August 11, 2009

Pace battery will win it for Australia

There was nothing wrong with the bowling at Headingley, no leaking of runs, no easing of pressure

What a demolition job the Australians did at Leeds. It was fantastic to see them getting everything right and England having no answers. The hosts were shell-shocked and I can't see them coming back from here. No way.

From the first morning the Australian bowling was spot-on and it was great to see the best of Mitchell Johnson, even though his technical issues aren't fully fixed. With a slingy action there will always be periods of inconsistency for him, but when it's right, gee whiz, what a star. He was bowling at 90mph and shaping the ball a bit, occasionally getting it to come back. That's his shock weapon - I'm not sure whether he knows how he's doing it - but it works so well.

He delivered some rip-snorting short deliveries to Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood, and England's middle order had no idea what to do with him. It was great to see. This is the guy the Australians remember from the home summer, hurrying the batsmen and clipping their edges. He finished with 5 for 69 in the second innings, a haul set up by his three-wicket spell late on the second day. It was outstanding stuff.

There was talk all through the series about how the bowlers hadn't been at their best, but there was nothing wrong at Headingley, no leaking of runs, no easing of pressure (until the tail had a crack in the second innings). They used the short ball well and the rest of the time their line and length was superb. Sheesh, they got it so right. I've been waiting to see it all series.

While Peter Siddle and Johnson got the five-wicket hauls, I thought Ben Hilfenhaus was consistently the best bowler during the game. Stuart Clark was also excellent in the first innings - don't worry about what happened to him in the second - but for me it was all about Hilfenhaus. He pitches it up, gets it to swing and his reward is, he's the leading man for the series with 18 victims at 26.38. He'll be a key figure again when they try to wrap up the series at The Oval next week.

Before that, they have a two-day game in Canterbury, which will just mean giving a few guys a hit or some overs. Brett Lee and Clark will want to bowl well and they will probably have Andrew McDonald and Shane Watson for support. Don't expect to see Johnson, Hilfenhaus or Siddle playing. They deserve a rest after what they did in Leeds.

There are only two realistic options: go with the four bowlers who played at Headingley, or bring Nathan Hauritz in for Clark. It's bad luck for Lee

The selectors will want to see Lee fit and firing, but it's going to be hard to pick him for The Oval. There are only two realistic options: go with the four bowlers who played at Headingley, or bring Nathan Hauritz in for Clark. It's bad luck for Lee, who is a match-winning bowler and a great, but his side injury was poorly timed. It would be a harsh call to leave out any of the guys who played in the fourth Test.

I don't think Ravi Bopara can play at No. 3 again, but don't be fooled by the old-time names being thrown around. They won't go with Mark Ramprakash or Marcus Trescothick. They won't! They would be sensible to bring in the Kent duo of Joe Denly and Robert Key to help stabilise the situation, although I don't think it will matter. It will be a resounding win for Australia at The Oval and they'll take the Ashes back home. The Headingley game reaffirmed what I thought all along, and Ricky Ponting's men will be too strong.

Jason Gillespie is sixth on Australia's list of Test wicket-takers with 259 in 71 matches. He will write for Cricinfo through the 2009 Ashes

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