The day’s most significant moment, undeniably, was Ashley Giles’ dropped catch off Ricky Ponting. After all the talk of Giles being the superior batsman and fielder to Monty Panesar, how ironic it was that he should drop such a crucial catch. Australia, who would have been 80-4, fought back through Mike Hussey and the inevitable Ponting to reach 321-5 at stumps. They still have hopes of winning this Test; without the remarkable endeavours of Matthew Hoggard, they would have none.
On a flat, unresponsive pitch, Hoggard proved more Stuart Clark than Glenn McGrath, praise indeed. Bowling 22 overs on day three, he proved relentlessly accurate, showing the extent to which he has improved on flat tracks in recent times. His spell late in the day to remove Ponting and Hussey ensured England can still harbour aspirations of victory.
Of the 97 overs in Australia’s innings, 49 have been bowled by Hoggard and Andrew Flintoff. The improving Steve Harmison deserved to bowl more than 13. And, the fourth and fifth bowlers, James Anderson and Ashley Giles, bowled 30 between them; their combined series averages are now 175.
I advocated selecting Monty Panesar and Sajid Mahmood ahead of these two; both men would offer increased attacking verve and unpredictability, while Mahmood has showed batting promise in international cricket.
Yet, if Duncan Fletcher is adamant England’s number eight must be able to score runs, why not simply select Ed Joyce and Panesar ahead of Anderson and Giles, and replace two ineffectual bowlers with a man with a first-class batting average of 48, and a better bowler than Anderson and Giles?
Panesar would be ideally suited for this game; would Australia, having professed they would attack him, keep to their word when trying to save a Test match? And, the control he has shown in his 10 Tests to date – his economy rate is a frugal 2.58 – in addition to his love of bowling, mean he could conceivably bowl almost 30 overs a day, thus fulfilling the quota of both Anderson and Giles.
While Giles’ lack of impact with the bowl mean Panesar’s chances of selection for the next Test must have increased, it will be very hard for England to win this game without a match-winning spinner. However, if Hoggard bowls as well as he has for the remainder of the game, and both Flintoff and Harmison can cause damage in short bursts, Australia will be seriously threatened.
England need to bowl Australia out for 400, score 250 at four an over and set Australia 400, preferably with at least 10 overs bowling with the second new-ball. But, unless Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne produce phenomenal performances tomorrow, England are guaranteed the better of this draw.
Tagged with: Matthew Hoggard, Monty Panesar, Ashley Giles, Sajid Mahmood, Ed Joyce, James Anderson, Ricky Ponting