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Close Call for Aussies in Hobart - VB Series - Australia v England

Cricket News 11/01/03

Report by Jon Cocks

With around seven overs to go in England's chase for 272, the difference between the visitors and the hosts were the 18 wides conceded by the England attack, with Steve Harmison the chief offender. Despite the opening stand of 165 by Knight (85) and Trescothick (82), the England response fell - tantalisingly - seven runs short of victory.

On a perfect sunny Hobart Saturday afternoon, around as many questions remain over Ponting's management of his bowlers as were answered by two of his younger bowlers. Missing Darren Lehmann denied him astute advice on an ongoing basis, as well as the shrewd left arm spin that would have been very useful at the death. However, it opened opportunities for other players to stand up in the final frenetic overs.

Brad Hogg (9-0-55-3) showed that he could respond to pressure and a bad opening spell, but why did Ponting remove him with an over left to bowl, when he had taken three wickets, was proving hard to force to the rope and was growing in confidence?

Shane Watson showed excellent temperament, bowling at the death, having experienced danger man Alec Stewart hole out to Martyn at mid on and snuffing out England hopes by bowling Hussain in the final over. But why did Ponting replace Hogg with Lee, who was never going to put every ball in the blockhole and went for close to ten an over in his final three?

In the morning session, two century partnerships both featuring Damien Martyn (101*), the second unbroken with Jimmy Maher (49*), saw Australia through to a highly competitive 4-271 from the fifty overs on a wicket that was decidedly up-and-down from a length for the medium pacers.

After Australia had slumped to 3-53, the morning belonged to Damien Martyn. Playing shots down the ground and to the on side, he brought up his century from the final ball of the innings, walking across his stumps and sweeping Caddick to the fine leg rope.

Caddick and Anderson began well, both swinging the ball into the left-handers. Umpire Orchard erred badly, giving Gilchrist (2) out LBW to a ball that collected a huge inside edge before thudding into the pads. Collingwood dropped a difficult chance from Ponting (15) off Anderson, but the captain was out soon after.

He had begun well, and seemed to be into his stride, when he hooked Anderson into the backward square leg crowd, but Anderson pitched one perfectly, moved it away and Ponting edged it through to Stewart, with Australia in early bother at 2-25 after six overs.

Damien Martyn signalled his intentions, on driving Caddick (10-0-54-0) and pulling Anderson for boundaries. Hayden (21) pulled Harmison for four, but got the next one on the splice to have the bowler juggle and nearly drop the skied return catch. The first over from Harmison (8-0-58-1) featured five wides, as he really struggled to find his line.

Anderson (10-1-40-1) – the best of the England bowlers on the day - had no such difficulty, and Bevan ducked into one that didn't get up and it smashed into his helmet grille. Despite the pitch's tricks, with deliveries from the pacemen alternately leaping from a length and staying at knee level. the Australians maintained five an over, with Martyn and Bevan raising the fifty partnership in about nine overs.

Medium pacers Collingwood (3-0-14-0) and Irani (9-0-55-0) came on, but the runrate stayed the same. It wasn't until Blackwell (10-1-41-1) entered the attack from the River End that the batsmen became more subdued. The left-armer kept the ball on the stumps and the batsmen had to work harder to get the ball from the square.

Bevan and Martyn began to use their feet, driving several in the air wide of the fielders, the runs flowed again and the hundred partnership was on the board. Martyn's fifty came in the 33rd over and Bevan emulated him in the following over from Blackwell, but the Englishman bowled him off the inside edge in the next over. Collingwood dropped a difficult chance at point from Martyn off Anderson shortly afterward, a costly miss for England.

Maher struggled for eleven balls to get off the mark, but the return of Irani opened the floodgates with fifteen taken from an over and when Harmison returned to the crease, Maher chipped him wristily over mid wicket for six.

Both batsmen went after every ball in the final stages, leaping down the wicket and improvising outrageously. Maher stretched and got a wide full toss for a boundary to backward point and Martyn 'up-and-under-ed' one to third man. 88 runs came from the final ten overs.

McGrath (7-1-31-0) began the afternoon well for Australia with a maiden and his opening spell looked like he had never missed a moment of action, but he had to leave the field with what was diagnosed as a back strain that was unrelated to his earlier side strain. Lee allowed a little too much width, however, and the England batsmen made him pay.

Trescothick had six boundaries between third man and covers after ten overs, by which time the England fifty had been posted. The pitch seemed to settle into a typical Hobart belter, its earlier friskiness having abated in the afternoon sunshine.
Watson (8-0-36-2) replaced Lee (10-0-65-0) and a swirling breeze now blew across the ground, which blew a high ball away from the running Bevan and Trescothick had a lucky break.

Bichel (10-0-39-1) repaced McGrath and the gap between runs required and balls remaining narrowed to single figures after twenty overs and stayed in that area until the 40th over, when the asking rate had climbed to seven an over.

With all wickets intact, though, England remained in reasonable control of the chase. The two openers pushed on during the third group of ten overs - Australia made over 60 in that period - working a lot of runs between third man and cover.
Brad Hogg came into the attack, bowled a good first over, but came under fire in his next two. Bevan dropped Knight at fine leg from Lee in the following over.

England looked to be in control, until Bichel took Knight's leg stump min the 32nd over and Blackwell (12), surprisingly, came to the wicket to pinch hit. The move backfired, as the Somerset all rounder absorbed eighteen dot balls and ran badly between the wickets.

Losing McGrath asked another question of the Australians, and Man of the Match Damien Martyn (6-0-34-1) answered it, having Trescothick caught by Twelfth Man Symonds at point.

The pendulum began swinging Australia's way even further, when Hogg struck three times. Blackwell top -edged to Gilchrist, Owais Shah (8) holed out to Martyn at mid wicket and Collingwood (1) skied one to Maher at backward square.

Ponting removed Hogg. No doubt fervently wishing he had come in ahead of Blackwell, Hussain (43) and Stewart (16) swung at Lee for a couple of ten-run overs, hauling England back to within striking distance of victory. Lee will not be bowling at the death again; this much is clear.

Shane Watson's penultimate over provided the game-breaking moment, as Stewart was caught superbly by Martyn and the over conceded just four singles. Bowling Hussain in the final over provided the cherry on the cake, as Watson had delivered his finest moment with the ball in his short career to this stage.

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