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Jenny Thompson at Hove
August 9, 2005
Close Australia 328 for 9 (Rolton 71, Nitschke 70* Fitzpatrick 53, Hayes 57) v England
Australia's tail wagged ferociously to bring them right back into the first Test on the opening day at a sunny Hove, with three of their lower order posting fifties. England's spinners had reduced Australia to an anaemic 115 for 7, but a strong rearguard fightback left the visitors on a robust 328 for 9 by the close. Holly Colvin, a 15-year-old left-arm spinner from Sussex, took three wickets on debut - and was in reach of a magical hat-trick - but things turned Australia's way from then on as England's heads went down.
Tall, blond, Australian fast bowlers have posed England attacks enough problems for one week - or so you would think. Today it was the turn of Cathryn Fitzpatrick to wreak havoc with the bat. Just as England were firmly on top and turning the screw, she planted her first international half-century. After a less than convincing start, she batted with style and panache to completely alter the course of the game. Nos 9 and 10, Julie Hayes and Shelley Nitschke, joined in the fun with half-centuries of their own to take Australia past the 300-mark and were well-set when stumps were drawn.
England opted for three spinners, including Colvin, when they realised that the pitch was an old one and conducive to turn. The move was paying off, and then some, as Colvin, Clare Connor and Rosalie Birch all struck to leave Australia in dire straits. Belinda Clark's decision to bat first was looking shaky to say the least, and having been bowled by Jenny Gunn for a duck in the second over, with her off-stump flattened, she could have been forgiven for thinking this wasn't going to be her day.
Australia were 87 for 4 by lunch, but Rolton had already reached a half-century and was in dominant mood. Her fifty was composed mainly of fours - ten of them in all - and she took a particular liking to Colvin. In just her second over of Test match cricket Colvin was clubbed for three fours, cover-drive, pull, cover-drive, by the world's best batswoman - it was a harsh introduction to the ultimate arena.
Colvin got her revenge next over after lunch, trapping Kate Blackwell for 6, then bowling Julia Price first ball. Her hat-trick ball was defended, but by that time Rolton was steadying the ship and went on to make a firecracking 71. Australia rallied as Australia can - and usually do - and it was the lower order who were the true heroes of the day.
Colvin struck again to dismiss Fitzpatrick for 53, caught at cover, but the damage was already being done to England and a long day in the field was beginning to tell. Colvin ended with the most expensive figures, her 16 overs going for 67, and at the end of the day all interview requests were turned down, the explanation that she would be too tired. She wasn't the only one.
Not used to fielding for more than 50 overs, England's bowlers wilted in the heat as the pitch flattened out - though it had a few gremlins in it - and a long day got longer. Australia's batsmen took their chances, and began to score at will, but England will be kicking themselves for feeding a generous diet of loose stuff which Australia feasted on with gusto. Nitschke was unbeaten on 70 by the close, and even the No. 11, Clea Smith chipped in with 31 not out.
It was a sulky, chided England who ran round the field to cool down. They will need to pick themselves up tomorrow - and fast.