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Australia v England, 4th Test, Melbourne, 3rd day
The relentless Australian juggernaut
December 28, 2006
Water torture for England
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It was a glorious finish for Australia and the two retiring cricketers, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath but it wasn't such a glorious day for England. They capitulated in the second innings when it cried out for them to force Australia to at least have to bat again but that didn't happen.

I guess when you are 260 runs behind it helps to have a very good opening partnership. If you can reach 100 or 150 for no loss, it can make the dressing room feel that something is possible; that you can at least force the opposition to work really hard for their victory. But unfortunately with Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook, they've done the hard work, they've got past 20 seven times out of eight; today they got past 40 but only just. Today it was Cook who was on his way and once it was 1 for 41 and with [the state] of England's lower order the feeling must have been 'this is difficult'.

The Australians were once again relentless. Strauss had said this morning before play started that this would be a very good batting pitch. Sure it was a good batting pitch but there was something in it for the bowler who was willing to bend his back a bit and the difference between England and Australia once again came up. Brett Lee bowled a terrific first over, he troubled the batsmen, Glenn McGrath followed it up and basically that was it. Australia hit the awkward spots all the time making things difficult for the batsman and it was a bit like the old water-torture - dripping on the stone - eventually it pays off. They got the first wicket and from then on things began to happen for Australia.

Stuart Clark has been an unbelievable find. He's a far better bowler than I thought he was from what I'd seen at the first-class level. He's learnt to swing the ball, which is something that I hadn't seen from him. He's got the accuracy of McGrath at his peak and he'll be a wonderful replacement for McGrath when he retires. Obviously Australia have to find another young quickie but it must be very comforting to know that they've got a bowler of Clark's ability waiting in the wings.

Lee had a bit of a talking to from his captain just before the Test match; Ricky Ponting wanting him to step up and take more responsibility with McGrath having announced his retirement and he certainly displayed more responsibility in this Test match. He produced his best ever figures for Australia against England and he bowled with pace [but more importantly] he bowled with good sense which is sometimes missing from Lee's bowling. He bowled with accuracy and got the old ball to swing.

And then there was Shane Warne with the crowd urging him on to get more wickets. For those who don't believe that the Rest of the World game should be called a Test match, he's now satisfied them because he's now got 700 wickets apart from the six that he's got against the Rest of the World. He even got the wicket of Steve Harmison with flipper hitting Harmison on the back foot and trapping him lbw.

Andrew Strauss played very well and this is the remarkable thing. He's going to look back on the series and wonder what the hell went wrong. He's in good form, he's hit some good shots, but due to circumstances, bad luck and some good bowling he just hasn't been able to convert his starts into something big and it'll be very frustrating because you know as a batsman that when you are in good form you have to score runs. There will be times when you will be in bad form and runs will be hard to come by.

And in the end it was down to the relentless bowling pressure that Australia so successfully applied with some terrific fielding to back it up. Justin Langer took a brilliant sharp reflex catch at short cover to dismiss Paul Collingwood. That's the sort of support that the Australia have had in the field. It has been a very good team effort and we had the final scenes when Lee went right through Matthew Hoggard to finish it off.

There was a bit of defiance in the end from Hoggard and Chris Read. Read has had a very good game. He's come into the side in difficult circumstances, yet he kept brilliantly, he didn't make any mistakes and had six dismissals and then fought hard with the bat in difficult circumstances.

And then in the end there were great scenes at the MCG with the two fishermen Andrew Symonds and Matthew Hayden. They lifted Warne on their shoulders and carried him to the edge of the ground. Warne then stopped, gestured to McGrath and then the two champions walked off the MCG arm-in-arm.

It's 4-0 and 11 wins to Australia which puts them in second position along with Clive Lloyd's team of the 80's that had 11 wins on the trot and second to Steve Waugh's team that had 16 wins on the trot. I can't see any way in which England can stop Australia making it 5-0 in Sydney and 12 wins on the trot because this is now a very deflated England side. Australia have got the upper hand not just on the field but also psychologically and I can't see how England can stop this juggernaut.

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

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