Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, 3rd day November 27, 2010

England take the hard knocks

Despite a traumatic third day in the field, England showed that they've got what it takes to fight back, if not right now, then without question as the series wears on

Despite batting through to the close with all ten wickets intact, England face a bitter struggle to recover from a traumatic third day - and given the Gabba's Lions v Christians reputation, the chances of them doing so would appear to be slim in the extreme. Nevertheless, amidst the wreckage of their immediate match prospects, there were plenty reasons to believe that they've got what it takes to fight back, if not right now, then without question as the series wears on.

If England need a precedent from which to draw inspiration, they need only rewind 16 months to Cardiff at the start of the 2009 Ashes. On that occasion they had to hack their way back into the contest after conceding 674 for 6, the highest total in post-war Ashes history, and though they eventually did so by the skin of their teeth, the momentum they generated sustained them for the rest of the series, and beyond.

Australia know, from what happened in 2009, that titanic scoreboard feats are only half the battle where this particular England side is concerned. It remains a source of bemusement, and outright dismay in some quarters, that they managed to rack up six of the top seven run-scorers in last summer's series, as well as collecting eight individual hundreds to England's tally of two, only to be trumped in the final analysis by two first-innings batting failures at Lord's and The Oval.

With that in mind, the brilliance of the triple-century stand between Michael Hussey and Brad Haddin will not be allowed to have anything like the same effect as Australia's last humungous partnership against England, the 279-run stand (also for the sixth wicket) that Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds compiled at the MCG in December 2006. Not least because, on this occasion, England know precisely how and why their day went so sour. And they'll also believe that they won't get quite so unlucky in quite such a bizarre way again.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the review system, the isolated set of circumstances that kept Michael Hussey at the crease in the first half-hour of the day meant that James Anderson was denied his just rewards for a spell that Haddin described as "probably the hardest Test bowling I've ever had to face". On 82, Hussey successfully overturned an lbw decision that had pitched outside leg; on 85, he survived a stone-dead shout because England had already used up their reviews on the first day - one of which, ironically, was lost on a caught-behind appeal against Michael Clarke that snickometer later suggested was out.

It was a set of circumstances that, had the ECB chairman Giles Clarke been in town, might have caused a few toys to fly out of a few prams - as was the case in Johannesburg earlier in the year, when he set about demanding the reinstatement of a lost appeal against another man who made a match-turning century, Graeme Smith. Unsurprisingly, the petition fell on deaf ears, and as it happens, the fuss didn't do a lot for the focus of the team - they went on to lose by an innings.

Right now, however, the spirit within the squad looks more durable than was the case 12 months ago, and as Eoin Morgan noted by tweeting: "made up for Finny!!" moments after the close, the sight of Australia's last five wickets tumbling for 31 in 13 overs - four of them to the rookie Steven Finn - will be of greater consequence this evening than everything that happened up until that point.

Up until then, retaining optimism in the face of such adversity had been a challenge, and there were moments throughout the day when England's spirits were allowed to flag, not least when Alastair Cook and Anderson dropped the only two catches that came their way in the whole of the first two sessions. And yet, all throughout there were little moments that spoke volumes for their resolve, such as the sight of Matt Prior and Kevin Pietersen running a full 40 yards from the cordon to congratulate Cook at mid-on for a particularly sharp piece of groundwork.

"I enjoyed the wicket bits," said Finn, whose 6 for 125 was not only a personal best, but England's best at the Gabba since John Snow in 1970-71. "It was a tough day of Test cricket for us, but we're a confident unit, we know we can get ourselves out of tricky situations, and we back ourselves to do that. To concede a first-innings deficit is not good, but we feel we've done things properly. We kept the intensity up in the field and we kept the pressure on."

The final moments of Australia's innings were a reminder, however belated, of the fragility that still lurks within their line-up, but the day as a whole lived up to the maxim, repeated ad nauseum in the build-up to the series, that a bowling team has to make the most of the Kookaburra ball while it's still shiny and new in those crucial first 15 overs. With that in mind, there was nothing more that Anderson in particular could do, as he hounded the outside edge for eight of the best overs of his life, much as Dale Steyn had done to Paul Collingwood at Cape Town back in January.

If England do go on to lose, there's another precedent that would be worth bearing in mind. The 2005 Ashes series began with a two-day dogfight at Lord's, but descended into a rout on the pivotal third day, when Australia were allowed to get too far in front in their second innings, following a crucial drop from Pietersen off Clarke. In the end it became embarrassing, with Shane Warne administering a string of ducks on a beaten batting line-up. But then as now, the tipping point was one clearly defined moment, rather than a long and slow tilting of the scales.

"The game's such a fine line," said Hussey of the let-off that transformed Australia's day. After the month of speculation that he's just endured, there's no danger that he will be getting ahead of himself after his remarkable day. And nor, for that matter, will any of the ten Australians in this side who played in 2009. There are too many opportunities for the narrative to twist again.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Steve on November 28, 2010, 6:37 GMT

    So - as I write this England are dominating Australia (or is it SA, WA or Aussie A? - who are all dreadful - according to Aussie supporters) As a worried English fan after Siddle/Haddin and Hussey I am feeling much happier right now! Thank you God that Australia can't bowl and of of course (as everybody knows) that YOU are an Englishman! Being more serious..... England have put the Ausiie performance in persective and may the best side win! Come on England!

  • Pete on November 28, 2010, 5:37 GMT

    @PTtheAxis. Come on! England won the toss, it's a bit much to complain about the conditions. England get to bowl last too. If your aunty had balls she'd be your uncle. If this, if that, blah blah. What HAPPENED is Aust got 480. Live with it.Give credit where it is due. It's imbecilic to think that because Aus lost 5-30 when 450 was on the board, that's what would have happened if Hussey and Clarke got given. Clarke got what, 10? Geez man clutching at straws. Oooh Oooh if it was only cloudy when England bowled blah blah.

  • David on November 28, 2010, 4:57 GMT

    One thing that cricket in general has to look at is pitches in general. It looks as though the Brisbane pitch is doing a "Perth" and is going to be at its best between Days 3-5. I think this type of slow lifeless wicket is one of the reasons for defensive cricket that focuses on batting only. I understand that CA wants to maximise money and 3 day tests are a bit NO-NO. A spinner is only useful to a team as a defensive focus if the pitch is not going to deteriorate on the last 2-3 days. Fast bowlers do grunt work and swing bowlers are only useful for 10 overs. I think I saw the draw at 15-1 at one stage ONLY IF!

  • P on November 28, 2010, 4:34 GMT

    point is that aussies have gotten lucky otherwise they would have been 1 down within 4 days ... at 143/5 they never looked like getting close to 260 with their long long tail ... some bad decisions, lack of snicko, 2 sunny days to bat, 2 cloudy days to bowl & they still cannot overopower england ... writing is on the wall ... cricinfo wall

  • Pete on November 28, 2010, 4:21 GMT

    I think it's a bit much to read into the last 5 wickets falling given Asutralia were just looking for a few cheap runs before declaring.

    OOoh OOh I'm so worried England knocked out Aussies tail when 450 was already on the board!

  • Shane on November 27, 2010, 23:06 GMT

    Oh dear!! Any Englishman, or anyone for that matter, that complains about the Hussey decision after what Rudi Koertzen did to the Australians in 2009 is really laughable. I mean REALLY laughable. Geez, this stuff happens to all sides.

  • Nana on November 27, 2010, 22:54 GMT

    Being a neutral observer, one can't help but agree that the UDRS has been a major spoiler here. Anyone with an understanding of analytics should realize that the UDRS system is not just about good/bad luck. It actually exacerbates bad situations by helping the side that might have been lucky to have got their calls right. In the best case situation it brings the game to the level where it started -- i.e. dependence on on-field umpires. As the commentators said yesterday ... the "goto" system should be that each test match should have 3 fully qualified umpires that rotate through ... with the third umpire helping the on-field umpires get their decisions right using available technology. There should be no silly rules like 2 per inning -- use it or lose it systems. I am sure teams such as India would back a revised UDRS system that is not so flawed. India got the flaws before the rest did because they were on the receving side during the Lanka series of 2008.

  • paul on November 27, 2010, 22:37 GMT

    Ross_Co You've gone on about sour grapes and whinging and moaning , but that's all you've done ,moan about 2009,you're nothing but a hypocrite. Lets face it if it had been a England player who was nailed plumb Lbw at 80, then went on to 190 odd,you'd be moaning, a bit like you haven't stopped moaning since 2009, so give it a rest with this higher ground,it's part of the game rubbish. Whats with jumping all over Swanny because of one inning, the fact is it hasn't been the England fans or the media that's hyped him up, stats and bowing well and becoming the number 2 ranked bowler in the world is what's done it. Warney's made his opinion clear, that he rates him the best and he knows better than most you can have bad days,it's not just him, media from all over the world, see how good he is,one bad day doesn't make him rubbish. Lets see what he's like in the last innings on day 5, .Ponting,when he was in the field, blew his UDRS'S in no time,but he was lucky.

  • sankalp on November 27, 2010, 22:25 GMT

    As expected one more comedy writing from English writer ! I dunno when in life they grow that they got pathetic test side in world and they are on mat more often than not. They dont have single quality batsman in there side neither got any world class bowler! I wont be surprised if they lose match on 4th day of match even with this aussie side.

  • Pervez on November 27, 2010, 22:24 GMT

    Whilst Aleem Dar has had an exceptional game, it is unfortunate that he will be responsible for handing this game to Australia on a platter... We saw what could have happened to Australia if they lost that early wicket... they lost 5/30 to a worn out tired english attack... England probably would have had the lead if it wasn't for that massive not out. I don't understand why Dar didn't give that out and let Hussey review it given he had the opportunity to do so... He looks more foolish by not doing so...

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