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July 12, 2009
Stand of the day
James Anderson has never made a Test duck in six years as an international cricketer, and it was as if he had been in training for this very day. In partnership with Monty Panesar, a man whose style has been likened by Graeme Swann to Yuvraj Singh but whose very presence at the crease brings England fans out in palpitations, he dug for the draw that has ignited the 2009 Ashes. For 11 overs and three balls, the pair ground out 19 runs to turn an innings defeat into the sweetest draw in Ashes cricket since Australia's great escape at Old Trafford four years ago.
Man of the day
The ball was wide and hardly worthy of a shot, certainly not from a man whose guts and self-denial had put his chancier, flashier team-mates to shame for five-and-three-quarter hours and 245 balls. But the extra bounce of the new ball does strange things to even the most well-set of batsmen. An indeterminate flash outside off sent the ball skidding flat and hard to Mike Hussey in the gully, who parried it at first, and then gratefully clasped onto the rebound as the entire ground sucked in its breath. Poor Paul Collingwood could only slump at the crease, aghast at the manner in which he'd sacrificed his defining innings. A standing ovation ensued, but he could barely raise his head in acknowledgement as he sloped away from the field.
Cheer of the day
Anderson's stabbed steers through third man off consecutive Peter Siddle deliveries that carried England into the lead with half-an-hour of the match remaining. More than the runs scored, crucial though they were, it was the overs saved that were even more invaluable. Suddenly 12 precious balls for the innings change-around had been sawn off the day's remaining allocation, and England needed to prod their way through just five more overs of the day …
Handbags of the day
Perhaps it was Kevin Pietersen's personal attempt to revive the spirit of 2005 (when Simon Jones threw a ball at Matthew Hayden's shoulder at Edgbaston and all the England boys rushed in to back him up, blah blah blah …) but this morning, when he belted a practice ball into a crowd of Aussies during the pre-play warm-ups, he might as well have thrown a rock at a hornet's nest. Mitchell Johnson came buzzing out to confront him, no doubt informing him that his missus is a karate black-belt, and it took some statesmanlike intervention from Stuart Clark to diffuse the situation. Australia's desire to crush the Poms, never really in doubt at any stage, had been heightened all the more.
Breakthroughs of the day
In terms of Ashes spinners, Nathan Hauritz entered the game with a lowlier reputation than even Ashley Giles, but in the first session of the final day, he claimed two staggeringly valuable scalps that seemed sure to set Australia on their way to a crushing victory. Both were extracted through the medium of extra bounce, as first Andrew Strauss flashed a cut into the gloves of Brad Haddin, and then Matt Prior poked a late cut into the hands of Michael Clarke. When he followed up with a skidder to pin Stuart Broad lbw, he had beaten England's spin-twins, Panesar and Swann, by six wickets to one.
Misjudgement of the day
When you've been castigated for reaching three feet outside your off stump to sweep a potential wide into the hands of short leg, what better way to respond to your critics than to shoulder arms to a straight one? That was the route to vindication that Pietersen chose, although the net effect was to raise a whole new line of questioning about his judgement. Joking aside, it is increasingly noticeable how Pietersen tends to be squared up by full-length deliveries on off stump, as his recent dismissals at Kingston and Lord's have also shown.
Peppering of the day
Until Hilfenhaus bagged him with the new ball, Graeme Swann had not been dismissed in any Test innings since December. If Peter Siddle was aware of this peculiar fact, he made it his business to ensure that Swann left the field by whatever means today - and preferably on a stretcher. In a brutal 70th over, the penultimate of the second session, Siddle smashed Swann on the body three times in four balls - first on the left index finger, then on the right elbow, then on the right hand. A snarling Siddle followed up that final hit with a stream of choice invective, no doubt riled by two earlier visits from the physio, and then three overs into the final session, pinged him flush on the helmet as Swann nutted the ball down to third man for two lid-byes.
Celebration of the day
It was not so much a celebration, more an accusation. When Collingwood reached his fifty, from 167 ceaselessly determined balls, his bat-wave to the dressing-room contained more than a hint of menace. There was nothing remotely cheery about the pointed jab of the blade that he stabbed in their direction. It was as if he was saying: "You lot got us into this situation, I'll get us out of it. Again." (And no doubt face his usual calls to be dropped next week when England have maintained their proud tradition of failing to beat Australia at Lord's for three-quarters of a century.)
Pitch invaders of the day
A pair of halfwits had to be ejected from the ground in the afternoon session when they broke the stumps at the Cathedral Road end in a bid for self-publicity, but they weren't half as unwelcome as the visit from the physio in the dying minutes of the day. He jogged out to the middle with Ponting spitting tacks, and did little more than tap Anderson on the shoulder before being evicted abruptly by the umpires. It was all a little cynical, frankly.
Snaffler of the day
Ricky Ponting may have carved out his role as the elder statesmen of his team, but his reflexes around the bat have not dimmed an iota - and nor his combative spirit. Two moments in particular exemplified both facts. Firstly the stooping catch at second slip to prise a reluctant Andrew Flintoff from the crease - "I caught it, I caught it, mate, I caught it!" he commanded as he rushed up to celebrate with his team-mates. And so, indeed, he had. In the final hour, however, came an even more critical moment, when Collingwood propped forward to Hauritz, and Ponting at silly point launched himself to his right to cling onto a sensational take. Once again, he was adamant that he had got his man, but Aleem Dar had already turned down the first appeal, for lbw. And once again, the decision was spot on.
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