Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Cooking Up An Ashes Storm

A quite fantastic first test at the Gabba. Sublime batting, an Ashes hat-trick, records tumbling and an England fightback to warm the cockles. Only a draw for England in the end but the momentum going into Adelaide is all with Strauss' men. That elusive first win at the Gabba since 1986 was a step too far but fair to say that this series is Game On!

Now that the dust has had a little time to settle what can we take from this thrilling match? England is up for the scrap. This was evident last winter against South Africa but about as common as a cleanly shaven Mitchell Johnson in previous Ashes encounters Down Under.

England continued to bowl with heart and aggression even when Hussey and Haddin were making hay. James Anderson in particular looks to be a far more accomplished bowler than in 2006 and was extremely unlucky not to break the partnership before it assumed record-breaking proportions. Finn grabbed the wickets but Jimmy looks like the go-to man this time round. He'll bowl worse and pick up more wickets. Adelaide would be a good place to start.

The batting? Nothing short of a revelation. Bell set the tone in the first innings, demonstrating his class and playing some commanding strokes. Three figures was beckoning until Siddle's pumped-up hat-trick and he was left trying to force the game with the tail. The Aussies will have noted the change in his attitude, application and demeanour.

Second time out? A flat track admittedly but England would have folded in the second innings on previous tours. Strauss clearly came out with a point to prove after his first over nightmare in the first innings, batting judiciously but with attacking intent. The Australian players commented after on his uncharacteristic, vocal celebration on reaching three figures as he became the first England player since Mark Butcher in 1988 to register a ton at the Gabba. His fourth Ashes century but crucially his first in Australia. Bodes well.

After waiting 12 years for one centurion to come along, suddenly two more arrived like the proverbial London buses. Trott recorded back-to-back Ashes hundreds after his success at the Oval in 2009. He was calmness personified and his elation was understandable as he saluted the Barmey Army on the final day. Nothing is going to put this man off his stroke. He ended up recording the 9th highest Ashes partnership of all time with (future) Captain Cook.

And to Alistair Cook. I think if you had offered him a series average of over 300 after the first test he would have probably taken it! Another man who looks far more comfortable than in 2006. He simply ticked off the milestones as he defended resolutely and then cut, pulled and drove with venom. Second Ashes century in Australia. Check. Highest score by an Englishman at the Gabba. Check. Highest personal test score. Check. Only the 6th Englishman to score 200 Down Under. Check. Only Englishman to score a double hundred at the Gabba. Check. Highest ever score by any player at the Gabba. Check. Beating Don Bradman's 79 year-old record no less. Check. Incredible stuff. Don't stop him now...he's having such a good time.

One stat that has gone largely unnoticed is that this was actually Cook's second double ton against the Aussies. He scored 214 for Essex against the Aussies when he was only 20. To think we ever doubted him. The, largely English, final day crowd saluted him like the conquering hero he is. Caps off to him, whether they be blue or baggy and green.

Ricky Ponting is the man with the headaches this week, not to mention a wounded and exhausted bowling attack. He won't want to be in the field first on Friday. Harris and Bolinger have been called into the squad and after going wicketless for the entire match, Mitchel Johnson must have run out of credit with his skipper. Hilfenhaus is another man gripping loosely to his place in the team.

As for the batting line-up, North is the man most under pressure, unless he is in the team to take the wicket of the England captain and to ensure England reach 500 with at least one man in the hut.

Honours even as we head to South Australia...but England holding all the cards.

Stat time. England double centurions Down Under. Where's Wally:

Wally Hammond 251 The Ashes: 2nd Test, 1928/29 Sydney Cricket Ground

Wally Hammond 231* The Ashes: 2nd Test, 1936/37 Sydney Cricket Ground

Alastair Cool 235* The Ashes: 1st Test, 2010/11 The Gabba

Paul Collingwood 206 The Ashes: 2nd Test, 2006/07 Adelaide Oval

Wally Hammond 200 The Ashes: 3rd Test, 1928/29 Melbourne Cricket Ground

Reginald Foster 287 The Ashes: 1st Test, 1903/04 Sydney Cricket Ground

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