Australia 570-9 dec (M Clarke 148, B Haddin 118, C Rogers 72, R Harris 55 no, G J Bailey 53, S Watson 51) v England 35-1
After two days of the second Test in Adelaide, England found themselves chasing the game once more as Australia batted their way to what must surely be an unassailable position, and then, in the final hour and a half came at the England batting with a velocity and ferocity that their opponents could not hope to match.
Throughout the first two sessions and into the third the cheers rang out as the boundary boards were peppered, and cleared (12 times in all, a total never before achieved in an Ashes Test innings). There was elation when the brilliant Michael Clarke registered his second hundred of the series and 26th of his career. That elation became perhaps stronger yet when Brad Haddin, the resilient nuggety wicketkeeper, rocked onto the back foot and pulled young Ben Stokes to reach a century of his own to sit alongside scores of 94 and 53 in Brisbane. He is not so much a thorn in English flesh as a large shard.
These roars were but whispers to what was to come, though, for Mitchell Johnson, the man so derided in the past, launched himself at England like a man possessed. This is a slow pitch, but the pace through the air remains unaffected.
There was no ribbing now from the Barmy Army who trilled away with not a soul taking notice. His first delivery of the innings was the fastest of the match and by the middle of the opening over, he had touched 95mph. Alastair Cook flagged two deliveries through, and then uncharacteristically wafted outside off stump. An edge? Johnson flung his arms in the air, the crowd yelled. No edge. Cook went walkabout, survived and a leg bye took him to the other end. Michael Carberry finished the over with a neat clip to the legside boundary.
Still Johnson cranked the speed gun up and at around 20 minutes to five on a sunlit afternoon, the roofs on the mighty new stands received their most severe test yet. The ball was rapid – not quite his fastest but of a pace of which most can only dream – and the England captain was pegged back in his crease. Perhaps the ball held up a smidgeon off the seam, from leg to off. More likely is that Cook was done for pace, his bat a crooked irrelevance as the ball blasted past him and pegged back his off stump.
Cook the impenetrable batsman, the rock of England’s batting on the verge of his 100th Test match, the scourge of Australia three years ago, had just been blown away. There was a doleful look at the replay screen from him as a no-ball check was made, and then he trudged wearily back. The world game has no one more mentally resilient than he but this was the culmination of a trying two days.
It took some great determination from Carberry – doubly so from him given his dropped catch on the first evening – and Joe Root to see things through to the close, at 35-1, although even that had frought moments towards the end.
Having determined to play to the close at all cost, Root, unaccountably, tried a very rapid single against Johnson from what was the penultimate delivery. Carberry, totally unprepared and back on his heels, was late going off and had George Bailey’s throw from cover point been on target, Carberry would have been gone.
The final ball then hit Carberry on the pads, and although the Australian appeal was turned down and they chose not to review it, the replay showed they would have been successful. Root received no glove touch from his partner on the way back to the dressingroom.
Overall England had had a good enough start to the match, catching notwithstanding but the second day was poor, as the Australians, having settled in for the long haul on the first, pressed the accelerator. Neither Clarke nor Haddin were troubled by seam or spin and the pitch looked to be playing better than it had on the opening day. But where Cook had been in control, he now looked like a man searching in vain for the holy grail.
Mysteriously, Stuart Broad was used only in two three over spells during the first two sessions (cotton wool? Surely not), and James Anderson, looking for reverse swing, found little but the slenderest indrift. Meanwhile Monty Panesar first of all, then Graeme Swann toiled to no avail, as Clarke and Haddin brilliantly dissected them,belting the odd boundary, forcing fields back, and collecting the freebie singles.
In fact, the bowler with the most potential on the day looked to be Ben Stokes, who until Johnson’s first over in its entirety had obliterated him from the table that appeared on the big screen, had sent down the fastest deliveries of the match. He is a robust bowler, with a lengthy run, and a step in towards the line of the stumps in delivery, giving him a wicket to wicket angle. Clearly he has a fiery spirit too which is no bad thing.
But his first spell of the day, one of four overs, showed a naivety that needed addressing. On pitches such as this, the ball has to be pitched up, bringing batsmen forward, inviting the drive, hard to time easily when it comes off sluggishly.
Cook, recognising this, set his field accordingly, a good and sensible one: specifically, mid off and mid on straight, a brace of closer catchers perched at short straight midwicket and, Cook himself, short extra cover, and a straightish extra cover as well. The length to bowl could not have been clearer.
Stokes sent down 31 deliveries in that first spell, of which the batsmen were compelled to play only two on the front foot. One of these was hit slightly uppishly to Cook, the only one to go in the direction of the straight fielders. The other, Haddin, then on 51, edged to Matt Prior, and walked off as Stokes celebrated what should have been his first Test wicket. As with Cook later, though, there was doubt about the legitimacy of the delivery. Haddin waited, and to England's mortification, the replay showed Stokes overstepping. A no ball.
Spinners getting carted, catches dropped, wickets with no balls and the captain detonated from the crease: these are not helpful towards winning Test matches.