McGrath learning to bowl first change - Ponting
It's been over a year since the historic Ashes series and Damien Martyn, the birthday boy and Man of the Match, admitted that Australia had been waiting for this game for quite a while. It was the first time the two teams met after the never-to-be-forgotten final day at The Oval and Martyn cashed in on some wayward English bowling.
"It's been a year since we last played England and that was a great series," he said at the end of the day. "The boys did well and fielded well, Huss [Michael Hussey] and me had a great partnership. Unfortunately I couldn't stay till the end. It was a good wicket and was nice to get runs on it."
The manner in which Martyn took on Steve Harmison was probably the sight of the night, when colourful Diwali firecrackers lit up the sky. Martyn was severe in his assault and peppered five fours in a space of ten balls, nullifying Harmison's effect almost instantly. "They didn't bowl great tonight," said Martyn bluntly when asked about his innings on the night. "When I walked in there I didn't go with any set plans. It just happened that way, with the Powerplays and the field in. And with Huss at the other end, just shoring up an end, we were able to build a partnership."
Ricky Ponting, his captain, didn't want to read too much into Harmison's dismal performance but added that his batsmen wouldn't let up during the Ashes. "It's pretty easy for bowlers to get their tails up in Australia," said Ponting when asked for an assessment of Harmison's expensive spell. "Damien in particular played him very, very well tonight and we put away most balls that he bowled. If he comes to Australia and bowls that way, we'll be looking to do exactly the same thing."
Martyn might have stolen the show but the contribution made by Michael Hussey, who walked into a crucial situation, cannot be under-estimated. "I had a chat to Buck [John Buchanan] at the break," said Ponting when asked about Hussey's promotion up the order. "With the wicket playing the way it was, if we lost a few wickets in a row, it would be nice to have someone like him to really shore things up. Having to chase such a small total tonight, it was perfectly suited for him to go in. We had three people padded up at the moment and I made the decision to send Huss out. He played the way we expect him to play in that situation. As we all know he's a terrific player, he sums up situations and plays very well. With him and Damien and Michael [Clarke] we have a lot of options in the middle."
Glenn McGrath's first spell and Shane Watson's continued failure at the top of the order were the only negatives that Australia could take from this game. Ponting wasn't too concerned about either, placing faith in both the performers to deliver in the future. "You don't end up having a lot of concerns about one of the greats of the game that Glenn is," he said when asked about McGrath's insipid first spell. "He delivers an honest performance everytime he takes the field and I think his performance today was that - it was honest. He's fulfilling a different role at the moment, bowling first change something he's done for only half a dozen games in his career. So he's probably still learning the role."
And would he back Watson to open even after another failure? "He has a sound and solid technique and all the shots in the book. As a one-day opener you want to combine both of those and do it well. He got out pulling but I know how instinctive the stroke is. Sometimes you see a short ball and just decide to go for the pull, not taking into account the bounce. What you saw before he got out, I think shows that he will be a very good opening batsman for us."
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo