Right then, I'm off. HARK? What's that I hear? I think it's the sound of the Aussies polishing their auras into a heavenly sheen. Thanks for the chat today. The English people among you are masochists, but you're nice masochists, and I like you.
"Has anyone mentioned Andrew Strauss' stirring dismissal of Australia as not the team they used to be yet? I hope they find lots of newspaper copies and feed them to him sheet by sheet." Rich in the TMS inbox
"Why can't England declare? Call it a bad day at the office, and regroup for the Oval? The Aussies would be stunned and possibly unable to recover. I'm going to reread some Samuel Beckett to cheer myself up." Peter (in Amman, downing cold white wine, not an Old Harrovian, I do have a permanent address in England) in the TMS inbox
"What an absolute disaster. I am sitting on my terrace looking at Mont Blanc contemplating the enormous mountain that I will soon climb. At least I have a small chance of success, whereas Strauss and Co never really got to the first refuge." Will in Chamonix in the TMS inbox
"Oi Sexist David in Nairobi! What about the tears of the mothers and daughters who may also have been going to Headingley. At least the English women win the games they play!" Jayne in the TMS inbox
"If one England player dares say anything about 'learning lessons' in the post match interviews I am finished with cricket." Rob, Swindon, in the TMS inbox
"To Catherine: Your date doesn't have to get up early tomorrow to watch the cricket - is that a positive?" Tommy, Amsterdam, in the TMS inbox
"For Catherine on her blind date: Any chance that he is Welsh? Glamorgan beat Leicestershire by an innings today for their first win of the season. (Hope he is not from Leicester)." Gareth in Istanbul in the TMS inbox
"For Catherine, if he turns out to be a massive Australian cricket fan, you're in for a terrible night, make sure he's paying. Chances of an Aussie paying - same as England winning this Test." Tom the tight Aussie in Cumbria in the TMS inbox
"Better performance than in the first innings. For 78, England were six wickets down then. Now they are only five down." Manoj Barve, Pune, in the TMS inbox
1832 - 82-5
If Mitchell Johnson has turned up late to the Ashes party, he's turned up in a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow with a novelty horn, with a couple of barrels of strong lager strapped to the roof and a gaggle of good time girls in the back seat. Prior steers him through point for a couple, before playing a horrible waft outside off. One more ball to go... AND HE EDGES AND IS DROPPED! North putting that down in the slips. England 261 behind, that was a ruddy nightmare.
1827 - 78-5Catherine
(see below), our team are probably more handsome than their team - Siddle looks like Papa Lazarou - that might cheer him up. Ooh! That's close, Anderson leaving one that hoops back in, but Umpire Rauf doesn't reckon that was doing enough.
"Help. I'm going on a blind date tonight and the only information I know is that he is a massive cricket fan. Please find me something positive or I could have a very bored (or lonely) evening ahead." Catherine, London, via text on 81111:
1821 - WICKET - Cook c Haddin b Johnson 30 (Eng 78-5)
Ironic cheers as it looks like Anderson has extended his record of not recording a duck in Tests, but it's a leg-bye. That keeps low from Johnson, and Cook just manages to jam his bat down on it. But he's gone a couple of balls later, Johnson getting another delivery to swing and Cook nibbling to Haddin behind the timbers.
"Gutless, spineless, talentless and absolutely useless. I'm sick to death of being embarrassed by our national sports teams." Malcolm in Durham in the TMS inbox
eirebilly on 606:
"I am seriously starting to believe that England may lose this Test."
1817 - 77-4
Deary me, have some dignity England - they've sent Jimmy Anderson out as a night-watchman. England still trail by 269. Cook clips a couple off his pads to move to 30, before he edges to just short of Clarke in the slips. Hilfenhaus has bowled superbly today, you have to say, but he hasn't really done much other than plonk it on line and length and the England batsmen, like little mice, just can't stop nibbling.
"Can't help but have a tear in my eye on behalf of all the fathers and sons who have so anticipated going to the Test on Monday. Perhaps the England players will find some way of cheering them up? Any suggestions for how?"David in Nairobi in the TMS inbox
1811 - WICKET - Collingwood lbw b Johnson 74-4Scottie
(see below), I don't know what you're talking about, I don't even like cricket. Cook gets a short one from Johnson, stands tall and paddles it round the corner for one. Down goes another one, swinging yorker from Johnson, and that would have ripped out Collingwood's off-peg.
1806 - 73-3
Collingwood off the mark with a nurdle to leg for a couple. Another no-ball from Hilfenhaus, before Collingwood picks up a brace with a punch into the covers. Probing from Hilfenhaus outside off, but Collingwood leaves it alone.
"Referrals... Come on Ben, one bad decision against England in four years of Test cricket and the wistful dreams of the referral system are mentioned. Please just concede that you wouldn't have even won the Ashes in 2005 had the system been in place then. Geesh." Scottie from Oz in the USA in the TMS inbox
1802 - 67-3
Six overs left this evening, and Collingwood gets an absolute snorter first up, the ball rearing off a length like fat out of a frying pan. That was actually pretty well played by the Durham man. I think we can safely say that Australia will have the momentum going into the final Test...
1759 - WICKET - Bell c Ponting b Johnson 3 (Eng 67-3)
Johnson has Bell hopping with a sharp bumper, as the Western Terrace erupts. Mayhem over there now, as Bell leaves one that nips back and just misses his off-peg. And that's Bell back in the hutch, fencing and edging and Punter taking a very handy two-handed snaffle diving low to his left.
"As it is quiet in work today I have been speculating over the depth of the hole is that England have to dig themselves out of. I suspect it is the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean which is a mere 6.78 miles beneath the ocean. Impressive that Strauss and the boys got to that depth in a couple of hours without the aid of oxygen and pressurised submersibles." Ian Shirley in the TMS inbox
1755 - 67-2
That's an absolute brute of a delivery from Hilfenhaus off just short of a length, the ball leaping like a salmon at Bell, who is forced to jag his head out of the way. Hilfenhaus oversteps before Bell gets off the mark with a straight drive for a few.
"It may have been an unfair dismissal, but for Ravi's sake, I hope that he's spared the next Test. He needs time to sort himself out." Jonathan Rich in the TMS inbox
1750 - 62-2
Of course, if we'd had referrals in this series, Ravi would still be batting. But we don't, so he isn't. Width from Johnson and Cook uppercuts him over the slips for a one-bounce four.
1746 - 58-2
Hilfenhaus on a hat-trick... AND BELL'S ALMOST NICKED IT! Fishing, and I'm not sure how that missed. Not a great piece of umpiring by Mr Rauf, but then England have had their fair share of luck in this series. That's no consolation to Ravi Bopara, however.
1745 - WICKET - Bopara lbw b Hilfenhaus 0 (Eng 58-2)
We're about to see what Bopara is made of... gone first ball. Big nick on that, and it might have hit him outside the line.
1740 - WICKET - Strauss lbw b Hilfenhaus 33 (Eng 58-1)
No more booze allowed at Headingley, which, as Tuffers has just pointed out on TMS, might leave you a little bit miffed if you'd paid top dollar for an Ashes ticket. And down goes Strauss, caught plumb in front by an inswinger from Hilfenhaus.
1740 - 58-0
Johnson too straight now and Cook and Strauss gratefully pick up singles. Many thanks to Ken Banks who has sent in a photo of a rather lavish volume called Beautiful Sheep. Presumably that was kept just out of the reach of the lambs on a high shelf in a barn on Ken's farm over in the States.
1735 - 56-0
Hilfenhaus back on. Cook clips Hilf off his pads for one. Too straight again from Tasmanian (Ricky Ponting's second cousin...) and Strauss works him to leg. Huge lbw appeal against Cook, but Umpire Rauf is having none of that and England scamper a leg-bye. Big stride from Cook, and that looked to be sliding down leg, and there may have been some willow.
"Re Kathy, Cornwall, can we please stop the quantum mechanics puns, they're becoming Bohring."John in the TMS inbox
1731 - 53-0
Johnson digs one in and Cook very nearly skims a catch to the man at square-leg. Cook, clearly a compulsive hooker, has a go at the next one and this time keeps it down and picks up one. England only 290 runs behind now...
1727 - 52-0
Leg-bye, before Cook stands tall and clips Clark into the covers for a few. Katich it was that chased that down, just dragging it short of the rope. Strauss plays an almost identical stroke for a couple, England chomping into this Aussie lead like a plague of weevils through a pipe of HobNobs, albeit an absolutely massive pipe of HobNobs the length of the Dartford Tunnel.
"Deafening silence from the Old Harrovians. A little lacking in the fighting-spirit department are we - or are your lips stuck to the ice-cold glass?"Paul in Florida in the TMS inbox
1722 - 46-0
Johnson ambles in and digs one in at 92mph and Cook goes for the hook - not clever, the ball beats the top of his blade. This time Strauss gets some chin music and he too goes for the hook. Another false shot, you don't really want to be hooking this lad with two men out.
1718 - 44-0
Clark gets one to wobble into Strauss's pads and the England skipper clips him away for four to move to 23. Clark loses his line again and is nibbled round the corner for four more. Two men close in the box on the on-side, so Clark is bowling to a plan, but it's a tight-rope he's being asked to walk. Off-line again and Strauss picks up two more. Picture of Tophill Joe sent in by Garry G, who praises the legendary ram's "perfect head, legs, tight skin and quality fleece". I've heard Beyonce described thus.
1712 - 34-0
Johnson strays down Cook's leg-side, and the wiry left-hander just tickles it round the corner for four gimme runs, his first for 23 balls. Just as a few positive thoughts start rolling into my mind, Sir Geoffrey takes his place in the TMS commentary box, yells "we've 'ad it" and I'm smothered once again by a duvet of gloom.
"I shudder to think what the inhabitants of Harrovia are like if they drink their white wine 'ice cold'. Even Aussies would draw the line at that." Lightly-chilled Kim, in the TMS inbox
"Re Ross (see below), astrophysicist on quantum mechanics. It's the Australians who have achieved the Superposition this time." Kathy (Revd), Cornwall, in the TMS inbox
1706 - 29-0
This partnership already England's highest of the match. Cook with a thick outside edge, but no dramas, and that's another maiden as drinks are brought out.
nigeweir on 606:
"We have two superb opening batsmen here. It was just days ago they put on nearly 200 and they can do it again. I did not rate these Aussie bowlers at all just a day or so ago and I have not changed my mind about them. Give the ball to Johnson and we could yet win this."
1702 - 29-0
England pacemen have tended to loosen up with rank long-hops in this game, Mitchell Johnson gets his first ball to snort off a length and take Strauss' gloves. Well played that. That is loose from Johnson, and Strauss flogs him round the corner for four. That's a bit wild from Johnson, one arcing down leg-side, and that was an indifferent first over. News reaches me that John 'Creepy' Crawley is to retire at the end of the season. The Hampshire and Lancashire man played 37 Tests for England, scoring four tons and nine fifties at 34.61.
1658 - 25-0
Clark mining that line on middle and off to Strauss, getting the ball to occasionally wobble back in. the England skipper picks up one with a tuck off his hip. WHOA THERE! Britain's most expensive sheep has passed away. Tophill Joe, sold for £128,000 six years ago, produced more than 1,000 offspring. Owner Bruce Mair said it was the "hot weather" that got him, before adding "he was active right up until the end". You do the mathematics.
1653 - 24-0
WILD! Short ball from Siddle and Strauss wafts at it as if England require 24 off the final over to win. Strauss picks up one with a push into the covers. Howard (see below), it got buried the day Sam the koala died - bunch of yobbos from Pinner took it over. Harrovia's a right dump now, not much better than Etonia down the road in Berkshire.
"Harrovia a republic? Hardly! Authorised by letters patent from the late Queen Elizabeth (that would be QE1). Or was there a coup, not previously reported by the Beeb?"Howard in the TMS inbox
1649 - 22-0
Here's Stuart Clark, and we know what he does, sticks it on a six pence outside off, time and time again. Strauss scampers a quick single to move to 11, and they don't bother running on the overthrow, as the England skipper had travelled so far through. England trail by 320...
1645 - 22-0
Siddle really bending his back, but Strauss sways out of the line with the minimum of fuss. Siddles loses his line and is tucked away for a single by Strauss. Short from Siddle, and Cook is unable to flog him away. Siddle glares furiously at Cook, as news reaches me that Marcus Trescothick has scored his second ton of the match for Somerset against Warwickshire. Astonishingly, the other Somerset batsmen so far have scored 8, 11, 9 and 5!
Ross, graduate astrophysicist. Cheddar Gorge via text on 81111:
"Theoretical astrophysics? Nothing to it. Thinking this is more like an exam on quantum mechanical structures"
"This might be like an exam in theoretical astrophysics, but these are supposed to be our best astrophysicists." Michael, failing to work, Kent, in the TMS inbox
1640 - 21-0
Strauss shows the maker's name and picks up three with a punch down the ground. But Hilfenhaus continues to nag away at Cook, the Aussie bowlers are, quite sensibly, trying to suffocate him to death.
"'Hilfenhaus is putting the ball on a spot just outside off-stump almost every delivery, and causing problems.' Typical shabby Aussie trick!" Mark Lawrence, Christchurch, in the TMS inbox
1636 - 18-0
Siddle getting some good carry through to Haddin now. Three slips, a gully and a backward short-leg in for Strauss, as the England skipper is squared up and gets a leading edge into the off-side for one. Some forecasts suggesting a possible shower tomorrow, and light rain forecasted for Monday. England need a little bit more than that to save this match, they need plagues of frogs, gnats, wild animals and locusts, and the odd incurable boil for the Aussie bowlers would be handy.
1632 - 17-0
Cook is squared up and the ball squirts into the slip cordon, but all along the turf once again. Cook looks very nervy out there, legs ramrod straight as if in calipers, and he edges a Hilfenhaus ball that hold its line once again. Soft hands though, and it's safe. That's another maiden.
1628 - 17-0
Pete (see below), I'm told the People's Republic of Harrovia is in Middlesex, just off the A409. Siddle sends down a quick bumper which Strauss ducks rather jerkily underneath. The next ball from Siddle keeps low, and he has a little chuckle to himself. The Western Terrace has livened up a bit, and a big pantomime "BOO!" goes up as the fun police move in and deflate a beach ball. Maiden over from Siddle.
1624 - 17-0
Some relief for Cook as Hilfenhaus loses his line, and the Essex left-hander whips him through mid-wicket for four. And there's four more, Cook squirting the ball past gully. Controlled, all along the carpet.
1620 - 9-0
Apologies, that was Strauss with the four in the previous over. Jim Maxwell on TMS has already nominated Cook as an lbw candidate, and that's another peach from Siddle, the ball pitching on a length and leaving the left-handed Cook. Cook beaten again. For the England openers, this is the equivalent of sitting in exam in theoretical astrophysics. For most of the Aussie batsmen, it was like sitting an English lit exam on Janet and John.
"Hi Ben, where is Harrovia?" Pete in Lancashire in the TMS inbox
1616 - 8-0
That's a good delivery from Hilfenhaus, getting one to nip back at Cook. Guess what? Hilfenhaus is putting the ball on a spot just outside off-stump almost every delivery, and causing problems. An inside edge from Cook draws anguished cries from the Aussie fielders, before Hilfenhaus loses his line and Strauss clips him off his pads for four.
BBC Sport's Tom Fordyce at Headingley, via text 81111:
Geoffrey Boycott received his ICC Hall of Fame cap and as he was walking off the outfield bumped into four fellas dress as rock band Kiss, resplendent in their make-up... Boycs' face was a picture, as though aliens had landed at the ground!"
1612 - 2-0
Here's Siddle on a hat-trick, steaming in, arms pumping, and that's wild down leg-side. The next one goes the other way, screeching across Strauss' bows, and that's a good take from Haddin. A maiden over from Siddle...
"Ben, did you ever think you would feel nostalgic about Barnacle Bailey, or Geoff Boycott at his most obdurate? That is what the team desperately needs now. Does anyone in the England team have the ability to do that job?"Frustrated expat, Toronto, Canada, in the TMS inbox
1608 - 2-0
Hilfenhaus it is with the new cherry, and his first ball is something of an anti-climax, a no-ball outside Strauss' off-stump. That's better from Hilfenhaus, getting one to come back in to the left-handed Strauss. Strauss scampers a quick single after a poke into the covers.
I should, of course, congratulate Stuart Broad on his six wicket haul, his best Test figures, and the Australian batsmen, who, despite some pretty ordinary England bowling, showed tremendous application. Players out, restart in a minute...
"Leaving your homeland because people make barbed, witty remarks is a tad thin-skinned old chap. I don't criticise these highly-paid professional sportsmen for failure to win but I do criticize them for failure to learn (repeatedly) from past mistakes." Clive, veteran expat & cricket lover, in the TMS inbox
Former Chief of the General Staff General Sir Richard Dannatt chatting to Aggers on TMS. He's talking of the Ashes in terms of campaigns within a war, and if that's the case, then the last five sessions have been the cricketing equivalent of Operation Market Garden.
"From Expat without portfolio: Those of us that have played cricket, even at lowly village level, can tell the difference between bowling line and length and chucking pies. The England supporters have a right to vent their frustrations at this performance. Kevin Jones, Worthington, Ohio, in the TMS inbox
Many thanks Sam, Bendirs
here again. This is the man who put a million on black and it came up red. This is the man who married a sex kitten, just as she turned into a cat. This is the man who moved into gold, just as the clever money moved out. This is the man who is the England cricket captain. Shame he hasn't really got anyone he can rely on.
Now then, as England slip a sneaky pick-me-up dram in their afternoon tea, I hand you back to Benjamin Dirs. Expect an England batting collapse of Goliath proportions.
1545 - WICKET! North c Anderson b Broad 110 (Aus 445)
Selfless cricket from Marcus North as he aims another hoik to a Stuart Broad short one but can only ram it straight into the hands of James Anderson coming in from the square leg boundary. Australia all out for 445, a lead of 343. Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook - your country needs you.
1544 - 445-9
Graham Onions comes on to replace Graeme Swann and he is greeted by a Marcus North punt so vicious it had no teeth and was smothered in tattoos. The left-hander moves on to 110.
"I now realise why I too left England. Another expatriate Old Harrovian, sipping ice cold white wine overlooking the delectable Lago di Bracciano near Rome. It's 35 degrees, bright sunshine with no possibility whatsoever of rain today or, I shouldn't wonder, August and possibly September. Pondering fresh fish this evening..." M Ivens in the TMS inbox
1540 - 440-9
Ben Hilfenhaus is Australia's number 10 and Clark's departure means tea will be delayed by half and hour or until the last wicket falls - so why not take the time to draw deep breaths and calm your fury a touch. There's more hostility in the TMS inbox than a fired up Alan Donald to Michael Atherton.
1536 - WICKET! Clark b Broad 32 (Aus 440-9)
Stuart Clark's vicious cameo comes to an end and it's a Michelle Pfeiffer for Stuart Broad as the number 10 inside-edges on to his own stumps.
"Re. Ex-pat Old Harrovian. So you dislike England so much you leave, and then criticise people who stay? That is your contribution? I am sure Harmison and family would take it in good part, and don't need to be defended by gutless, over-privileged hypocrites. Next you will tell us you are patriotic!" Rob, Newbury, via text on 81111
1533 - 439-8
Graeme Swann looks like he's trying to divide 13,684 by 13 as he watches Steve Harmison lamely look on while a Stuart Clark swipe falls safely at long-on with a fielder nowhere to be seen. Oopsa-daisy. Fair play to Ex-pat Old Harrovian, below, by the way - he has at least deflected attention away from England's cricketers by taking a bit of a shoeing in the TMS inbox himself. Very patriotic.
1529 - 434-8
Fun-time Frankie for these Australian batsmen now, with Clark and North both happy to swish and swing - and it's the former giving the middle of his bat an absolute pounding. Twice Stuart Broad drops short, and twice Clark stings the palms of the spectators 20 rows back on the square leg boundary with big sixes. Australia's lead is now 332.
1523 - 418-8
Fetch that! Moments after narrowly avoiding a caught-and-bowled to Graeme Swann, Stuart Clark - eyes wider than the sun - marmalises the spinner back over the bowler's head and into the media toilets for a massive maximum.
1521 - 411-8
Stuart Clark is going to give this a bit of long handle here I reckon - and sure enough he flays away at Stuart Broad like your mum trying to escape a summer-time wasp. The number 10 gets a bit of luck when he guides the seamer just
wide of cover point and the ball rolls away for four. Salt. Wound. Rubbing.
"Re: All of the Anti-England Englishmen writing in: Just reading all of the barbed and at least putatively cheeky negativity you are expressing toward not only today's England XI but also England in general, I am reminded of why I left England in the first place. Just think of how you might feel if you were among Harmison's family and friends: quite easy to criticise him over a sloe gin, no? But do you think he, or any English sportsman, fails deliberately?"Expatriate Old Harrovian in the TMS inbox
1516 - 406-8
Smashed! Kevin Pietersen eat your heart out - that's how you bring up a century with a maximum. Marcus North, down on one knee, slog-sweeps Graeme Swann brutally over midwicket for a huge six and celebrates with a skip, a jump, and a "you beauty". His third Test ton, second in this series, and fully deserved. Cracking.
1510 - WICKET! Siddle b Broad 0 (Aus 394-8)
The Aussies are reeling! Stuart Broad straightens one off a full length, beats Peter Siddle's lame defence, and takes out his off stump first ball. The tourists are rattled! Ahem.
1507 - WICKET! Johnson c Bopara b Broad 27 (Aus 393-7)
Johnson goes! Moments after edging through third slip for four, the all-rounder aims an ugly swipe at a Broady short one and succeeds only in sending it straight down Ravi Bopara's Billy Goat.
1505 - 389-6
Graeme Swann again gets one to rip off a length and England seek some consolation in the fact that Nathan Hauritz's name is not on the Australians' team sheet. No doubt, they'll be spun out by Simon Katich. A brutal sweep for four takes Marcus North into the 90s.
1501 - 383-6
Mitchell Johnson punishes a rubbish Broad delivery outside off with a lovely cover drive to mar an otherwise decent over and the England fielders are looking about as buoyant as an anchor.
"I don't know, I think there's something endearing about an England shocker. We may not top world rankings or anything like that. But at least when it comes to organising gigantic, colossal sporting calamities, we're the best in the world and always will be."Steve, Stoke-on-Trent in the TMS inbox
"My cat Ted is probably rubbish at cricket, but he coughed up his hairball this morning with exceptional line and length." Carole in Maidenhead in the TMS inbox
1458 - 379-6
Graeme Swann comes back into the attack and immediately causes more consternation in one over than most of the seamers have managed all day. One grips and bounces past Marcus North's prodded defence and the next nips back in at the left-hander and raps him on the pads - it's going down though. North responds with a beauty of a square cut off one that's just short of a length and Australia's lead creeps ever nearer 300.
1454 - 370-6
Maiden over from Stuart Broad but Marcus North is looking better set than plaster of Paris.
1450 - 370-6
Four leg byes and a crunching Mitchell Johnson pull square on the on side make it an expensive over from Graham Onions, and Australia continue to grind England's hopes of a miracle into the dirt.
Melanie, Leeds, via text on 81111:
"My husband is playing Wii Ashes cricket with our cat Dave, and both are doing better than this sorry lot. Dave for the next squad I say."
1442 - 359-6
Stuart Broad comes into the attack to give Steve Harmison a rest, and responds by serving up a gift-wrapped opening short-hop that Marcus North kerplunks to the square boundary. The end of the over brings drinks and one can only hope the Headingley faithful take the hint and hit the sauce. It might just ease the pain.
"Are wickets about three foot shorter in county cricket? Stumps three foot higher? Maybe the average height of a player is about twice that of the internationals? They're the only reasons I can think of that Harmison could have done so well previous to this game, and been so shocking in this Test."Sean, Llandudno, in the TMS inbox
1437 - 353-6
Mitchell Johnson continues to struggle with the scoring and Graham Onions keeps him on seven from 29 balls with some more zip and swing. A lot of chatter about the theory/myth that "anything can happen at Headingley", which as straw-clutches go is up there with those fans at the ground comforting themselves with the notion that "at least we don't have to get the bus home dressed as a gorilla". Still, with the pitch looking increasingly flat, maybe there is room for optimism. Maybe?
1432 - 352-6
Steve Harmison continues, as does the short stuff, and it's a single off the over.
Anon via text on 81111:
"My son and I have got tickets for Monday and he has been looking forward to it for ages. I haven't got the heart to tell him he's off to the garden centre looking for new pot plants instead."
1428 - 351-6
Good over from Graham Onions, probing away at Mitchell Johnson's off stump, and it's a maiden. Jonathan Trott, by the way, has reacted to his omission from this Test by making the short drive to Edgbaston, strapping on his pads, and flaying an innings-saving 79 for Warwickshire against Somerset. Dum de dum.
From Graham Brewis via text on 81111:
"Consider yourself lucky anon (below). I have a ticket for Tuesday. Any offers?"
1424 - 351-6
There's something strangely admirable about Steve Harmison's refusal to pitch the ball up - more stubborn than a wine stain, the big man. Another short one is treated with utter distain by Marcus North and he punches a doozy of a pull away for four as Australia's score passes the 350-mark. It could be worse, though, folks. On this day in 1987, Pakistan's innings of 708 at The Oval came to an end. The highest in their Test history, it made sure of a draw and a 1-0 win in the series. England were in the field for more than two days, bowling 220.3 overs, with Ian Botham taking 3 for 217. Long.
1419 - 345-6
Bosh. Marcus North ends the Aussies' brief dry spell with a crunching square cut that races to the boundary before you can say 'short, wide, four'. A cover drive for four straight out of the text book ends the over and Australia's lead rips up to 243 runs, North on 72.
1415 - 334-6
Steve Harmison giving Mitchell Johnson a bit of a working over out there, and the left-hander is about as comfortable as a bed of nails. Good rhythm being shown by the big man and the Headingley crowd respond with a bit of Aussie-baiting. If England can rattle out a few wickets...
Anon via text on 81111:
"On my way up to Leeds on a train. Lacking a spoon, I've considered rolling up my ticket for Sunday to stir tea with."
1411 - 334-6
Chastened by his near-miss of the previous over, Marcus North fends off another accurate Onions over without aggression and it's a maiden.
Trapper on 606:
"I'd love to see Mitch take the long handle here. The century and 90-odd not out he got against Seth Efrica were a lot of fun to watch. The lad can really smash the cover off the ball when he's of a mind to do so."
1408 - 334-6
Well well well, Marcus North - who has shown more patience than Erinsborough Hospital so far this innings - suddenly opts to slash wildly at a wide Harmison delivery and is fortunate to miss the edge by a matter of a gnat's eyelash. The Durham paceman looks like someone has smeared marmite on his top lip. He responds by banging one in at Johnson and the all-rounder is fortunate to watch the ball fly off the edge of the bat, over the slips, and away for four. Some zip in the England bowling.
1403 - 329-6
Graham Onions will share this second new ball, but is given only two slips, a gully and a short mid-off for Mitchell Johnson as Andrew Strauss keeps half an eye on Australia's burgeoning lead. Three singles and a brace follow and England's field all looks a bit betwixt and between.
1359 - 324-6
Mitchell Johnson is the new bastman and he can prove a tricky customer given licence with the bat. He watches from the non-striker's end as Marcus North picks up another single off his hips and Steve Harmison's first over with the new ball prompts a light clatter of applause from a post-lunch drowsy Headingley.
1354 - WICKET! Haddin c Bell b Harmison 14 (Aus 323-6)
New ball - and Haddin goes! More short stuff from 'Grievous Bodily' Harmison but this time it works a doozy, Haddin spooning a short one high and into the safe hands of Ian Bell running round from leg slip. The fight back starts here...
1352 - 323-5
Brad Haddin is making his intent clear early on, here, dancing down the wicket and punching Swann over midwicket for a three. Marcus North picks off a few more easy runs off his pads and he takes Australia's lead to 221.
1349 - 314-5
Brad Haddin pounces on another half-paced half-tracker from Harmison and gloves one round the corner for four. The Durham paceman is providing all the threat of a goldfish in a sandpit out there.
"It's a sad, sad time when the opposition supporters (Jason, Melbourne) are having to tell us to keep our chin up and keep the fight coming. Even if we lose this Test (am I optimistic thinking we can hold on for the draw?) it brings the series level and we can still claw back the Ashes at the Oval
Come on! Let's get behind them!"Matt, in Leeds, in the TMS inbox
1345 - 309-5
It's spinner Graeme Swann - and not the most impressive bowler of the day so far Graham Onions - who will combine with Harmison and it's a tidy over. Bit of turn for the Notts man and when one beats Marcus North's bat, Matt Prior and Paul Collingwood launch the most optimistic of appeals. If only the ball hadn't missed the bat by a country mile, Billy Bowden might have been tempted to raise the crooked finger. A maiden.
1343 - 309-5
Three of singles off Harmison's return over, but predictably all still a little bit short. Ho hum. Headingley boasting all the atmosphere of a Monday morning sixth-form assembly at the moment. Someone should get the trumpet out. Oh, right.
Tom Fordyce on Twitter:
"A few games of under-10s kwik cricket took place on the outfield earlier. Some nice full-pitched bowling by a 9-yr-old girl. Give her a spell this afternoon."
It will be Steve Harmison to start the session up the hill, so anyone at Headingley on the boundary edge may want to get their hard hats on. New ball due in four overs...
"Re Stephen at work - not sure I understand how England losing heavily helps Freddie's aches & pains. He's probably done his shoulder now throwing things at the telly."Jim via the TMS inbox
So, hope. The weather forecast for Sunday is for rain, with Monday and Tuesday only slightly better. If England get away with this because of the weather, I'd advise a trip to the casino for the home players with Emily
with their pockets stuffed with twenties. Just 10 minutes until the restart, let's hope those computer bods in the England dressing room have been relaying the message... full and straight...
Stephen at work in Cardiff, via text 81111:
"It's OK everyone, England are losing this heavily on purpose to make sure that Freddie is fit for the final Test where England will take the series 2-1. And I was getting worried there."
"Re 1310 - 'Dirsy'? Wow. You'd have thought with this game being such an amusing foregone conclusion, y'all would have the time to come up with better nicknames."Casper The Friendly Gambler via the TMS inbox:
From Jon, exiled Yorkshireman, via text on 81111:
"I am at Legoland and I'm sure I have just seen one of Broad's 'tempters' trundle past the chopper squad ride."
Someone keep an eye on Dirsy will they? He's sloping off to the BBC canteen looking like a boy who has been forced to watch endless re-runs of Heartbeat on the last day of his summer holidays. To be fair, that was a session bleaker than a winter's night for England fans wasn't it? Anyone with any hope out there? No, didn't think so. Give this page a cheeky refresh if you don't mind, otherwise I'll be writing under Ben Dirs' byline - and I don't think I could stand that kind of pressure. Cheers.
Right, Sam Lyon is your man in the second session, see you after tea...
"What the hell is going on around here? I return from holiday and have just popped into the lab to find all my cells dead (mine, generated from me; no other animals involved, thank you) and the cricket transported back to the early '80s. Clearly it is all your fault Ben and I hold you personally responsible." Dr TV Liew in the TMS inbox
"Who pedestrianised the England bowling, that's what I want to know."Pete in Birmingham in the TMS inbox
1301 - 306-5
Haddin stays back and tucks Swann round the corner for one. North suddenly loses his marbles, swatting at one miles outside off, but he picks up one for an under edge, and that's lunch. The lead now 204, England need a miracle. And we're only four sessions in. Unfortunately, traipsing from the pitch, their shoulders slouched, the England players don't look much like miracle workers, they look like survivors being herded from a plane crash.
1256 - 304-5
Australia consolidating before lunch, just the one run from Onions' over, Haddin off the mark.
"Tom in Paris (see below), they've not pedestrianised Brentwood high street yet, but they're redeveloping it. A nice new left turn lane at the signals on the Weald Road/Kings Road junction too. All very exciting." E Dubbs in Leyton in the TMS inbox
"How about a bit of perspective from some of you. You've arguably been outplayed in the series to date and even with this performance will go into the last Test at 1-1 with the Ashes still there to be won. Come on, show some fight please!" Jason, Melbourne, in the TMS inbox
1253 - 303-5
Credit where credit is due, that was a decent delivery from Onions, the ball swinging in and hitting Clarke on the toe, although it was probably only just hitting leg. And credit where credit is due, that was another text-book knock from Clarke, who looks in career-high nick this series. Haddin the new man in the middle, but North's on strike, and he sees out a maiden over from Swann.
1249 - WICKET - Clarke lbw b Onions 93 (Aus 303-5)
Onions forces a leading edge from Clarke, but the ball loops into no-man's land on the off-side and it's one more to the total. One for North, before Onions strikes, finding a bit of reverse swing perhaps, and trapping Clarke in front.
1245 - 301-4
That's Australia's 300 courtesy of a push to long-off from North, and that's the Victorian's second Test fifty, and his second of the series. Another single from Clarke and that's the 150 partnership.
"Ben, I must say, this game looks uncannily like a game of backyard cricket my fellow Australian compatriots play in Brisbane every boxing day. Players come and go, but the team names remain the same, Team Exciting and Team Boring. We have been going at it since the early nineties, and looking at the way this game is unfolding, I'll give you one clue who Team Boring reminds me of."Michael, London, in the TMS inbox
"Just logged on and cannot believe the news. Are they really pedestrianising Brentwood high street?" Tom in Paris in the TMS inbox
1241 - 298-4
One hundred runs in the session courtesy of a Clarke single, before Onions digs one in and North pulls him round the corner for one. Easy for Clarke, moving to 91 with a push to mid-off.
1236 - 295-4
North using his feet and nullifies a quicker one from Swann, fiddling him round the corner for two. North works Swann to leg for one before Swann drops short and Clarke punches to deep point for one. "Average" is Matty Hayden's assessment of England's bowling so far, which, in Australian parlance, is a euphemism for "a load of old rubbish".
"Ah, so this entire debacle is the fault of Steve Harmison. Thank you all for clearing that up. I thought everyone was playing badly. My mistake. Sorry."Chris in the TMS inbox
1232 - 289-4
That's a maiden from Swann, and on comes Onions. Is it just me, or should Onions have been on about an hour and a half ago? I mean, he's a Headingley bowler, no? Pitches it up, nibbles it about? Nah, what we want is Harmison digging it in halfway down the pitch. But then, what do I know. Clarke looks for a quick one, but North sends him back. Maiden over.
1228 - 289-4
North drives and thick edges through gully for a couple. Broad continues with his tactic of 'hiding it' wide outside off, but when he does show the ball, the Aussies pick him off, with North pulling an attempted bumper behind square. Clarke spots a slower one and pushes into the covers for one, before North drives No, Emily
, I suspect that just makes you the woman who put everything on red, and it came up black.
"I was out at a casino until 4am, got home at 5, but still woke up at 11 to put the commentary on. Is that commitment?"Emily, London, in the TMS inbox
Tom Fordyce on Twitter:
"Australia 170-odd runs ahead, six wickets in hand, sun shining, pitch perfect. Anyone fancy a bowl? Mum?"
1221 - 285-4
Clarke using his feet to Swann and clocking him over the top to the long-off fence. A couple more singles, Clarke now 87, 13 shy of his third ton of the series. Talking... talking... talking...
"I don't know about Bopara never getting into the England team again - he's still young and could come back. But Harmison, he really shouldn't be seen again after this. Rob Key should be brought in at number three, just because he knows how to play that role, even if it's just a one Test spell to help us win the Ashes. I'm basically at a loss after this match, it's just pathetic."Dan Stephens, Durham, in the TMS inbox
1218 - 280-4
Broad too full and North opens the face and glides him down to third-man for four. North moves to 39 with a nurdle to leg, as I must tell you, with a heavy heart, that the Pink Panther and Sylvester have retired...
1213 - 274-4
Swann tries, and fails, to suppress a smile after his little spill. He locates the edge of North's bat, but the ball doesn't quite carry, but there's some turn out there. North nicks the strike with a single.
1210 - 271-4
Positives. I'm looking for positives. Smashing day in Leeds, but then I'm in London. Think I might have lost a bit of weight, maybe a pound or two, and I hear they're thinking about pedestrianising Brentwood high street, which my mum will like. Broad bowling about three feet outside off, Clarke ignoring it... the second morning of a Test, a little bit early for that nonsense... Swann topples over fielding at mid-wicket, it's like some grim, unrelenting circus.
1203 - 268-4
Too easy that for Clarke, just pushing to mid-on for one, as we hear Sir Boycs is being inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame at Headingley today. North tries to fiddle Swann round the corner for a single, and that's a leg-bye. Cook appeals for leg before from his spot at short leg, and that's drinks. Strauss calls his men in for a chat, and this on-field chat looks to have a touch of the Phil Browns about it. Eleven fours in the opening hour, perhaps only one ball in the right area. As unfathomable as wormholes.
1159 - 266-4
Good grief, this is getting even worse. Broad has obviously been ordered to bowl wide outside off-stump to stem the rate. It worked in that over, just two runs from it (including a wide), but it's rather like a wrestler trying to induce a stalemate by cowering on the ring apron.
"Tom (1136) I agree wholeheartedly re Ramprakash; he has been THE best batsman in county cricket for years and remains one of the best. There is still some Surrey prejudice in the selectors though from old (added to the fact they are no longer a force) and great performances for that county have often come unrewarded, the most obvious being Martin Bicknell who should have been our Glenn McGrath, my how we could do with his control now
"Tim Fordham in the TMS inbox
"If Harmison and Bopara never play again for England as a result of this match, then we should surely regard it as a great victory for common sense. How many more times do they have to show how second-rate they are before the selectors get the message? And how about appointing a bowling coach who can actually coach while they're at it too?" Fed up with the same old story from Kilburn in the TMS inbox
1153 - 264-4
A rather half-hearted cheer, the sort you'd give if your three-year-old son presented you with a couple of bits of Lego stuck together, as Swann is called into the attack. Right on the money, a maiden, and an appreciative crowd gives him a ripple.
"Woah there with the blame patrol. There's an entire team out there giving a bad performance, Harmison is just one member of it. The fact that this is his first Test of the series shouldn't count against him, there's players who haven't been up to scratch the whole time - Bopara and Broad spring to mind."Jim, Grumpy at work in Winchester, in the TMS inbox
1149 - 264-4
How come Blowers always has cabbage whites fluttering about in front of his commentary box? I can go months without seeing a single butterfly? Or are my eyes just not open to nature? A single for North through point and Clarke picks up an easy single, before North clatters Broad to deep point for one.
1145 - 261-4
Anderson, half-bunger on Clarke's legs, and he's whipped away for four. Anderson, half-bunger on Clarke's legs, and he's whipped away for four. Two more with a punch behind square. I've seen horrors... horrors that you've seen. The horror... the horror...
1140 - 251-4
Broad ploughing a furrow outside North's off-stump, and that's a maiden. "Was the word 'doyen' invented specifically for Richie Benaud?" asks Andy in Belpar
. Don't think so Andy, I'm pretty sure it was invented for Len Goodman off Strictly.
"Steve Harmison should never be allowed anywhere near the England team and I thought that before this disaster. We know that players like Freddie have a positive effect just by being in the team. We should also recognise that other players have a negative effect. Also, if a player has been shown over a long period of time to not be Test quality then good performances in county cricket should not sway the selectors. If this is not the case, is there not a double standard when it comes to Ramprakash and Harmison?"Tom in the TMS inbox
1136 - 251-4
There are more mysteries in this Test than your average James Ellroy - why, when the Aussies have already passed 240, has Swann not bowled a single ball? Any ideas? Anderson over-pitches and Clarke whip-cracks him straight down the ground for four. Boycs has just wandered into the TMS commentary box, sounding as if he's just been informed that all of his runs have accidentally been erased from the record books. Short again, and Clarke tugs him to mid-wicket for two more.
1132 - 245-4
Broad into the attack. The best of England's bowlers yesterday, maybe he can put the wind up 'em? Nope, leg-side half-bunger and North whips him away for four. This pair are incontinent with runs, they've rattled up almost fifty runs in the first half an hour. Nice stroke from the elegant North, pushing into the covers for two more. Poor fielding from Bopara allows two more, and that's eight from Broad's first over.
Ted in Hull via text on 81111:
"When Harmison threatened to retire from Test cricket, why did no one take his keys and gladly show him the door?"
1127 - 237-4
Clarke with an off-drive and the ball ricochets off Anderson's shin and away for one. Anderson's definitely not 100%, his radar's out. Anderson gets one to hoop back in to Clarke and Clarke misses with a wild and windy woosh. Clarke loose again next up and he outside edges for four, but that's more authentic, a crackerjack drive to the wide long-off boundary.
1124 - 227-4
Clarke with another fifty courtesy of a clip to mid-wicket. He's now scored 400 runs in this series for four times out. That's right, Harmy, just keep popping it in short - North latches onto another rank half-tracker and flogs him away for four.
1119 - 221-4
Where did yesterday end and today begin? Anderson over-pitches and Clarke drives him through the covers for a couple. Better from Anderson, sticking one on a length, the ball arcing away, and Clarke is beaten. The locals, a knowledgeable bunch, applaud, but even that's a little bit sad to be honest - getting a round because you've pitched one up is the equivalent of an office worker getting a pat on the head from the boss for managing to turn his computer on in the morning.
1115 - 219-4
Harmison drags another in short and Clarke rocks back and tugs him away for four. How many wickets has this man taken in first-class cricket this season? He's looked about as threatening as Tim Rice in this match so far, which might tell you something about county cricket. Quick single for Clarke courtesy of a steer to point, before Harmison digs one in and North steers him down to third-man for four more.
"'That's the problem with the English. They bowl and field beautifully for an hour, and then they begin to think of apples.' CB Fry 1872-1956. We have been sleeping in the orchard."Jamie, Dorset, in the TMS inbox
Tom Fordyce on Twitter:
"The doyens are in the Headingley press box. White-haired Richie Benaud, white-haired Mike Brearley. Any 1981-style miracle tips, MB?"
1111 - 210-4
Tuffers and Aggers on TMS can't get their nuts around it either, with Tuffers declaring that he can't remember ever bowling as badly as England did collectively yesterday. North shoulders arms and that wasn't too far away from the top of off. Better from Anderson, good lines, a maiden.
1108 - 210-4
Steve Harmison, come on, you can put the wind up them! No, can't be bothered, short and wide and Clarke flogs him away for four. North tucks Harmison round the corner for a single, before Harmison drops short again and Clarke gets up on one foot and jabs him to mid-wicket for one. Not much has changed from yesterday, I can't quite get my nut around it... someone get me Lily Allen... I demand to speak to Lily Allen...
onemoreaussie on 606:
"It's funny how all the 'ooohhh we are so good at cricket and the Ashes belong here' people have disappeared up the drain pipe. It takes nothing more than one bad day at the office for all the nay-sayers to come out of their negative holes in the ground and start playing their trumpets of depression."
1103 - 202-4
Anderson with the first ball of the day, and Clarke picks up a single with a gentle push into the covers. Marcus North has so far batted 76 minutes for his seven runs... why did I write that? Majestic stroke, North standing tall and punching Anderson to the deep cover boundary. Tuffers on TMS reckons the pitch has flattened out, which, for England, is ruddy nightmare. A huge, away-swinging wide from Anderson and the lead is 100.
England have completed their warm-up game of British bulldog, and here they come, the usually stirring Jerusalem soundly all of a sudden faintly ridiculous. Jimmy Anderson will open the bowling, Australia's lead currently 94.
'Dizzy' Gillespie on TMS still reckons this is a batters' pitch rather than a bowlers' - "stick it on a line and length and stay patient, it's worked for 100 years and it will work for another 100 years". England's bowlers clearly disagree and consider line and length bowling to be as unfashionable as the moustache net.
"Re 1025. How do you sharpen a biro, and why? They are already pretty sharp, as seen in the Bourne movie where a disposable ink pen (not saying biro as could infringe trademark law) is used to take out one of the bad guys." Richard, bored and already fearful for the day, in East Yorks in the TMS inbox
Bowling coach Ottis Gibson has just told TMS's Alison Mitchell that Jimmy Anderson's not fit - he has, as we thought, tweaked a hammy. That's a touch.
"The pitch looks excitingly good and I think the Australian batsmen will be licking their lips. They can't take anything for granted, but if England go 250 behind, they're in a lot of trouble." Matthew Hayden on TMS
"Re: Your comment at 10.34 - if there is anybody out there who has played cricket at the highest level... could you please make your way with all due haste to Headingley! Hoping for an Aussie collapse of England-like proportions!"Jon in Derby in the TMS inbox
Mark in Ipswich via text on 81111:
"Can we have an update on overnight sleep patterns and what sport they are warming up with today? No fire alarms and footy might be significant!"
One has to hope England's body language is markedly better this morning than it was last night, they were moping about the park as if they'd been kept back during half term to polish the school silverware. Spanking day in Leeds, rain's not going to get them out of this pickle.
rom1966 on 606:
"Australia 270 all out. Only if the bowlers pitch the damn ball up."
If there is anybody out there who has played top-level cricket, can they please explain to me how the four best fast bowlers in England can consistently miss their mark by a matter of not inches, but feet? Just wondering.
The bookies, at least William Hill, still has England at 9-1 to win this match, and therefore regain the Ashes, which is pretty remarkable given the hole they're in. Kenny Lynch is more likely to win next year's Open.
Hello. I imagine there were a good few England players waking up this morning and wondering if it was all a bad dream. Alas, no, it wasn't. Your fans can still feel every England wicket and every long-hop like a short, sharp poke in the eye with a sharpened biro. Have some ruddy pride, England, at least have some pride.