Joy at Lords
How good was that then? Watching England at Lords on Friday must have been one of the best days of cricket I have ever seen, and Flintoff on Monday morning was nothing short of magnificent. The Aussies were simply outplayed on a very flat pitch. A few things do slightly detract from the warm glow of English superiority though.
1. We got by far the best of the conditions. Batting in the sunshine at Lords is an entirely different proposition to batting under cloud. When it was overcast the ball swung and nipped around, when it was sunny it was as flat as a pancake. England batted mostly when it was sunny, the Aussies mostly when it wasn’t. Still, you’ve got to use the conditions don’t you?
2. Umpiring. Too much can be read into this – cricket is full of marginal calls going either way, and the team on top usually benefits, partially at least because they are generating more appeals. Katich’s no-ball was of a type routinely missed a dozen times a test match, I remember an England/Pakistan game where, I think, Saqlain Mushtaq took four wickets off ‘no-balls’. Hughes catch, which has generated the most Aussie whinging, was of a type with all low catches. If you look through the foreshortened lens of a 2-d television camera, it will look as though it’s on the grass. But as Tony Grieg demonstrated a few years back, that’s true when the ball is actually six inches off the turf. The umpires had the best view, and they thought it was out. That’s good enough. As for Hussey’s dismissal, watching it in real time, the ball deviates and there’s a sharp ‘snick’. It looked and sounded out.
3. Mitchell Johnson. Blimey, where to start? He looked like Alan Mullaly had mated with Steve Harmison on one of his bad days. A more bountiful display of filth I have rarely seen on a cricket pitch – even when I was bowling it. And the really good thing is that the replacement options for Australia consist of three crocks in Lee, Clark and Watson. In fact, that leads me to:
4. The Australian squad selection. Two openers, one of whom had played three Tests? OK, so Hughes came garlanded with ‘the next Bradman’ tag, but still. As it has panned out so far, Hughes looks like Donald Bradman when the ball is short outside off stump, and Donald Duck when it’s anywhere else. He hops about like a pea on a drum. If he doesn’t get this sorted (and can he? It’s the basis of his technique) Australia have a real problem at the top of the order. And although Hauritz has bowled well, he is still not a truly attacking spin option.
But, even taking all that into account, it was a great performance by England. Strauss batted superbly, and with Cook gave England great starts in both innings. Anderson, Swann and especially Flintoff bowled heroically (Broad and Onions were both adequate, but little more). Even the news that Pieterson is out of the series should not prevent England from holding onto this lead now. Edgbaston, the Oval and Headingly have been batsmen's’ paradises this summer – how much would you really bet on Australia’s physically and emotionally fragile attack taking 60 wickets?