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Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth, 3rd day
Gilchrist - the true team man
December 16, 2006
Flintoff's pigheadedness and Gilchrist's blitzkrieg
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When Gilchrist came in, he didn't want to overshadow Clark because was going to get his hundred © Getty Images

You give Australia an inch and they take a mile. England bowled beautifully for almost two sessions but unfortunately they didn't get the same sort of support in the field. England created a lot of opportunities particularly in that first session with [Steve] Harmison really hitting his stride - he bowled exceptionally well - in fact all the England bowlers bowled really well - a terrific effort from [Monty] Panesar - and they really made the Australians battle hard.

Michael Hussey just doesn't seem to know how not to make runs. 6 consecutive half centuries, his first Ashes hundred - he played beautifully. But they [England] created some opportunities, but their fielders couldn't capitalise on what their bowlers did and if you let guys like [Michael] Clarke, [Michael] Hussey and [Adam] Gilchrist - guys like them off - and boy, don't they punish you. It became merciless in the last session.

Clarke and Hussey really do seem to enjoy betting together, they're a good combination. Hussey had a couple of let offs - one a high, skied hook shot that should have been caught and then an edge that went between 'keeper and first slip.

Some strange field placings at that stage, I thought, from Andrew Flintoff. He had a short mid-off and just one slip and a big gap between 'keeper and slip. This may not be the Perth pitch of old but it's still a good pitch with plenty of bounce in it and I can tell you that most of the catches you will get in Perth will be behind the wicket and it almost came to appoint where Andrew Flintoff wouldn't want to change because he didn't want to back down. It's fine to be pigheaded at times but when it starts to hurt the team, then it becomes stupidity.

Clark looks in magnificent form. He's matured a lot as a cricketer; he's hitting the ball along the ground all the time. He played beautifully for his hundred-back to back Test centuries for him.

But all of that good play by Hussey and Clark that set Australia up was completely overshadowed by Gilchrist. Gilchrist played like a true team man. When he came in, he didn't want to overshadow Clark because was going to get his hundred but once Clark got his hundred, he probably realized that on this hot day Clark was going to be tired, both mentally and physically, he decided to take over.

It was a little sad to see him deposit Panesar three times over the bleachers because Panesar probably beat him two out of three times through the air. That's the problem with Gilchrist - he's such a good timer - he doesn't try to hit the ball too hard so that he doesn't lose control when he 's trying to loft the ball and the fact that he was probably caught a bit short meant that he elevated the ball a bit higher and it went a bit further.

It was pleasing to see Panesar coming in and want to bowl the next over after he had taken a pounding from Gilchrist. That would have been pleasing for his captain but I was delighted that Flintoff didn't offer him the ball - he patted him on the back and said , 'thanks Monty for the offer but I'll give it to someone else'- because Panesar didn't deserve to be plundered by Gilchrist after he had bowled so well. So that was a captain protecting a young bowler because the young bowler had earned the right.

Gilchrist went very close to beating Viv Richards record of a hundred of 56 balls and it was only [Matthew] Hoggard who denied him that by a ball or two. But England now have the misfortune of 1 and 2 - it was England who conceded the hundred to Viv Richards of 56 balls and now the second fastest, by Adam Gilchrist - also conceded by England.

By that time England were very deflated - I actually thought that Australia would bat into the fifth day and further deflate England even further - but I guess that Gilchrist scored so quickly that [Ricky] Ponting decided to punish England a little bit more by giving them a nasty half hour session and in that session Andrew Strauss was out lbw.

Strauss is having one of those tours of misfortune. Probably the ball would have gone over the stumps but if you don't play a shot then the umpires generally rule in favor of the bowlers. And I don't have a problem with that.

It's interesting to contrast Strauss with Hussey. Strauss got off to this unbelievable start to his Test career and now a little bit of misfortune has befallen him. Hussey has had an unbelievable start to his Test career; 1500 odd runs and an average of 86- but you think back on a few play and misses - and you think to yourself that at some stage this game going to even up and then it will be interesting to see how Hussey copes with that situation as Strauss is facing now, but right at the moment Hussey is enjoying a good time of it.

I spoke about Australia having one hand on the urn, well if they haven't got two hands on the urn now, they've got two hands on the throat of England and they're squeezing really tight. It could be that England's reign of holding the Ashes urn could end on the fourth day here at the WACA - the Australians have been so dominant.

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

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