of their plaudits.


    It is depressing how readily a few people will put England down if they can. In this case, the fact that Australia *MAY* draw the series (and they are going to have to do a lot better in this Test than they have so far in the first two days to win), is used as an excuse to slam England's ability.

    In other words, based on something that may not even happen and probably won't, England are ****!!!

    And if we win 3-1 but Australia *could* have shared the series? Are we still poor?

    Just for the guys who like putting the team down, when did India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, West Indies or New Zealand last win a series in Australia? South Africa won one 2 years ago and then promptly lost the return series at home. Neither India nor Sri Lanka have EVER won a series in Australia. Even when India played a weakened Australia with McGrath injured and Warne banned they only managed to draw the series.

    It's too easy to denigrate the England performance by exagerating how bad the opposition has been and then suggesting that somehow winning becomes easy.

  • Comment number 39.

    Please take a look at my blog for Ashes news, stat and polls

  • Comment number 40.

    Nice Blog Tom and good work from all of the BBC Live Text journos (a godsend for those of as without Sky). We need to be still in at close of play tomorrow even if 9 wickets down - that would pretty much assure nothing worse than a draw. I mentioned yesterday that its the Aussies that need to push on and take risks, if we can get a lead of 150 or more they HAVE score heavily to force a result...which should mean plenty of chances for wickets!

  • Comment number 41.

    400 would be a good score for England. Can only assume it won't rain, but of course, I wouldn't mind the next 3 days rained off. No interruptions, I can see a stressful chase of 150 for England to win the ashes.

    As for the criticisms about "same old england failing to finish off the tail" - this is the first time on the tour you can really say the aussie tail has wagged, and it happens in cricket. England do it to other teams as well. It's frustrating, but you have to stop moaning and get on with it.

  • Comment number 42.

    I think its only supposed to rain on Friday..This is going to be a nailbiter and has a touch of the Perths about it unfortunately. The first session tomorrow morning will probably decide in whose direction this Test goes in. Perfect situation for Collingwood - question is, can he remember overnight how to bat?
    If England get a lead, they should win, if they are bowled out for 250(perfectly possible) - they will be in trouble.
    The rain may save England as it did at the Oval in 05 as they will have bat last on a wearing pitch - a difficult prospect.
    England have been so dominant on this Tour bar a few sessions here and whilst the Ashes are safe for another few years in English hands, anything less than a Series win will feel a bit of a letdown...

  • Comment number 43.

    5 stages of tragedy

    According to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book 'On death and dying' there are up to 5 discrete stages someone will pass through before an acceptance of loss. They are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

    Not all Australian fans will go through all 5, but everyone will go through at least 2, and the stages will not neccessarily be in the order above. Also, Australian fans may experience a 'roller coaster' effect, where they pass in and out of several stages.

    Most Australian fans are probably still in denial, although some England fans actually in Australia may well have witnessed anger and depression.

    What can you do if you know an Australian?

    The most important thing is that you must allow the Australian fan to work it through in his own time, do not push or rush him, buy him a beer and give him the chance to talk about how they used to be great.

    Most of all he needs to realise that they used to have a once-in-a-hundred-years bowler who performed magic tricks whenever asked, but he's gone now, and until the Australian accepts this he can't move on and start to plan positivley for the future.

    Widely occuring and inaccurate discoveries of 'the new Messiah', like a scene from 'Life of Brian', throughout the last 4 years are unfortunate proof of a still widespread culture of denial.

    At this juncture, you can point out that it took England a couple of decades to stop looking for our 'new Messiah', and they can look forward to getting back the Ashes sometime around 2025!

  • Comment number 44.

    Call me a worrier but I have a bad feeling about the outcome of this test. I listened to TMS with increasing frustration as the convicts scored 70 more vital runs than they should have much like Perth.
    I think the impetus is with Australia.If Cook goes early then we could easily by 6 down for not very many as I don't expect Anderson or Collingwood to trouble the scorers unduly.
    This puts enormous pressure on Bell & Prior as the England bowlers have contributed little with the bat this series.
    As for KP, if he is the worlds top batsman then I am chairman of the Brewery! Top players do not throw away their wickets with the boring regularity Mr Peterson does.
    Now where are my worry beads

  • Comment number 45.

    42. At 12:59pm on 04 Jan 2011, EarlsfieldOwl wrote:
    The rain may save England as it did at the Oval in 05
    ???Did it??? I seem to remember Pietersen getting 158 and being well supported by Ashley Giles. Might have to re-watch the DVD to check.
    Stargazer - By quoting me are you suggesting I'm having a go at the English team? If you are then you are most assuredly mistaken.

  • Comment number 46.


    You can't just take someones best score out of the stats! That defeats the object of having stats in the first place.

  • Comment number 47.

    Not at all Smudger. I am supporting your efforts as you are one of the more level-headed posters on here...

    Too much doom, gloom and despondency from people who are more than half-hoping that England will lose (and from some who don't mind England losing if their pet hate player gets the blams).

  • Comment number 48.

    I actually think we will show our class tomorrow and you will see a big partnership between Cook and Collingwood. Colly is playing for his test career and he is never better than when under extreme pressure. Watch Jimmy get them frustrated when they can't get him cheaply and Cook and Colly to push the score past 350.

    Or am I just a little bit biased !!

  • Comment number 49.

    Weather in Sydney will -in the main - be fine the next 3 days with part sun/part cloud. Chance of a shower on Thursday.

  • Comment number 50.

    thanks SG. Agreed, as England supporters I guess it's ingrained to be a little negative, but our performances throughout this series with the exception of Perth have shown this current bunch have a bit more about them. Stating the obvious it's all about the first session tomorrow, but if ever a 2 hour period was goung to be series defining then the pre-lunch session tomorrow is going to be it. Hope that we get through that with only Anderson and possibly Collingwood out. If Cook and Bell are in at lunch then we should be virtually on par with the Aussie score with plenty still to come and a good chance of a 200+ lead. Lose 4 or more wickets in that session then we're looking at a first innings deficit and that could be fatal. Most interesting and delicately poised period so far in the whole series.

  • Comment number 51.

    #29 - Was there any point in that post when it's all been said before?

  • Comment number 52.

    Actually Smudger, it will be a 2.5 hour session. And as the new ball won't be available until a while after lunch, it could potentially be a long, hard session for the bowlers with an increasing soft old ball if they don't take early wickets.

    I agree with the people saying that we let them off the hook yesterday, but Strauss's inning re-dressed the balance. With the extra half hour we could well be ahead by lunch: if we are, every run that we add will ratchet up the pressure on Michael Clarke.

  • Comment number 53.

    #44 - How is the impetus with Australia, they know they have to get 7 more wickets, then bat again, most likely chasing down a lead (however slight)before ensuring england have to bat again, then set England a total that they cant chase down in a couple of sessions? Sorry i dont see how the Aussies are in a superior position? Im sure the Aussies would jump at the chance to be in our position.

  • Comment number 54.

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

  • Comment number 55.

    Wow, how pessimistic we are. We are more or less 100 runs behind with 7 wickets in the bag. We should post a lead of at least 50-100, maybe more. We look the better bowling attack.

    Of course, we *might* collapse, they *might* bat like hell for a day and a half ... might, might, might.

    I reckon Colly is gonna put on a big partnership and then we will bowl them out needing about 100 to win, which we will knock off with 6-8 wickets in hand. Thank you, good night.

  • Comment number 56.

    The first session tomorrow will be crucial. If we can bat through that with minimal wickets lost then we'll be in the box seat. If the Aussies pull a rabbit out of the hat and skittle us, then it's theirs for the taking. Personally though, I'm expecting Anderson to be a real pain and hang around half the morning (whether he gets runs or not as well I don't know) and Cook to plough on as he has all series.

    If England get a 1st Innings lead though, I don't see Oz being able to win the test especially if there are further rain breaks.

    And come on Colly, I want a good innings from you tomorrow, you deserve it !

  • Comment number 57.

    When Jimmy Anderson is atuned to being a pain in the neck to the bowlers he can hang around for a long time. I recall that he had one really nice innings against Australia in 2009 where he went on the attack and posted a decent partnership very quickly to knock the stuffing out of the bowling.

    Provided that Cook hangs around and gets his century, all we need is for Jimmy to hang in there and annoy the hell out of the bowlers.

  • Comment number 58.

    Put it this way, if Cook gets a century, the chances are the scores will be level. Bell, Prior in good form, with Bresnan pretty capable with the bat.

    Of course, Australia COULD bowl 7 wicket taking deliveries straight up in the morning, but then you'd have to CONGRATULATE THE OPPOSITION and not become a bunch of fairies crying about how english cricket is rotten to the core and has become a social event for a load of players who are only in the side cos they're all mates.

  • Comment number 59.

    "Have I been living under stone? Where did Chris Tremlett come from? This guy has been outstanding, consistent line and length.... His physical size is enough to have the batsmen reaching for the Imodium!"

    Because of his height he has always had the ability to bowl an unplayable delivery, a bit like Harmison, and I think he has long been noted by the England set up. The problem was that he couldn't get any kind of consistency or rhythm until this season when he was outstanding for Surrey and he has carried that control through to this Ashes series. Will be very interesting to see whether Broad is brought back for the Sri Lanka series (assuming he's fit).

    Although other posters have said that the criticism is unfair I really think that the bowling coaches and the bowlers need to decide upon a clear method for bowling out the lower order, as well as restricting their scoring. We're not talking about a few annoying runs here, that 70 or 80 could easily be the difference between winning and losing this match. It is a characteristic of quality cricket teams over the years that once they are on top of a batting side they don't give them anything of a way back into the game. We need to do the same.

    The match really is in the balance at the moment. If Cook and Anderson can withstand the undoubted energy and aggresion which Australia will come out with tomorrow morning then we could get a very useful lead of 100. Anything much less than a 60-70 lead, or even a deficit, and you would say Australia might just be edging it because England will be batting last on a pitch which is sure to deteriorate and still offer a bit through the air.

    Given the time which batsmen seem to have when playing off the back foot here at Sydney this might be a track which suits Collingwood whose main flaw has been the straight short ball. If he can get a 100 partnership with Cook then all will be forgiven ;)

  • Comment number 60.

    #45 - it rained a bit. Yes KP got a big ton and Giles batted well but the rain delays here and there helped as it reduced Australia's chances of getting a result, increasing the confidence of the England Players. Bottom line is that if there is rain over the next few days, its only going to help England's cause.

    Got to build a lead tomorrow though...real pressure on Colly and Bell for the first time since Perth. Will they deliver? If we are in front, we should be fine.

  • Comment number 61.

    #58, I am not sure that you are allowed to compare the England side with diminitive members of the fantasy world population. Earlier in the tour I had a post of mine pulled because I noted that the England bowlers were showing themselves not to be related to small animals of the genus felis and was amused to discover that someone took great exception to the phrase :-).

  • Comment number 62.

    Round here, the air was blue when KP got out last night, which was a bit unfortunate as I live next door to a convent! Complaints from the Mother Superior will be re-directd to Sydney.

    As long as we weather the first hour for the loss of only(say) Anderson, we look to me to have enough batting to gain a decent lead. We do need to win this. Simply retaining the Ashes after a 2-2 series draw will not indicate the measure of our superiotity on this tour.

    I'm saving my congratulations for later, but for now, Strauss seems to me to have been an admirable skipper: measured, focussed and by no means a loudmouth (pace NBButtermilk @31).

  • Comment number 63.

    Looking at the weather forecast in Australia (and remember this is only a forecast) It looks like Thursday after lunch will have several rain interuptions as they are forecasting showers up until about 8pm. Also looks like a few showers at for the morning and lunch of Friday.

    Aside from that, England did let the Aussies off the hook by about 50 runs. However i cant see England having a deficit going into the second innings. It would be a remarkable turnaround for the Aussies to bag 7 wickets for 100 or so runs. Its possible, but it has not looked likely. I might of course be eating my words tomorrow.

    I would expect England to get over 300 from this position. Any lead of more than 50 runs is going to put pressure on the fragile opening partnership of the Aussies. If they can bat until tea with a lead of 100 or so then i think Australia will find it hard to force a result from there. The weather might be a factor but i think the Aussies own demons will be just as destructive if they have a lead to chase in the second innings with only 2 days and session left in which to set 250 plus.

  • Comment number 64.

    Time for Pietersen to save England again. He should step down from Test Cricket and concentrate on T20 after some work to develop his attention span.

  • Comment number 65.

    #64 - yeah and take his series average of 60 with him! DOH!

  • Comment number 66.

    #33. I totally agree. By saying "take out the magnificent 227 KP scored and he was not very magnificent", you're shooting yourself in the foot.

    But I know what people are saying when they take out big scores and look at players' averages after this.

    Has anyone tried looking at the MEDIAN runs scored, as opposed to the mean? This way you could include the 227 KP made, so don't have to be subjective but can include all the data, and make decent comparisons between "hot and cold" players like KP and more consistent batsmen.

  • Comment number 67.

    I know this relates to yesterday's blog on Arthur Morris but having heard the lovely interview last night (well done Tom) I thought fellow posters might like to see the recently released footageof the 1948 Ashes in which he featured as part of "The Invincibles"

    Warning - may revive painful memories for sensitive English supporters!
    of Aussie thrashings over the years.

  • Comment number 68.


    I agree I was not using it to take anything away from KP as I would not advocate dropping him nor would I advocate dropping Colly. Colly has had a bad series with the bat, thats a fact. There have been many calls for him to be dropped. However lots of players have bad runs and KP's other than the 227 has been pretty miserable over the last 18 months (1 century and it was a double, Colly had three).
    The argument of take away that score is one I put there in that comment but would never in real life advocate you score what you score, regardless of the opposition's quality as everyone in test cricket eventually plays everyone.
    My comment was to head off he who must not be named who will arrive soon I guess and start spouting bilge.

  • Comment number 69.

    #66, yes I have and interesting it is too when you apply it! The median is a better indication of expectation of runs per visit to the crease and certainly finds out a few players whose image is boosted by not outs and one or two big scores (hint, check Rob Key's Test median score as opposed to mean score).

  • Comment number 70.

    What happens to our bowlers after they collar the last six wickets.

    When we lost the third test we had them 69 for 5 and let them get to 260.

    They must all listen to Bumble and Co on Sky who keep telling us that the Aussie team has a long tail.

    Once we get amongst the tail enders the bowlers seem to think they can throw down any old rubbish and the wickets will fall.

    All three seamers were wayward once Hussey went.

  • Comment number 71.

    It is a cliff-hanger!

    This seesaw battle could end in a result. But, at the same time, a draw is very much in the cards. All England need to do is to avoid defeat; a draw will do the trick.

    I turned off the game last night and went to bed when Cook was on 49 and KP on 29. I am disappointed Kp did not survive the night. A nightwatchman is at the crease who may not last long on the third morning.

    Nonetheless, there is plenty of batting to come. The beleaguered Paul Collingwood will almost certainly step up to the plate to silence his critics: he has no choice. The explosive Matt Prior could produce another whirlwind cameo to put a nail in the Aussie coffin and the in-form Ian Bell is likely to carry his big bat through the innings.

    The advantage hitherto is England’s.

    A draw will result in a rare series win for the resurgent visitors and a moral victory for the embattled hosts. An England defeat will be demoralising. She cannot let is happen; there’s much at stake.

    The game hangs precariously in the balance but my money is riding on good ole England!

  • Comment number 72.


    Hot and cold describes Pieterson perfectly, he has his moments but then he also does what he did today. I thought while watching he's going to make a good score he's taking his time and knuckling down. Nah! Its like a voice inside his head says 'got to try something different, must attack'. Thats why you need a steady player backing him up in the middle order, now Colly may not be it but we need an anchor in the middle order to allow our flair player (Pieterson) to swing away.

  • Comment number 73.

    Before the start of this test I found myself struggling for motivation like before the other four because England had retained the Ashes and also because I was still numb with shock and disbelief that we had actually done it. I was born in 1987 and so had never seen England win or draw in Australia. Like in 2005 I haven't quite been able to get my head round what has happened.

    Now that the test is up and running though, and looks like turning into a cracker of a match, I find myself transfixed, desperate for England to win and above all horrified of us losing this test and somehow not winning a series that England have dominated almost completely. The way England, and particularly Alastair Cook, have played with Day 3 approaching I can't actually think we won't win though. England have far exceeded my expectations in terms of performance, and I predicted a 2-2 draw, so surely they must exceed that score as well?!

    And as for Cooky... I'm delighted he has proved so many of the doubters who called for him to be dropped not so long ago so unbelievably wrong. After this series he deserves to be mentioned in the same breathe as people such as Hammond, Boycott, Broad snr and Vaughan etc for heroics in Australia. I just hope he can get that third century, get England into a winning position and really rub it in.

  • Comment number 74.

    #69 - Interested to know what this would be? Would work it out myself but am being lazy dont want to have to look somewhere for all Rob Keys test innings scores! Whats KP's if you have it to hand pls?

  • Comment number 75.

    Many criticised Clarke's choice to bat, I commented at the time it was the right decision and I have seen nothing to change my mind. Why bat last and potentially bring Swann into the game? Why choose to bat last and chase a target when all the pressure can be put on England?

    I fear Clarke will be vindicated in his decision to bat first. For all those fans saying how pessimistic it is to think like this, were they not aware of the Perth Test? Did they not see the first two days of the series?

    England are inconsistent and two times out of three this series when the batsmen were under pressure they bottled it.

    Sure Aussies also bottled it under pressure but I think this game is a lot closer than some think.

  • Comment number 76.

    Think the only thing that is close about this game is how close England are to the finish line.

    They have by in large completely out played Australia and deserve to win the series 3-1. Had they sorted their nerves at Brisbane and avoided the collapse at Perth we could have been looking at a 5-0 whitewash of Australia. That's how much better England have been

  • Comment number 77.

    #76, if Australia can bowl us out cheaply in the morning with an increasingly soft old ball, I for one will be very disappointed, although I would tip my hat to the Australian attack for the achievement.

    The most likely outcome, as you say, is that England close out the game, having taken a useful lead tomorrow. The most likely game situation this time tomorrow is Australia to have lost several wickets while trying to wipe off the deficit and set some kind of lead.

  • Comment number 78.


    I posted KP's averages up there somwhere but don't have the individual innings

  • Comment number 79.

    33. At 12:44pm on 04 Jan 2011, Kapnag wrote:

    Lose that 227 runs and its decidely ordinary.

    A touch of 'What have the Romans ever done for us' about that comment, sir.

  • Comment number 80.


    Clarke had to bat first, he would of course have been hoping for a big score from his top order then as you point out he may not have to face Swann day 4-5 on a turning wicket.
    It was the correct descision for them, we just bowled our socks off and restricted them rather well at first, less well towards the end when we got a bit lets say 'carried away'.

  • Comment number 81.

    How ridiculous to say "had they sorted their nerves in Brisbane and avoided collapsing in Perth it would have been 5-0". True but one eyed and silly. By the same token had Australia not collapsed in Adelaide and Melbourne and batted better it would be 3-0 to them. 4-0 if they had won in Brisbane"

    Reread what you wrote. It really is comically one eyed.
    We will deserve to win 3-1 if we do. I hope we do but just trying to get people here to think realistically. I have seen numerous false dawns in English cricket over the past 25 years.

  • Comment number 82.

    #76 - we deserve what we have got, which is the ashes retained, a 2-1 lead and a better than even chance in this game. At Brisbane and Perth we got what we deserved. We should win the series but if we lose this game we can have no complaints...

  • Comment number 83.


    That was my comment and was not mean't quiet in the context it has been requoted in. I was just pointing out that with Mr Pieterson we seem to have feast or more recently (and more often) famine. To restate Iw ould not ever call for him to be dropped he's to good for that

  • Comment number 84.

    Forders - was gutted not to have you on live text updates with Dirs for this series but have to say I've enjoyed your daily blogs immensely right through the tour, they've been almost as good as England have. Stellar work, sir.

    Now exercise some of that higher power you've developed over the course of the Ashes and nab us the series win please! Another Cook ton, one for Bell, deadly England bowling and series winning runs from Collingwood (if he's going out then let's send him out on a high).


  • Comment number 85.

    We English cricket fans are an understandably nervy bunch.

    Try to see it as a neutral - whose position would you rather be in? All out having scored at a deathly slow rate for a day and a half and needing wickets and runs to force a win OR seven wickets in hand, 113 behind with one of the best spin bowlers in the world and only needing a draw?

    Interested to note that Bell still needs to prove to some that he can bat under pressure.

    Collingwood has just taken Hussey's wicket and the match could easily come down to his batting - anyone else written him off before? I have and I refuse to do it again.

    Nervy? Certainly!

    Pessimistic? No way!

  • Comment number 86.

    Cook, Collingwood, Bell - they have our chances of a win in their hands.

    Fail to overcome the deficit and, indeed, have a big score to chase in our second innings and it'll really be desperately difficult and wobbly.

    If ever Collingwood wanted a stage to return to form with a hundred (or two!) it's this one, though. Golden opportunity to be the saviour.

  • Comment number 87.

    The issue with Pieterson is that he's worth his place in the team but (unlike most truely great batsmen) you wouldn't want 3 or 4 of him - he delivers and fustrates in equal measures. The england top 6 has a good balance at the moment which has been threatened by Collingwood's lack of form - the danger is that if we replace him with another Pieterson, the team will become less resiliant...

  • Comment number 88.

    Well no doubt about the star of the show.

    Two catches and figures of 4 overs, 2 maidens, one for five! My guess is best average return of the series by any bowler so far! ;-)

    Where's PSAR when you want him .... oh yes, back in school :-(

  • Comment number 89.

    paul, fair enough I see I have taken it out of context, you'll have to forgive me as I am completely sleep deprived at the moment, barely able to get through the working day (knowing it's not going to be an early night tonight anyway). For what it's worth, if the point you're making is that Collingwood gets far too much stick, I completely agree.

    However, it is a common argument on these pages to take out scores that otherwise decimate a poster's argument, and well KP is KP - he's a one off. Funny comment from the sky team about the collision with Bresnan that KP hasn't batted, bowled, took a catch, and yet we've still ended up talking about him!

  • Comment number 90.


    I would agree about the false dawn statement if we didn't have the strength in depth in attack we have.

    Anderson (matured bowling really well with the kookaburgh (can't spell it I know)
    Broad (when he returns he's gonna have a fight on for his place)
    Swann (best finger spinner we have had in over a decade 14 wickets on seaming wickets is a good performance despite what others on here have said)
    Tremlett (bowled really well and a great 'find')
    Finn (expensive but again bowled amazingly well first two tests)
    Bresnan (similar to Tremlett)
    Collingwood (good option to tease out a wicket or bottle one end)

    There are several more waiting in the wings. The batting needs some work still but I am more confident now than at any time in the 25 odd years of supporting England. We are a good sidem not a great side yet, but we are getting there. I also like the fact that we have bowled well this series (like 2005) we haven't given them much to work with. To often in the past we had steady bowlers like Gus Fraser, but backed up with people like Gladstone Small, Devon Malcolm, Peter Such etc. who were all good bowlers but unfortunately while they had thei moments also had some shockers. If one bowler doesn't perform in the current line up, then like 2005 we have 4 more who are gonna get you out one way or another.

  • Comment number 91.


    Agree completely, thats why I was so against the calls for Morgan to replace Collingwood. Morgans a dasher, like KP, can we afford two dashers in our middle order (depends on who we are playing). Collingwood is out of form but on form he is an accumulator who occupies crease time and allows the dashers around him to do their thing. Its something that some posters on here never understand that a team requires a mix of players. Test matches are not sprint's and getting carried away after one day (which I realise I have done lol)is never a great thing. Blame it on sleep deprevation and jet lag.

  • Comment number 92.

    #69 and 74 (and everyone discussing averages)

    Frankly - the mean average system is utterly unsuited to Test cricket, which is game of consistency and continual attrition for, in this case, 6 hours a day for the best part of a month straight.

    A big double hundred is a numerical distortion of a batsmen's true contribution, surrounded as it can be by a host of low scores in the 10s and 20s. This is especially salient if that big score was achieved in a dead rubber, or in a situation where others had already secured a position of dominance in the match or series.

    KP's 227 was unrepresentative of his performance across 9 innings in this series so far, and indeed I believe this holds true for his Test career as a whole when viewed on a median (or, indeed, modal) average basis.

  • Comment number 93.


    Here's KP innings by innings:;template=results;type=batting;view=innings

    Only really failed at Perth on this trip, as did everybody else.

    Other than Perth, KP has 43, 227, 51 and 36. Well played KP.

  • Comment number 94.

    43 and 37 are not "well played KP". They are both scores below the standard required of a top Test batsmen in the modern game, not to mention one feted as one of the most talented in the world.

    227 and 51 I'll give you - although in the case of the latter KP (again) should have gone on to more and didn't because he (again) forgot where he was.

  • Comment number 95.

    #92 - A big score is a big score, regardless of the situation of the game, the series, the opposition. You have to score runs against what is put in front of you. For example had KP been given the opportunity to bat in the second innings of the first test who's to say he couldnt have got another ton? Or equally, had England not been putting their foot down in the second test he could have equally gone on to get a triple hundred. Its all ifs and buts. The average (number of runs/innings completed) is the fairest way to assess a batsmens contribution throughout a series in my opinion.

  • Comment number 96.

    #94 FYI an average above 40 is considered the benchmark for any good batsman (so 43 in one innings is more than acceptable). KP is considerably above this over his career, even over 50 for long periods.

  • Comment number 97.

    #94, that 51 was made in a very difficult morning session, that he made it through, making the task easier for players coming in later much easier. You can't call every half century a failure if it doesn't turn out to be a hundred

  • Comment number 98.


    Also I'll add that this demonstrates my point - 37 and 43 are both below the mean average generally considered as a the marker of top batsmen (late 40s) but because he got that 227 the prevailing view of those scores is totally distorted, quantitively as well as qualitatively.

    We're all glad of the 227 and the big hundreds but in the context of the series it doesn't mitigate for the other two below-par scores (even omitting Perth.) In reality, infact, this simply means he failed twice and succeeded once. How is this, in a basic sense, a good overall contribution?

    That's Test cricket.

  • Comment number 99.

    #94, "37" is the test average *including* all the good scores for people like Hussain and Atherton !!!

    Would you rather KP was in the Aussie lineup ? Of course you wouldn't.

    Our team has succeeded as a team in a team sport with everyone making a conclusion, so what point you and others are trying to make is beyond me.

    Maybe you should follow tennis or darts or something ;o)

  • Comment number 100.

    If I wasn't already very sleepy having stayed up half the night, then this mathematical discussion would certainly serve as an adequate sleeping pill.


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