The “final over” of the day.
Ball One – If Zaheer Khan isn’t swinging the old ball, why did MS Dhoni persist with the old one? A soft ball is handy if the batsmen are slogging, but its lack of carry takes slip catches off slow bowlers out of the equation, unless they stand very close indeed. Ohja, continuing to bowl beautifully without luck, should have had a better tool with which to work.
Ball Two – Shane Watson had a bit of luck, but played a vital innings for his side. 126 out of 275 is a huge effort and, not for the first time, delivered the Test opener’s brief to perfection. At the start of play, 400 was deemed a par score on the betting sites, but with some variable bounce and turn already apparent on Day One, I felt 320-330 much more realistic. Openers have to assess the pitch and play the risk / reward balance accordingly – Watson got that balance right.
Ball Three – Very, very tight call for Billy Bowden as he turns down a huge Harbhajan shout for a bat-pad catch off Tim Paine. Hotspot, inexplicably absent, is usually decisive one way or the other where edges are in question and really should be there to help the umpires with the hardest calls of all.
Ball Four – I’ve written here before of the brittleness of the Australian batting and there was more evidence of that yesterday, but Australian fans must be pleased with the levels of concentration displayed by men whose batting is not the only skill they bring to the team. Whether doing a bit of bowling (like Watson), a lot of bowling (like Johnson) or keeping (like Paine) eases a bit of pressure when batting, can only be conjecture. If Australia’s specialist batsmen can concentrate as hard, the transition to the post-Ponting era will be much smoother.
Ball Five – I really love a Number Eight, as the seventh wicket partnership can be crucial in changing momentum against tiring bowlers. England have some handy players down the order (Swanny and Broad) but they need time in the middle to run into form. Mitchell Johnson came in and looked in decent nick from the get-go – not bad considering he has had just 19 balls in the middle in the last ten weeks. With the international calendar so crowded, late-order batsmen will need to mimic MJ and hit their straps in the middle with only net practice behind them. Of course, re-starts after breaks can be hard without time in the middle, and an elongated drinks break saw off MJ after a fine knock.
Ball Six – Brad Haddin is injured and hoping for an Ashes comeback. Tim Paine, rather tall for a keeper, will have his technique tested behind the stumps on this dying pitch; but in front of them, he has real talent as a batsman, proved in batting over nine hours for Tasmania in making a double hundred. Brad Haddin’s brand of biffing may edge Paine out of one day formats, but surely class like this cannot be ignored for Test cricket.
The Tooting Trumpet, whom you can often find at Testmatchsofa.com and on Twitter at @garynaylor999 and @Fakeadil.