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July 19, 2009
Innings of the day
Michael Clarke has had four years to ponder the error of his youthful ways, when in the opening Test of the 2005 Ashes, he squandered the chance to etch his name on the Lord's honours-board when he gave his innings away for 91 ... and watched his form evaporate as the summer wore on. This time around, he made no mistake whatsoever, with a brilliant rearguard performance that first gave Australia hope of escaping with a draw, and then, as his stand with Brad Haddin grew and grew, of turning the tables in the most stunning fashion imaginable. Cool against the pacemen and quick-footed to Graeme Swann, he raced into his innings with a 58-ball fifty, dug to his hundred from a further 101 deliveries, then beat off the new ball to keep the match on a knife-edge.
Huddle of the day
At the 80-over mark and with the light beginning to fade, Andrew Strauss called not only for the new ball but for a time-out as well. He ordered his fielders in from all corners of the field and for 30 urgent seconds he drilled home exactly how critical the situation had become. Clarke's stand with Haddin was worth 159 already, and neither man had offered a chance of note for more than 40 overs. It was squeaky-bum time, as Sir Alex Ferguson used to say. But Strauss's exhortations came to nothing, as Andrew Flintoff banged the ball in too short, and James Anderson's buzzing full length beat the bat. A similar but more successful huddle will be needed tomorrow.
Ball of the day
A viper of a delivery from Anderson that leapt into Ricky Ponting's gloves early on in his innings, and nailed his right index finger to his bat handle. It was the third ball that Ponting had faced from Anderson, and only the 16th of his innings in total, and it hurt him as badly as any blow in recent times. The physio was waiting for the call as Ponting took five paces from the crease and several deep breaths, but he soon reapplied his glove and got on with the job of batting to save his team.
Blooper of the day 1
When Simon Katich drove loosely at a full delivery from Flintoff and edged a hard fast chance straight into Kevin Pietersen's midriff in the gully for 6, Strauss's decision to declare overnight had been instantly vindicated. One of the most obdurate men in the Australian line-up had been extracted, and Flintoff had got early reward for his wholehearted new-ball bowling. So far, so regulation. But then, once Katich was safely back into the pavilion, a new dimension emerged from the TV replays. Unbeknownst to the umpire, Rudi Koertzen, Flintoff had overstepped, and so the chance should not have counted.
Blooper of the day 2
Another edge, another catch, another almighty stink. This time the victim was Katich's fellow opener, Phillip Hughes, scooped up at first slip by England's captain, Strauss, and sent on his way for 17. The ball was dying as it reached Strauss but his fingers were there or thereabouts as the catch was claimed, even though it was clear that there was grass involved as well. In the days before TV replays, this would probably have been accepted without fuss - because his fingers were underneath the ball, they would presumably have clasped the catch regardless of the turf's proximity. The trouble on this occasion was the lack of consistency from the umpires. When Nathan Hauritz claimed a similarly disputable chance at mid-on on Saturday, it was referred upstairs by the onfield umpires, and after several minutes of debate the benefit was given to the batsman, Ravi Bopara. This time, Koertzen once again asked his colleague whether it had carried, but Billy Doctrove bizarrely nodded that it had. His scattergun decision-making was entirely to blame for this one.
Blooper of the day 3
After a disappointing performance in the first Test at Cardiff, where he went wicketless for the first time in his career, Graeme Swann sparked back into life with a vengeance today, finding sharp turn and teasing flight right from the start of his spell. In his second over, he made a critical breakthrough as Mike Hussey pushed forward and snicked into the hands of Paul Collingwood at slip. England appealed instantly and Doctrove didn't hesitate in agreeing there'd been an edge. He might have wished he had, however. The dreaded replay soon resurfaced, and showed fairly clearly that the deviation had been entirely off the pitch, and that Hussey's bat had been nowhere near the action.
Landmark of the day
Stuart Broad has not enjoyed the best Test of his career. Steve Harmison is hovering and could yet claim his spot for Edgbaston, but nevertheless, he's still chimed in with three important wickets in this match, and none more crucial than the one he made today. Ricky Ponting was looking set to lead Australia's rearguard, when he chose the wrong ball to cut, and under-edged onto his stumps. The scalp was Broad's 50th wicket in Tests, and at 23 years and 25 days, he was the second youngest England bowler to reach the landmark, after the matchless Ian Botham. Botham, however, achieved the feat midway through his 10th Test - Broad has taken 19. Still, it's a timely reminder that he's got plenty years to grow into his role.
Cloudburst of the day
The ten-minute shower before the start of play. If Strauss had harboured any lingering doubts about an instant declaration, then that little freshener made up his mind forthwith. England withstood the temptation to bat on for an extra half-hour to keep Australia guessing, and instead sent their openers out to face the music. With two wickets in 10 overs - no matter how contentious - it was a ploy that succeeded at first. But with Australia still brawling as the day was finally called to a halt, he might yet rue his decision not to bat them out of contention, time-wise.
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