Ashes day 4: England had no luck, and nor did they deserve it
In all honesty they didn’t deserve any fortune after another day’s abject bowling display and signs from Strauss early on that it was a damage limitation exercise by time wasting with field placings and underbowling key bowlers.
Australia eventually put England out of their own misery, a cricketing version of shooting a lame horse if you like, by declaring on 674 for 6, once wicket keeper Brad Haddin completed his balmy century and holed out on the attack to Ravi Bopara in the deep.
Marcus North by that point had already joined Ponting, Katich and Haddin on the Cardiff honours board, further undermining pre-series reports that he was no more than a solid county professional, much like the much maligned spinner Nathan Hauritz who took more wickets in England’s first innings than Swann and Panesar combined in Australia’s.
The declaration, which gave Australia a 239 -run first innings lead, was inspired from Ponting, leaving England a tricky 30 minute period to negotiate before tea or as it happened before the rains came.
England’s frail top order failed to repel the burning heat emanating from the Australian fast bowlers as both Alistair Cook and Ravi Bopara missed straight deliveries and succumbed lbw to Johnson and Hilfenhaus respectively, leaving England teetering on 20 for 2 before play was finally suspended for the day.
England will need to regroup overnight and come again in the morning, but we’ve been saying that for the last three days.
Psychologically and physically the joyless 180 overs England have spent in the field will have left them flushed and weak and a dominant Australia will be scenting victory before tea on the final day.
Andrew Strauss will need to show his hand with a captain’s innings, supported by a show of concentration and obduracy from Pietersen, Collingwood and Prior, if England are to save this test match.
More concerns for England: the amount of turn the pitch showed at times during the fourth day, though England’s bowlers failed take advantage of it, and that there are only three rest days between now and the second test, leaving drained bowlers little time to refuel.
It’s the last chance saloon for England’s batsmen but the can they hold during a final day showdown?
PHOTO: Australian captain Ricky Ponting gestures from the pavilion as he declares at 674 runs for 6 in their first innings during the first Ashes cricket test against England in Cardiff, Wales July 11, 2009. REUTERS/Andrew Winning