Ball One 12.48am – That’s the first and most important hour of the day completed and entirely to England’s advantage. We have seen a lot of fielding captains recently (including Vettori and Dhoni) start days in rather passive fashion, only to turn the screw later. One has to think that McGrath and any one of Gillespie, Lee and Kasper, would have been rather more intense given the match situation.
Ball Two 1.20am – I am indebted to Phil Sawyer for his pointing out that England’s much calmer approach to the second innings (after the frenetic shots that led to dismissals in the first dig), may in part be influenced by Andy Flower’s presence on the ground after his minor, but important, surgery to remove a melanoma. Whilst a team as experienced as Strauss’ should not need to have the master-in-charge of cricket on the ground to play properly, Flower has been credited with bringing an air of quiet professionalism to what is mercifully seldom referred to these days as “Team England”. And “professional” has been England’s watchword in this session.
Ball Three 3.55am – Marcus North may not have the necessary class with the bat to hold down the Number Six slot, but as a bowler, he can execute plans patiently, snaring the tiring Strauss with a ball tossed wide smartly. Whether he can be an authentic frontline spinner is debatable, but in this threadbare attack, he is as good an option as Punter has once the hardness has gone from the ball. Trusted to bowl 12 overs per day, North might allow Steve Smith to bat at Number Eight and Dougie Bollinger to replace MJ. A tail of Doherty, Siddle, Hilfenhaus and Bollinger would look rather, well, English.
Ball Four 4.30am – Alastair Cook, with his doe-eyes and posh accent, looks exactly like the kind of England player that the likes of Merv Hughes would chew up and spit out for fun. Looks are deceptive though, and Cook is probably the most Australian of England’s batsmen – like Michael Hussey yesterday, indifferent recent form comes a poor second to the exercise of will when there’s a job to be done in the middle.
Ball Five 5.00am – With a session to go, Australia’s bowlers have shown little imagination nor skill on a day set up beautifully by Hussey and Haddin. Bouncers have not been well directed and there have been few yorkers, let alone the more arcane skills of reverse swing or mystery spin. Though Strauss’ and Flower’s England are still prone to self-induced collapses, they won’t often come in consecutive innings nor repeatedly in a series, so Australia will have to do more than run in and bowl. But can they?
Ball Six 5.15am – It took twenty-one years, but some England fans will see their two centurion openers as settlers of a long owed debt of honour.
The Tooting Trumpet, whom you can often find at Testmatchsofa.com and on Twitter at @garynaylor999 and @Fakeadil.