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September 4, 2005
Essex 502 for 4 dec (Cook 214, Bopara 135, Tait 2-71) drew with Australia 561 for 6 (Hayden 150 ret, Hodge 166, Katich 78, Haddin 59)
Matthew Hayden has made a habit of plundering county attacks this summer and the story was no different at Chelmsford as he posted 150 against Essex before retiring to let others have a go ahead of the final Test on Thursday. After a humbling first day in which the home side racked up 502 before declaring, Australia's batsmen replied with their own mountainous total as the game ended in an inevitable draw.
Whether Hayden will play at The Oval or not, though, is still open to debate, regardless of his superlative record in practice tour matches this year. An average of 103.5, centuries in three of the six innings and fifties in all of them contrast starkly with a woeful Test summer, where he averages 22.5 and his top score is 36.
But he could do no more in this match to convince the selectors that he is ready for the all-important final Test after racing to a century from 90 balls. His innings included seven sixes and 18 fours. Justin Langer joined him in an opening stand of 213, a powerful warning that the formidable partnership is back on track.
Langer has also been below his best this Ashes series - firing at ten runs below his overall Test average of 45 - but he flayed the Essex attack to all parts throughout his 87. The rest of the Australians joined in - with one notable exception, Adam Gilchrist, who made 8. Hodge top scored with 166, Simon Katich posted 78 and Brad Haddin made 59.
Gilchrist was bagged by James Middlebrook, but England will be more than aware that he is due. His overall average in Tests is 53, but this summer the gap - nay, cavern - is more than 30 runs below that. So far he averages just 22.6 and has yet to post a fifty in the series.
With Australia insisting on short practice matches this summer, and four innings available over the two days, neither side was going to be able to buy a result on a benign pitch offering little to the bowlers. Still, the spectators won't mind: unless they have a spare grand or two sloshing around, or they picked up their Oval tickets months ago, this was the last chance to glimpse the Australians in the flesh this summer.
The tourists' bowlers may have shown their immortality on Saturday, but their batsmen issued a powerful reminder of their potent force. Thursday's Test may need no further hype, but today Australia's batsmen did the talking.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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