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  Friday, 29 November, 2002, 11:29 GMT
England fall to new low


A thoroughly entertaining day took an all too familiar course and ended with Australia in an imposing position from which one would expect them to retain the Ashes.

Unless England produce something dramatic on the second morning, Australia will already have rattled up a commanding lead by tea.


Experienced, Test-hardened players threw their wickets away
They will then be well placed to bowl England out a second time.

It barely seems possible to declare that this was England's worst batting performance of a series that has been blighted by batting collapse after batting collapse - but it was!

Only five batsmen recorded double figures, and two of them were numbers nine and 10 in the order.

Time and again, experienced, Test-hardened players threw their wickets away.

Nasser Hussain was out trying to play a hook shot
Hussain fell to a wild shot

Michael Vaughan, Nasser Hussain and Alec Stewart all fell to catches behind the wicket.

But these were not the result of thin edges from good length deliveries, these were edges from wild, uncontrolled pulls and hooks that handed their wickets to Australia on a plate.

To add to the disappointment, Mark Butcher was run out at the non-striker's end after he responded to Vaughan's call for a run to Steve Waugh at cover.

Vaughan changed his mind, sent Butcher back and Waugh's throw, delivered off-balance, hit the stumps direct - a stunning piece of fielding.

The only bright note was the batting of Robert Key who, alone, stood up and batted with composure and maturity well beyond his experience of four Tests.

The innings suggests he has a future at this level.

Robert Key edged the ball on to his stumps
Key could barely believe his dismissal
Key scored 47, and was horrified when he became Damien Martyn's second Test victim on the stroke of tea as he edged into his stumps.

It has to be the development of men like Key and Richard Dawson that England retrieve as consolation from what is likely to be a shattering experience.

Alex Tudor and Steve Harmison both bowled with enough fire to have the Australian openers hopping about.

But the gulf in experience between the Australian attack - 1224 Test wickets between them to England's 103 - was all too clear in the amount of ill-directed bowling between the hostile rib-ticklers.

This enabled the batsmen to race along at seven runs per over.

Ricky Ponting looks in outstanding touch, and he will resume on 43 and Martyn on 20 as Australia look to sweep ahead of the tourists on the second day.

All the news ahead of the 2002/03 Ashes tour

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