The Reuters global sports blog
Andrew Strauss had a bad start to his day when he and his team mates were evacuated from their hotel at 5 o’clock in the morning because of a fire alarm. Unfortunately, that was just the start of a black Friday for the England captain.After days of assessing the fitness of Andrew Flintoff, Strauss and coach Andy Flower finally decided that the inspirational all-rounder could not be risked in a five-day match and it was announced that he was ruled out of the fourth Ashes test.
Strauss took part in a game of soccer on the Headingley outfield and watched in horror as wicketkeeper Matt Prior collapsed with a back spasm before retiring gingerly to the dressing-room for treatment.
Fortunately, Prior made a rapid recovery and Strauss’s day then appeared to take a turn for the better when he won the toss and chose to bat. He strode out confidently with his opening partner Alastair Cook looking to build a huge first-innings total and take charge of the match.
But having survived a huge appeal for lbw off Ben Hilfenhaus’s first delivery of the game, Strauss looked out of sorts and he lasted just 17 balls and three runs before edging Peter Siddle to Marcus North at third slip.
Australia have far more limited options than England when they consider changes to their
battle-weary side for the fourth Ashes test starting on Friday at Headingley, with their main hope of fresh impetus resting on the fitness of Brett Lee.
England had the luxury of bringing in fresh blood on Tuesday, calling up fast bowler Ryan Sidebottom and uncapped batsman Jonathan Trott for the first time this series, while again putting Steve Harmison on standby in a 14-man squad.
Thunderous rain and the unrelenting inclement conditions are threatening to turn the third Ashes test into a washout rather than the pivotal point of a see-sawing series it should be.
The third day was abandoned without a ball being bowled in anger.
I’ve seen less water at the world swimming championships than I have at Edgbaston, where the best part of two days out of three have been lost so far.
When England’s bowlers awoke this morning they would have had the sound of stinging criticism ringing in their ears following their poor performance on day one, but how they responded.
They ripped out nine Australian wickets for the cost of 137 runs as the tourists collapsed from 126 for one overnight to 263 all out, with England closing on 116 for two as bad light cut the day’s play short.
Whatever momentum England had built up over Australia by scraping a draw in Cardiff and then winning convincingly at Lord’s, slowly ebbed away following an insipid display late on a truncated first day’s play of the third Ashes Test in Edgbaston, as Australia rattled along at almost four and a half runs an over to close the day at 126-1.
Ricky Ponting, beset by problems, will have been delighted with his sides response in the face of adversity.
England batsman Kevin Pietersen has been ruled out of the Ashes series after undergoing surgery for an ongoing Achilles tendon injury.
ECB Chief Medical Officer, Nick Peirce, said: “The operation involved a small incision and trimming of the blood vessels and nerves around the inflamed tendon and appears, at this early stage, to have been routine.
Lord’s rose to its feet to acclaim Andrew Flintoff after his five wickets helped England beat Australia by 115 runs to go 1-0 up in the Ashes series.
The home crowd was especially delighted given England had not beaten the old enemy at the home of cricket since 1934.
And England will need all the patience that human nature can muster if they are to wear down and eventually beat this resolute Australian side, which managed to recover from 128 for five to close on 313 with the loss of no further wickets, chasing another 209 runs for victory.
England will go into day four of the second Ashes test in complete control having closed day three on 311 for 6, giving them a massive 521 lead over Australia, who will be asked to chase down a record total to avoid defeat.
Despite bowling out Australia an hour into the morning session, 11 runs short of avoiding the follow-on total of 225, England captain Andrew Strauss decided against asking the tourists to bat again after seeing Australia’s tail-enders play with purpose and in some comfort in clement overhead conditions on what is still a favourable batting surface.
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.