The Reuters global sports blog
It can be a dog’s life being a cricket captain: adored and cherished, chastised and deplored in equal measure. If Ponting was the crown prince of captains after the first test in Cardiff, he became the pauper at Lord’s and is now very much in the shadow of Strauss at the Oval.
The second day of the final and deciding Ashes test could not have gone much better for the England captain, with the home side bundling Australia out for 160 inside 53 overs and closing day two on 58 for 3, a second innings lead of 230 after England were bowled out for 332 earlier in the day.
Strauss showed his cool when Australia reached 73 without loss and cunning in choosing the right bowlers, at the right time, to turn the tide of the match.
With England’s first innings total looking under pressure just after the Lunch break, despite some good bowling, Strauss turned to the enigmatic Stuart Broad to break the opening partnership of Shane Watson and Michael Katich.
Heard the one about the English batsmen who just couldn’t resist nibbling at balls way outside off stump? It is an all too common occurrence and is the main reason why England fell short of a good first innings total in the deciding Ashes test.
Of course, flashing away outside the off-stump isn’t just a disease to afflict English batsmen, although the problem does appear to be more acute on these shores than any where else.
In the end the England selectors kept their calm, remaining cut off from the hyperbole that followed Australia’s demolition of the home side at Headingley, and made just the one change for the Oval, with Jonathan Trott chosen to replace Ravi Bopara in England’s fragile middle order.
Personally, I would have been happier to see Kent’s Rob Key getting a recall for his experience and proven grace under pressure, but given Trott was in the squad for the fourth test, it would have smacked of vacillation from the selectors not to stick with him. As it was, Ricky Ponting described Trott’s promotion as an act of desperation.
England will be under huge pressure to make changes for the deciding Ashes test at the Oval and the middle order is the obvious place to start, with Ravi Bopara, Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood contributing just 16 runs in six innings at Headingley.
So what should England do about it?