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Jonathan Agnew column

Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent

Andrew Flintoff is caught by Australia's Brad Haddin
Flintoff was one of several England players who fell to poor shots

Andrew Strauss could barely contain his excitement when he won the toss for the fourth time in the series, but it was Australia who had the best of the opening day.

It was a familiar tale for seasoned England watchers: a case of the batsmen getting in, but giving their wickets away when their task was to build a big innings.

It is true that umpire Rauf missed two large no-balls which accounted for the wickets of Strauss and Ian Bell.

It will infuriate those who advocate technology, and they should not have been out, but at the moment it is the rub of the green and neither batsman would have played different shots.

As expected, the pitch is very flat and very dry. I am not being wise after the event in saying that England should have chosen Monty Panesar - I wrote that on Wednesday.

But the part-time off spinner, Marcus North, made the ball turn and bounce. Puffs of dust were evidence of the ball breaking the surface of the pitch as it landed - and batting last should be awkward.

England believe that the fast bowlers will also benefit from the ball 'going through the top', but surely three seamers and two spinners - albeit one out of form - gives you every option?

But England's task at the start of the first day was to bat until at least tea time on the second.

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They needed to create 'scoreboard pressure' on Australia by compiling a daunting first innings total, but they failed to do so.

Bell scored 72 after a torrid start in which Mitchell Johnson gave him a real working over, and Jonathan Trott looked very composed and mature in his first innings in Test cricket.

Trott came to an unfortunate end when he clipped North to short leg, lost his balance and the quick-thinking Simon Katich ran him out for 41.

Although Australia's attack looked limited and workmanlike on the bland surface, tame strokes accounted for Alastair Cook (10) and Strauss (55).

Worse were those of Paul Collingwood, who threw his bat at a ball well wide of the off stump and was caught in the gully for 24, Matt Prior, who sliced a slower ball from Johnson to point and then Andrew Flintoff, who received a hero's ovation as he walked out, but chased a very wide delivery and was caught behind for seven.

Australia's over rate was desultory - Ricky Ponting announced that he would play for the win, but his team failed to bowl the statutory 90 overs in an uninterrupted day.

The fact is that whatever England finish with, Australia still have to bat well to ensure that they make the game safe, at least.



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see also
England struggle in deciding Test
20 Aug 09 |  England
England v Australia day one photos
20 Aug 09 |  Cricket
Classic Ashes: The Oval
19 Aug 09 |  Cricket
Live cricket on the BBC
26 Oct 11 |  Cricket
Australia in England 2009
20 Sep 09 |  England


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