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England v Australia, 4th Test, Trent Bridge, 2nd day

Hayden's demise mirrors Australia's

The Australian View by Peter English

August 26, 2005

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Matthew Hayden: reduced to a foot-stuttering, bat-wobbling mess © Getty Images
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No contest shows the dramatic reversal of the Ashes more than Matthew Hayden's woes against Matthew Hoggard. The last time they met Hayden was made of iron and ricocheted Hoggard to the boundary at every angle. Depending on your slant, the mismatch was amusing or sickening, just as it is now.

For Hoggard it is suddenly a great game; for Hayden it must soon be up. The bowler needs only to dangle his pocket watch, which swings as often as his deliveries, and the batsman can't help but stare. Wide eyes are usually a good sign, but for Hayden they have highlighted a dispiriting trance to a medium-pacer he previously belted like an old-fashioned father.

Hayden smashed England in 2002-03 for 496 runs at 62.00, a lower average than what it cost Hoggard for each of his six wickets. But Hoggard wiped his eyes, forgot the horrors and in a superb example of Michael Vaughan's man-on-man offense has reduced his nemesis to a foot-stuttering, bat-wobbling mess. In seven innings Hayden has scratched 154 runs and has three times been hypnotised by Hoggard with the help of cryptic field placements.

Visibly confused before he fell lbw to an in-swinger, Hayden's batting is now without potency. And when a team has troubles at the top they quickly filter through the rest of the order. Australia's batting slump has become an epidemic and instead of being given a bullocking start the top order is quickly facing swinging music they don't want to hear.

They have also experienced the wrong side of umpiring decisions that traditionally run with the team on top. Both Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn - for the second time in consecutive innings - collected inside edges before being judged lbw. With Hayden offering no protection on the scoreboard, Australia were 22 for 3 and needing more serious damage control, which may become the key words of the most testing campaign of every player's career.



Damien Martyn: sawn off once again © Getty Images
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When Australia have bowled - apart from Lord's - the pitch has looked snooker-table flat. Yet when England run in the surface seems green and two yards shorter. Justin Langer was hit in the head playing forward to Andrew Flintoff today and the movement surprised him again when he edged to short leg. More swing loosened Michael Clarke on the ball before stumps to end a disastrous day. How they must wish to face bowling that is straight and narrow.

No Australian has been able to flex at Trent Bridge. Each time there was a hint of flesh it was shoved away and the owners have acted like tired, aching and grumpy men. Bowling pressure was released like handbrakes and missed half-chances, ones which were previously snapped up, have become reasons to complain about poor luck, although they deserved to be upset when a Shane Warne lbw appeal to Flintoff on 8 was knocked back. A day that opened with Kevin Pietersen's dismissal at 241 for 5 soon drifted during a 177-run partnership - at 4.5 runs an over - between Flintoff and Geraint Jones, the kind of act Adam Gilchrist usually stars in.

The ability of Australians to change the game at will, a characteristic that has taken them to greatness, has disappeared with their invincibility. A side that came to England ready to match the '48 tourists will now be popping corks if they draw the series.

At Worcester, Australia's Women, who have not lost an Ashes series since 1963, are in a similar desperate state. Like Hayden, Belinda Clark, the brilliant opener who won her second World Cup in April, is struggling badly in what could also be her final series. The turnarounds have been remarkably swift and once again it is the world champions seeking near-miracles.

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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