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Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth, 1st day
This Test will be a fight to the finish
December 14, 2006
Perth witnesses Monty magic
 
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England talked the talk in the lead up to this Test match. Kevin Pietersen was sounding off about how their training had been so good and competitive and here today, at the WACA, they walked the walk. England played very good, entertaining and highly competitive cricket.

England lost the toss and it turned out to be a good toss to lose. There was a bit in the pitch, all the talk about how it wasn't going to help the quickies was wrong. It's one of the old pitches, hasn't been used much of late and it behaved, not perhaps like the pitches of the '70s at the WACA, but it was a very good wicket. Monty Panesar really livened up the England effort. He got Justin Langer right on the stroke of lunch and that was a terrific blow. His reaction, he raced around hi-fiving everybody and he seemed to put some life into this England team. Matthew Hoggard had got the first breakthrough getting Matthew Hayden as he has on many occasions. And there was a bit of swing there to encourage Hoggard.

I thought Andrew Flintoff did well with his captaincy. He kept Panesar going at a time when Andrew Symonds was trying to hit him out of the ground and eventually Panesar had his way with Symonds. It was a terrific day's cricket. At the other end Steve Harmison kept his pace up, bowled accurately and troubled the batsmen with his bounce. There was a good partnership between Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke - they played very intelligently, pushed the ball around got singles when runs were hard to come by and then the runs just started to come a little more easily for Australia. Just at that point Harmison got the wicket of Michael Clarke, a very important breakthrough.

It was one of those days of Test match cricket where the ball and the bat chipped in equally. It was an even contest and it made for a very entertaining day. We had a full house at the WACA and I don't think I saw one person leave the whole day. It was a terrific crowd, they enjoyed the cricket and Monty Panesar got a standing ovation when he left the ground with five wickets. His performance just made a mockery of the selection or his non-selection in the previous two Tests. He is a class bowler, he gives you control - one of the things England say they are looking for from their spinner. At the other end Harmison performed really well for England. He obviously knew he had to do something for his side, he'd let the side down in Brisbane, but he really came out and did the job for England in this first innings in Perth.

With Australia bowled out for 244 you get the feeling when the first side is bowled out for a moderate score you're in for a good Test match. This is because the team that's bowling second then has to come out and hit back hard, if they don't the opposition runs away with the game. Australia hit back hard, although it looked as though England were getting away to a flying start. Alastair Cook, after mistiming one bouncer from Brett Lee, played two magnificent pull-shots in front of square for four and it looked like he and Andrew Strauss were getting away to just the start that England needed. But then Glen McGrath picked up Cook from outside the off stump. Then Brett Lee who had had some problems - he'd taken a bit of a pounding earlier on - seemed to change things from the moment he went around the wicket to Strauss. He seemed to give him the right line and length and then be bowled a beauty to get rid off Ian Bell.

So, with England going to stumps at 51 for 2 chasing 244 we've got a real Test match on our hands. [With] both sides fighting very hard to get the upper hand, you get the feeling that this could be one of those Tests that keeps see-sawing. Certainly, it has been a brilliant first day at the WACA.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator for Channel 9, and a columnist


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