Australia’s top-order rattled again on rain-shortened day
As Australia falls short on Day one, the team once again relies on Mike Hussey and the lower order to save the match.
Opinions and reports that the Ashes series of 2010/11 is an encounter that is heavily lopsided in favor of the visiting English team are certainly justified. But, be that as it may, the series has at least retained one of its key traits in its latest edition. From the first draw, to England’s mauling of hosts in the second test, to Australia returning the favor in the third and then to England’s crushing/ashes-retaining victory in the last test at Melbourne, the series has had more than its fair share of twists and turns.
For England, the final test at the historic Sydney Cricket Ground signifies a fabulous opportunity to reassert their very visible dominance over their traditional rivals who look far more vulnerable now than they have for a considerable time in the last few years. While for the torn, troubled and fallen from grace Aussies, the Test presents a chance to wrestle back some pride and at least draw the series by winning the final, an eventuality which even if realised will do nothing to change the residing place of the little urn.
Day one: Short and wet
The first morning of the Sydney test dawned amidst grey skies, and Australia’s already under-pressure replacement captain, Michael Clarke, was immediately called upon to make a difficult and possibly key decision of whether or not to bat first when he won the coin toss. Clarke decided to go for the traditional and pretty much standard option of batting first, even though a hint of green on the pitch coupled with the overcast conditions might have caused him to hesitate momentarily.
The match is a debut for Australian left-arm spinner Michael Beer as well as for the talented left-hander Usman Khawaja, a Pakistani expatriate, who became the first Muslim to play in Test cricket for Australia.
The two openers, Phil Hughes and Shane Watson, who were occasionally troubled by Tremlett’s extra bit of bounce and James Anderson’s usual accurate seam and swing, determinedly hung on without making too many runs.
The resistance of the openers, who were both playing in a circumspect fashion that does not come easily to either of them, ended when Hughes finally edged a Chris Tremlett delivery to captain Andrew Strauss at third slip after the partnership had put 55 runs on the board.
The dismissal brought young Khawaja on to the pitch and the left handed batsman seemed to have come out in an aggressive frame of mind as he raced to 15 off eight balls. He then went on to show good defensive skills as he started to settle in his new job. He had put exactly 50 runs in his partnership with Shane Watson before the Queensland opener edged Bresnan to Collingwood at first slip.
Captain falls as ship starts sinking
The ouster of Watson brought Michael Clarke to the crease among a mixture of boos and cheers, and he along with Khawaja was able to steer Australia safely to an early rain-enforced tea without further damage. However, after tea, while Khawaja looked in fine touch, Clarke continued his wretched run with a catch to Anderson at gully in Bresnan’s over for just four runs. Another early exit for the man, who had seemed destined to take over once Ponting left the captaincy alter, will raise even more questions about his place in the team let alone about his credentials to lead the side for an extended period.
Confident looking Khawaja’s exit to a top-edge for a well-compiled 37 off a Swann delivery, which was also the last ball of a day cut short by rain, means that the onus to drag Australia, who ended the day at 134 for 4, out of trouble once again, lies on the reliable Mike Hussey and the Australian lower order.