Action: third Test December 16, 2006

Crushed by the stuff of folklore

At Brisbane, they were remorseless

At Brisbane, they were remorseless. At Adelaide, they were first dogged, then ruthless. Today, the Australians were first determined, then majestic. England’s management have made many blunders in this series, but today wasn’t about the losing side. It was about the winners. This is the way Test matches should be won.

When Adam Gilchrist came in, at 365 for five, the game was virtually up. England were hardly going to make 400 to win the Test, or bat two days to draw it, so they were already praying for a monsoon in the midst of a drought. Gilchrist’s innings was the icing on the cake. But what icing.

Andrew Flintoff nearly got him early on, squirting to gully, and what followed underlined just how much Flintoff had achieved in keeping the greatest number seven in history quiet through a whole series. Once Flintoff took himself off, Gilchrist played Twenty20: two runs per ball, a couple of fours per over off the quicks, and a string of sixes that were so massive, they should really have been eights. It was magical stuff. This series hasn’t delivered the knife-edge excitement of 2005, but here was something to go into Ashes folklore.

The game had been shaped by four other batsmen: Matt Hayden, raging against the dying of the light: Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey, maintaining their double run-machine act; and Michael Clarke, easing to another unnoticed hundred. England didn’t hold their half-chances, and didn’t bowl enough yorkers at Gilchrist. The heat of Perth may have got to them, but it could equally have been the heat of the Ashes kitchen, which has been too much for them at most of the critical moments in the past month.

Australia had learnt from their mistake at Perth last year, when the scores in the first three innings were very similar, but their 500 came at a stodgy rate. South Africa were left needing to bat four sessions, rather than six and a bit. One slow, battling hundred – from Jacques Rudolph – was enough to save them. England need three, and the man best equipped to provide one, Andrew Strauss, has once again been rudely Koertzened.

England are back where they were after three days in Brisbane, playing only for pride. And they don’t have enough batsmen: the decision to stick with five bowlers has backfired, with Flintoff seeming unsure how to use Saj Mahmood. Collectively, they need to push the game into the fifth day.

Individually, most of them have points to prove. Alastair Cook has to get past 50, Ian Bell past 60, and Paul Collingwood has to show he can cope with steep bounce. Flintoff himself needs to find his feet and his form, after losing his way as a batsman and now finishing wicketless for the first time in 42 Tests, since Edgbaston 2003. Geraint Jones, poised somewhere between the last-chance saloon and the stocks, needs runs more than anyone. Only Kevin Pietersen has nothing to prove, and the prospect of another duel with Shane Warne always gets his juices flowing. So there should be plenty of interest in the last rites. Then again, it could be all over by lunch.

Tim de Lisle is the editor of Intelligent Life magazine and a former editor of Wisden

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on December 20, 2006, 10:43 GMT

    Andy, teams should learn from the Aussies what negative bowling is all about. Even Ian Chappell and the other commentators said about Aussies negative tactics this Ashes series also Ian said the same in the Champions Trophy in India when the Aussies played WI. All is fair in love and war and also Sticky setting a defensive field even when he is having 550 o/b with champion bowlers and not enforcing follow on after 445 runs o/b. Will any other team in the world do it. Only the Aussies will and can do it after their defeat at the hands of India in Calcutta. Sticky will never ever apply even if they have 800 o/b. I bet the Aussies will never do it and that is a challenge.

    This for Michael. If I am a Moron what are you a Thicko?

  • testli5504537 on December 20, 2006, 10:27 GMT

    Yes,Michael and Rhino. Australia also lost to minnows Bangladesh in an ODI and nearly lost a Test Match in Bangladesh. Will you agree or not. What goes up always has to come down and the time has come for the onetime cons. So, you agree someone has scored a faster century!

  • testli5504537 on December 20, 2006, 2:28 GMT

    Rama - wake up to yourself!! Gilchrist actually made his reputation on scoring big in dire circumstances. Also you may want to check how many centuries he has scored in tests. Australia is not a great team but a pedestrian one??? That doesn't say much for the rest of the world since Australia has been the number 1 test and odi team for more than 10 years. That includes beating every nation at home and away. Who else has done that? Nobody!! Warne has 699 test wickets - most of which he has had to take on hard Australian wickets - not sub continent dust bowls. Oh, and if the pressure in a odi innings comes at batting number 7 why don't teams put their best batsmen there? Who knew it was such a walk in the park to open an innings?

  • testli5504537 on December 19, 2006, 13:16 GMT

    Rama - what have you been smoking? 90 runs in 20 years??? 19 wickets in an innings??? You're going to drown in that drivel (dribble) old son. If what Gilchrist did wasn't a great feat, then how come only one person in history has done it faster? And by the way the "sherminator" is not Warne - that's what he calls Bell. Stop drinking your bong water mate!

  • testli5504537 on December 19, 2006, 4:59 GMT

    Rama You are a drop-kick In the history of test cricket Australia has won more tests than any other country. In the history of test cricket Australia has the highest winning percentage of any country. Last time I checked no Asian country has ever won a test series in Australia. Get the picture moron?

  • testli5504537 on December 18, 2006, 9:29 GMT

    Great test match, shame that the poms bowled 2 deliberate wides to Gilchrist when in the 90's to deny him the world record test fastest 100, worst ever sportmanship since the underarm incident and bodyline.

    Hey I also wonder if the aussie 11 will get mbe's etc since as the "Barmy Army" keep saying she's our queen.

    Greatest team ever . full stop.

  • testli5504537 on December 18, 2006, 7:20 GMT

    What is so great about Gilchrist. He thrashed the bowling. Yes, when the bowlers are tired and you have a winning score of almost 400 behind you anyone even a small time bowler can tear you to pieces. Let him play like a Sangakkara or a Kamran Akmal in a pressure situation. Even in ODIs he opens the innings when there is no pressure. Let him come at 7 in ODIs and let us see him get a century then I will really admire him. It is not a great feat. See the young Cook and Bell how they performed in the second innings a really pressure situation with Sherminator breathing down the neck. He was thrashed for almost 90 in 20 years. That is some thrashing and not that of Gilchrist. Contrast this with the fumbling of Gilchrist in the first innings and you can make the difference. Australia is not a great team but a pedestrian one. They are always lucky. They win the toss and it is of great help and then the Sherminator who is called the greatest spin doctor comes and uses the follow thru patches to cleverly to gets his wickets. I challenge to him to get 5 or 6 wickets on the very first day and then I call him a great bowler. Further has he taken 19 wickets in an Innings so far! Any takers.

  • testli5504537 on December 18, 2006, 4:39 GMT

    The aussie's rock and the ashes is almost ours!!! Great work punta and the boys. You're LEGENDS! Good effort England! A great game of cricket.

  • testli5504537 on December 17, 2006, 22:04 GMT


    Read the headlines tomorrow, Endland win by one wicket with two overs to go!! Monty scores first test 50 in partnership with Harmy (Who scores 73 off 35 deliveries!!). Dreaming I'm sure, but England do have a chance, If and its a big if!! KP and Freddie can "put it up'em!!" then the game is still wide open, the game will have a result a draw is not on the cards unless weather intervenes.

    But, lets put the result in perspective, England within 18-24 months will be top test team and Oz for all their gloat about new players will not.

    What we are seeing now is probably the swansong of many of the Oz "Dad's Army" And it's one of the best "swansongs" you'll every witness. Gilly in particular deserves it, he is probably the greatest "all-rounder" of all time, because his dominance has allowed Oz to field the balance of team they do. McGrath & Warnes records stand for themselves as does Ponting, who has quite literally held the team together as Steve Waughs batting used to do.

    Umpiring decisions are part of the game and I don't think we've heard any complaints from Strauss as to the decisions!! He takes it all in his stride, just as Harmy would take McGraths wicket in his.

    Anyway as to the result for Day 5......

    KP & Freddie may the force be with you, Oh!! and you to Jones, Mahmood, Harmy and Monty. If we are going to crash and burn then lets make it close!!

  • testli5504537 on December 17, 2006, 21:27 GMT

    I was lucky enough to watch that magical Astle chanceless-222. Never seen the ball hit to anything like that level.

    Came pretty close a couple of days ago, mind - damn close.

    It really is something to see the ball hit like that - unfortunately this time it was somewhat painful to boot as I hate seeing Hoggard (these days - loved it with Astle) and Panesar taken to the cleaners. I also wasn't too pleased to see Gilchrist escape the lean trot he's been in since Lord's 2005, because I genuinely believed that someone might, finally, have got the wood over him.

    Unlike many English correspondants, though, I never contemplated writing him off, and here is the proof as to why to do so was\would have been pure folly. Class will out.

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