Australia Win at a Canter

A gloriously sunny Lord’s greeted England and Australia as the oldest of cricketing protagonists locked horns in the second match of the NatWest Challenge series. The flags flew at half mast and a minute’s silence observed as a mark of respect to those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks that had struck London just three days before, a constant reminder that there are more important things than sporting contests, but equally that “The Show Must Go On”.

Australia won the toss and Ricky Ponting had no hesitation whatsoever in putting England in, a decision which probably owed more to the introduction of the ‘Super-Sub’ rule than any preference for chasing a target, early morning pitch conditions or anything else. Injuries to Watson and Hayden forced changes on the visitors, bringing in Katich and Kasprowicz, and there was also no place for Brad Hogg on the bench either, Brad Haddin called upon to take over as required.

England, as expected, were unchanged and Marcus Trescothick faced the first ball from Brett Lee, full, fast and a fraction outside off stump. Trescothick left it alone and would have been mightily relieved to see the swinging delivery narrowly avoid making contact with his timbers. Lee, the sun on his back, was really hitting the straps in his first over, sending one thunderbolt down at almost 94 miles per hour, and Trescothick, centurion last time out, was content to survive a hostile maiden.

Glenn McGrath erred on Andrew Strauss’s pads and the Middlesex opener had the England innings under way with a nudged couple, then an absolute Jaffa defeated the groping forward defensive push. At this stage, England seemed content to survive, to await the rare bad ball. One eventually came Trescothick’s way and he moved off the mark with three runs eased through extra cover.

Lee continued with his extremely disciplined line, full and wide to Trescothick and eventually the batsman flashed twice – the first defeated everything and the second found the outside half of the bat. Instead of finding the hands of the waiting slip cordon, the ball merely thudded into the boards at third man to take England to 11 off 5 overs.

McGrath produced five sixths of a superb over himself but like his partner before him, presented an innocuous half volley which Strauss smacked to cover point for his first boundary, then Trescothick smashed Lee over cover as England seemed to be warming to their task.

The relatively expensive Lee gave way to Michael Kasprowicz at the start of the ninth over with the England total on 25 and he removed Strauss (11) with his first ball, the opener trying to cut a ball which climbed and came back in. Strauss chopped the ball on to his stumps, a method of dismissal which has become all-too-familiar of late.

England captain Michael Vaughan (1) came to the wicket and immediately clipped off his toes for a single, but it was his only contribution. A decision to offer no stroke to one which came back from McGrath and rapped him on the pad produced the inevitable response. Subsequent replays indicated that the ball may well have been high, but the benefit of the doubt tends to swing away from the batsman in such circumstances, and rightly so.

A total of 28-2 after 10 overs encouraged Ricky Ponting to maintain the ‘Power Play’ and he was rewarded immediately, Trescothick (14) getting a huge inside edge to a ball from the resurgent Kasprowicz. Trescothick stood his ground before a nod and the raised finger from the umpire encouraged him to depart.

With England very much on the back foot and with new batsmen Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff at the wicket, Ricky Ponting brought back the fire power of Brett Lee in place of the supremely economical Glenn McGrath. Pietersen, watchful, took nine balls before he got off the mark, clipping through midwicket. Flintoff, too, took his time, pushing the bowler straight for a single.

Kasprowicz drifted marginally on to Pietersen’s pads and paid the penalty, the ball driven on the up through midwicket like a bullet, then a fortunate snick raced through third man for another boundary. At the end of a profitable 15th over, England had progressed on to 45-3.

The benefit of bowling ‘dot balls’ to as aggressive a batsman as Kevin Pietersen (15) paid off once more as Lee kept him quiet for the first 5 balls of the over. The predictable expansive drive followed to the last and instead of the ball racing through the covers, it merely cannoned into his own stumps to leave England in all sorts of trouble at 45-4. Australia were rampant.

The dreadfully out of form Jason Gillespie was introduced at the expense of Michael Kasprowicz and after the bowler had gifted Collingwood one off the mark, Andrew Flintoff immediately added his own mental scars to Gillespie’s increasing collection, launching a half-tracker over midwicket to take England past 50. Four balls later, a carbon-copy brought another boundary.

The twentieth over saw Gillespie getting the ball in the right place, but once again a poor final ball invited the drive, and this time Collingwood obliged with a lovely steer through the covers. As the Power Play options ended, Ricky Ponting would have been absolutely delighted to have winkled out four England batsmen for just 60.

Ponting switched Gillespie to the other end after just two overs, replaced at the Nursery End by the far more reliable Andrew Symonds, an unbelievable scenario a month ago. A tight first over restricted England to three singles as England sought to be able to defer any temptation to introduce Vikram Solanki at this stage. The re-introduction of Gillespie saw Flintoff immediately crunch a half volley poker-straight to the fence.

Wonderful work behind the stumps by Gilchrist had Collingwood struggling to regain his ground, the margin between success and failure measured in a single frame of film and a shadow. If it could ever be possible to get away with saying ‘It is clear there was doubt’, that was that moment, and the television umpire correctly ruled in favour of the batsman. At the half-way stage, England had stumbled and stuttered up to 74-4.

Paul Collingwood kept the leg side fielders interested when he heaved across the line to a ball from Andrew Symonds, bowling in medium-pacer mode, the ball evading the diving fielder at midwicket by the narrowest of margins as England struggled to make progress. Gillespie again dropped short to Flintoff and although the whirling blade made only half contact with the ball, it was enough to take it across the ropes.

Two balls later, a crashing drive past the stumps and delicate parts of Gillespie’s anatomy brought another boundary to Flintoff, beginning to look very comfortable indeed. An exchange of singles took the partnership to fifty as England, advancing the total to 96-4 at the end of the 30th over, remained a long way away from being in any sort of position to even contemplate stepping on the accelerator.

Long-hops, though, that’s another matter. Once again Gillespie tested out the end nearer his own toes and Flintoff bludgeoned the ball into the upper tier at square leg to take England past 100. Michael Clarke started in errant fashion, a leg-side wide gifting five runs, and two subsequent indiscretions meant that his nine-ball over had conceded eleven. Ponting turned to his Talisman.

Glenn McGrath was recalled as Australia seemed to be on the back foot for the first time in the match. Only a fraction short, Flintoff pounced and simply drilled the ball past point to the boundary before you could blink. Collingwood, meanwhile, was content to nudge the singles as England sought to get themselves in a position to be able to chance their collective arms at the end of the innings. After 35 overs, the fifth wicket partnership had realised 80 valuable runs and taken England on to 125-4.

Flintoff pushed Michael Clarke through midwicket for a couple to register his first half-century against Australia, and the ease in which he made them suggest that it will not be the last before this summer’s done and dusted. McGrath was pulled out of the attack and replaced by the success story of the day so far, Michael Kasprowicz, but his first ball to Flintoff was smeared over midwicket for four. Collingwood found the fence in altogether different circumstances, edging through where second slip would have been standing 20 overs before.

England lost their fifth wicket in the 39th over with the total on 148. Collingwood (34) drove Brett Lee’s first ball straight past the bowler to the boundary to bring up the hundred partnership, but in chasing one outside off stump he only succeeded in giving catching practice to Adam Gilchrist behind the wicket and giving Geraint Jones an earlier look at the bowling than he would have liked.

Positive captaincy by Ricky Ponting saw him give Brett Lee a slip to both Geraint Jones and Andrew Flintoff as he recognised the value of removing one or both of England’s big hitters before the final ‘slog’ overs, and the response by England was to take no chances. When Clarke dropped short though, the clubbed heave over midwicket brought Flintoff another boundary.

Kasprowicz bowled a leg-side full toss to Flintoff and the big Lancastrian had no difficulty in avoiding the fielder at fine leg as England finally looked to step on the gas. Ponting again favoured Symonds as opposed to Jason Gillespie, but with the insurance of being able to have five men on the boundary. The redoubtable dreadlocked all-rounder responded with an excellent over, conceding just four singles.

Geraint Jones used his feet well, dancing down the track to Kasprowicz to crack the ball high over extra cover for four, and as the England innings moved into the final five overs, they were still the wrong side of 180 and in desperate need of some fireworks. Australia, on the other hand, were very much in the box seats.

Flintoff looked to open his shoulders and hoisted Symonds for one boundary, then was fortunate to see the ball ‘die’ just short of mid on. The final ball of the over was a ‘pick your spot’ full toss, and Flintoff chose Row Q to move on to 87, Australia’s bogey number. Lee’s return nearly accounted for Flintoff via a run-out, Gilchrist failing to gather the ball with the batsman yards shy of his ground, but the next ball saw Flintoff hoist the ball high, but only to Mike Hussey at cover.

Just three overs remained and England were on 199-6 when Glenn McGrath returned. His first ball was full and wide. Jones, dancing around in his crease, made perfect contact and slapped the ball past backward point to take England past 200. Ashley Giles, for so long looking as though he would be ‘subbed’ out of the game in favour of Solanki, nudged a single then Jones hoisted McGrath over midwicket to add another boundary to England’s far-from-adequate total.

The immense benefit Brett Lee brings to any one day side became even more apparent in the next over. With the ball threadbare and sitting up asking to be hit when delivered by anyone else, Lee can still hurry batsmen intent on getting after him. Geraint Jones (27) threw the bat once too often and only succeeded in finding the waiting hands of Mike Hussey, patiently biding his time at ‘Cowshot Corner’.

Brett Lee’s final ball accounted for Ashley Giles (4), quite brilliantly caught by the diving Ricky Ponting at extra cover. Lee’s figures were exceptional, picking up five wickets in his ten overs at a personal cost of 41 runs, the best by an Australian in a One Day International at Lord’s. It was left to the tail to eke out what they could, and wonderful improvisation by Steve Harmison saw him flicking Glenn McGrath handsomely to the fine leg boundary, much to the chagrin of the bowler who did not seem to be impressed.

England closed out their 50 overs on 223-8, a seemingly awfully inadequate total on a quite excellent batting track. For England to have any chance in the contest and to close out the series early, their opening bowlers needed to do what they had so far been unable to achieve – make early inroads into the Australian upper order.

Adam Gilchrist gave Australia the best possible start with a carved boundary over slip, then it looked as though the veteran had struck right back, uprooting the flailing Gilchrist’s off stump but it was to no avail. Billy Bowden’s outstretched arm told it all – Darren Gough had over-stepped. Another boundary followed as Australia plundered 11 off the first over.

Simon Jones shared the new ball with Gough and started in less eventful fashion, conceding just a single and a wide in his first over to the watchful Simon Katich. Gilchrist flailed Gough through the covers for another boundary as Australia looked to inflict some serious damage inside the first few overs, a fact which was emphasised by the substitution of Brad Haddin for Glenn McGrath.

Gilchrist continued to take the game to England, crashing successive boundaries off Jones and at the end of the fourth over, Australia had progressed on to 32 without loss with Katich still to get off the mark. The carnage prompted Michael Vaughan to turn to Steve Harmison but an attempted bouncer gave Katich an easy opening boundary. The remainder of the over saw Katich groping outside off stump as Harmison strived to make amends.

Vaughan made a double bowling change, bringing Andrew Flintoff on in place of the profligate Simon Jones. Gilchrist (29) eyed up the first ball before flailing at the next, only succeeding in giving fellow wicketkeeper Geraint Jones the simplest of chances. Ricky Ponting came in at three, and immediately turned a leg-side delivery of full length past fine leg for four, a feat he repeated off Harmison in the following over.

Flintoff joined the ‘too short’ club to Simon Katich at the start of the eighth over and the batsman helped himself to his second boundary. Australia were racing along at better than a run a ball and England seemed to be running out of options before the Australian innings was even one fifth completed.

Ponting was quick as a flash to pounce on a short one from Harmison, pivoting to crack the ball past square leg for yet another boundary as England, for the first time this summer, appeared unable to apply any brakes to the runaway carriage that was the Australian innings. At the end of the ridiculously-named ‘Power Play 1’, ten overs in old money, Australia were 64-1.

England, understandably, chose to have the fielding restrictions relaxed after the 10th over and immediately brought Ashley Giles and Paul Collingwood into the attack, both bowlers taking the pace off the ball and immediately drying up the flow of boundaries, so much so that the next five overs went for just nine.

Michael Vaughan chose the lull in affairs as the opportunity to get ‘Power Play 2’ out of the way, starting with over number 16. The recalled Flintoff attempted a slower ball and Katich duly threaded it through the off side to get the scoreboard ticking again. Steve Harmison too was flung into the attack and a nice cameo saw Ponting fire the ball back, the bowler field then throw down the stumps in a single movement and both protagonists finish with a smile and a wink.

Ricky Ponting was on to a length ball by Flintoff very quickly indeed, and the ball would have carried a long, long way if the upper tier hadn’t got in the way. In the process, the partnership between Ponting and Katich progressed beyond the half-century. A misfield off the final ball of the 20th over saw Australia sitting pretty on 95-1 and with England still with an awkward five over period to get out of the way.

The recall of Ashley Giles saw Simon Katich (30) have a complete aberration, sauntering down the track and heaving the ball straight to the bucket-like hands of Steve Harmison at long on as the second wicket fell on 96. This brought Damien Martyn to the crease and Michael Vaughan immediately recalled Darren Gough, probably more as a defensive as opposed to attacking ploy. Gough’s third over went the way of his earlier first two – to the boundary quickly as the hundred was raised in the 22nd over.

Damien Martyn merely leaned into a Gough half-volley and the ball fizzed to the extra cover boundary as the Dazzler continued to look a shadow of his former self. Even the famous posturing strut was gone, replaced by the sagging shoulders of a man who had carried the fight to the opposition once too often. Giles, meanwhile, continued with his exemplary economy, being neither milked not slogged. At the end of the 25th over, Australia had cruised to 115-2.

Two elegant leg glances by Ponting saw to it that Collingwood’s return would be expensive, both racing to the fine leg boundary over the lightning-fast outfield, then for the first time Giles got the treatment as Ponting stepped back and simply caressed the ball past point for another four to bring up his first half century against England this summer.

Simon Jones, England’s best bowler with the old ball of late, was brought back into the attack but at this stage it all seemed so very easy for Australia as Ponting and Martyn rotated the strike efficiently and unhurriedly, keeping well ahead of the asking rate. Both men were swift to put the bad ball away as Ponting clearly demonstrated when Paul Collingwood overpitched, just leaning into the shot and easing it to the long on boundary.

As if to order, A formation of a Spitfire and a Hurricane escorting a Lancaster bomber flew directly over the ground, bringing the crowd to life in the soporific afternoon sunshine. Vaughan, sensing that he was in the vicinity of the Last Chance Saloon at the start of the 34th over, called for the ‘Power Play’ and brought in the field before calling for Flintoff. Ponting had other ideas though, and a sweet on drive took him into the 70’s when well-earned drinks were called for, leaving Australia the small matter of 63 to win from 16 overs.

A change of tack by Vaughan saw Ashley Giles recalled with just two men outside the circle. Despite the number of men close in, both batsmen had little difficulty in nudging half a dozen. The ball was thrown to Steve Harmison and he produced a steady over, beating Martyn outside off stump and conceding just a single from it. At the other end, Ricky Ponting came down the track and eased Giles over mid on for a one-bounce four.

Ponting was quick to spot successive slower balls from Harmison and both were handsomely driven through the covers to take him into the 90’s. In Harmison’s next over, Ponting went into the record books when the second of two more successive boundaries, one through midwicket, one edged wide of slip, took him to a thoroughly accomplished 18th career hundred and equalled the total achieved by Mark Waugh in the process.

Ricky Ponting was seemingly content to be there at the close as Australia cruised toward the finishing line, but he couldn’t resist taking one more liberty with Darren Gough. Having slotted one length ball through midwicket for four, he tried to repeat the exercise off the following ball. Instead of finding the ropes, the ball ended up in the hands of Kevin Pietersen at short midwicket. Ponting’s quite superb innings of 111 had effectively sealed victory for his charges.

Andrew Symonds came to the wicket with Australia needing a mere eight runs to win, and on another day he might have perished for a duck as he edged Harmison through the slips for four. An exchange of singles left the scores level and Darren Gough ended the innings as anticlimactically as he had started it, with an ignominious no-ball.

The sides now go to The Brit Oval on Tuesday 1-1 and still with little to choose between them, at least in terms of results, although England’s top-order worries just might give them a slightly more restless night than the form of Jason Gillespie might do to the remainder of the Australian camp. Either way, The Ashes are getting closer, and those little ‘moments’ are starting to mean something.

Match Summary
England 223-8 (50 overs)
A Flintoff 87
B Lee 5-41

Australia 224-3 (44.2 overs)
R Ponting 111

Australia won by 7 wickets

CricketWeb Man of the Match
Brett Lee (Australia)

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