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Peter English at Edgbaston
July 30, 2009
Australia 126 for 1 (Watson 62*) v England
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
News : Hughes confirms axing on Twitter
News : Ponting looking beyond Border's record
Preview : Weather adds to Australia's problems
Players/Officials: Andrew Flintoff | Brad Haddin | Phillip Hughes | Graham Manou | Ricky Ponting | Andrew Strauss | Shane Watson
Matches: England v Australia at Birmingham
Series/Tournaments: Australia tour of England and Scotland
Australia's batsmen refused to suffer further from the team's Edgbaston curse, which robbed them of the wicketkeeper Brad Haddin after the toss, as they raced to 126 for 1 on a first day significantly curtailed by rain. Shane Watson, who had come in for the discarded opener Phillip Hughes, quickly eliminated any doubt over his unorthodox promotion to add his second Test half-century in his ninth match, an innings which helped justify Ricky Ponting's decision to bat despite the potential for swing and seam.
England's bowlers were treated like Australia's on the first day at Lord's, giving up 85 in 19 overs before they picked up Simon Katich. By then they knew they would not be receiving any significant support from a placid pitch, although they had already benefited from the visitors' misfortune. Following a long delay when nothing happened quickly, Australia were suddenly thrust into frantic behind-the-scenes action while Ponting was at the toss.
All the team discussions over how Australia would recover from a 1-0 deficit required an instant re-think when Haddin suffered a suspected broken finger in the warm-up. With the team sheet already handed in, they had to ask permission to replace Haddin with Graham Manou, the South Australia gloveman, who received an unthinkable debut. The tourists were floored in similar circumstances here four years ago when Glenn McGrath hurt his ankle on the morning of the game, an event which started Australia's fall to a 2-1 loss.
None of this bothered Watson, who knew of his promotion on the eve of the match, and he took guard for the first ball and was soon sending it through cover, point, midwicket and square leg during the 30 available overs. Entering the game with a Test average of 19.76, Watson played like he had been part of the team for years as he drove and pulled with freedom and power. He had failed as an opener with Queensland a couple of seasons ago but gained confidence from his stints there in the limited-overs sides.
By stumps there were no immediate regrets over his elevation after he pumped 10 boundaries, including a drive off Graham Onions that was so straight it bounced over the umpire, during an assured 62 off 105 deliveries. His only moment of serious discomfort came in the same over Graeme Swann removed Katich, with Watson missing a sweep and surviving a loud lbw appeal on 37.
Moving on quickly, his 89-ball half-century arrived with a clipped two to the legside. It was just what Watson, an allrounder who has fought a series of untimely injuries, needed and his fast-bowling will also provide cover for Mitchell Johnson, the out-of-sorts attack leader.
With 11 overs remaining Watson was joined by Ponting, who held firm to finish on 17, eight short of Allan Border's Australia record of 11,174 runs. Ponting was required when Katich grew too confident and aimed a hefty pull to his first offering from Swann, falling lbw when struck on the front leg. He was unhappy to exit in such ugly fashion for 46 from 48 balls after such a smooth start.
James Anderson took the new ball with Andrew Flintoff but both bowled too short before Onions and Stuart Broad experienced some harsh treatment in front of a subdued sell-out crowd. Watson unfurled a crisp off-drive for four from Onions' second ball and then pulled another to midwicket in the same over. Broad also gave away two early boundaries when he aimed at Katich's legs and was twice caressed through square leg.
Play eventually started at 5pm after rain fell in Birmingham on Wednesday and Thursday morning, but the skies cleared after lunch and the match began in beautiful summer sunshine. The umpires Rudi Koertzen and Aleem Dar were particularly concerned by the soggy run-ups and the damp outfield and called Ponting and Andrew Strauss on to the field during two inspections before they agreed the conditions were suitable.
England's only change from the outfit that won at Lord's last week was Ian Bell coming in at No. 4 for the injured Kevin Pietersen, but the unaltered bowling attack must re-focus in the morning if they are to trouble their opponents. Both sides need to make an early impact if they are to pursue a positive result as further weather disruptions are expected on Saturday and Monday.
What's wrong with their cricket? Well, what isn't?