28 December 2013

The Ashes, 4th Test, day 3

England 1st Innings: 255 all out from 100 overs overs
Kevin Pietersen 71, Michael Carberry 38
Ryan Harris 2-47, Mitchell Johnson 5-63, Shane Watson 1-11

Australia 1st innings: 204 all out from 82.2 overs
Brad Haddin 65, Chris Rogers 61,
Stuart Broad 3-45, James Anderson 4-67

England 2nd innings:
179 all out from 61 overs
Alastair Cook 51, Kevin Pietersen 49
Nathan Lyon 5-50, Mitchell Johnson 3-25
Australia 2nd innings: (Target 231) 0/30 from 8.0 overs
Chris Rogers 18*, David Warner 13*

Come the start of the day we were batting. Come the close of day 3, we were batting and suddenly in a position to win this Test and go 4-0 up. Brilliant how things can change in a matter of sessions.

Our boys look so alive out there and once again I bring up the theme of unity. Nathan Lyon, who took his 100th Test wicket since debut in 2011, as well as a 5-fer (his 4th in Tests), made certain he gave raps to his team mates, notably his bowling mates. The self-belief is massive and today we saw how important unity is, as well as key players stepping up.

Starting the day trailing by 91 runs with 1 wicket in hand, Brad Haddin and Nathan Lyon were able to ensure we reduced England's lead to 51 runs. Every run they tucked away has been invaluable, and could be so in this chase.

Brad Haddin was oddly enough the one England were able to dismiss after he mistimed an attempted pull shot that came onto him a bit quicker than his body position allowed for come the execution of the shot. It didn't dampen the effort of our wicket keeper, who not only scored 65 runs (4 half-centuries, 1 century this Ashes series) but he also became the highest run scorer for an Australian wicket keeper in an Ashes series. A record deserved by a man who has fought some awful odds to be where he is at, after a very patient journey too.

Brad's fight to keep our 1st innings a float is a trend that has been apparent this series, a reason he is my Man of the Series right now, despite Mitchell Johnson's unreal performances.
However, as outstandingly pointed out by Brydon Coverdale (ESPN Cricinfo) if we look back to Newland's 2011, we didn't have the saving graces of Hads that day as we were rolled for 47. He can't do it all the time but thank our lucky Southern Cross he was able to bail us out again.

Nathan Lyon offered excellent support as the number 11 but come his efforts with the ball in hand, he's made his ultimate impression in that regard.

England got off to a strong start, suddenly really dominating the game in a way they have not at all this series. I texted my mate Sylvester just reminding him of Amazing Adelaide. I had a gut feeling that England had, if anything, just given us a wonderful opportunity to fight back and really test our self-belief and skills as a team. Soon after the collapse began. The challenge was accepted and we now find ourselves in a very realistic place to go up 4-0.

Nathan Lyon, he deserves every reward he gets. He was just another spinner in the line post-Warne and was selected on the basis of a remarkable story with the Redbacks and excellent performances in Twenty20 and List A cricket. He found himself debuting against Sri Lanka, and some credit has to go to the previously appalling selection panel, who gave him a chance. The new panel has kept faith in him, and he's repaid it. I am pleased most supporters have kept backing him. He was always the only option. He is still with us and now has 100 Test wickets. His story has been a joy to follow.

I remember meeting Nathan, who was alongsideTrent Copeland, at the nets by Newland's Cricket Ground two days after we were bowled out for 47 runs against South Africa. I asked him if it had sunk in yet that he was shortly before a member of the grounds team at the Adelaide Oval, and was suddenly a Baggy Green cricketer, a member of the Australian team. He laughed, thanked me for the support and just replied, "No mate, I simply can't believe it. I have to pinch myself some days". I bet he is still pinching himself.

He removed England's danger man Ian Bell for a golden duck, and lured England into the attack, having totally made them contradict their style of defensive cricket. It lead to their downfall and we had them all out for 179. He ended with 5-50, giving him 16 wickets at 26.93 for the series.

Mitchell Johnson though was the man under the spotlight once again.

The MCG was once harsh to him, now he has won over the crowds at the gladiator arena of international cricket. As the famous quote from the movie Gladiator goes, "I was the best because the crowd loved me. Win the crowd and you will win your freedom." You'd have to sense their is some similarity between that drive to entertain and be brutal come Mitchell Johnson, and Russell Crowe's character in that movie.

Mitch took a catch, he took the opening wicket, he took the closing wicket, and he ran out Joe Root with some highly athletic fielding with a solid technique on display too. The direct hit was a winner and that was our turning point and the boys knew it. Mitchell Johnson was all over the scorecard and all over the Poms.

He is killing their tail enders and they seem to be eager to leave the field no sooner than they've taken guard knowing Mitch is bowling. I love it.

He also had a good time getting stuck into Kevin Pietersen. Many will dismiss it as bad sportsmanship from these two, but with the ego of KP I think it is inevitable their will be some heat in the middle. They entertain. There was no physical contact but definitely physical aggression. I like it. It dates back the 70s with our team and of course the 80s. The ugly Australian tag is returning and I wouldn't have it any other way.

KP also bowed out of the way five times during his innings during our bowlers run up. It was just the right guy at the crease against the right bowler to add fuel to the fire. It was entertaining and Mitch won that round.

David Warner and Chris Rogers have gotten off to a steady start. We are 30 without loss, requiring another 201 runs for victory. We had two days to achieve this and this is against an English team that is seriously low on confidence. It is more than possible to win this based on their lack of confidence, our self belief and the trend that shows how we have shown greater consistency in our second dig.

Verdict: I am so mighty proud of my boys and just so blown away by the self-belief out there today. It was so inspiring. No other team can give you that emotion - no team, only Australia!

Still some massive work to do tomorrow. If the trend is followed, our collapses occur in the 1st innings. This 2nd innings seems to be when the group really up their game. Nice to see it reverse but right now I will take the trend continuing to see us reach that target of 231 runs. Rogers and Warner looked very relaxed out there and if they can hold the fort to set a strong foundation, this is ours. 4-0, but the challenge is on offer. Another big one for this team going forward.

Tomorrow the boys need all the support they can get.

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