Should England bring back Harmison for Lord’s?
I am probably not the only one arriving at work today with fingers gnawed to the bone following England’s nail-biting escape in the first Ashes test in a stunning finale in Cardiff, capping a memorable opening match to the series.
Despite near domination for five days, Australia failed to capitalise on early England wickets on the final day as the Three Lions’ tail wagged heroically to secure a draw from the jaws of defeat against the old enemy.
It was a harsh result for an Australian team that had made the most of a benign pitch to bat England into submission over three days and create the pressure needed to make the docile wicket look like a minefield when the hosts came to bat in their second innings.
As England fell to 70 for 5 with 40 minutes to go to the lunchbreak on day five and still 169 runs behind Australia’s first innings score, Ricky Ponting must have felt his men had victory in the palm their hands.
However, a typically belligerent 74 from Paul Collingwood, supported by Andrew Flintoff, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann, gave supporters hope that England could dig themselves out of the hole their top order had dug so deep that they were in danger of striking oil.
But just as safety beckoned and with 40 minutes of the day remaining, Collingwood lost his wicket by cutting a Siddle delivery to Hussey at gulley, his first loose shot of a bellicose knock, leaving England’s last two batsmen James Anderson and Monty Panersar to survive the remaining 12 overs.
It was testament to how easy the pitch played and how wasteful Australia’s bowlers were at the death that Panesar and Anderson managed to negotiate an almost chanceless final period.
If only England’s top order batsmen could have shown the same aptitude then this match would have been a comfortable draw and as Andrew Strauss admitted, England had “got away with it”.
So to Lord’s for the second test where England have not beaten Australia since 1934.
Expect changes for England. Monty Panesar will make way for a fast bowler and going on the current selection policy, Graham Onions is the likely choice ahead of his Durham team mate Steve Harmison.
But with paceman Stuart Broad struggling in Cardiff, could there be room for Harmy too?
PHOTO: England’s James Anderson (L) and Monty Panesar leave the field after securing a draw in the first Ashes test cricket match against Australia at Cardiff, Wales July 12, 2009. REUTERS/Philip Brown