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By Mark Mitchener
1846: Right, we're going to wrap things up for the day. Many thanks for your company and your many thousands of e-mails (sorry if we didn't have room for yours). We'll be back tomorrow morning - hope to see you then.
From Paul, losing the plot on the train to Brum, via text on 81111: "Just been asked by the conductor on the train for my ticket, to which I replied 'yes, Swann's just gone'."
From Jon 'Believer' Wilkinson, TMS inbox: "This is fine for England. A score of around 325-350 will make a game of it - the Australians will want to win this match but if we'd racked up 600 or so the temptation might've been there for them to play out the draw and secure the Ashes that way. We need to use their (largely justifiable) confidence AGAINST THEM."
From Anonymous, via text on 81111: "Not to worry, it's all part of the grand plan. Flintoff gets 100 not out in the second innings and a five-for on the last day. Easy!"
1834: The consensus here is that today was Australia's day. Yes, the pitch caused a few problems (and will no doubt continue to do so), but several England batsmen will look back on their dismissal to loose strokes. TMS are going off air, but you can hear more reaction later on BBC Radio 5 live, plus the Phil Tufnell Cricket Show at 2000 BST. And Aggers will round up the day's play with Geoff Boycott on
the TMS podcast
From Kev, Essex, TMS inbox: "Can't take it any more. Off for a tinny in the bath"
CLOSE OF PLAY
1832: And as we're past the time limit of 1830 BST (the extra half-hour), that will be that for the day.
1831 - WICKET - Swann c Haddin b Siddle 18 - Eng 307-8 (85.3 overs) Jim Maxwell on TMS points out that Australia will finish four overs short of their target of 90, even with the extra half-hour - but might have made it, had they not bowled three wides and 17 no-balls. Swann clips Siddle off his legs for a well-run three to long leg. Broad rotates the strike with a single. But the second new ball strikes as Swann nicks one to the keeper.
1828 - Eng 303-7 (85 overs) Ben Hilfenhaus gives the ball a furious shine on his flannels before charging in from the Vauxhall End. Broad defends his stumps, and we'll get one more.
From Lewis, Leeds, via text on 81111: "Not sure why Prior gets so much stick. He has played the Aussies as well as anyone with the exception of Strauss. In fact why is everyone so critical of all the players. It's not such a bad thing if we have more time to bowl at them. We need 20 wickets and will have to skittle quickly whatever we score. England to win on Monday morning."
1825 - Eng 303-7 (84 overs) - SECOND NEW BALL TAKEN The new cherry is finally unveiled, and handed to Peter Siddle. Swann heaves a single down to fine leg, Broad works one off his pads to rotate the strike. Then, Swann steers a four through extra cover to bring up England's 300, and our "gaffer" today, Alistair Watkins, hands round some chocolate in celebration.
From Julie, Northampton, TMS inbox: "Thankfully I'm going to a festival in the morning for three whole solid days. I will not communicate with the outside world in any way, I just cannot take any more. Trouble is, there's always Monday morning, or not!"
1819 - Eng 297-7 (83 overs) It looks like we may see the new ball - belatedly - tonight as Ben Hilfenhaus goes through his warm-up routines, not having bowled since just after three o'clock. After another singleton from Swann, an attractive drive brings Broad two more runs off North through the covers.
From Telekemis on 606:
"Turning into a top Test match, but ironic that everyone said Cardiff would be a minefield and turned out to be anything but, whereas this pitch was expected to be a belter and is turning into a minefield at the end of the first day, but still with enough in it for the seamers!"
1817 - Eng 294-7 (82 overs) It's still Watson, with the old ball. He gets a bit of swing as Swann smears a single to backward point. Broad is looking to see England through to the close, but helps himself to another four through the slips.
Vic Marks on TMS: "I'll be amazed if they don't take the new ball for two or three overs tonight"
From Les, Durham City, TMS inbox: "We can still make 350. Broad and Swann are both more capable at building an innings than Prior."
1812 - Eng 289-7 (81 overs) ...but NOT taken immediately. Could Ponting be a little concerned about over-rates, as he was in India over the winter when he turned to part-time bowlers rather than turn the screw on India? Swann dabs North for a single, Broad is resolute in defence and North is quickly through his over.
1810 - Eng 288-7 (80 overs) In possibly the last over with the old ball, Swann sneaks a single before Watson swerves one past Broad's outside edge and through Haddin's gloves for four more byes. Broad then gets an edge but the ball doesn't quite carry to Ponting at second slip. The new ball is available...
1805 - Eng 283-7 (79 overs) So, can England snaffle a few more runs before the new ball is taken? Swann swipes North for a single, but just one over left before the big guns can return. And if you're having trouble accessing the Stephen Fry interview, try giving your page a manual refresh.
From Chun Han Wong, London, TMS inbox: "Could you put out this advert for me? Clearance sale at the Oval - English wickets going on the cheap, while stumps last."
1802 - Eng 282-7 (78 overs) Swann pushes Watson for a single, then Broad cuts loose, bashing a short delivery over mid-wicket for four. And in response to all of you asking if I think this has been an example of careless batting or a devilish pitch, I have to say I would lean towards the former. And if you missed the Stephen Fry interview from the tea interval, you can listen to it again on the BBC Sport website.
1757 - Eng 277-7 (77 overs) North is still getting a bit of turn against Broad, who drives towards extra cover but it doesn't quite carry to a fielder. Food for thought for non-striker Swann, a wily spinner himself.
From Rob, TMS inbox: "This Test match has always been about England's bowlers producing some epic performances to get 20 wickets. As long as we can scramble a total (320 plus will do) and in quick time, game on I reckon. Keep the faith!"
1755 - Eng 277-7 (76 overs) A shooter from Watson brushes Broad's inside edge and flies past the stumps before hitting the boundary advertising board with a loud "THUNK", nearly taking out the TMS effects mic. Punter shuffles his field again. Broad then gets another fortunate edge past the stumps which brings him a single. Swann gets off the mark with a nudged four off his legs.
From hazbutler on 606:
"Oscar consider yourself lucky mate. I am in LA where I just got into work and now I have to let this simmer on my mind all day. You can go to sleep and dream of happier Ashes days. Or are you even old enough for those?"
1750 - Eng 268-7 (75 overs) Graeme Swann's first ball provokes another loud lbw shout, thankfully for him he got a slight inside edge onto his pad. Then, he's nearly caught at silly point - suddenly, the pitch "looks like a minefield", according to Aggers on TMS. That's a maiden over. New ball due in five overs.
1747: Crikey, that happened in seconds. Trott tried to push North into the leg side and set off for a run, Katich at short leg picked up the ball and threw the stumps down in a fraction of a second, Umpire Rauf didn't need to turn to the third umpire - Trott was clearly out of his ground. Big wicket, and the end of a promising debut knock from Trott.
1746 - WICKET - Trott run out (Katich) 41 - Eng 268-7 (74.2 overs)
From Bill in Florida, via Hayes Middlesex, TMS inbox: "Utter garbage, once again the usual lack of application from the batsmen. Sadly this is all too predictable, we do this every time we get off to a good start. Also I totally agree with the earlier comment that Collingwood is and never will be a number four, shame he can't bowl because he is a six or seven at best."
1746 - Eng 268-6 (74 overs) Here's a novelty - Shane Watson gets a bowl. I was at Edgbaston for the Sunday of the third Test, where he sent down three overs of what can best be described as "right-arm medium-pace pies" and was bludgeoned to various parts of the West Midlands by a grateful Flintoff. And it's more of the same from the injury-plagued all-rounder as he sends down a leg-stump half-volley, meat and drink to Trott who helps it on its way for four. Trott then doesn't quite get hold of a short delivery and they can only run one, Broad stands tall and dabs a single to third man. Incredibly, there's a big lbw shout as Trott misses a straight one, but Umpire Rauf just transfers Watson's cap from one hand to the other and calls "over"! Hawk-Eye suggests it might have struck the leg bail (by a millmetre or so).
From Anonymous, via text on 81111: "All this hype about 'Flintoff the saviour', when it would appear that 'extras' currently pose a more tangible threat to the Aussies' Ashes effort."
1740 - Eng 261-6 (73 overs) Trott cuts North and they run two, then the Warwickshire man prods a quick single to mid-off. Punter takes an age to shuffle the field again (while a nation collectively shouts "Get on with it!" at their televisions, radios and computers). Broad works an easy two, then gets a top edge off an attempted sweep and they scamper two more
From Big Al, via text on 81111: "I have been on a cricket tour to Eastbourne the last few days, and woke up last night, dreaming Trott had scored 74 not out with England 337 all out"
1736 - Eng 254-6 (72 overs) With an hour to play tonight, can England hold out? Broad rides his luck as he gets an edge while trying to pull his bat out of the way, and it drops between first and second slip for four. Johnson oversteps for the seventh and eighth time today, which does nowt for the Aussie over-rate, which is pretty shabby in any event. Meanwhile, the discarded Ravi Bopara has already passed his half century for Essex against Surrey at Colchester.
From Oscar (aged 13), TMS inbox: "I'm reading the commentary in Beijing and after that wicket I've had enough. I'm off to bed as it is 12.35 in the morning here."
1730 - Eng 248-6 (71 overs) North continues from the Vauxhall End to debutant Trott, just a single from the over.
1727 - Eng 247-6 (70 overs) This is starting to unravel for England, who are now six down as the disturbingly tall Stuart Broad takes guard. He shoulders arms to his first ball, and the Aussies' tails are up.
1724 - WICKET - Flintoff c Haddin b Johnson 7 - Eng 247-6 (69.4 overs) After yet another no-ball, Johnson slings in a short one which Flintoff has to fend off and it falls just short of the helmeted short leg. He wafts at one down the leg side... and then waves his bat rashly at another wide one outside off stump and is smartly caught by keeper Haddin.
From Andrew, Gloucester, TMS inbox: "Is it just me or do others feel that there really should be a minimum of 90 overs in the day and the 1830 cut-off is not really justified?"
1720 - Eng 246-5 (69 overs) A single from Trott brings Flintoff on strike against North. Fred takes a huge swing towards mid-wicket but doesn't connect fully and they scamper a two to fine leg. A single to the cover sweeper takes him to seven - Jim Maxwell and Matthew Hayden on TMS wonder whether Ponting will want to persevere with North for too long while Flintoff plays himself in.
From John Starbuck, Huddersfield, TMS inbox: "The next 20-odd overs are critical, because England need to rack up a lot of runs before the new ball becomes due. They can't afford to hang around."
1715 - Eng 242-5 (68 overs) Flintoff digs one out from Johnson and steers it rapidly through third man - he's off the mark with a boundary. Meanwhile, our style-and-stats guru, Paul Grunill, informs me that only three men have hit debut centuries at The Oval - WG Grace (152 against Australia in 1880), Frank Hayes (106 not out v West Indies in 1973) and bespectacled Aussie Dirk Wellham (103 v England in 1981). Not that that's putting a jinx on Trott or anything, Mr Grunill... Johnson bangs in the 13th no-ball of the innings, it's a drinks break and somehow I don't think we're going to get 22 more overs in tonight before the cut-off point of 1830 BST.
From Nick, on pint three, TMS inbox: "So me and my mate Dave are sat here wondering if anyone else is transfixed by Trott's incredible facial gymnastics? We've floated familiar cliches, like a bulldog chewing a wasp, but personally, with all his muscles apparently fighting between several expressions at once, I'm wondering if they've electrified his face guard."
1709 - Eng 237-5 (67 overs) The world may grind to a halt very soon as it appears the Twitter website is down. It's probably crashed through so many people checking out
Stephen Fry's page
for a picture of SF, Aggers and some ladies. Trott jabs a two, North spins one down which evades batsman, stumps and keeper for four byes.
From Chris, Newcastle, TMS inbox: "Have faith people, at least we have 70 odd more runs than we would have had, with Bopara batting! Plus Flintoff is destined for a 100."
1706 - Eng 231-5 (66 overs) As if you needed telling, it's Andrew Flintoff striding to the crease for his final Test. He executes a perfect back-foot defensive shot from his first ball, Johnson extends the over with a no-ball and then a wide, switches to bowling round the wicket but Fred sees off the over.
From Dan, Newcastle, TMS inbox: "Quite right Glasgow Rob. I cannot believe the negativity; the plane is nowhere near the mountain. And FYI Frank Follitt, Shola Ameobi has a very good chance of being the top scorer in the Championship!"
1700 - WICKET - Prior c Watson b Johnson 18 - Eng 229-5 (65.3 overs) Prior reaches for a slower, wide one from Johnson... and is caught at point. Lots of noise, someone popular must be in next.
From BBC Sport's Tom Fordyce at the World Championships in Berlin: "Giant screens here in Germany showing all the Ashes action as it happe... ah, if only. Latest scores being passed around BBC employees like gold dust. Reduced to trying to explain importance of Ashes to uncomprehending currywurst retailer at the Olympiastadion. Das ist nicht so gut." Follow Tom in Berlin on Twitter
1658 - Eng 229-4 (65 overs) Punter may have one eye on Australia's disappointing over-rate as Marcus North comes on with his inoffensive off-spin, and his first ball is despatched through mid-wicket for four by the patient Trott who guides it off his legs with expert timing. (The sort of "expert timing" that everybody who's kung-fu fighting fights with). Trott and Prior exchange singles.
From nigeweir on 606:
"To be fair, some of the most in-form England batsmen have yet to bat and we are now 209-4. We have bounced back a couple of times this series and we can only pray that the Aussies play poorly when they come out to bat. Its unlikely but he may happen. We are not doing terrible here, and the collapse that many are expecting might not happen. Flintoff, Swann and Broad can make fifties and right now I feel we still have a shot at the Ashes. Ingtriguing period coming up."
1654 - Eng 223-4 (64 overs) A single takes Trott to 24, before Prior forces a three through the covers. Shane Watson does the diving-stop-on-the-boundary - before walking, very gingerly, back to his fielding position. The man looks like an injury waiting to happen. Trott pushes a quick single through mid-wicket, and keeper Haddin needs a quick visit from the physio between overs.
From Rob, Glasgow, TMS inbox: "Do none of you believe England can do this? Remember Lord's? England will have 450 by lunch tomorrow and Freddie and Harmison will rip through them. You only print the negative ones Mark?"
1648 - Eng 218-4 (63 overs) Aggers wonders whether this pitch is really suited to the (lack of) pace of Stuart Clark, as Trott shoulders arms to a couple of deliveries which swing away and just about dribble through to the keeper. A slower ball is tickled down to fine leg for four by Trott - the ball is returned by Brett Lee, one of Australia's non-combatants and someone who's not had a happy tour in terms of appearances. The next ball is wide outside off stump, Trott hangs his bat out and that's four more off the toe of the bat, before he nicks the strike with a single which takes him to 23.
From eirebilly on 606:
"The wife made me drive her to the shops so I have missed the Bell wicket. I am still pretty impressed by this start by England. The run rate has dropped considerably but more importantly, they have only lost four wickets."
1643 - Eng 209-4 (62 overs) Our first change of bowling since tea as left-arm paceman Mitchell Johnson replaces Siddle, there are still two gullys in for Prior but he beats them both with a square-driven four. Vic Marks asks Aggers whether Saturday's much-discussed lunchtime guest is former Essex batsman Alan Lilley...
From Dave, TMS inbox: "What shall I watch on Saturday? My beloved Wolves lose to Man City or my beloved England lose the Ashes to Australia. Both have the potential to be humiliating, but I'm not sure which one will hurt the most."
1638 - Eng 205-4 (61 overs) Prior jabs Clark for a single to long leg, while England spinner Graeme Swann lets out an absolutely enormous yawn in the dressing-room. He's down at number nine on the scorecard and won't want to have to pad up too soon. Trott on-drives for one, then Prior looks more fluent than before as he cover-drives and they run three as Mike Hussey makes a sliding stop on the boundary. Poor old Nathan Hauritz, benched again by the Aussies, is working out on an exercise machine in the pavilion.
From Z, pulling his hair out in the office, via text on 81111: "Three starts from the top order, zero conversions into big scores. Each batsman got themselves out against the run of play. Why is this becoming such a similar story with England's batting?"
1634 - Eng 200-4 (60 overs) The fiery Siddle has another go at Prior, and when his length strays, Prior shows him a clean blade and straight-drives him for four. A trumpeter (possibly the Barmy Army's) tries to stir England into action with a quick burst of "Ring of Fire", as the Sussex stumper steers a quick single. Siddle then gets a bit of reverse swing which not only beats Trott between bat and pad, but beats the diving Haddin and disappears for four byes! 200 up for the hosts.
1629 - Eng 191-4 (59 overs) The Clark-Siddle combo is working a treat for Punter at the moment - you can forgive IJL Trott for looking like a man who's never played Test cricket before (as, er, he hasn't), but Prior has been stifled too. Trott briefly breaks the shackles with a handsome cover-driven four to take his score to 11. But then yet another edge falls safely as Trott tries to force Clark to leg, and gets a leading edge which just spoons out of the reach of a tumbling fielder in the covers. They run two.
From Frank Follitt, West Allotment, via text on 81111: "There's more chance of Shola Ameobi being top scorer in the Championship, than England winning this Test."
Phil Tufnell on TMS: "I wish I had some gates named after me, like Alec Stewart has here"
1625 - Eng 185-4 (58 overs) Prior is like a reckless cat who's quickly using up his nine lives at the moment, another inside edge off the unlucky Siddle whistles past his stumps. Punter has two men posted in Prior's favoured gully area, keeping up the pressure. Maiden over. And we have another vote for your delectation, if you want to give the page a quick "manual refresh" - who will be England's top scorer in this innings?
1620 - Eng 185-4 (57 overs) Clark still has a man out on the hook for Trott, but also a man catching at short mid-on who's so close to the pitch that non-striker Prior almost trips over him while backing up. "Punter" Ponting is on his umpteenth stick of chewing gum today, happy to keep the pressure on. Trott finally makes the breakthrough when he forces one through mid-wicket - they run three while Mitchell Johnson pursues, did he stop that inside the rope? Yes he did. Prior dabs a single to open his account, and the England pair eventually decide not to run a second to a misfield by Siddle.
From Anonymous, via text on 81111: "Michael Lumb, who I know and have played with, is actually English qualified having been born in - yes, you've guessed it, South Africa!"
1615 - Eng 181-4 (56 overs) Siddle is right on the money against Prior, giving him no room at all. A big rebuilding job needed by England now... Prior tries to drive, and gets an inside edge which flies millimetres past his off peg... Maiden over.
From kafkafil on 606:
"Let's face it, England are rubbish. Is there really nobody better in this country to come in at number four than Collingwood? When the opposition see that they must be laughing their faces off"
1611 - Eng 181-4 (55 overs) Stuart Clark replaces part-time spinner Marcus North - who's pretty much an over-rate bowler at this level. There's a man out on the hook for Trott, but he can't pierce the infield against Clark's accuracy. (And yes, I meant to say "tea" and not "lunch" after Bell's dismissal).
From Jamie, Taunton, TMS inbox: "GAAAAAHHHHH! I nip away for a quick toilet break and quelle surprise we lose another wicket. That's it, I'm bringing a nappy to work tomorrow."
Former Middlesex and England left-arm spinner Phil Tufnell on TMS: "When you've got off to a good start at The Oval, you have to capitalise - 70s aren't enough, you need hundreds"
1605 - Eng 181-4 (54 overs) New batsman Matt Prior defends his first ball off the back foot.
1604: Just what is it about England batsmen getting out after intervals or drinks breaks?!
1603 - WICKET - Bell b Siddle 72 - Eng 181-4 (53.5 overs) Siddle to resume, Trott still defiant in defence. He tries to force one off his legs, there's a half-hearted shout... and a leg bye ensues. He then charges in to Bell... who is bowled off an inside edge by the first ball he receives after tea! Aargh!
1559: After some fascinating discourse between Aggers and Stephen Fry, we're back on.
Stephen Fry on TMS: "I made this point the other day - it's called 'Twitter', it's not called 'earnest debate'. Sometimes you need idle chit-chat"
From Scott Heyhoe, TMS inbox: "Why all this rubbish about 'forward defensive' from Bell as though it's some kind of bad tactic. Surely England need to target batting all the way through to tea tomorrow. At say 100 runs per session, that's 500 runs. We have caused our own problems by showing a distinct lack of patience at times in this series so far"
From Jo, Southampton, via text on 81111: "Goodwin may be 300+ however Michael Lumb of Hampshire, who's English has scored 219 today!"
1548: Interesting to see from the e-mails that so many of you were fans of "Ever Decreasing Circles". I remember when it was on the same night as "Terry and June" - and one night, both shows, one after the other, used identical plotlines which concerned a fake policemen/confidence trickster who got all the main characters to go out to the local church hall for a Neighbourhood Watch meeting, so that their houses were empty to burgle!
BBC Sport's Ben Dirs on Twitter:
"Not since Bristow succumbed to dartitis at the Swedish Open back in '87 have I been as tense as this over a sporting event... GO ON TROTTY!"
1546: And while you give the page a "manual refresh" (F5 or whatever you prefer) to get my name back at the top of the page, do sit back and listen to Stephen Fry on TMS...
1544: Thanks, Fletch - good session, though I resent the implication that I need two-and-a-half hours to eat lunch...
By Paul Fletcher
1542: Well, that is the end of my stint. Hope you enjoyed the afternoon session. One for the Test purists, you might say. I'll hand you back over to Mitch, who has wrapped up his lunch and is raring to return. Cheers.
1538 - Eng 177-3 (53 overs) Last over before tea and Trott works the first delivery into the on-side for a couple - his first runs in Test cricket. I bet he feels better now. The odd delivery from North is turning and there is evidence of dust on the pitch already. Trott squeaks another single. Bell bats out the over and you would have to say that was Australia's session - 72 runs for the loss of two wickets.
1538 - Eng 177-3 (52 overs) Siddle to Bell. Trott still waiting to get off the mark - I make it 11 balls he has faced now. Bell bats out another maiden and England have scored 11 off the last 10 overs. Attritional doesn't do this justice.
From Tim, TMS inbox: "Has no one mentioned the outstanding batting of the day? Down in Taunton Murray Goodwin is comfortably past 300 at roughly a run a ball for Sussex. Couldn't we have somehow sneaked him in (he did play for Zimbabwe unfortunately)?"
1534 - Eng 177-3 (51 overs) Bell takes a single off North - bringing Trott on to strike. His first delivery is an attempted bouncer that goes down the leg side and is taken by Haddin. Bizarre, but surely pre-meditated. Plenty of Aussies surround Trott, who is yet to get off the mark. I'm becoming slightly more anxious about the success (or not) of the day's play.
1530 - Eng 176-3 (50 overs) Trott plays down a short one past Katich and is clearly keen to get off the mark. Bell has other ideas and sends back his Warwickshire team-mate after a period of hesitation. Trott is almost run out by Katich's throw. That would have made for an interesting conversation over tea. The rest of the over is relatively uneventful and Trott's wait to get off the mark continues.
From Alex, Bristol, via text on 81111: "Come on the Trott-meister-general! Smash a ton and I'll call you that forever!"
1525 - Eng 176-3 (49 overs) Whoa - refresh the page out there as I momentarily had England as 1176-3 in the entry below. Beyond wishful thinking. North continues and Bell plays out a maiden.
From Anonymous, via text on 81111: "Oi! EDC had an excellent cricket episode centering on Martin and Howard's record 7th wicket stand. Granted it was only 17, but would Barley have coped?!"
1520 - WICKET - Collingwood c Hussey b Siddle 24 - Eng 176-3 (47.5 overs) Suncream Siddle continues. Punter masticates heavily, Trott chews his nails as he watches in the dressing room. A no-ball from Siddle is the 11th of the innings to date. Siddle is bowling waaaaaaaaaayyyyy outside the off stump. Colly has had enough and tries to leather one but misses and grins ruefully. Colly doesn't learn and tries to drive another fuller, wideish delivery and is caught in the gully. Very disappointing. Trott comes in for his debut - a solid defensive that elicits a big cheer.
BBC Sport's Ben Dirs on Twitter:
"The Oval crowd sipping up the action rather daintily, unlike the Edgbaston faithful, who tend to tear into it like navvies into a keg"
1515 - Eng 175-2 (47 overs) I wonder what Nathan Hauritz makes of this as the ball is tossed to occasional spinner Marcus North. We might at least see some advance in the over rate. Bell drives an easy single, then North turns one into Colly's pads. Cue half-hearted appeal. Two more singles and the over is complete.
1511 - Eng 171-2 (46 overs) Siddle again. To illustrate how stodgy the recent phase of play has been, the crowd become extraordinarily animated as they cheer a ball towards the ropes off Colly. It is caught yards short but nonetheless Colly and Bell run three. Bell takes a single and England slowly edge towards 200.
From Christopher Brown, TMS inbox: "Re: Rex's comment about slow play. We have four pace bowlers coming in. It's the first day of a five-day Test. Why on earth would we bowl at a slow over rate on purpose?"
1507 - Eng 167-2 (45 overs) Hilfenhaus yet again. England finally advance the score, though the snaffled leg bye probably won't live long in the memory. One run in the last three overs.
From Martyn in Corby, TMS inbox: "Nathan Barley? Give me Howard & Hilda & their matching jumpers any day"
1503 - Eng 166-2 (44 overs) Siddle returns and I reckon this is a good move by an increasingly angry Punter. Siddle has got plenty of ticker, though he must have wasted a lot of money on this tour in unnecessary face cream. Forget it, even Hussey has eventually realised that. He runs in to Bell, who seems to be in tip-top form when it comes to executing the forward defensive. I reckon Bell is very much an Ever Decreasing Circles man, just gives you that kind of slightly safe, almost boring, type feel - a touch of the Richard Briers. Maiden, again.
From originallad on 606:
"Bopara was out of his depth. Forget about his three 100s against a rubbish WI side and he has scored: 34, 8, 0, 0 and 0 against Sri Lanka and 35, 27, 23, 18, 1, 1 and 0 against Australia"
1458 - Eng 166-2 (43 overs) Replays suggest Colly did hit the ball a couple of overs ago. They also indicate Strauss was out off a no-ball. Do the math(s). This has been a long spell from Hilfenhaus. Colly does well to smother a length delivery that straightens. Maiden.
From Joe from a windowless office in Weybridge, TMS inbox: "Hate to be cruel but... how many more runs does Bell need before he exceeds Bopara's aggregate for the previous four Tests?"
1455 - Eng 166-2 (42 overs) Top hole drive from Bell to the ropes, just to further rile Punter. Not doing too badly Shermanator. Johnson is clearly not at his best.
From Rex, trying to write a dissertation at Royal Holloway, University of London, via text on 81111: "The Australians are bowling at a painfully slow rate. Delay tactics perhaps? Definitely! Makes one sick when these whiners complain about sportsmanship. Surely the should be a penalty in terms of runs awarded to the batting team, if not they should put one in place. COME ON ENGLAND THIS MATCH IS YOURS FOR THE TAKING"
1450 - Eng 162-2 (41 overs) Play resumes after drinks and Colly creams a delivery on the rise through the off side to the ropes. Drama at the end of the over as Colly tries a drive outside his off stump and misses. A huge appeal follows, though tellingly not from bowler Hilfenhaus. Punter's body language suggests he thought it was out - massive teapot from him. He looks disgusted, like a man who wanted Nathan Barley on DVD for Christmas and ended up with Ever Decreasing Circles.
From Steve, on way to sunny V Festival, TMS inbox: "Belly should be fine for making his century now (or at least 92) as I've had a bet on him getting out for 91 or less! Stupidly bet on Strauss making more than 62 forgetting to apply the rule that England and I can not both win!"
1443 - Eng 158-2 (40 overs) This is the bizzo lads. Not spectacular but Bell and Colly slowly building, building, building. Showing a patience so patently absent at Headingley. This pitch looks like it will turn and a decent total will give England a decent shout. Johnson continues and graciously contributes to England's total with another no-ball and later follows that with his second wide in as many overs. Fair to say he is not too chuffed. In between Bell clips a single and Colly helps himself to a couple. Johnson decides on a change of approach, going around the wicket, but another no-ball follows. The final delivery results in another single to Colly and drinks come on to the field.
BBC Sport's Ben Dirs on Twitter:
"Goughy chomping on a rocket ice lolly outside the press box. Try pouring yourself into a catsuit after that, let alone dancing the fandango"
1437 - Eng 151-2 (39 overs) A rather impressive no-ball from Hilfenhaus brings up England's 150. Slightly negative by Australia, who have a 7-2 field and are looking to fire the ball outside the off stick. You don't bowl short and wide to Belly though and he cuts for a single. Billy Bowden has nothing to do with an lbw shout against Colly with the final delivery of the over. Rightly so.
From Jon in Warwick, via text on 81111: "To all those non-believers out there, have some faith! Belly is there, Collingwood is there, so stop being so negative! "
1432 - Eng 149-2 (38 overs) Johnson back to his Ashes 09 best - by that, of course, I mean he wangs one so wide the umpire has a stretch of his arms. The crowd fully appreciates that one. Wild and short follows. Colly finally gets the chance to lay wood on leather and creams a boundary. Colly has moved pretty smoothly on to 13. I hope I can say that with the addition of a further digit at the end in a few hours time.
From Phil in France, TMS inbox: "Marillion singer Steve Hogarth regularly uses a special cricket bat as a musical instrument which makes various sound effects via a wireless MIDI controller. Quite surreal"
1428 - Eng 144-2 (37 overs) Careful Belly, who tries to smash the cover off one with an expansive drive and only succeeds in accelerating the ageing process of nervy England fans. Much better is a controlled tuck off the hip for two more. Bell leaves the final ball of Hilfenhaus' over, Punter looks at the ground. Don't know why.
From offpeggone on 606:
"I'd take Bell scoring 100 off 150 balls over him scoring 40 in 30 balls but entertaining any day of the week"
1423 - Eng 142-2 (36 overs) Johnson into the attack. No problem for England's gifted number three, who flicks him to leg for a single. Johnson slants a few across Colly before a straighter one is worked off his legs for a couple. Steady away.
From Dave in Accrington, via text on 81111: "I'm just putting my two tickets for the fifth day on ebay before the collapse happens"
1418 - Eng 139-2 (35 overs) Hilfenhaus to Bell, who plays a belter of an on-drive, which I often hear said is one of the hardest shots to play. Cracking boundary. A no-ball and a whipped shot through mid-wicket for three ends a successful over for Bell.
From Windsor, working in The Pentagon, Washington DC, TMS inbox: "Aussie Navy Exchange Officer now jumping around the office... US Navy remains mystified and likely to remain so"
1414 - Eng 131-2 (34 overs) Clark - line and length, line and length, line and length - not something England did all that well in the last Test. Colly plays out the maiden and we move on.
1410 - Eng 131-2 (33 overs) Very much a sedate phase of play at the moment, Hilfenhaus probing away on a length until he drops one a touch shorter and Colly comfortably pulls for a single. Bell somehow works a yorker off his toes. The ball races fine to the ropes and up comes Bell's hard-earned half century. Keep it going Mr Bell.
1407 - Eng 126-2 (32 overs) Colly pulls the ball for a single off the third ball of the over. A gentle, slightly nervous hum around The Oval at the moment, not unlike the start of the morning session. Bell moves to 47 with another single and Colly then ensures he retains the strike with another one off the final ball of the over.
1401 - Eng 123-2 (31 overs) A testing, probing over from Hilfenhaus that finds Bell in extremely diligent mood. After a series of forward defences he drives but the bowler fields. Bell works the ball off his hips but then plays a very wishy washy stroke outside his off stump.
From Anonymous, via text on 81111: "As someone once said, 'it is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome' - so let's get off Bell's back and start some positive text"
1358 - Eng 121-2 (30 overs) Bell drives for three early in Clark's over - bringing Colly on strike. Colly apparently averages 56 batting at number four for England. On balance, I'd probably settle for that. Colly plays out the over.
From Matt, Nottingham, TMS inbox: "I'm saving up all my old cricket bats for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. As 'Shaun of the Dead' proved, they make handy weapons"
1353 - Eng 118-2 (29 overs) Colly comes in at four - he hasn't batted in this slot since the 2006-07 Ashes series. He ends the over with a confident shot off his hip that races to the boundary.
1349 - WICKET - Strauss c Haddin b Hilfenhaus 55 - Eng 114-2 (28.1 overs) First ball of the over - and Australia strike. The ball is slanted across Strauss and the England skipper rather hangs the bat out, nicking one to the keeper. Oops.
From Col_U_Jason on 606:
"What about this dodgy dossier by Justin Langer then, and weapons of mass self-destruction? They thought they'd found something at 11.20am this morning but it was a false alarm."
1347 - Eng 114-1 (28 overs) Clark in from the Pavilion End, Strauss facing. I wonder if Punter will turn to spin soon, though he'll be looking at the other Clark(e) or Marcus North having again left out Nathan Hauritz. Strauss is happy to leave balls sliding across him before driving the 20th boundary of the innings. Lush the way he caressed that. The 100 partnership comes up. Strauss takes a single off the end of the over.
From Albert, Bradford, TMS inbox: "Re: 1327. Fear not. On Monday night I dreamt that a blue-suited Bobby Robson suddenly appeared behind Punter towards the start of his innings and unwittingly deflected an edge straight into Prior's gloves"
1342 - Eng 109-1 (27 overs) Just got a call off my mate Kev at The Oval, bragging about how close his seat is to the England dressing room. Thanks, but I'm a bit busy to chat right now. Hilfenhaus starts after lunch. Bell is facing and bats out a maiden. Oh, hold on, bid bad Billy Bowden puts in a late no-ball shout. One to the tally then.
1338: Guitars from cricket bats - interesting. What other uses are there for discarded bats? Aussies are back out on the pitch.
From Peter Turnbull, TMS inbox: "I've just been playing on the internet and found a site with someone making guitars out of old cricket bats. One of them is an old signed Ashes bat from 1977 and it says its got Henry Blofeld's signature on the back. Thought this might be of interest to you. All sounds like a cracking idea."
1333: Now, now Jeremy. We were doing so well and then there you are with all that negativity. I wonder if there is some young lad in Brissy or Sydney or Perth or wherever, speculating about the massive total the Poms are going to smash.
Jeremy, Bradford, via text on 81111: "I'll bet my (metaphorical) house that a wicket falls within two overs after lunch."
1327: Positive spin (geddit?) - There is plenty of very early evidence of marks where the bowlers are following through. The pitch also looks very dry. England have selected a spinner in their team and Australia have not. Negative spin - Anybody think Punter is going to crash a massive score that ensures he doesn't arrive home yet again like the little boy who was sent to the shop by his mum to buy some bread and blew all the cash on sweets?
From Nick, Luton, via the TMS inbox: "To Gary, Oxon - I had no doubts what so ever that Bell would get a decent start; he does that quite a lot. However I have major reservations over him turning this into a hundred, or even a 60."
I'm in danger of being washed away by some of these negative waves. Honestly.
1316: If you're listening to TMS at the moment you're probably enjoying an interview with Andrew Flintoff. You might have heard that this is his last Test match - but how will he be remembered? Flintoff's legacy
From Anonymous, via text on 81111: "My mate John Morgan is twitching about the office like an expectant father, can England please pile up 400 plus quick as he's making my left leg join in."
Most people are twittering about the office these days.
1313: We'd all take 108-1 at lunch, surely? At this stage of the Headingley Test I was led on my sofa at home musing on how England had managed to lose a five-day Test in the first session, which in its own truly disturbing way was truly remarkable.
From Gary, Oxon, via text on 81111: "I would just like to stick two fingers up to all the Bell doubters out there. A fine innings so far. Well done! Hope I haven't put the mockers on him though."
1308: Got a text off a mate the other day - it said "I've got some good news and bad news". Kev has just become a Dad and so I rather anxiously thought it might have something to do with that. I called him and was told the good news was that he had wangled a ticket to today's play at The Oval so he would be coming to stay at my flat. The bad news was that he hadn't got me one. Hence, I spent most of yesterday listening to him telling me how great today was going to be at the cricket. Wicked. I imagine he is rather pleased at the moment. Be sure to refresh now so that you can see this is me writing (not literally). Mitch has gone for lunch.
By Mark Mitchener
1303: Right - while Kevin Howells reads out the
latest county scores,
keep an ear on TMS as they'll be talking to Andrew Flintoff and Marcus Trescothick - so it's one talented Prestonian all-rounder on the radio, and another taking over the live text as I leave you in the hands of Paul Fletcher for a bit.
Jonathan Agnew on TMS: "Strauss looks absolutely determined to do whatever it takes - he wants still to be batting tomorrow lunchtime or beyond"
1300 - Eng 108-1 (26 overs) Bell jabs Siddle for two, but there's just the first hint of swing for the Aussie bowlers. Bell tips-and-runs a single. Will this be the last over before lunch? Yes - Umpire Rauf removes the bails and delicately balances them on the off and leg stumps. Strauss has 50, Bell has 41, and that's a good recovery from England - but there's still plenty of work to do.
From Stephen Gould, TMS inbox: "Re: Bell's hamstring. Bowling sides always knew that they were in for a pasting when Viv Richards started rubbing his leg and limping slightly. I don't get the impression that this is the case with Bell"
1256 - Eng 105-1 (25 overs) Bell hangs his bat out at a wide one but manages to smack it therough the covers for four to bring up England's three figures. Hilfenhaus's line is all over the place as Bell helps a loose ball down to fine leg for four more. But then Bell tries what Aggers describes as "an airy drive", which sails between bat and pad, and only just misses the stumps... Living dangerously. A single brings Strauss on strike, then he has to dig out one speared in at his feet.
1251 - Eng 96-1 (24 overs) Strauss is looking imperious against anything on his legs, flicking the bewildered Siddle away for four - then punching a straight one back past the bowler for four more. He has 46. Siddle pings a no-ball down the leg side which wicketkeeper Brad Haddin has to acrobatically dive to take. Then, a leg-stump half-volley gets the treatment it deserves - Strauss powers it through mid-wicket for his 10th four, and that's the skipper's fifty.
BBC Sport's Ben Dirs on Twitter:
"A Curtly Ambrose stare could turn a batter to stone. A Mitchell Johnson stare is more likely to give someone the giggles. Is that his plan?"
1246 - Eng 83-1 (23 overs) Bell plays some textbook defensive strokes against Hilfenhaus - nothing else to report. By the way, don't go anywhere at lunchtime, as TMS will be playing an in-depth interview Aggers did with Andrew Flintoff yesterday.
From Mike, Old Colwyn, Liverpool fan, TMS inbox: "To Chris from Manchester, frustrated at the lack of patriotism, KlausEFC is obviously an Everton fan. Can't blame him for being negative really."
1243 - Eng 83-1 (22 overs) Another change of bowling as Siddle replaces Johnson. Don't expect Australia's over-rate to improve much from this, given that they've once again declined to field a front-line spinner. Siddle comes round the wicket to the left-handed Strauss, digs out a yorker, and then whips a four off his pads past the diving fine leg - CMJ likens the speedy outfield to an ice rink.
From Anonymous, via text on 81111: "I wish my workmate Rob Smith would stop moaning about Ian Bell and do something constructive like making a brew."
1238 - Eng 79-1 (21 overs) Well, Bell's going to continue, although he's grimacing slightly. He's beaten outside off stump as Hilfenhaus completes the over.
From Ben, Swindon, TMS inbox: "Think of the sledging when we win with Bell, Cook, Trott, a half-fit Flintoff and the enigma that is Steve Harmison. How bad will the Aussies feel then?"
1235 - Eng 79-1 (20.3 overs) Hilfenhaus slants one into Bell's pads - no short leg for now, although a short cover is in for the right-handers. But the Warwickshire man does well to pierce the off-side field, cover-driving for four... but then appears to have pulled a hamstring or similar while running. Physio comes on...
BBC Sport's Ben Dirs on Twitter:
"Unlike A-levels in media studies and PE, exams in playing Australian pacemen don't get any easier. An A* for Bell if he can guts this out"
1231 - Eng 75-1 (20 overs) Bell dabs Johnson for a couple, then sinks to his knees to evade a bouncer from Johnson, who is in "smiling assassin" mode. Bell then unconvincingly flicks the next ball just past short leg, and they run three - he's really being given a going-over by the pace bowlers here.
From Nick, TMS inbox: "I am off to lunch now, something tells me that when I return England will be 124-5. I hope my predictions are wrong."
1227 - Eng 70-1 (19 overs) Hilfenhaus replaces Clark for another burst from the Vauxhall End, he keeps it on a good length while Haydos laments the lack of sweets in the TMS box. Maiden over - no sweets, no runs either.
From Stuart, Brighton TMS inbox: "In reply to Ash at 1115 - "Andy Murray, Jessica Ennis & Phillips Idowu have turned the British sporting summer around. Just in time for an Ashes victory to round it off perhaps?"
1224 - Eng 70-1 (18 overs) Strauss has the crowd on their feet, steering the sixth four of his innings past square leg, before ducking a bouncer from Johnson. The left-armer sends down a no-ball, signalled by Umpire Rauf whose nose is entirely covered by white sun cream. A single keeps the scoreboard ticking, but the last ball has Bell in all sorts of trouble - he fends it off but has no idea where it's going, it bounces off his glove but well wide of Katich at short leg.
Former Australia opener Matthew Hayden on TMS: "England have navigated their way through some awkward moments so far"
1218 - Eng 64-1 (17 overs) Clark begins another over to the watchful Bell, while Ponting signals Hilfenhaus to warm up for another spell. Bell eventually cuts loose, waiting to square-drive Clark for four and that's the fifty stand.
From Chris from Manchester, frustrated at the lack of patriotism, via text on 81111: "To klausEFC - how can any true Englishman not want England to win?! And at the minute Bell is looking far better than Cook! At least he's swinging the bat with some skill!"
1214 - Eng 60-1 (16 overs) Strauss steers Johnson to mid-on, they think about a run... but decide against it as Siddle cuts the ball off. Just as the pressure of the over is built up, Strauss brutally cuts the last ball for four to third man.
1209 - Eng 56-1 (15 overs) Suitably refreshed by their libations, the gladiators resume combat, while Jim Maxwell and Matthew Hayden combine for an Aussie-dominated session on TMS. Bell gets out of the way of a bouncer from Clark, and leaves anything he doesn't have to play outside off stump. Maiden over.
Vic Marks on TMS: "There's no swing or obvious deviation off the pitch at the moment - a lot of nerves, though"
BBC Sport's Ben Dirs on Twitter:
"Like a startled rabbit, Bell escapes the scent of Siddle only for the rabid Johnson to appear and stuff his twitching snout down his hole"
1203 - Eng 56-1 (14 overs) Johnson has a short leg and a backward short leg in for Bell, who guides him for a single. Umpire Rauf gently reminds the batsmen not to run down the middle of the wicket. Strauss punches a four through mid-on to bring up England's half century, before blasting four more through square leg. Time for the Shipping Forecast, and a drinks break.
From KlausEFC on 606:
"Bell is absolutely garbage. My one-year-old is not only more capable but he's bigger and more handsome. I don't want England to win this Test because we would just be papering over the cracks yet again."
1158 - Eng 47-1 (13 overs) Bell rotates the strike with a leg bye - he has 15, Cap'n Strauss is on 17. He's watchful against Clark, while Umpire Rauf, walking in from square leg, is characteristically concerned that no-one should run on the "protected area" in the middle of the pitch.
From Ian, TMS inbox: "Good morning, I look at Ian Bell and see the cricketing equivalent of Charlie Hodgson in rugby, both brilliant club men with skills in abundance and a sure foot but both simply not able to hack it in the big games and in front of big crowds. Don't know the answer to this."
1154 - Eng 46-1 (12 overs) Left-arm paceman Mitchell Johnson replaces Siddle, his first ball is dug in at Bell's ribs, there's a huge appeal for a catch behind, Umpire Rauf raises his arm... only to pat his ribs, indicating where the ball struck Bell (ie not his bat or gloves). Oh, you big tease, Mr Rauf. The second ball rears up and strikes Bell on the body, the third is also short, it pings off his gloves and could have gone anywhere... but dribbles safely towards fine leg for a single. The skipper jabs a single to bring Bell back on strike for another short-pitched barrage. But that's a double bluff as Johnson pitches the ball up and Bell steers a single through the covers.
From Jonno, via text on 81111: "I am in a Chinese internet cafe and weeping while sat alongside hundreds of gamers. I now rely on Andy and Bello to rack up the same tally as the tetris expert on my left."
1148 - Eng 43-1 (11 overs) Strauss works Clark off his legs for a couple, but it's pretty accurate stuff from the right-arm seamer.
From Matthew Dale, TMS inbox: "For Giggsy in Leamington - Bell has not recovered from when I had him caught and bowled at a Coventry North Warwick II's v Leamington II's Sunday league match. He was only 12 at the time though!"
1144 - Eng 41-1 (10 overs) Strauss works Siddle for a single through square leg, then Bell opens the face to guide a four past gully. He nudges a no-ball through mid-wicket for one, while my esteemed colleague Paul Fletcher (who's helping me cope with the mountains of e-mails with which you're carpet-bombing the TMS inbox) informs me that you're all talking about the weather... Can it really be four years ago since all that Oval high-jinks which saw English fans raise umbrellas in the hope of attracting rain, Aussie fans take their shirts off by way of riposte, and Ponting's men walk on after a bad light delay, all wearing sunglasses?! Strauss prods another single, Bell works his third four off his thigh down to long leg.
1138 - Eng 29-1 (9 overs) While CMJ and Vic Marks on TMS are concerned about the risk of play being halted by bad light or light rain, Punter is clearly more concerned about that loose over from Hilfenhaus as he brings the accurate Stuart Clark into the attack. Quite why it took the Aussies four Tests to pick Clark, I'm not sure... He immediately has Strauss fishing just inside the line, then the umpires have a quick mid-over conference - is it light-related? Possibly - the floodlights appear to be on now, and predictably in the time it took them to sort that out, the natural light has improved slightly. Strauss nudges one off his pads and Umpire Bowden signals a leg bye.
1133 - Eng 28-1 (8 overs) Bell tries to duck a bouncer from Siddle and only just manages to get his gloves out of the way in time (see CMJ's comment two overs ago) - a slow-mo replay shows it may have even flicked his wrist. However, the Warwickshire man is finally off the mark as Siddle bangs in a half-volley which Bell comfortably steers through mid-on - although it only just reaches the boundary.
From James, Leamington, TMS inbox: "I think Ian Bell is still psychologically struggling from being run out when he was 15 in a youth cup final by my rather rotund mate. His confidence hasn't been the same since."
1129 - Eng 24-1 (7 overs) A soberly-dressed Kevin Pietersen looks on as Strauss crashes a loose delivery from Hilfenhaus through point for four, before helping an even wider ball through the same area for four more. Hilfy is a bit off his game this over as he sends down a couple of no-balls, while Strauss adds a couple more off his legs. Meanwhile, back in the pavilion, Jonathan Trott is literally biting his nails. Wouldn't you be?
From dodger9 on 606:
"Cook has had a rubbish series. Key must be wondering what he has to do to be selected in this England team."
1123 - Eng 12-1 (6 overs) So, Ian Bell is very much back under the microscope following his elevation to number three. "He's never learnt to drop his gloves to the short ball", notes CMJ, and Bell is then hit on the thigh pad as he tries to guide Siddle through gully, but he survives the over.
From Alex, Istanbul, TMS inbox: "Can we all breathe a collective sigh of relief that Bopara isn't coming in at three? I don't think my heart could take it!"
1121: Big psychological boost for Australia, that - Ponting doesn't drop those.
1120 - WICKET - Cook c Ponting b Siddle 10 - Eng 12-1 (5.3 overs) The hosts reach double figures as Cook steers a shorter ball from Siddle through mid-wicket for four. But then it's all over for him as he edges to second slip!
1118 - Eng 8-0 (5 overs) Cook swats Hilfenhaus off his pads for a single. Even the crowd are a little becalmed by this opening.
1115 - Eng 7-0 (4 overs) Strauss nudges Siddle for a single to fine leg, then Cook stabs a quick one to extra cover. The overhead clouds have not prevented Siddle from coating both lips in white sun cream - it's tense so far, with neither side looking to give an inch.
From Ash, Northants, TMS inbox: "English teams have lost in both the Champions League and Heineken Cup finals, as well as losing in the U21 and U19 finals. The Wimbledon semi-final curse struck again, the Lions lost. We even lost to Holland in the Twenty20. Not a great summer for British sport, but surely we can't lose the Ashes as well, right?"
1111 - Eng 5-0 (3 overs) Alastair Cook faces for the first time - "he looks like he's conducting the Proms, the way he twiddles his bat round", says Jim Maxwell on TMS. Anyway, the Essex maestro is off the mark with a firm cover-driven four. That's my kind of music.
From Dale, Tipton, via text on 81111: "The decision to play Harmison looks like a wrong one, Darren Pattinson has done more for England over the past few years than the lanky 'wide' man!"
1107 - Eng 1-0 (2 overs) The snarling Peter Siddle will share the new ball, and his first offering is a yorker which Strauss digs out. The left-hander then plays and misses a couple of times, before having to weave out of the way of a lifter - maiden over, Siddle looking the more dangerous bowler so far.
From Andrew, TMS inbox: "I think England will win this Test. We have stronger characters, bigger personalities and a big crowd behind us. Having Freddie back and a very dangerous Harmison will win it for us, I think "
1103 - Eng 1-0 (1 over) Ben Hilfenhaus takes the first over from the Vauxhall End, and his first ball floats harmlessly outside Strauss's off stump. As do the next four - there's no hint of swing so far. AJ shoulders arms to a couple, then finally gets bat on ball to the final delivery and pushes a single through the covers.
1058: "Jerusalem" is sung, Ricky Ponting and his troops emerge through a tunnel of St George Cross flags and link arms in a Michael Vaughan-style "huddle". England openers Strauss and Cook emerge to a huge ovation - while it's a fairly safe bet that today's A-Level results will be even better than last year's (for the 1,194th consecutive year), who can predict what will happen over the next five days of gladiatorial combat? That's why we love the game - bring it on!
1055: And if you can bear another "manual refresh" as the five-minute bell goes, you should even see a vote magically appear on the right-hand side...
1051: If you didn't see
TMS producer Adam Mountford's blog
earlier this week, you can listen out for a couple of celebs joining Aggers and co this week - Stephen Fry is due on during the tea interval today, while pop songstress Lily Allen will be joining on Saturday.
Former Somerset and England off-spinner Vic Marks on TMS: "This is a huge game, but a big personality like Flintoff has the ability to defuse any tension in the dressing-room because of his presence, let alone what he does in the middle"
From Peter Edwards, TMS inbox: "Good toss to win, shame about the team decision, can't believe Strauss and management have gone with the inconsistent Harmison than one of the leading wicket-takers in the series, Onions!"
1040: Oh, and the umpires are New Zealand's Billy Bowden and Pakistan's Asad Rauf. Former Yorkshire and Hampshire seamer Peter Hartley is on TV replays, ex-Somerset and Gloucestershire batsman Jeremy Lloyds is fourth ump and ex-Sri Lanka batsman Ranjan Madugalle is match referee.
1037: Right, here are the full teams. England: Andrew Strauss (capt), Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Jonathan Trott, Matt Prior (wk), Andrew Flintoff, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Steve Harmison, James Anderson. Australia: Shane Watson, Simon Katich, Ricky Ponting (capt), Mike Hussey, Michael Clarke, Marcus North, Brad Haddin (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Stuart Clark, Ben Hilfenhaus.
From Sean Dickens, TMS inbox: "A pity Rashid never had a look in, pretty pointless having Monty in the squad when his stats don't stack up as Vic suggested. Best of luck England, hope the game is still on come Sunday, 'cos that's when I've got my tickets !"
1032: Australia captain Ricky Ponting tells TMS: "The surface looks reasonably dry so our fast bowlers will have to do well early on. We've gone with the four-man pace attack so hopefully our part-time spinners can do well for us here."
1031: Strauss tells TMS: "It's what we wanted to do - the wicket looks like a good one to bat on so we've got the opportunity to put a good score on the board. We thought about playing Panesar but we didn't think it would turn too much here."
1030: England captain Andrew Strauss tosses the coin, Ponting calls incorrectly... England have won the toss and will bat first.
1028: The TMS crew are on the air, and we have confirmation that Andrew Flintoff will play - he replaces Graham Onions, while Jonathan Trott is in for Ravi Bopara. Australia are unchanged
From Ollie (rather worried) in Dorking, TMS inbox: "I don't wish to be the messenger of doom but dark swollen rain clouds are over Dorking and heading rapidly in towards you!"
1018: They say you can have too much of a good thing. Well, if manual refreshing is your thing, hit it again and you should get the TMS video scorecard at the top of this screen.
1013: Morning, everyone. Well, despite the best efforts of a certain dastardly train company, I've made it in - big thanks to Paul for kicking things off. (Give the text a manual refresh and you'll get my name in lights up top). What can I tell you? Well, the sun was shining over The Oval's famous gasholder as my train clanked past at the speed of Arjuna Ranatunga "running" between the wickets - and the latest word from both Jonathan Agnew and Pat Murphy is that England will leave out Monty Panesar, Ryan Sidebottom and Graham Onions.
By Paul Grunill
1010: He's in da house - so, ladies and gentlemen, for your delectation, all the way from behind that door (thanks, Jools Holland), Mr Mark Mitchener.........
"You have got some big shoes to fill Paul. Tom Fordyce is the Syd Barrett of cricket commentary and Ben Dirs is the king of metaphor. If there is a lull in the action i expect lots of chatter about edwardian times and ugly princesses." David in the TMS inbox Sorry to disappoint but this is my last post for the time being - anyway I'd much rather be the David Gilmour of cricket commentary.
"nothing like a bit of excitement going into the final teest eh?? hopefully freddie will be able to pull something out of the bed and shine. as long as his back doesnt give in!!plus new boy trott? i think we will see something interesting from him today!! Ben, awaiting A level results and a university place, in the TMS inbox (Good luck with that, Ben - PG)
"Hooray, Final test. Was out in my boat this week, got caught out in high seas, waves bigger than the boat, boat standing up in its tail, water everywhere, and i had a moment of epiphany- the thought went something like this .... "I don't want to die....before the end of the ashes...." come on England!" Josie in the TMS inbox
1000: Only an hour to go now. Blimey, I'm excited. This is almost as nerve-wracking as watching Barnsley's penalty shoot-out against Swansea in the League One play-off final two or three years ago.
"I'm sitting at my desk enjoying English Marmalade slathered on butter drenched toast, watching the convict ship tea leaves sink into the depths of my Earl Grey tea wishing I were at home preparing the fridge for my beer keep the texts rolling! I feel all the portents point to English victory." Huw in the TMS inbox
"TMS will be on every communal TV and radio in the hospital I work in today. I have built-up this match with all the patients on the wards to such an extent even the non sporty types are counting down the minutes 'til play begins. The consensus is Harmison must play. Edith, who has just had her hip replaced, reckons he'll take 6-93. Let's hope so eh." Tracy in the TMS inbox
"My masters dissertation deadline is tomorrow at 4pm, I aim to finish it as soon as possible so i can concentrate on the most important thing this week!!!" James, Edinburgh (working furiously) in the TMS inbox
0950: So just how are England going to win this game? One person who might be worth listening to is the ECB's consultant psychologist Steve Bull. "When a player is under pressure, they can forget how good they are and forget the great accomplishments in the past," he says. Unfortunately for England, I think Australia have a few more 'great accomplishments' to look back on.
"Do you have enough power on your debut to instigate an on-line poll? If so we need to vote between: Trotty, Trottster, Trottski, The Trottster. This won't matter, of course, if he makes a king pair. Mark in the TMS inbox
0945: I've just been informed that Mr Mitchener's train has been delayed so you're going to have to put up with my Bobby Chariot act for a bit longer. (For Bobby Chariot - see Alexei Sayle's Stuff circa 1988). The rumours now are that Panesar won't be playing - but which quickie will make way for Fred's return? Has Graham had his onions for now?
"Building up to it here in Japan...4 years ago the Ashes ended with me and a Kiwi mate toasting the stars at 4am, jubilantly tipsy, and expected at work less than three hours later. Who knows what the next five days hold, but it's going to be monumental for sure. Come on England!" Chris in the TMS inbox
"I hope that my non attendance to this game will help. I may have been a bad luck charm at Headingley. Throat's as dry as a badgers belly, but I think we can do it!!" Rob, Northants in the TMS inbox
"My current computer password at work is "Flintoff" and I've just been told that my password will expire in two days. Is this some kind of grim omen?" Ryan, expat in Sydney, in the TMS inbox
0940: A number of you have been asking about the weather at The Oval. Well, 5 live's Mike Sewell has just used the phrases "absolutely perfect" and "hot, sunny morning", so that's a bit of good news for England first up.
"Morning Grunny I've got a good feeling about this test. I asked my 23-month old daughter Alice who would win the Ashes and she said "Mummy". That's as good as an England win for me. Steve in the TMS inbox
"Just for the record, the preferred epithet for sandwiches on these pages is 'sangers'. 'Sarnies' is a word too Australian by half to be considered anything close to acceptable." Whitters of London in the TMS inbox (Just for the record, I'm from Yorkshire - PG)
0930: In BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew's match preview, he speculates about whether England would go with two spinners and bring in Monty Panesar. Seems like a big gamble to me given the Montster's form this summer, but which XI do you think England should pick? And if any Aussie fans are reading this - should Brett Lee be unleashed alongside the 'young guns', Hilfenhaus, Johnson and Siddle?
"The last time I was this excited my mother told me Santa wouldn't come unless I calmed down. What's the weather like there? Bit overcast in Reading... ideal swing conditions for who ever bowls first." Gaz in the TMS inbox
"No offence Paul, but 'OO ARE YA, OO ARE YA?'" Matt, Nottingham, in the TMS inbox
0920: Let's not forget that Australia only need to draw to retain the Ashes, but playing for a draw isn't the Aussie way, is it? According to former Aussie Test star Justin Langer, Ricky Ponting is likely to be "salivating at the chance to make a huge impact in this game". If England can't stop him from doing so - making a huge impact, that is, not salivating - they can kiss the little urn goodbye.
"I didn't sleep well last night, when I did the dreams were of England 50-6 at lunch today. It somehow feels different from 2005, but I don't know if it's because back then I presumed England would lose, but now, I don't know. It's the hope that kills me!" Russell, inevitably doing no work, Nottingham, in the TMS inbox.
"From the future...Just thought I'd let you know that this is the test match that everyone talks about for the rest of time. Many commentators marked this game as the turning point in the history of the resurgent British Empire, and the start of Freddie's inoxerable march to his Presidentship of the world." Anonymous in the TMS inbox
0910: According to Anton Ferreira, Trott's former South Africa under-15 and under-19 coach: "You can draw similarities between Jonathan and Pietersen. There is that presence at the crease, the ability to command respect and give the impression that he is in control." I wonder whether Trotty (or should it be Trotters?) can repeat KP's ton at The Oval four years ago......
0905: While travelling in on the tube an interesting comment caught my eye from Alastair Cook's column in the Metro newspaper. Talking about England new boy Jonathan Trott, Cookie said: "The pressure is off him really because no-one will expect him to score a century". No-one except a few million people around the country, perhaps!
"My mouth is watering so much, my desk resembles the Edgbaston outfield of a few weeks back. Hard to believe the Ashes summer is coming down to these next 5 days. Love it." Paul, Ealing, in the TMS inbox
0855: Anyway, stop talking about last night's football. Put down your bacon sarnies and tell me what you think is going to happen at The Oval. Is Freddie's body up to another inspirational performance in a Test match he has described as "the biggest I'll ever play in"?
0850: You may be asking the question: 'Who is this Grunill bloke? And what's he doing on the Ashes text commentary?" Well, don't worry, I'm just the warm-up act - my esteemed colleague Mark Mitchener will be 'at the helm' for the next five days of what hopefully will turn out to be exhilarating action.
0845: After the shambles of Headingley, the odds appear to be heavily against England but as the sage Henry Blofeld tells BBC 5 live's breakfast show: "Cricket is a game where logic applies very seldom." All England fans hope he's right.
0840: Morning all. Well, what a mouth-watering prospect we have in store. One-all, the Ashes at stake and Freddie Flintoff set to take centre stage for the final time in a Test match. I can hardly wait.
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