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Page last updated at 17:32 GMT, Saturday, 11 July 2009 18:32 UK

Jonathan Agnew column

Brad Haddin (left) and Marcus North
The batting of Haddin (left) and North set Australia up perfectly in Cardiff

Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent

Australia ground England into the dust of the Cardiff pitch on Saturday and are now seriously threatening to take an early lead in the series.

England managed to take only one wicket - and that to end the stand of exactly 200 between Marcus North and Brad Haddin, at which point Ricky Ponting declared.

It had been a dreadfully dispiriting experience for England's bowlers - none more so than Graeme Swann, who, on a pitch taking slow spin, remained wicketless after 38 overs. Monty Panesar took just one from 35 overs, and both face the potential embarrassment of being out-performed by the lowly rated Nathan Hauritz.

No sooner did England begin their attempt to salvage the game than Alistair Cook fell lbw to Mitchell Johnson for six - playing across his front pad, and Ravi Bopara misjudged the length of a straight ball from Ben Hilfenhaus and was also adjudged lbw for one.

Hawkeye suggested the ball might have gone over the stumps, but the error remained, and England will have to bat all day on Sunday to save the match.


England's bowling was very disappointing, and there were also tactical errors. In my view, either Swann or Panesar should have opened the attack at the start of the day with James Anderson, rather than Stuart Broad.

There is very little help for the quicker bowlers, while there is more than enough slow turn to assist the spinners.

In fact, when Swann was introduced, he looked more dangerous than on the third day, but Strauss was keen to take the third new ball, which he did so almost the moment it was due. Again, this was an error and 36 runs came from the first six overs bowled with the new ball.

England have also lost the art of creating pressure by throttling the run rate and bowling maidens. There are simply too many easy scoring opportunities to make the batsmen take a risk.

With Test cricket played at a much faster rate these days, I would think it would be easier to make a batsmen fidgety by drying up the runs than it was 20 years ago - but North and Haddin were not made to work hard at all.

That is to take nothing away from the pair, who paced their partnership beautifully. North will have surprised a few, and looks a very compact, unflustered and capable left hander - he has now scored two hundreds in his first three Tests.

Haddin, meanwhile, looks a more than adequate replacement for Adam Gilchrist. He is certainly not the shy and retiring type, hits the ball hard and is very confident - a trait this new-look Australian team appears to have in spades.

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see also
Australia charge thwarted by rain
11 Jul 09 |  England
England v Australia photos day four
11 Jul 09 |  England
Ashes Ten to Tackle
08 Jul 09 |  Funny Old Game
The Ashes: head-to-head
04 Jul 09 |  Cricket
Live cricket on the BBC
26 Oct 11 |  Cricket
Australia in England 2009
20 Sep 09 |  England

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