Dif­fer­ences glar­ing on day two

Townsville Bulletin - - Cricket -

IF you want to un­der­stand why the Ashes came home so quickly, look no fur­ther than the sec­ond day at the MCG.

On a murky morn­ing Aus­tralia found them­selves on the ropes. Their three pre­mier bats­men of the se­ries — Ricky Ponting, Mi c h a e l H u s s e y a n d Michael Clarke — all fell for low scores in quick suc­ces­sion.

Th­ese same men, who had swag­gered their way to a col­lec­tive 1300 runs and five cen­turies through the first three Tests, were shot out inside an hour for seven, six and five.

The de­clin­ing se­quence was omi­nous. The wicket was play­ing tricks and new bats­man Andrew Sy­monds was crease-bound and prod­ding un­cer­tainly.

Eng­land’s first-in­nings mark of 159 was look­ing more im­pos­ing by the mo­ment.

But when all-out at­tack was re­quired, Eng­land hes­i­tated.

Bowlers with their tails up found them­selves con­fronted by fields more in keep­ing with 5-384 than 5-84.

Gully was pushed back, slips were dis­persed, pres­sure was eased.

As a cap­tain, Andrew Flintoff has proved to be a sheep in lion’s cloth­ing.

Who’d have sus­pected it when he was lay­ing waste to Ponting’s side with bat and ball just over a year ago, or in­spir­ing Eng­land to a re­mark­able vic­tory in Mumbai to re­trieve a lost cause?

The word is that Flintoff will hap­pily hand back the reins the mo­ment Michael Vaughan’s in­jured knee al­lows him to re­sume, and for Eng­land’s sake that can’t come soon enough.

The cap­taincy has robbed him of his spirit.

It doesn’t mean that ev­ery­thing that tran­spired to pro­duce the sec­ond high­est sixth-wicket part­ner­ship in Ashes his­tory (only Sir Don­ald Brad­man and Jack Fin­gle­ton are ahead) was Eng­land’s fault.

S y m o n d s l a b o u r e d through 20 balls be­fore he scored and then, with Hay­den en­cour­ag­ing him from the other end, be­gan to con­struct the sort of in­nings few had thought him ca­pa­ble of.

Their part­ner­ship will be one of the cher­ished times of their ca­reers.

For Hay­den, who dropped a sit­ter at gully on Tues­day, it will head off thoughts that he should join Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath in the crick­eters’ re­tire­ment home.

For Sy­monds, it has proved to him­self and ev­ery­one else that he is, af­ter all, a gen­uine Test crick­eter.

And for Aus­tralia’s se­lec­tors, it will mean they can stop fret­ting over Shane Wat­son’s ham­string.

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