Ashes Cricket News 03/01/03
Report by Jon Cocks
Day Two of the Sydney Test began with a stirring performance by one great Test match veteran, whose detractors increasingly feel that this Test might be his last. However, the day ultimately belonged to the man even more exposed to the media blowtorch and microscope of public expectation. Just the third batsman behind Sunil Gavaskar and Allan Border to pass ten thousand Test runs, Steve Waugh also equalled the record number of Test centuries from the last ball of the day and wrote another glorious chapter into Australian cricket legend.
Most of the second morning belonged to Alec Stewart (71), who dominated the 92-run partnership for England's sixth wicket and scored the bulk of England's 2-85 for the session, during which he went past Geoff Boycott into third place overall on the all-time England Test batting aggregate list.
Stewart's partner, John Crawley (22*), scratched around for over half an hour before adding to his overnight total of six. In the Nine commentary box, Mark Waugh, addressing Mark Taylor, summed it up succinctly when he said of Crawley: 'He makes you look like Viv Richards.'
Lee and Gillespie bowled very tightly in the first few overs, but Stewart was able to put away anything loose on the leg side and drive anything even remotely over-pitched to the rope, as Lee did his best to bowl a McGrath-like off stump line.
Approaching the end of the first hour, England had managed 34 - with Crawley's contribution being an on-driven two from Gillespie - and hopes for a 400+ total rose with every blow from Stewart that slapped into the hoardings. It seems that getting chicken pox improved his focus and strokeplay as he passed his half-century.
MacGill and Bichel took over the attack, and the runrate lifted, as Stewart cut and pulled the leggie every time he dropped a little short. Stewart punished Bichel a couple of times as well and was looking at three figures, possibly before lunch, before the indefatigible Queenslander pushed a full, in-dipping ball through him, off his pad and into his off stump.
Bichel removed Dawson (2) with a simple catch behind to the keeper shortly afterwards, and the honours for the morning drifted back Australia's way, as the remaining overs before lunch added very little to the England total.
In forty minutes after lunch, England lost the last three wickets for just twenty, to be all out for 362, as MacGill's extended good work (44-8-106-2) reaped belated rewards. England's 5-98 today was probably less than Hussain would have liked, but the first innings total is still competitive. Bichel (21-5-86-3) bowled well today and Lee (31-9-97-2) and Gillespie (27-10-61-1) performed well on a flat pitch.
Crawley (35*) didn't do enough with the tail, although he managed a couple of forcing strokes on the leg side. Caddick (7) tried to sweep MacGill and lost his off stump. Shortly afterwards Hoggard overbalanced, stretching forward to MacGill and was smartly stumped by Gilchrist.
Twelve runs later, Harmison backed up too far and Crawley sent him back. Langer's throw from near gully had MacGill lunging to affect the run out, but the third umpire had an easy decision, as Harmison was about a foot short of safety.
In fifteen eventful overs to tea, the advantage swung conclusively back England's way, as Caddick - in an inspired spell with the new ball after his first two overs - hit the right line and length to remove Hayden (15), Ponting (7) and Langer (25). Australia wobbled on 3-67 at tea.
Hoggard opened from the Randwick End with two maidens, moving the ball consistently into the left-handed Australian openers, while Caddick's first two went for fifteen. Living a little dangerously, Langer inside-edged one from Hoggard over off stump.
With the score on 36, Caddick broke through, his low full toss trapping Hayden in front on the crease, the big Queenslander departing, angry at missing runs on the leg side nearly as much as getting out.
Ponting played a beautiful straight drive for four and another sweet drive through covers for three. However, his good work was cut short abruptly, when Caddick landed one perfectly just outside off stump in his next over, flicking the bat that Ponting was in the act of withdrawing. Stewart completed the dismissal and Australia was 2-45 after eight overs.
Langer played and missed at a couple of Caddick deliveries that left him, but when Caddick dropped short, Langer rocked back and Hoggard ran in, judging and catching the skied hook shot well to send Langer on his way.
Steve Waugh marched out to the crease to tumultuous SCG acclaim. Looking understandably even more nervous at the start than usual, Waugh hopped about in the crease to a couple of short balls from Caddick, but got off the mark by whipping one from his pads to the mid wicket rope and crashing one through covers for a second boundary.
Martyn (4*) and Waugh (9*) steered Australia to tea. Whatever the pair could manage in the last session on Day Two would go a long way towards defining the outcome of this Test match, the first one of this series in which England were able to work to a dominant position.
One of the genuinely great sessions of Test cricket unfolded on the second afternoon in Sydney and the man on whom the greatest pressure had been applied triumphed in a way that only true champions can do.
Australia added 2-170 in the extended last period of play, still trailing by 125 on the first innings with five wickets in hand.
However, the manner in which the Australian captain added 93 runs to his total at tea must surely have roused the ghosts of great players past and drawn heart-felt applause from Waugh's most niggardly detractors. Moving to 102* with a square drive to the point rope from the last ball of the day's play, the captain's dramatic answer to the many questions that hung over him, concerning form, age and future in the game could not have been more compelling.
If this kind of pressure is what it takes to make Waugh bat in this way, perhaps it would be preferable that Australia were to be subjected to it more regularly. Gone were the hopping and shuffling in the crease; negative vibes might have been out there in force in the cricket world, but there was nothing but formidable desire on Waugh's part, single-minded concentration, nerve and skill that had not been entirely evident throughout the summer.
Waugh batted like a man possessed from the first ball after the resumption from the tea break, crashing the England pacemen for a rapid succession of boundaries, as they all succumbed to his counter-attack. Finding sufficient room to cut and drive through the off side field, his score increased in rapid increments of four and he played shots from his pads that were reminiscent of the on side play of his more elegant twin. Damien Martyn seemed just there to make up the numbers, as the captain reached his half century in just 61 balls.
66 runs came in the hour after tea, Waugh compiling 42 of them. Martyn began loosening up, clipping Caddick (16-3-88-3) to the point boundary, and his captain - not to be outdone - smashed the same bowler through covers yet again. The uninterrupted pillaging of the England attack continued unabated, until Harmison (13-4-44-2)- whose work to that point had been less than inspirational - grabbed two quick wickets.
Damien Martyn (26) - untroubled and happy to hold up an end while Waugh continued to plunder runs - tugged the Durham quick from outside off stump and into the waiting hands of Caddick at mid wicket. Shortly afterwards, Martin Love (0) played an unconvincing stroke outside the off stump and edged the same bowler to Trescothick at first slip.
Enter Adam Gilchrist (45* from 46 balls). If there hadn't been enough excitement for the capacity Day Two crowd, then the flamboyant batsman-keeper immediately set about righting that wrong. Immediately launching into trademark hooks, cuts, pulls and drives, Gilchrist further exasperated Nasser Husaain, who could but look on as the Australian captain and his deputy added an unbroken 87 for the sixth wicket and a potentially match-winning lead of over two hundred evaporated rapidly in the Sydney sunshine.
In a climax worthy of the most spirit-elevating symphony, the best was saved for last. Hoggard (13-2-65-0) returned for a final over and Waugh sliced him to third man for a boundary, drove him for two, running the second as hard as any he did a decade ago batting with the frenetic Dean Jones in one-dayers. He followed that with a risky single to mid wicket to retain the strike for the final over, which was to be bowled by offspinner Dawson (9-0-33-0).
Waugh defended the first three from Dawson, who pitched up on the stumps and allowed no room to swing the arms. Waugh leapt down the wicket and sliced the fourth ball square and the batsmen ran three, advancing the captain to 98. Two balls to come, two required for a fairy-tale 29th hundred in Test cricket to draw level with Sir Donald Bradman.
Adam Gilchrist was up to the challenge, whipping the penultimate ball of the day into the on side to give his captain the chance to cap a day of high drama and excitement with the kind of last-ball-of-the-day heroism that all sports fans - young and not-so-young - dream about in their fondest fantasies.
Grinning broadly, Hussain strolled down the wicket to his young bowler for a little chat as the seething Sydney masses roiled on the cusp of triumphant release. The field came in, as if it were the last ball of the Test and Number Eleven had to keep the ball out to save the match and series.
Dawson tossed it up a little outside off stump, Waugh rocked back, then came forward and punched the ball to the cover point rope and then punched the air in one of the truly inspiring moments of Australian sport. With the Test match evenly poised with three days to play, it just doesn't get any better than this.