Just over a week ago, frustrated by England’s reckless shot making while trying to save the Brisbane Test, I asserted that they were too positive to master the art of saving Tests. Today, they went to the other extreme: from too attacking to far, far too defensive.
Yesterday, the general consensus was that, if England batted for just over half the day, a draw would be guaranteed. They batted for 54 overs today, and a reasonably respectable total of 73 overs in their second innings, but could only muster a painstaking 70 runs on day five. Had they scored at even two and a half an over, they would have added 135 runs. And it is highly unlikely that even Australia would have had the temerity to dare chasing 234 in 36 overs.
Andrew Strauss, after his most convincing innings of the series to date, was wrongly given out. Strauss and Ian Bell had added 10 in 11 tedious overs; had they survived the same period of time again, there is no way England could have lost. Bell, finding runs at an absolute premium, was run out in kamikaze fashion two overs later.
And Kevin Pietersen, having refrained from slog-sweeping Shane Warne for the entire duration of his majestic 158, was dismissed when trying it for the first time in the game. Pietersen is undoubtedly a first-class batsman who is constantly improving; but, until his judgment matches his talent more regularly, he will continue to frustrate in situations such as this. His wicket was also key in two last-day dismissals against Pakistan last winter.
All the while, Warne was bowling wonderfully. But it is easier to bowl that way when players – save for the over-exuberant Pietersen – are set on mere survival. This series to date has proved two things about Warne. The first is that, unlike in 2005, he seems incapable of greatly affecting proceedings in the first innings. The second, proved by his twin four-wicket hauls England’s second innings, is that he remains superb at twisting the knife in the latter stages of games.
Andrew Flintoff and Geraint Jones were both dismissed by Brett Lee; Flintoff’s rather hapless innings, ended by a waft outside the off-stump, was not that of the archetypal Test number six. But they can hardly demote him to seven when they are incapable of taking 20 wickets in a Test and he is not yet fully fit. The trio of Ashley Giles, James Anderson and Steve ‘Harmless’ Harmison have claimed cumulative series figures of six for 852 to date. Monty Panesar and Sajid Mahmood will not solve England’s many problems, but they are young and offer genuine dynamism that will provide the attack with much-needed penetration.
Paul Collingwood, amidst all the mayhem, managed to stay till the end, if only just. His 22* epitomised England’s endeavours in that his sole goal was survival; but, when it began to be patently obviously England would be bowled out, where was his innovation, his refusal to do more than wait for the inevitable?
England’s efforts to save the match amounted to this: extreme timidity mixed with occasional recklessness. The fate of the urn is now as good as decided.
Tagged with: Paul Collingwood, Shane Warne, Ian Bell, Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Flintoff, Brett Lee, collapse