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Today the Adelaide Test went from tortuous to worse. For much of the day it was like watching a traffic jam. If the match peters out into a draw tomorrow, it will be tempting to write it off as a non-event. But some signficant things have happened…
1. Matthew Hoggard has finally taken a big haul against Australia. His performance here was in a great Yorkshire tradition – not of Fred Trueman, but of Darren Gough and Craig White, who both worked out how to bowl wily cutters on subcontinental featherbeds. “I like a good s***heap,” White used to say. Hoggard, who learnt at the feet of those two, is the new king of the s***heap. Today, his Test career average quietly slipped below 30 – and passed Steve Harmison’s, travelling in the opposite direction.
2. We have again seen the folly of picking a defensive slow bowler whose main contribution is a few runs at no.8. And now both teams are doing it.
3. Of the six veterans in the match, five have struggled. Back-to-back Tests are hard on all the players, but especially on the old and/or infirm. Langer, Hayden and Martyn failed with the bat, Warne and McGrath with the ball. The only greybeard to do well was Adam Gilchrist with his 64 – easily the most fluent of the seven fifties in the match, and highly ominous for England.
4. The other thing about back-to-back Tests is that they are too apt to be an extension of the one before. This one has been played on a very different surface from Brisbane, yet half the players have continued in the same vein: Collingwood, Pietersen and Bell have again made the bulk of England’s runs. Ponting, Hussey, Clarke and Clark have again starred for Australia. Cook, Lee, Harmison, Anderson and Giles have again been virtually empty-handed. Only Langer, Warne, McGrath and Hoggard have had dramatically different fortunes in the two games. Test cricket needs that drama.
5. Andrew Flintoff has confirmed that he can’t do three things at once and shine in all of them. At Brisbane he bowled well, captained indifferently, and batted poorly. Here he batted better, captained a lot better, and bowled worse after a strong start. Now his ankle is hurting again. Something had to give.
6. The match has reiterated that high scoring is boring. We need a nice, tight, tense low-scoring Test at Perth, with the team batting first getting about 300. Whether there is any chance of the pitch allowing this is another matter.
7. England have dragged themselves back to respectability. They can even begin to think about winning the series. But only if they pick more than half an attack.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Tim de Lisle
Tim de Lisle is a former editor of Wisden. He fell in love with newspapers at the age of seven and with cricket at the age of 10. He started in journalism at 16, reviewing records for the London Australian Magazine, before reading classics at Oxford and writing for Smash Hits, Harpers & Queen and the Observer. He has been a feature writer on the Daily Telegraph, arts editor of the Times and the Independent on Sunday, and editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly, where he won an Editor of the Year award. Since 1999, Tim has been the rock critic of the Mail on Sunday. He is deputy editor of Intelligent Life, the new general-interest magazine from the Economist. He writes for the Guardian and makes frequent appearances as a cricket pundit on the BBC and Sky News.