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August 3, 2009
Spell of the day
There was a logic behind the identities of England's bowling combination for the first hour, but it was a perverse one. Graham Onions claimed two wickets in two balls when he resumed the attack on Friday morning, so he was a shoo-in for the first over of the day; Andrew Flintoff claimed three matchwinning scalps in an unstinting ten-over spell at Lord's last week, so he too clearly had to be given the chance to make something happen. But unfortunately three into two doesn't go, which meant that the likeliest man to exploit the overcast conditions and the 28-over ball, James Anderson, was left kicking his heels for an hour. And lo and behold, when he did finally enter the attack, he struck with his sixth delivery.
Slip of the day
Flintoff huffed and puffed and gallumphed with his usual intent, but after his final-day heroics at Lord's, this time his breakthroughs proved to be utterly elusive. Instead, the closest he came to capturing the headlines was the moment in his 13th over of the innings, when he lost his footing in his delivery stride, and turned his left ankle in dramatic fashion. The slow-motion replays provided a vivid image of the stresses and strains that Flintoff's all-action style place on his body, with his entire left leg buckling and sliding like a HGV jack-knifing on a rain-soaked motorway. As he went to ground the whole of Edgbaston drew breath. But after taking a moment, he returned to the vertical without apparent ill-effects.
Drop of the day
With seven overs to go until the new ball, and with England drifting listlessly into the afternoon, Andrew Strauss decided to pass the time by calling Ravi Bopara's medium-pace into the attack. It could have been an inspired move - Bopara had previously claimed one wicket in 41 overs at Test level, but a brace of half-trackers first-up persuaded Michael Clarke to drop his guard. The first was slapped safely to mid-on, the second crashed straight into Strauss himself, positioned at short midwicket for precisely that shot. Clarke had been on 38 at the time, and Australia's lead was a still delicate 102. England scarcely produced another sniff of a chance.
Catch of the day
When they did finally produce another chance, it came 30 overs and 127 runs later, and it was a pretty sensational moment in an otherwise inconsequential session. Marcus North had once again sneaked beneath the radar to move within a single shot of his third century in five Tests, and when a fat edge off Stuart Broad whizzed towards the gap in the gully, he might as well have started his celebrations there and then. But out of nowhere, Anderson flung himself to his right, stuck out a mitt, and snaffled the catch that ended a match- (and maybe even series-) saving stand of 185 with Clarke.
Luck of the day
After his let-off, Clarke produced a majestic rearguard innings with scarcely another false move ... until he reached the nervous nineties. From that moment on he found every gap in the field had been plugged, and even though he was fresh from a second-innings hundred at Lord's, he needed two huge moments of good fortune to progress. First, on 92, he had his off stump clipped as he played inside a Broad offcutter, only for the bail to remain in place. And then, four runs later, he slashed at Bopara and edged high and hard to Anderson at a lone wide slip, only for umpire Rudi Koertzen to signal no-ball.
Omen of the day
At 294 for 4, with Australia heading for an unassailable position, thoughts began to turn to an early finish to the game and a reconvention at Headingley on Friday. Surely there was no remaining prospect of a result in this game? It was at that very moment that a pig winged its way past the press box window. It was of the inflatable balloon variety, and had apparently been released from the stands down below, to provide a very apt comment on the state of England's victory prospects.
Sign of the times of the day
Australia's FoxSports website provided a link to The Met Office's Birmingham weather page on Monday. Under the headline, "Will the Birmingham weather save Australia?" readers half a world away could chart rain, cloud cover and visibility for the West Midlands as their team fought to save the Test. Amid all the gloom and navel-gazing, it was forgotten how effectively this team can bat when the ball is not swinging.
Scare of the day
Security guards formed a perimeter around the team dressing rooms and the entrance to the Eric Hollies Stand after a threat was reportedly phoned into authorities prior to lunch on the final day. A thorough search was conducted and a section of the grandstand evacuated around the lunch break. No suspicious packages were found, and the all-clear was given after 30 minutes.
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