Did a fantastic job protecting Ponting prior to lunch and then lost the battle with Flintoff after the break. The jingoistic English press are now informing all and sundry that Flintoff is back to his bollocking best but that is just their usual wishful hyperbole. Hughes copped a fearful examination from Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel in Johannesburg yet scored twin centuries in the next encounter. Beating up a 20 year old kid is hardly triumphant especially when you consider the score at day’s end.
If England are relying on atmospheric conditions, the turning of the tide and potholes in the pitch to dismiss Australia cheaply and regularly they will be beaten as soundly as they were last series. Consistency, versatility and aggression win Test matches and they weren’t on display for any length of time on Day Two.
In Australia we all grow up listening to stories of our ancestors who were possessed by the mythical ANZAC spirit. These heroic men and women under severe adversity dug deep into their core and produced their best when it was needed most. Ricky has that spirit in spades and yesterday he inspirationally showed his young team of Ashes rookies how to bat in England.
The first Test of an Ashes series deserves a grander venue than the provincial Sofia Gardens. At times, probably because of the lack of grandstands, it appears to have the subdued atmosphere of an ordinary domestic match.
After being made the scapegoat at the conclusion of the last series in England, the New South Wales skipper set about reinventing and reinvigorating his game and yesterday was the culmination of all the sacrifice and honest introspection. Katich is an important foundation as Australia move forward in this new era and vital, both on and off the field, to its success. Mentally, he is cut from a similar mould to Steve Waugh and England will need to get him in the first hour as he has a thirst for grinding out huge scores when in touch.
The feisty tweaker played a superb innings in the first session belting Australia’s bowlers to all parts. He could have scored plenty more and continued Australia’s agony but was let down by an unnecessary and incredibly stupid shot by James Anderson. Although I like his cheekiness I fear the wink at Johnson after hitting him for four may see him attending casualty before the series is through. I can only assume he didn’t watch the carnage Mitch produced in Africa!
I understand that the people from the Caribbean are usually laid-back but this umpire has taken ambivalence to a whole new level!
Apart from a couple of overs bullying Hughes he was pretty ordinary. He’ll need to perform more consistently over longer periods if England are to gain ascendancy over five Test matches.
If Australia are able to gain a lead and are pushing for runs Mitchell Johnson could end Monty’s international career today. His line was loose, his length uncertain and he never bowled anything but the same delivery over after over. To put his performance in perspective all you need to know is that Nathan Hauritz is a more accomplished bowler.
The Psychological Battle
After being smashed five-nil in the last series the English players wouldn’t be human if doubt and shadow weren’t their constant companions as they drifted uneasily off to sleep last night. Australia’s senior players, Ponting and Katich, reminded them that no matter the circumstances Australia will never, ever give anything but their whole.
England must dismiss Australia before stumps. If they do not I think we’ll be hearing Cardiff and Adelaide in the same sentence quite a lot in future Ashes discussion.