December 16, 2006

Third Test, Perth

A day of centuries

Gideon Haigh

On a day of centuries, the first and one of the more important was registered by the thermometer. The temperature was 38 celsius (100.4) at noon; 39.5 (103.1) at lunch, Hussey having just miscued a pull shot at Harmison over the head of slip for four. Had anyone requested a fried egg at the interval, the top of Harmison’s head would have come in handy.

The sun blazed. The ground seemed to shimmer. Breathing was like inhaling the backdraft of a jet engine. Spectators on the WACA’s grassed areas could be observed fanning themselves with their ‘Tonked’ placards – equivalent of the npower ‘4’ and ‘6’ boards. It is a wonder that keen-eyed sponsors did not equip the players with their own.

Australia, meanwhile, showed all the application that had eluded them, and then England, on the first two days of the match. Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke added 151 at five an over without attempting anything extravagant. England toiled – how they toiled! Yet this was staving off of the inevitable. At times, the play resembled the middle overs of a one-day match; then, in the last hour, it swung violently towards Twenty20 territory.

That was when Adam Gilchrist got going. Perhaps he is not the greatest wicketkeeper batsman in history - but surely no player in history has been better suited to the task of batting when his team is 400 ahead, it is 100 in the shade, and a 70m leg-side boundary beckons with a brisk wind to hit with. This was hitting of the highest quality and orthodoxy: there was nothing ugly, lusty or even particularly violent about it.

The day might have been different – slightly different – with a slightly different apportionment of luck in the first session. After disposing of Ponting, Harmison had a healthy lbw shout against Hayden (65), turned down by Aleem Dar: perhaps the chip of a bail too high, and probably a good decision. Panesar issued a piercing cry for a bat-pad catch against Hussey (15), turned down by Rudi Koertzen: another poor decision from an umpire who is simply not right often enough, having already done for Strauss once in the game and later to do him in again. When Hayden’s Kingaroy cut worked its way to deep fine leg for four, bowler Hoggard pressed a wrist band to his woebegone head like the character in a melodrama who had just been told of the bank’s foreclosure.

Panesar, in fact, was more patient than the Queenslander, eager to help down his lunch with a hundred, but who was foiled by a combination of loop, bounce and deviation. Hayden stripped his gloves off angrily, and one feared for his bat in the privacy of the dressing room; this was a wicket as deserved as any of Panesar’s in the first innings. Thereafter, however, Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke ensured that it was all one-way traffic, with a skillfully-constructed stand, and Flintoff’s imagination narrowed. Sajid Mahmood looked as short of his captain’s confidence as Shaun Tait at the Oval in 2005, bowling only two of the first 73 overs of the innings. With his ratio of seventeen Test overs this summer to six exclusive Guardian columns, Mahmood’s first wicket will probably justify a book.

Ponting set England 557: another reckless declaration! He set them 648 at Brisbane – not quite the 735 that buccaneering Bill Lawry set West Indies at Sydney in February 1969, but close. Here, though, the closure was ideally timed, at the moment of greatest psychological ascendancy, and Andrew Strauss fetched his third consecutive umpiring blunder: he must have exhausted his quota of luck for the tour by bagging a taxi in Perth. The end was close, but this brought it still closer.

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Posted by Craig on (December 20, 2006, 0:15 GMT)

Boycott saw Strauss hit on the pads and did not let his co-commentator finish calling the delivery. Before Rudi's hand moved, Geoffrey was roaring from the back of the box... "Out. Out. Out!"

Posted by Mark on (December 18, 2006, 11:15 GMT)

Regarding the Strauss LBW, it was clearly not out. There were three of us sitting in the room watching last night when it happened, and as soon as it was given out we all agreed it was going over the top without watching a replay. (And we're Australians!)

Since the ball pitched in line, and hit in line, to be given out the ball has to be going on to hit the stumps (whether the batsman is playing a shot or not is irrelevant). The rule is not if you don't play a shot and would have been close to the stumps you can give it out.

However, that said the umpires would almost ALWAYS give that out (as someone else posted, I think umpires forget about the height far to often)... so there aren't too many grounds for complaint methinks.

As for Pontings generous declaration, I think there is no doubt that was caused by what happened in the 4th innings at the WACA last summer.

Posted by Nik on (December 18, 2006, 6:45 GMT)

I think you're being a bit rough on Punts regarding the declaration. If you go back over the coverage, you'll clearly see what happened: At 5/420 Punts looked down to read an SMS from Damian Martyn - then, apparently wondering what all the noise from the crowd was about, glanced up at the scoreboard and with a startled yelp exclaimed: "Omigod, five-twenty! Is that the time already? Call the boys in!!"

Posted by PTB Doc on (December 17, 2006, 23:46 GMT)

Ken, I reckon Shane Bond likes bowling to everyone! His averages are Hadlee. Just hope he can stay fit for a while. Aussies find it hard to believe he's played so few international games when he's been around so long and is so good. If he could keep the averages down to a few runs over where he is now he'll go down as one of the best in history, despite playing fewer games than others. And Gideon there were a couple of moments yesterday when 557 did look rather reckless! Ponting might have been thinking about being the captain of the team that holds the record for both ODI's and test in conceding last innings winning totals.

Posted by richards on (December 17, 2006, 22:40 GMT)

Yes Gideon, we can understand why the punters have got the impression you're currying favour with the poms. All this about luck going the wrong way. Keep luck in perspective - playing a shot and missing isnt really that different from getting an edge in terms of batsman's intent and execution - though it has to be said, umpires get height wrong on lbws a little too often. What struck me was the comments about Michael Clarke and how he wouldnt have been in the team if Shane Watson had been fit for Brisbane. The way this keeps getting repeated without comment, as though Watson was a natural choice, simply beggars belief. Is there any reason to think Watson would be any more effective as a bowler than even Symonds or Clarke himself, who at least add a bit of variety. But as a number 6 or 7 batsman, espectially when Gilchrist was patently out of form? On what evidence? Forget ODIs. He's no Flintoff. Would only make the slightest sense if Australia were behind and wanted to play the 2 leggies.

Posted by Phil on (December 17, 2006, 18:13 GMT)

Kevin Pietersen

The way I see it, the only way you can get this guy out is bowl around the wicket and slant across to the slips because he plays straight and he holds the cricket bat quite low on the handle. Interested in why the Aussies have not thought of this tactic against Pietersen. Someone please pass this message to Ricky Ponting!!!

Posted by liam on (December 17, 2006, 15:33 GMT)

my bet is on bond breaking down with injury for the umpteenth time tho

Posted by ken on (December 17, 2006, 8:24 GMT)

you aussies wait till we get over there our shane bond just loves bowling to you assies

Posted by Peter on (December 17, 2006, 4:58 GMT)

Funny how the English fans and scribes all seem to know something the rest of us don't about the turned down bat pad appeal against Hussey on 15 - how was it a poor decision Gideon? How do you know he hit it? Television's 'hot spot' technology shows it didn't hit the bat. And of course no mention of the actual poor decision to give him out caught behind when he missed it..

Posted by windies on (December 17, 2006, 2:46 GMT)

Harsh decision for Strauss??? For not offering a shot on a ball that inline??? And hit by a Brett Lee ball (those fast 90+++ mph one) half way up the pad and you expect the umpire to give not out? Which planet are you from? Or rather, which umpire would dare not give it out?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gideon Haigh
Born in London of a Yorkshire father, raised in Australia by a Tasmanian mother, Gideon Haigh lives in Melbourne with a cat, Trumper. He has written 19 books and edited a further seven. He is also a life member and perennial vice-president of the South Yarra CC.

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