Stumps: England 167-3. Australia 280.
I’ve got a bad feeling about this. And here’s a very unpleasant notion to savour: Mitchell Johnson’s runs may have squared the series for Australia.
In terms of the way Australia have bowled for most of our innings, and the way we bowled (and they batted) for most of theirs, 2-2 would be a travesty. But this match is now on a knife-edge.
All the talk will concern how on earth we allowed Johnson and Hilfenhaus to add 91 runs for the last two wickets. There are two ways of looking at this. Firstly, neither Mitch nor Filth had anything at all to lose – which made it far easier for them to swing the bat. Secondly, England are allowed to have the occasional bad session – and after skittling Australia so often this series, we’ve become greedy in our expectations. Bowling out a side who opted to bat first for 280 ain’t too bad.
On the other hand, we badly lost the plot. The field was all over the place, and our bowlers pitched too short – why didn’t they simply aim at Hilfenhaus’s stumps? One explanation for the loss of control is that Johnson was the Australian at the centre of the run-spree – he is a remarkably irritating individual, who blatantly gets under England’s skin.
To an extent, those 91 runs didn’t matter so much once Strauss tucked in greedily to Australia’s dreadful bowling – which admittedly improved after the England skipper’s dismissal. If only Pietersen hadn’t given away his wicket. Adelaide aside, this has not proved a particularly fruitful series for KP; did that double century falsely suggest a revival?
We shouldn’t end up losing to a side whose top order once again batted so badly. Haddin’s dismissal, during such a significant passage of play, was egregiously bad, and Smith’s just as culpable. Meanwhile, what about Colly knocking over Mr Cricket? Paul Collingwood – you may not score enough runs, but sometimes I simply want to have your babies. Speaking of the Durham Dynamo, it’s worth pointing out that his brilliant fielding has unfairly overshadowed the equally skillful contributions on that score from Ian Bell. Time and again he plucks the driven ball from short extra, as if shelling particularly helpful peas. And let’s not forget the terrific, and crucial, catch to dismiss Hussey at Melbourne.
On the stats front, Anderson’s four-for brings his test wicket total up to 209. What odds him becoming the first England bowler since Botham (and only the fourth ever) to reach 300?
Before the Johnson-Hilfenhaus debacle, the match seemed to be heading towards England so predictably that the Sky commentary team, for at least an hour, became so bored by proceedings that they discussed every subject bar the actual cricket. New year’s eve resolutions, darts, and the back catalogue of Half Man Half Biscuit – no stone went unturned as Athers, Bumble and co drifted into a reverie so divorced from the test match that it almost felt like TMS during a long rain break.
It was altogether an interesting day for extra-curricular talking points – the highlight being an unexpected appearance at the SCG of one David Hasselhoff. At one point, the Channel Nine cameras lingered on the former Knight Rider and Baywatch star as he shot the breeze with, of all people, Glenn McGrath. Oh, to be a fly on that wall. Presumably the Hoff rocked up to support Pigeon’s cancer appeal – or was he on Australian twelfth man duty? We should be told.