Ball One 6.15am – Having missed the first session, I wake up in the aftermath of an England collapse at the hands of a suddenly back in form Mitchell Johnson. Though KP and Trott played poor shots, attacking too early in their innings, the other dismissals were to good balls, for which MJ deserves the lion’s share of the credit. After lunch, and searching for a five-fer that will revive his career, MJ looks as innocuous as he was in Brisbane – except for the odd unplayable ball. What a curious bowler he is – has any bowler mixed up the sublime and ridiculous so frequently?
Ball Two 6.20am – Australia’s selection for this Test has been radical, with much criticism already attracted by the decision to slot Steve Smith in at Number Six. Totting up the first class runs of Hughes, Smith, Haddin, Johnson, Harris, Siddle and Hilfenhaus gives a figure of 17376. Between them, Bell and Swanny (batting now) have 18965. Do Australians play enough first class cricket to build up the experience? In the past, many greats to be (Hayden, both Waughs, even Hussey, and plenty of others) would play county cricket as part of their development, cranking out first class runs aplenty, but that approach appears to have gone out of fashion.
Ball Three 7.00am – It is widely acknowledged that Test cricket is going through a bit of a slump in terms of the quality of its players in the aftermath of so many greats’ retirements and with other giants of the game into their twilight years. But Test cricket has never been more unpredictable, more fascinating, more thrillingly competitive. England – so on top for so long in this series – are up against it in Perth, while at Centurion, the world’s Number One team (and much the most vaunted batting order in Test cricket) were blown away yesterday by Steyn and Morkel. What next?
Ball Four 8.05am – I’ve never understood why Phillip Hughes has the reputation of being a Sehwagesque flier at the top of the order, since his range of shot is too limited to score quickly against the highest class bowling. He may get in and get a few here, but it’s surprising to see how little progress his game has made since the fast start, and equally fast stall, of his Test career. And, as I write, he plays a schoolboy shot to be caught in an entirely predictable way. Can Australia afford to keep him in the side?
Ball Five 8.30am – The crowd sound subdued, England fans nervous after an unexpectedly difficult day and Australia’s fans not daring to believe that their team are back in The Ashes after their morning newspapers had written them off. If the crowd feel like that, imagine how the players feel! It’s a time for players to confirm or make reputations – good and bad.
Ball Six 8.45am – Signs that the players are understanding the UDRS much better these days. A huge appeal in the fifth over against Watson was turned down on the field and Strauss decided against requesting referral. But an hour or so later, after another not out on the field, Strauss referred a leg-side strangle from Ponting and that was enough to see him off. Batsmen always hop about at Perth, but both Prior and Ponting moved far too much than is required and paid with their wickets – the contrast with the minimal movement of a Tendulkar or Kallis is marked.
The Tooting Trumpet, whom you can often find at Testmatchsofa.com and on Twitter at @garynaylor999 and @Fakeadil.