Superb Vaughan hits 166

England vs Australia 3rd Test Day 1

England 341 for 5
Vaughan 166, Trescothick 63, Bell 59*, Lee 3 for 58

An enthralling day’s play was dominated by a magnificent innings from Michael Vaughan, which, supported by fine half centuries from Marcus Trescothick and Ian Bell, put England in a strong position by the close of play. All three had moments of luck on a day when little went right for the Australian bowlers, but they also batted beautifully to delight the crowd on the first day of the most eagerly awaited Ashes test in decades. Three late wickets brought Australia back into he match, which is now intriguingly poised.

The atmosphere at the start of play resembled a revival meeting, and early events bordered on the miraculous. First, we were told that both Lee and McGrath had been passed fit, with Kasprowicz making way. Then, Michael Vaughan won the toss. He was never likely to repeat Ponting’s error at Edgbaston, and England’s unchanged line-up batted first. Trescothick nearly fell to the second ball of the game, as he fended a lifting ball from McGrath over the slip cordon. On 13, he had an even luckier escape when he was badly missed by Gilchrist after edging a widish delivery from the same bowler. A number of typical plays-and-misses suggested that this would be another all-too-brief Ashes innings for the Somerset opener. At the other end, Strauss was being given a serious working over by Lee. He took a fearful blow on the head as he missed an attempted hook, and it was no surprise when he fell to the same bowler shortly afterwards, deceived and bowled by a magnificent slower ball. With only 26 on the board, and the incoming Vaughan desperately short of runs, the tourists must have fancied their chances of making further inroads and taking an early grip on the game. Instead, England consolidated, and there were few further alarms before lunch. Trescothick was particularly solid after his early let-offs, and was mainly content to push singles, only occasionally indulging in his trademark booming drives. Vaughan comfortably out-scored him and, after a couple of glided boundaries to third man had taken him into double figures, he batted with some fluency. He was helped by the introduction of Gillespie, who continued to look a shadow of his former self and by Ponting’s surprising decision not to use Warne once the batsmen had seen off the new ball. At lunch, England were looking good at 93 for 1.

The afternoon session saw Trescothick start expansively, especially against Gillespie. He raced to his 50 and was now looking set for a big score. However, the belated introduction of Warne, 45 minutes into the session, soon brought about his demise. Trescothick’s dismissal for 63 (163 for 2) was a strange affair: an attempted sweep finding its way into Gilchrist’s gloves via the batsman’s bat, gloves, pad and bat again and then the keeper’s knee. Not that Warne was worried, of course. It took him to the extraordinary milestone of 600 test wickets, and a packed Old Trafford rose to acknowledge the feat. Meanwhile, Vaughan was lucky still to be at the crease. On 41, he also was dropped by Gilchrist off McGrath’s bowling, once again the keeper diving across first slip to spill the chance. Then, the very next ball, his off stump was sent flying only for the bowler to be denied by the umpire calling a no ball. With those escapes out of his system, he settled down and played increasingly fluently for the remainder of the session. He had been joined by Bell who, as in his second innings at Edgbaston, batted reasonably comfortably. With both McGrath and Warne operating, runs were hard to come by, but the pressure was removed when Ponting introduced Simon Katich’s rarely seen chinamen into the attack. Having been virtually shotless, Bell was now able to pick up some easy runs and the pair took the score to 195 at tea, with Vaughan on 93.

Vaughan reached three figures soon after the break, and now the shackles really came off. For a glorious hour and a half, he drove, pulled, and cut imperiously. There are few finer sights in cricket than the England captain in this sort of form, as he toyed with the best attack in the world. Naturally the hapless Gillespie took the worst of the onslaught, but none of the others were exempt from the treatment. In the end, maybe carried away by his own brilliance, over-confidence got the better of him. Having reached 166, he launched a full toss from Katich straight to McGrath at deep mid-on, and his brilliant innings had come to an end. Pietersen came and went relatively quickly. Having been lucky to survive some over-ambitious heaves against Warne, he appeared to have bedded down for the day, but shortly before the close he tried, unsuccessfully, to pull a Lee bouncer over Hodge on the mid-wicket boundary, which was one of the less intelligent pieces of cricket that we’ll see this summer. The impression that England had let the Australians back into the game was reinforced when Lee made a mess of Matthew Hoggard’s stumps with the last ball of the day.

At 290 for 2, England had looked in complete control. 341 for 5 is by no means a bad position, but the Australians will know that quick wickets in the morning will give them a platform to take charge of the game. Much will depend on Ian Bell, who batted intelligently and increasingly confidently to reach 59 by the close. To his enormous credit, he wasn’t at all fazed by his slow scoring in his first hour and a half at the crease. At one stage, he faced 30 deliveries without managing a run, which mattered not a jot given Vaughan’s carnage at the other end. He also had his moments of good fortune, and could easily have been caught on two occasions after misreading slower deliveries from the unlucky McGrath. Eventually, he found his feet and in the last hour he began to show his class, not least with a pair of crisply driven boundaries off Warne and McGrath. England will be hoping for more of the same tomorrow to set the sort of total that would allow them to dominate the game.

Leave a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they have been approved

More articles by David Lewis