Clarke cements his place

A draw is the likely outcome though the last day could hold some surprises if England get a move on (03:31)

December 4, 2006

Transcript

Australia v England, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 4th day

Clarke cements his place

December 4, 2006

Matthew Hoggard was the hero for England. He really toiled, he persevered and he bowled intelligently. The big difference between Matthew Hoggard in this tour and the previous time he came to Australia is that he has found ways to get wickets with the old ball and particularly when the ball isn't swinging a lot. He really made things difficult for the Australian batsmen.

Some good field placing from Andrew Flintoff, particularly in front of the wicket and Hoggard just pegged away at the stumps, he varied his pace a bit, on a pitch that still isn't giving the bowlers a lot of assistance. So it was his performance that kept England in the game. Michael Clarke played extremely well and Adam Gilchrist - who struggled a bit early - then he hit a few boundaries off Steve Harmison that really got him going and in the end when he fell to Ashley Giles, Gilchrist was probably trying to send a message to England that Australia thought they could still win. Giles looked pretty ineffective to me and they're kidding if they continue to play Giles ahead of Monty Panesar.

Well, Michael Clarke has made a big improvement to his batting. He was dropped as a young player. But as so many young players have done they get dropped and come back as better players. The big difference Clarke has made to his batting is he hits the ball along the ground so much more than he did in the earlier parts of his career. I have no problem with the batsman hitting the ball over the field, but you're either clearing the field or hitting the ball along the ground. And what Clarke was doing was hitting the ball in the air at catchable height and if you keep doing that you're going to find a fieldsman. Clarke has eliminated that error from his game and he now has cemented his place in the Australian side. And he may have made life difficult for Damien Martyn when selection comes for the next test. The Australian selectors seem determined to fit Shane Watson into the side as soon as he's fit and it's Damien Martyn who's going to be missing out, certainly it won't be Clarke.

Gilchrist looked keen to pick up the pace earlier in the innings but when Glenn McGrath batted Australia just plugged away, they weren't scoring a lot of runs in a hurry and that seemed to suggest that by that stage Australia were quite happy to draw the match. I'm sure when they came out to bowl and suddenly Shane Warne's turning the ball a long way, they thought they might be able to force the issue on the last day.

It wasn't to be. Only Alastair Cook was sent back to the pavilion. He looked like a man who's batting with a headache. He got a nasty whack on the helmet when he was on the field at bat-pad and a lapse in concentration saw him edge another one. He has got a problem there and he has to eradicate it. But I thought the very positive play from both Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell suggested that England might be trying to push on. I believe that the draw has got to be the favourite. But England, even if they do draw the match, should try and scare Australia on the last day with a declaration. Let Kevin Pietersen loose tomorrow to try and quicken things up we might still see a bit of excitement on the final day at the Adelaide Oval.


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