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Australia v England, 4th Test, Melbourne, 1st day
Warne's magic at the MCG
December 26, 2006
The Aussie dominance continues
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Andrew Flintoff had a tough decision to make when he won the toss - I think Ricky Ponting was quite happy that he lost. But Flintoff made the right decision. In Melbourne, when there's moisture in the pitch and it's a bit overcast, the ball moves sideways off the seam, but it does that very slowly and with a trampoline sort of bounce. Then, as it dries out, it gets a bit firmer, you see little indentations on the pitch and the ball still goes sideways off the seam but a bit quicker. For me it's harder batting under the second circumstances. The fact that the ball spun a lot for Shane Warne suggests that Flintoff made the right decision, but unfortunately his batsmen weren't able to survive the Australian bowling attack.

The frustration must be growing for both Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss. In fact the frustration showed when Cook got out - he half went to let the delivery go, it flicked the bottom of the bat - a bit unlucky in those circumstances. It showed as he walked off the ground and banged his bat on the ground because six out of their seven partnerships have been over 20 but have not reached 40. When you reach 20, in an opening partnership, you figure that you've done all the hard work and that you should go on to get something substantial. They haven't been able to do that.

Brett Lee bowled some of the best stuff that he's bowled in the series. He got the first breakthrough. Then Ian Bell was out to a good delivery from Stuart Clark. Two down and I still can't believe that England didn't send Kevin Pietersen at No.4. They didn't promote him and again the same situation happened - he got left with the lower-order players and in the end he virtually had to throw his wicket away. If he comes in when two wickets are down he can dictate the terms, but coming in when five are down means the match dictates the terms to him. And it showed even more today when Paul Collingwood came in at No 4 and he really struggled. It gave the initiative back to Australia. Whereas if Pietersen had come in, he could have grabbed the initiative and that makes it so much easier for the guys coming in after him. Two for 101 at one stage and then 159 all out was a disaster.

The Australian bowling was good. There was movement off the seam and Warne's said it many times - if it seams, it spins - and boy did it spin! Warne spun the ball a long way and used the breeze beautifully. The ball with which he got rid of Strauss and took his 700th wicket was classic leg-spin bowling. He threw it up a little bit more in the breeze, Strauss fell for the trap, came down looking to drive and Warne got it to drop very sharply in the breeze, it spun back and hit middle stump - what a classic delivery to get your 700th wicket. It would have made Warne very happy because not only was it a classic delivery but it was also against a man who was playing well, he had made a 50 and he was a top order batsman. If he'd had a say in the script, am sure that's how he would have liked it. Warne also used the breeze extremely well to get rid of Chris Read - fooled him in the flight.

Strauss must be shaking his head. He's not made many runs in this series but he he's not out of form. He's been hitting the ball well, he got to 50 today; he had a let-off in the 40s and thought, ah today could be my day and then Warne gets him with a beauty. It's been one of those series for Strauss.

The England batting crumbled under the effect of Warne spinning the ball a long way and tantalising them. Warne looked a little bemused as he was walking off. I think he was expecting that on this pitch the fast bowlers would do all the damage and that he would just have to come in and do the mop-up job and pick up his 700th. As it was, he got another 5-wicket haul and what a reception he got from the MCG crowd when he got his 700th and he got an even bigger one when he walked off the field. He's been a pleasure to watch and his hometown crowd really let him know how much they appreciated what he's done for Australian cricket.

159 for England and they really needed to pick up 3-4 Australian wickets to get back into the game. Justin Langer did what he's done so far; he came out and went after the fast bowlers, putting the onus on them, saying to them - are you capable of maintaining line and length under fire. Well, the England bowlers wilted for a while then Flintoff bowled a good delivery to get rid of Langer and then, the next delivery was a beautiful one to get rid of the night-watchman and Ricky Ponting came in next. This makes you ask the question, that if you were going to come in then why didn't you come in earlier. But 2 wickets, I don't think was enough for England. But at least it sent them back to the dressing room with something positive and they're going to have to bowl very well early tomorrow to get right back into this game. Australia at the moment are well on track to get a 4-0 lead in this series and make it a tremendous celebration for Warne's 700th wicket.

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

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