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July 31, 2009
Opening gambit of the day
Graham Onions was a surprise choice to take the first over of the day, given how much faith England have placed in their senior pairing of Andrew Flintoff and James Anderson in this series. But both men were disappointing in their initial bursts on Thursday evening, and Andrew Strauss wanted a bowler who could be relied upon to aim at the stumps from a full length. He could not have wished for a more dramatic affirmation of his faith in Onions. Two balls, two wickets, as first Shane Watson missed a straight one to be pinned lbw for his overnight 62, and then Michael Hussey, for the second match running, offered no stroke to a ball that picked out his off stump.
Innings of the day
Batting was apparently a struggle today, as nine Australian wickets and Alastair Cook's first-over duck would suggest. But one batsman rose all other contenders, to lay claim to the innings just as he had done at Lord's. Andrew Strauss's crisp punchy drives and emphatic cut shots allowed no margin for error whatsoever, as he cruised to his half-century from 92 balls. Ominously for Australia, Strauss's conversation rate is up there with the best in history. Of the 33 innings he has made it to fifty in his career, he's pushed on to three figures on no fewer than 18 occasions.
Milestone of the day
He got there a touch chancily, with an aerial prod through short leg, but when you've racked up more than 11,000 Test runs, it's fair to say that you've earned a bit of good fortune. Ricky Ponting began the match needing 25 runs to surpass Allan Border's Australian Test record of 11,174, and resumed on the second day with 17 of those already in the book. A thick-edged four through gully reduced the requirement even further, and he finally went clear of Border with three through midwicket off Andrew Flintoff. An appreciative Edgbaston crowd stood to salute him as he raised his bat. Ponting hasn't been the most popular player in this series so far, but everyone in the ground could appreciate the class of the man.
Statement of the day
It didn't take long for Shane Warne to resume his "Shermanator" jibes from up in the commentary box, but down at pitch level, Ian Bell was determined to make a statement of intent in his first innings for England since February. No single shot was more emphatic than his shimmy and thwack off Nathan Hauritz, who was sent sailing over long-on for six. Bell's follow-up shot, however, was a little bit dicier however, as he dabbed limply outside off, much in the manner he was dismissed in Jamaica in his last Test innings, but happily for him he avoided getting an edge. He was also outrageously fortuitous not to be given lbw for 18 as Mitchell Johnson clattered his pads plumb in front of middle. But undeterred, Bell followed up with a flowing cover drive for four, to finish the day very much in credit.
Debut of the day
The record-books will state that Graham Manou made his Test debut on July 30, 2009, but to all intents and purposes his international career did not begin until today. Such was the rush on the first day after Brad Haddin's finger injury, Manou did not even get formally presented with his baggy green until this morning, and besides, he spent Thursday afternoon in a daze in the dressing-room, coming to terms with what had just transpired. When his turn came to bat, he started with confidence with two fours in three balls, but then attracted the delivery of the day from Anderson, which smashed his stumps from wide on the crease. Still, he later fronted up with the gloves, and stooped well in the second over to collect a low edge off Peter Siddle, and send Cook back for a duck.
Cameo of the day
Up until the moment he was adjudged lbw to a ball that might have missed leg, Michael Clarke led a bit of a charmed life. On 18, he was pinned on the crease by an offcutter that looked to be taking out middle-and-leg, but Aleem Dar decreed it was sliding past the stumps. And then, two runs later, he had an even more remarkable escape when Flintoff, of all people, dropped a catch at second slip. Onions was once again the bowler, as Clarke failed to read the outswinger, and guided the ball expertly off the face of his bat as he attempted to leave. The shot selection seemed to fool Flintoff, who barely reacted as the ball thudded into his chest and away to safety.
Catch of the day
Matt Prior has had his critics since making his debut in 2007, largely for the fallibility of his glovework - which, in the opinion of many wicketkeeping experts, has stemmed from the leaden nature of his footwork. Against India and Sri Lanka in 2007-08, he spilled chance after chance, most of them off Ryan Sidebottom, and a large proportion of them left-handers, as he seemed slow in pushing off with his right foot whenever a catch flew to his left. Today, however, he demonstrated a new-found agility, as Marcus North edged James Anderson high towards first slip. Quick as a flash, Prior launched himself at the ball, and snaffled the chance one-handed.
Drop of the day
Taking the ball over your shoulder while running away from the action is arguably the hardest type of catch to judge, but the chance that Ravi Bopara spilled at point off Ben Hilfenhaus was nevertheless a notable lapse. It wasn't the toughest opportunity he'll ever be offered either. The ball went so high off a top-edge that Bopara almost had time to walk into position before muffing the opportunity as it slapped off his palms. Hilfenhaus had made just 8 at the time, and that moment could have closed Australia's innings on 241. Instead the last pair added 22 extra runs, with Hilfenhaus moving along to 20, his highest Test score.
Chant of the day
Like their team, the Barmy Army enjoyed their best day of the series on day two. A tribute to Bobby Robson, the England football legend who died on Friday morning, stirred the emotions of all in the Eric Hollies Stand, but there were many moments of levity too. A panel of Cricinfo chant experts judged "Your next queen is Camilla Parker-Bowles" the victor by a short-half head over "Super Mitchell Johnson" followed by "Where's your aura gone" in third. A fine field.
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