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The Bulletin by Alex Brown at Lord's
July 19, 2009
Australia 215 and 313 for 5 (Clarke 125*, Haddin 80*) need another 209 runs to beat England 425 and 311 for 6 dec (Prior 61, Collingwood 54)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin kept alive Australian hopes of a world-record run chase with an unbeaten partnership of 185 that both stunned and enthralled the capacity Lord's crowd. No sooner had England appeared set on an inexorable march towards their first Ashes victory at Lord's in 75 years than the Australian middle-order duo produced a stoic, chanceless sixth-wicket stand to drag the tourists back into the contest.
The evening session may have belonged to Australia, but advantage still rests with England. Australia require another 209 runs for victory, having been set an unprecedented target of 522 by Andrew Strauss, and will resume on Monday acutely aware that they are one wicket away from delving into their bowling stocks.
But after a stirring fourth day, during which Australia made the impossible merely improbable, few would dare discount their chances entirely. Australia's effort is already the fourth highest fourth-innings total in Lord's 125 year history and 105 runs shy of Test cricket's highest ever successful run chase. And this with five wickets still in hand. After being offered the light in the 86th over, Clarke placed his arm around Haddin as he strode from the playing surface, satisfied that their efforts had saved a day that, hours earlier, had lurched heavily England's way. Five Australian wickets, three of which were contentious in the extreme, had fallen for just 128 runs before tea, and an expectant Lord's crowd awaited an Andrew Flintoff-inspired England to complete a quick kill.
But the script changed dramatically thereafter. Clarke, perhaps Australia's most consistent batsman of the past 18 months, successfully navigated his way through a testing early period and appeared impressively immune from the suffocating atmosphere created by Flintoff and Graeme Swann. The Australian vice-captain notched his half-century in near even-time, highlighted by several sublime drives and crisp stroke play off his pads.
Haddin, meanwhile, entered the match brimming with confidence following his 121 in Cardiff, and looked the part early. His half-century was more attritional than Clarke's - surprising, given their usual modus operandi - and was raised with a single to third man off Swann. Clarke reached his 11th Test century from the very next delivery with a push through midwicket, and celebrated with his customary wave of the bat and kiss of the coat-of-arms. This may well be remembered as his finest Test innings to date, and will presumably enshrine itself into Australian sporting folklore should it lead to a famous victory.
Clarke and Haddin survived several anxious moments after the second new ball was taken, edging over the slips cordon on several occasions, but otherwise batted with tremendous maturity and determination on a day otherwise notable for a series of contentious dismissals that threatened to overshadow the broader contest.
Controversy, not history, dominated discussion during the first two sessions and, again, much of the focus centred on Rudi Koertzen, whose 100th Test might well be his most disappointing. The South African official began the fourth day by ruling Simon Katich out to a Flintoff no-ball, but the bigger controversy surrounded his involvement in the dismissal of Phillip Hughes to a claimed catch by Strauss.
Hughes was ordered to stand his ground by Ricky Ponting, the non-striker, after edging Flintoff low to first slip and, as has been the case twice previously this Test, Koertzen sought the counsel of Billy Doctrove. But unlike Nathan Hauritz's claimed catch on Saturday, the on-field officials did not refer the matter to Nigel Llong, the third umpire, and Koertzen ordered Hughes back to the Pavilion for 17.
Replays were inconclusive as to whether Strauss' fingers were completely between ball and turf, and a third umpire referral might have resulted in a benefit-of-the-doubt ruling, such as that granted to Ravi Bopara the previous day. Hughes, though, was not so fortunate, and now finds himself under immense pressure to perform at Edgbaston after false starts at Sophia Gardens and Lord's.
Michael Hussey also had reason to feel aggrieved at his dismissal, ruled caught at first slip to a Swann delivery he appeared to miss, but the Australian batsman could have counted himself most fortunate to have survived an earlier lbw shout from James Anderson. Hussey's wicket in the 33rd over appeared to signal the end of Australia's survival prospects, until Clarke and Haddin combined for an unbroken partnership that has lasted 286 deliveries and 188 minutes entering the final day.
Their efforts could not entirely detract from a virtuoso performance from Flintoff, playing his last ever Test at Lord's. Storming in from the Pavilion End, England's enigmatic allrounder bowled seven overs of pure menace for figures of 2 for 9 before lunch, accounting for both Australian openers in the process, and followed with seven more in the second session.
Presumably, Flintoff will not be offering conciliatory handshakes and embraces to the Australians in the event of a second Test victory, as was the case at Edgbaston four years, given the ferocity of his encounters with Hughes and Ponting in the first session on Sunday. In the second over of the morning, Flintoff unleashed a ferocious bouncer that barely cleared Hughes' helmet, and followed with an exaggerated verbal barrage delivered while walking backwards to his mark. The chirping also extended to Ponting, somewhat more practiced at the art than Hughes, as tempers frayed in this most pressurised of atmospheres.
Ponting's blood pressure rose further when Anderson struck him a painful blow to the right index finger, and again when a loose cut-shot resulted in him edging a Stuart Broad delivery onto his stumps. Marcus North also chopped on in the lead up to tea - his from a faster, flatter Swann delivery - as Australia stumbled to 128 for 5.
Clarke and Haddin ensured England did not have it all their own way, but they still have quite the mountain to climb. An early wicket on Monday will tilt the balance firmly the way of England. Still, better an improbable chase than an impossible one.