England reward the early risers

Posted in England in Australia 2010-11

James Anderson

James Anderson fails with an early lbw appeal during a thrilling start to the contest

It pays not to arrive late during this Ashes series.

Those who weren’t at the Gabba on time last week won't have seen Andrew Strauss fall to the third ball of the first Test.

And anyone in Adelaide with alarm clock issues ran the risk of missing one of the most sensational openings there can surely have been to a Test.

The scorecard will tell you Simon Katich was run out after just four balls, without facing a ball; Ricky Ponting edged the next delivery - his first - to second slip; and Michael Clarke fell in James Anderson’s next over in almost identical fashion.

What it won’t reveal is that Clarke had already played and missed twice; Mike Hussey survived a passionate appeal for caught behind; James Anderson was inches away from having an unsuccessful lbw shout against Shane Watson overturned on review; and the same bowler spilled a tough return catch to reprieve Hussey on three. Barely six overs had passed.

It was a start sponsored by Ferrari, and made all the more remarkable given that the pre-match assertions (from anybody who had played at Adelaide, watched any cricket there or once owned a Rough Guide to Australia) cited the toss - and batting first - as crucial.

Jonathan Trott got it all started with a superb direct hit from a square midwicket to run out Katich, who was so far out he might as well have still been in Brisbane.

It was indicative of a splendid England fielding display, and sparked the sort of celebration from Trott that evoked memories of Alan Shearer in his prime.

James Anderson, Ricky Ponting & Jonathan Trott

Anderson does his best impression of a Spitfire after claiming the much prized scalp of Ricky Ponting first ball

Anderson marked Ponting’s dismissal seconds later in even more rampant fashion - it took me back to my days in the playground pretending to be an aeroplane - so it was no surprise that when Clarke fell to the first ball of Anderson’s next over England only had enough energy for a relatively mundane huddle.

The upshot was a scoreboard (two for three, or is that three for two?) which must have further confused those struggling to get to grips with the Australian way of doing things.

Before play it was seen as imperative to bat first on a pitch as flat as cheap lemonade, under wonderfully clear skies and with temperatures reaching 33 degrees Celsius.

England disproved that theory in the most emphatic fashion, although they were abetted by some Australian running that had more than a touch of Benny Hill about it.

Hussey should be spared criticism on that front - indeed, all fronts - for he ran with the urgency of a scolded child during an innings which once again underlined his importance to Australia’s fragile batting line-up.

Having made 195 in the first Test, he crafted a splendid 93 today of equal fluency, driving with grace - in his own compact manner rather than Gower-esque - and using his feet to Swann so often that you thought he had devil bangers in his boots.

Xavier Doherty & Matt Prior

Xavier Doherty is beaten by a combination of Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook and Matt Prior as England sparkle in the field

Amid all the thrills and spills, however, England’s discipline - a boring old-fashioned virtue that seems increasingly frowned upon by many teams and fans these days - was as essential to their success as the marvellous Anderson outswingers which accounted for Ponting and Clarke.

With the exception of Steven Finn’s occasional waywardness, England offered precious little in the way of easy runs: Stuart Broad conceded just three fours and Anderson six in 19 overs apiece, while Swann, who struggled at the Gabba, leaked only five boundaries in 29 steadily improving overs.

Arguably the finest aspect of a thoroughly impressive day’s work, however, was the fielding, with the intelligence of Strauss’ field settings matched by the energy and enthusiasm of those operating in the ring, in particular.

If Trott got the ball rolling with that dead-eye throw early in the day, Strauss did his own bit to keep standards high with a stunning piece of work deep into the evening session.

Diving full length at midwicket to intercept Brad Haddin’s clip off his pads, Strauss made light of lying face down on the ground to flick the ball left-handed back towards the stumps. Alastair Cook acted as relay from short-leg and Matt Prior completed the task.

Xavier Doherty, like the scores of people still wandering into the Adelaide Oval after 10.30am this morning, paid the price for his tardiness.

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