After a drubbing at the Adelaide Oval, the action moved to the WACA, Perth with the Australians staring at a series defeat. A loss to England would mean that Australia would slip to the 6th position on the ICC rankings, their lowest since the system came into reckoning and more importantly Ricky Ponting’s 3rd loss as Australian Captain, the most in the history of the urn.
The stakes were high, the Australian fans just hoped their home team could draw the series, winning being far from their thoughts. After an innings defeat, the Australians had to bounce back and well to create any sort of impact. A lot of chaos was seen around the Australian side, changes, uncapped spinner into the ranks, a sight all to common but usually in the English dressing room. However, times have changed. The once laudable bench strength is hard to see across the country.
Nevertheless, the changes were rung in, Johnson, Hilfenhaus and uncapped spinner in Michael beer were called up. Bollinger, North and Doherty were given the axe after some toothless performances in the 2nd test.
Australia decided to go in with the 4 fast bowlers with Steven Smith at number 6 filling in for North and as the spinner’s role.
All the talks about the old WACA wicket eventually came true. The pitch on the day before the test looked very similar to that of the square. It was green, outfield like. Perhaps, that is the reason why the Australians decided to keep young Michael Beer out of the fray. Although the pitch would favour the tall English seamers, a green wicket was also Australia’s best chance of leveling the series and so it was!
Having won the toss, Andrew Strauss took the decision of bowling in the hope of getting a few early wickets on a lively pitch.
The two forceful changes for both sides were Philip Hughes coming in for the injured Simon Katich and Chris Tremlett coming in for Stuart Broad who was ruled out of the series with an abdominal strain. Both series debutants were in the thick of things right from the word go as Hughes was the first to go bowled of tremlett in an attempt to flick across the line. Australian skipper Ponting looked pretty good in his brief stay of 12 before he pushed at one outside the off stump of Anderson with Collingwood collecting a beauty at 2nd slip. Michael Clarke was next to go caught Prior and the Australians once again found themselves reeling at 28-3. Just when one thought it could not get worse for Australia, it did, watson was caught in front of the wicket of Finn. Hussey and Steven Smith strung something together as they tottered to lunch with 4 back in the hut and not much on the board.
The English struck back immediately after lunch and all of a sudden it was back to Hussey and Haddin to do the job and so they did. The duo continued their good form and put together a 68 run partnership. Haddin’s coming of age and Hussey’s resurgence to form has come at the right time for Australia. However, they could not pull off a gabba once again and hussey was dismissed by Swann of Prior.
Mitchell Johnson who made a return to the national team after being dropped at the Adelaide Oval walked in with the crowd backing him. Johnson really needed to make some runs to get his confidence going. Fortunately for Australia, he did. Haddin and Johnson went into one day mode and flayed away all around the wickets. They put on 52 runs before Haddin went for one shot too many and perished to a brilliant catch of Swann. Mitchell Johnson continued to swing and got some quick runs with the tail before Steven Finn did for him. The last wicket pair added an invaluable 35 runs in quick time taking the total to 268. Once again it was Hussey and Haddin who resurrected the innings. Johnson played his part too with a fluent 62. Australia may feel they are unable to get the 20 wickets to win a test match, well, th fact of the matter is their top order needs to score too for them to win a test.
The English bowlers were comprehensive once again with all four of them chipping in with the wickets. Anderson was the pick of the bowlers, Tremlett was pretty impressive too in his come back test.
A lot going right for the English.
The batsmen needed to survive a tricky hour or so before the end of day one and so they did; ending up on 29 for no loss.
Australia came to the ground next day knowing that, it was the biggest moment of the Ashes. If Australia had to claw a comeback into the series, that was the day, that was the time. But nothing seem to have changed as Australia failed to grab on to another chance. Strauss edged one of harris and the ball flew between keeper and first slip, none of them even moving a tad. Australia thought to themselves, they had let it go.
England cruised along to 78 for no loss before Ponting handed the ball to Mitchell Johnson. The left armer continued his good form at the WACA as he, in retrospect, bowled one of the most inspiring spell of the 2010 Ashes. Johnson got his in swing (to the right hander) going which made him the bowler that he is known to be.
The left armer bounced back in style as he got rid of the in form Alastair Cook with one that just left the south paw and was sniffled by Michael Hussey who took a brilliant low catch at gully. Australia were on the board.
Jonathan Trott was next to go as he was trapped right in front in an attempt to work one across the line. Mitch got the shape back into the right hander and sent Australia’s two biggest worries back to the pavillion without much damage (in comparison to the first two tests of the series). Flamboyant Kevin Pietersen walked in with a hundred behind him and confidence pumping. Johnson got it spot on immediately and the English had a mini collapse, Johnson was really living up to his WACA reputation and soon the wickets kept falling as the Australians started dominating proceedings. Strauss was given no second chance after the morning blip and was collected neatly by Haddin of Harris. Paul Collingwood was the next of Johnson’s 6 victims and was again done in by the late movement at high speed. The Australians were back at their best and ruling the roost with the English reeling at 98 for 5. Bell, Prior and Swann put together a bit of a resistance before the Australian bowlers did for them. Siddle started his barrage of bouncers to Prior who had the ball go of his arm onto the stumps. Siddle did not hold anything back and gave Prior a mouth full which lead to the English wicket keeper asking his counterpart to meet him outside the ground. The incident was played down as a string of events followed soon after as the Poms were bundled out for a poultry 187. Johnson ended up with 6 for 38 with Ryan Harris being the other major contributor with 3 wickets. The Australians had got their tail up with a very valuable lead of 81.
The Australians came into bat and were in trouble immediately as Hughes was set up by Steven Finn and fell to a catch at third slip, gleefully accepted by Collingwood. Ricky Ponting’s dreadful Ashes campaign seemed to continue as the Australian captain gloved one down the leg side of Steven Finn. Michael Clarke looked in a bit of a hurry in his brief stay at the wicket before Chris Tremlett accounted for him. All of a sudden, the Australians were 3 down with not much on the board and the English could sniff a chance but once again to their undoing was their series nemesis, Mr. Cricket, Michael Hussey.
Watson and Hussey flayed away all around the wicket as the duo joined forces together in a 113 run stand for the 4th wicket. This partnership took the match away from the English and the Australians were once again back in the driver’s seat. Shane Watson look flawless in his innings and one thought he was en route to his 3rd test match hundred but that was not to be as the blonde bombshell from Queensland had departed once again after making a 50. Watson is probably the worst as far as conversion rate is concerned or is soon getting there. Tremlett got one to jag back in to trap Watto in front of the 3 pegs. Watson in despair decided to refer it but the decision would stay and he had to go after a well made 95. Hussey stayed on and along with Ashes debutant, Steven Smith put together a quick few runs before he did a Ponting and was caught down the leg side. Unlike the Australian first innings, the lower order did not have much to say this time around the last 5 failed to reach double figures. The Aussies had bit of a mini collapse but that would not hurt them as Michael Hussey had done the damage with another brilliant hundred.
The Australians finally folded for 309 with a lead of 81 runs, basically implying that England needed 391 to win on a track which still had some pace and bounce in it. Chris Tremlett was the pick of England’s bowlers. He ended up with impressive figures in his comeback trail of 5 for 87. It was up to the English batsman now to pull off something extraordinary and seal the deal as far as the series is concerned. It was not impossible with 2 days to go but was going to be an uphill task with a fiery Australian attack and some aid with the conditions being in their favour.
The Poms had 11 sessions to make their runs and sometimes that could work against you as batsman tend to go into their shell instead of playing their natural game and that is what seemed to happen with England. The Aussies hit the ground running and drew first blood almost immediately with Ryan Harris getting on to straighten, cook missed and was trapped plum in front of the wicket. From then on in the English wickets fell like nine pins. There was no substantial partnership and the Australian bowlers rattled the English. This time round it was Johnson who played second fiddle and Ryan Harris assumed the strike bowler’s role. He snuck out 6 of the 10 wickets to fall and dominated proceedings to come. The English ended their day with the score board reading 78 for 5. The last ball of the day summed up the entire test match as Collingwood fished at one outside the off stump of Harris and was caught at slip by Steven Smith.
Australia made quick work of the English next morning, wrapping up the lower middle order under 50 runs. Ryan Harris and Mitchell Johnson lead the Australians off the field and rightly so. It was Mitchell Johnson who bagged the man of the match award. He bowled one of the best spells bowled in Ashes history on the 2nd afternoon more so after a horrid time of it and being dropped for the first time in his career. Johnson also chipped in with the bat at the tail end of the first innings with a useful 60 odd, which helped the Australians reach a respectable albeit modest total of 268. In retrospect, the Australians still found themselves reeling when the English had reached 78 for no loss. It was Mitch Johnson who was the perpetuator and he changed the course of the match.
In the skippers words, his spell was the defining moment of the Ashes and could change things to come in the next two tests. However, one must not forget that Australia still have things to worry about. Harris and Johnson are not going to get another Perth like wicket and the freemantle breeze would be missing too. The dry, slow surface at the MCG would aid Graeme Swann’s off spin. Australia may not be able to go in with the same attack with Smith playing as the spinner. But again one would not one to change a winning combination. Australia’s batting with the exception of Watson, Hussey and Haddin has left a lot to be desired. The rest must find their feet soon enough as it would be highly unlikely that a single man would drive the series in Australia’s favour.
Having said this, the momentum is with the Australians and the English have worries of their own, they find themselves carrying Paul Collingwood.
What one can be sure of is, the standard of cricket will just rise and as a neutral this sure is what Test cricket is loved for.
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