The Reuters global sports blog
I’m still unsure as to whether England’s first innings total of 425 is a good score on what is essentially still a flat Lord’s track, but with Australia 156 for 8 at the close of play on the second the home side can be proud of their efforts so far.
Australia took just 11 overs of the morning session on day two to polish off England’s tail, as Andrew Strauss, unbeaten on 161 overnight, Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad, provided little resistance to some good swing bowling by Ben Hilfenhaus.
A defiant last wicket stand of 49, again involving James Anderson, a hero at Cardiff, made England’s first innings total more respectful.
And it was Anderson who was given first use of the new ball and with swing in the air he made the new cherry talk, reducing Australia to 10 for 2, as newbie Phillip Hughes once again failed; a note to all England followers who are calling for the head of Ravi Bopara, it takes time to establish yourself in an Ashes contest.
There is never a bad Australian side, I keep hearing, and I’m starting to believe it after the tourists put on another display of sheer bloody mindness in another see-sawing day for England’s batsmen and fans, who will be left drained with mixed feelings, while Australian supporters will feel no less tumultuous.
And if there’s never a bad Australian side then it’s nice to see that even after a hundred-odd years, the tradition of the good old English batting collapse is still going strong with no hint of abating.
There is no doubt England will miss Andrew Flintoff’s never-say-die attitude, enthusiasm and willpower he brings to the dressing room, but the team could end up being more settled following his test retirement after the Ashes.
Management will no longer have to ponder the “what if he is available?” conundrum.
Years of injury problems have led England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff to announce his retirement from test cricket once his participation in the Ashes series with Australia is over.
“My body has told me it’s time to stop. Since 2005 I’ve had two years when I’ve done nothing but rehab from one injury or another,” he said in a statement.
I’m still not quite sure how, but somehow England escaped with a draw from the first Ashes Test against Australia, closing out the fifth day on 252-9, 13 runs ahead of the Aussie total and with no time left for the tourists to bat.
Talk about getting out of jail. Ricky Ponting must have thought he had the match won when England were five wickets down and still facing a massive 137-run deficit in the morning sessions.
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.
England breathed a sigh of relief as the rains came to Cardiff on day three of the first Ashes test and spared the blushing bowlers any more punishment from their Australian tormentors.
Increasingly it’s looking like the only way England will be able to salvage any kind of result from this match is if further rains halt the Australian charge.
End of day two: Australia 249 for one in reply to England’s 435 all out.
What a difference a day makes. If Wednesday’s cricket was a breathtaking rollercoaster ride then day 2 was more like a gentle twirl on the teacups followed by a night in reading War and Peace.
All credit to the Australians who were magnificent in making England’s bowling look impotent and the pitch benign.
What an extraordinary first day of Test match cricket, even by Ashes standards. A day that ebbed and flowed, that tormented and teased both sets of supporters and ultimately left us with the question: where does the balance of this match lie?
As Kev notes, lunch for England would have been the equivalent of trying to digest tarmac, a disconcerting affair to say the least. Having won the toss and electing to bat England were reduced to 92-3 by a persevering if unspectacular Australian attack, which left the Barmy Army cowering behind their beer snakes fearing the worst.
Australia have no Shane Warne, no Glenn McGrath, no Brett Lee and no Stuart Clark, yet England still managed to lose three wickets on the opening morning of the first Ashes Test and failed to take the sort of grip on the match, and the series, that was there for the taking.
They lost four more wickets over the course of the day, to finish on 336 for seven, but it was a case of England playing themselves into trouble rather than any genuine menace on the part of the Aussie attack (the exception being the beautiful inducker from Peter Siddle that did for Matt Prior late on).