Symonds inspires Aussie response

Symonds inspires Aussie response

Australia ended their four-game run of defeats with a comprehensive 57-run win over England at Chester-le-Street on the back of Andrew Symonds’ return.

With Michael Vaughan’s groin strain, sustained in the field against Bangladesh on Tuesday, England re-introduced Vikram Solanki into the side to take over the skipper’s number three spot whilst Marcus Trescothick donned the captain’s armband. Darren Gough returned from his game off against the Bangladeshis to replace Jon Lewis, with Chris Tremlett retaining his place in the starting eleven.

The Australians also made two changes, Michael Kasprowicz paying the price for his poor performances to date as Brett Lee returned from his shoulder injury with Michael Clarke a little more unlucky to miss out for Andrew Symonds. Shane Watson, nonetheless, recovered sufficiently from being scared of the legend of the Lumley Castle ghosts to take his place in the number seven slot.

Winning the toss, Trescothick surprised the majority of the Chester-le-Street crowd by opting to field first – and as a result needing to chase under the lights having spent fifty overs in the wilting Durham heat, fifty overs that will have seemed much longer as Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist eased to a typically coruscating start, Tremlett proving the most costly before adjusting his line of attack.

Coming around the wicket, the giant Hampshire seamer extracted extra bounce and found Adam Gilchrist’s top edge for Geraint Jones to dive up and across behind the the stumps and make the breakthrough before Ricky Ponting was eventually able to move into double figures for the series. The Australian skipper escaped as Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood left a skier in the deep for one another, but soon after he hoisted Steve Harmison to the tumbling Ashley Giles at third man.

Hayden followed the very next over, snicking Andrew Flintoff behind the wicket where Jones hung on with the help of his chest. At 95-3, England’s decision to field looked to be paying off but the Australian combination of Damien Martyn and the recalled Symonds steadily accumulated, easing Collingwood around and punishing Tremlett and the usually impeccable Ashley Giles when they dropped short – but with boundaries generally in short supply the tourists’ run rate hovered between four and five per over as Symonds primed himself for the assault.

Giles was flicked over midwicket à la Pietersen before a three-over burst as Steve Harmison erred in line and length and was brutally punished by Symonds, though the batsman was fortunate to escape a strong LBW appeal from the seamer the over before, as Mark Benson erroneously believed there had been contact with the all-rounder’s bat.

It was Symonds’ second reprieve, Geraint Jones having missed the stumps from six feet with the Queenslander out of his ground – but he didn’t make the most of his good luck, as an ill-judged single to Marcus Trescothick saw the stand-in skipper throw down the stumps. Mike Hussey never looked comfortable, holing out to Durham team-mate Collingwood off Andrew Flintoff, but Shane Watson’s late effort that included a clip off his pads to the fine leg boundary – despite Gough’s reminder of his ghost issues – pushed Australia to 266, a total that set up an intriguingly poised run-chase where neither side began as favourites.

Lee’s return to the yellow outfits instantly brought an impressive first over, Ponting giving his quickest seamer the new ball and being rewarded with pace, accuracy and in-swing to the two English left-handers, first strangling the run rate and then striking as Andrew Strauss inside-edged a drive onto his stumps, rewarding Lee for an exceptional opening spell.

Poor then became diabolical in the space of three Glenn McGrath deliveries as Marcus Trescothick fended the veteran seamer to Adam Gilchrist, the ball moving away a fraction outside off as the left-hander flicked the finest of edges behind, bringing Paul Collingwood – fresh from the statistically greatest ODI effort of all time.

The local hero lasted two balls – an attempted deflection towards third man succeeding only in bringing about the second chop-on of the day to reduce England to 6-3 and their first crisis point of the Ashes summer, with Vikram Solanki and Flintoff charged with the recovery.

Watchfully seeing off Lee and McGrath, Flintoff’s hooks and Solanki’s driving then gently guided England away from the cliff edge and towards more stable ground, Shane Watson and Jason Gillespie unable to maintain the strangling line and length of the opening bowlers before Brad Hogg’s introduction into the attack was greeted with a deftly-timed swept boundary from the Lancastrian all-rounder, as England’s run rate edged ever-upwards.

It was the wrist-spinner who brought the crucial wicket for the Australians, three dot balls provoking Solanki’s advance down the wicket – but the Worcestershire man failed to reach the pitch of the delivery and flicked it to the diving Ricky Ponting at midwicket to bring Kevin Pietersen to the middle, uniting him with fellow blood-and-thunder merchant Flintoff for the first time in his short International career.

It proved to be a short liaison as Flintoff, not content with having cheated dismissal by the smallest of margins as his toe nudged back to escape a vociferous stumping appeal, hoiked Brad Hogg skywards and into the waiting, grateful hands of Jason Gillespie at deep mid-on. It was all, just like it had so often been before, down to Pietersen.

Sensing the pivotal moment, Ricky Ponting restored Brett Lee to the attack as the crowd sensed the contest – the opening round going on points to Pietersen, with one boundary skidding to the cover fence, before Geraint Jones added a boundary of his own against Symonds.

A crunching boundary from the South African-born Hampshire man signalled the start of the impending onslaught, but the next ball did no more than find Michael Hussey on the midwicket boundary and extinguish the contest that remained in the game. Ashley Giles swiftly followed, stretching to reach a wide long-hop from Lee and gifting catching practice to Symonds in the gully.

From thereon in, it was no more than a case of applying the last rites. Geraint Jones holed out to Matthew Hayden off Shane Watson, Chris Tremlett repeated the dose to Mike Hussey off Gillespie, England brought the deficit below three figures as Darren Gough pulled Gillespie to the square leg fence and contined to accumulate.

Gough clubbed a succession of boundaries – leg side, straight, extra cover – as he overtook first Vikram Solanki, then Andrew Flintoff, and finally his own career high score – ending unbeaten on 46* as he and Harmison added an unbroken 50 for the last wicket. England fell four short of attaining a bonus point, but they maintained a shadow of respectability.

Bangladesh and Australia face each other at Old Trafford on Sunday, before England take on the Australians for the fourth time this summer at Headingley on Sunday. The gloves are off.

Australia 266-5
Andrew Symonds 73, Damien Martyn 68*
Andrew Flintoff 2-56, Steve Harmison 1-44

England 209-9
Andrew Flintoff 44, Vikram Solanki 34
Brad Hogg 2-19, Brett Lee 2-27

Australia won by 57 runs

CricketWeb Player of the Match
Andrew Symonds (Australia) – 73 and 1-37

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