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August 30, 2009
Just when Australia thought they had a chance for a modicum of Ashes revenge, rain thwarted a fiery start by Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson at Old Trafford. The pace pair ripped out England's latest Twenty20 opening duo - Joe Denly first ball on debut and Ravi Bopara - to reduce them to 4 for 2 in the second over chasing 146. Australia's total was better than it appeared on a tricky, two-paced surface where only Cameron White excelled with a powerful 55 from 36 balls. However, after seven balls of the run chase, rain, which delayed the second innings, returned with vengeance and didn't relent.
When it had done, for a brief period, the Australians looked primed to make their mark. Lee steamed in from the Stretford End and claimed Denly with his first ball at England's new opener. It was a short ball, something the tourists had been practicing, and Denly could only splice a catch to square leg. At nearly 90mph, it was considerably quicker than anything he'd faced against Ireland. Denly had a poor day after also dropping White at backward point on 12.
Lee followed the wicket with a no-ball to Jonathan Trott, but the free hit was edged towards the slips and Trott could barely get bat on ball for the rest of the over. At the other the end the pace was no less extreme from Johnson and Bopara's poor international form continued when he flayed loosely outside off and sent a high catch to first slip. Both openers will get another chance on Tuesday - weather permitting - and England need to settle on a first-wicket combination. This is their 13th pair in 21 Twenty20 innings - it was certainly unlucky for Denly and Bopara.
But that was that, as far as this match was concerned. A dull, cold, wet day in Manchester can be a fairly grim place and even during the action that did take place the Twenty20 atmosphere was subdued. That was partly down to the scoring-rate, as Australia laboured at around a run-a-ball for three quarters of their innings before White's 55 increased the rate in the last five overs.
In total Australia managed just six fours in their innings alongside White's three sixes as England exploited a two-paced surface with clever changes of pace. The final five overs brought 52 thanks to White's hitting and some scampering, although the last two only cost 14 and Michael Clarke finished on a very un-Twenty20 27 from 34 deliveries.
Stuart Broad made the initial breakthrough with the first ball of his second over when Watson spliced a pull to midwicket where Bopara - not always the safest fielder - took the catch on the edge of the circle. Paul Collingwood rotated his seamers in short spells, but it was the introduction of the captain himself that had the biggest impact. Operating in cutter mode, and finding considerable turn, Collingwood trapped David Warner leg before as he swung across the line, although the batsman was unlucky as the ball pitched outside leg stump. Two balls later David Hussey, who slammed 111 against Scotland, had a charge at his second ball and was smartly stumped by the increasingly impressive Matt Prior.
White finally added to the boundary count when he drove Collingwood inside-out through cover and he was given a life in the next over as Denly, on debut, spilled the fairly straightforward chance at backward point off Anderson. White was the only batsman to look comfortable in the conditions and began to open his shoulders during the final five overs.
A powerful pull over deep midwicket off Broad brought up the 100 with the first six of the innings and he followed that by depositing Graeme Swann over long-on. He saved the sweetest of his strikes to reach a 33-ball half-century as he flicked Ryan Sidebottom onto the committee balcony.
Sidebottom produced an excellent final over, but didn't hide his annoyance when Luke Wright missed the simple catch at long-on off Adam Voges from the penultimate ball. His anger towards team-mates' mistakes has been an issue before, and time away from the team hasn't dulled his passion. The real frustration, though, was the weather. Everyone will try again in two days.