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Days 2 and 3 - Fourth Ashes Test at the MCG

Ashes Cricket News 28/12/02

Report By Jon Cocks

Mammoth Innings - Day 2

On the second day, another one of total domination, the Australians added 3-195 in even time, with Justin Langer reaching his top score in Tests of 250, Martin Love making a very tidy 62* on debut and three top order Englishmen were removed before stumps for 97.

Australia (4-445) added 89 in the morning session for the loss of Steve Waugh. The steady build in run-scoring almost mirrored the first morning's 88, as the pitch continued to play pretty well. Quicker bowlers really needed to be on a length (5-6 metres from the popping crease) and/or in the corridor to trouble the batsmen. This happened perhaps half a dozen times in the morning.

After a couple of overs this morning, Caddick and Harmison swapped ends, as the jug-eared one felt that the breeze coming through the ex-Ponsford Stand area might aid his outswinger. He was as good as his promise, shaping a couple away from Steve Waugh. Meanwhile, Dawson - in the leg gully trap - couldn't quite get his hands around one that Waugh turned off his hip from Harmison.

Langer's 150 came from an excellent leg glance off White, but Caddick troubled him a couple of times with well-pitched deliveries outside his off stump. However, he couldn't maintain the pressure consistently and Langer pounced on the loose ones, dispatching him to the rope.

Meanwhile, Steve Waugh became anchored on 73 for a half an hour, as the England bowlers managed to dry up his normal scoring strokes. The captain still looked solid, getting behind balls in the corridor and meeting them with the full face of the bat.

White's return helped Waugh break the shackles, as he cut a wide one up-and-under over point for a slashing four, but in his next over, White found the right line and length and Waugh edged through to Foster, departing for 77 to massive applause.

Caddick was no-balled for one bouncer too many and raised his ninth bowling century against Australia, as Martin Love made his way to the middle, shouldering arms to his first three balls in test cricket. The bowler’s middle-finger response to the crowd’s barracking would attract the critical attention of the match referee.

Love impressed with his calm, unflustered approach, with a push through covers raising his first two runs in Test cricket. Steadily, he worked the bowling for a few more scoring strokes and hit his first boundary, turning Harmison off the back foot through square leg.

Langer (191*) moved past his previous best score against England (179), driving Harmison straight. The right arm 'ordinary' of Butcher was reintroduced, as Langer and Love (21*) again looked very settled.

Langer had to fight a bit during the morning to recapture his touch and took a couple of blows to the upper body and one to the arm, none of which the tough left-hander deigned to acknowledge. His sights were set very firmly on the double hundred and points beyond.

Steve Waugh cut the middle session a little short, declaring the Australian innings closed at 6-551 about twenty minutes before the scheduled tea break, after Gilchrist lost middle and off stumps trying to hit Dawson into the second tier of the long on stand.

However, the defining moments of the day came when Justin Langer passed the 200 mark for the second time in test cricket and then went on to 250. His dismissal on that milestone came from a tired cut shot to Caddick at backward point from Dawson.

There were very few celebrations by England players, especially the opening batsmen, who knew that the time to face the music from McGrath and Gillespie was drawing near.

It was symptomatic of England's misery that Butcher took the first post-lunch over, during which he bowled the worst ball of the Test, a wide that drifted wide of the return crease at the batsman's end.

Dawson took the second over and more stick, as Langer raised his 200 with a cracking cut stroke to the backward point boundary. Both batsmen were at ease on a pitch that continued to play very well, with Hussain completely at a loss as to what to do.

Compounding England's pain, Vaughan dropped Love at point off Butcher, an absolute sitter into the breadbasket that he never properly grasped.

Langer creamed Dawson away past point for yet another four and all four England bowlers had their centuries, in a rare piece of scoreboard symmetry that England could have done without. They were the architects in part of their pain, dropping consistently too short to trouble the Australian upper order.

The Australian 500 came up as Vaughan missed another chance, this time a difficult one at cover, diving to his right. The England field was ultra defensive by now, but still unable to cut off the steady stream of boundaries fed by tired bowlers unable to hit the corridor.

Looking uncomplicated and unhurried, Love brought up his fifty. Shortly afterwards, Langer late cut Caddick for a single to third man to raise the magic 250 (30 fours and a six) from 402 balls in just under ten hours of virtually chanceless batting.

Steve Waugh made his way down to one of the MCG benches at ground level, from where AFL players interchange on and off the field in the footy season. Gilchrist's body language had indicated that the declaration was imminent, so it was no surprise to see the captain calling them in the moment he was bowled.

Late in the second afternoon, Jason Gillespie took a catch from Stuart MacGill’s bowling that he thought dismissed Nasser Hussain, but the third umpire disallowed it. The third session was one in which England tried to rattle Australia by attacking MacGill, but the defiance was too brief to loosen the Baggygreen iron grip on proceedings, despite the Barmy Army's massed no-balling of Lee.

The Australians had been hunting the Englishmen and it was symptomatic of England innings that Dizzy trapped Butcher (25) in front not long after, although replays showed a deflection from the bat onto the pad. Nightwatchman Dawson was then very fortunate to survive a confident LBW shout from his first ball faced.

McGrath (7-2-18-1) and Gillespie (8-4-8-1) bowled superb opening spells, thoroughly working over the England openers, Gillespie in particular pitching up and moving them away from Trescothick.

It was McGrath who grabbed the breakthough, however, bowling Vaughan (11) off his inside edge, ending an unhappy day in the field and with the bat for the Yorkshireman.

Waugh rang the double change, introducing MacGill (11-3-36-0) and Lee (8-1-31-1), who immediately went into hostile demon mode. Trescothick (37), counter-attacking, hit out and after a few boundaries square of the wicket from the bowling of the legspinner, a straight one from Lee caught his glove and sailed to Gilchrist.

Now all the pressure in the world was on Hussain (17*), as England went in at 3-97, another 255 needed to avoid the follow-on.

Long and Hot - Day 3

A hot third day of toil in the field was the Australian lot, with first White and then Vaughan in the second innings, following on, showing some spine in latter half of proceedings. While England struggled hard on a wicket that remained good for batting, Australia gradually tightened its hold on the match, eight wickets from an innings victory and still leading by 170.

'Same old same old,' was Mike Atherton's response on being asked to give his impressions of the third morning's play, during which England (7-185) made 88 for the loss of four wickets.

The only highlight for England - other than the tireless vocal efforts of the Barmy Army - was the aggressive and positive play of Craig White (36*) against MacGill, in particular, who bowled unchanged and captured two wickets.

Brett Lee (13-2-56-2) was warmed up and firing from the first ball of the morning, even more so after nightwatchman Dawson guided him to the third man fence, much to the pleasure of the touring England fans, who continued to 'no-ball' Lee vociferously.

Dawson (6) didn't last a lot longer, snapped up at slip by Love from a big MacGill leg-break, his first catch at Test level.

In the next over, Lee beat Hussain for pace and then broke through, trapping Key (0) on the point of his toe on the crease for a 'plumb' LBW decision. Lee, having begun with a barrage of short-pitched bowling, began a series of searing yorkers that fully tested the England batsmen.

Hussain (24) attempted to sweep MacGill fine once too often and Hayden sprinted and dived from forward short leg to catch one that ballooned from the pad off the glove, completing the dismissal on the ground at silly mid off.

Lee continued his fast and furious assault, a beamer getting away from him, while MacGill's line and length tightened the screws. McGrath replaced Lee, as Waugh sought to dry up the Englishmen even more.

The advent of White had the opposite effect, though, as he straight drove the legspinner for six and then swept him into the square leg crowd for another. Using his feet, White showed his upper and middle order how to play the spinners in an attractive cameo that included three fours as well.

Jason Gillespie (12-6-12-2) took his turn and from his second ball, Crawley essayed an ill-advised pull that caught the top edge and landed in Langer's hands at short mid wicket. The Barmy Army had gone pretty quiet, as the last of the England middle order disappeared into the dressing room, 180 short of the follow-on target.

Foster – lucky to survive a clear edge behind to Gilchrist from Gillespie - joined White and the pair stuck together until the lunch-break, which came an over before the Australians thought it might, with the ground clocks apparently not keeping identical time. Steve Waugh departed with a skeptical shake of the head.

For much of the eighth session of this Test match, it appeared that England might win on points, largely due to the fighting innings of Craig White (85*), the Bendigo-raised youngster who no doubt dreamt in his extreme youth of playing a starring role on the mighty MCG, two hours down the Calder Highway to the South.

However, when Jason Gillespie (16.3-7-25-4) returned to capture the last two wickets, the balance tilted Australia's way slightly, with England having compiled 3-98 to finish on 270, 82 short of avoiding the follow-on, which was duly enforced by Steve Waugh, as the players took tea a quarter of an hour early for the second successive day.

Steve Waugh kept Stuart MacGill (36-10-108-2) on at the Great Southern Stand End, unchanged, until the new ball was taken five overs before England's final first innings demise. The legspinner probed away challengingly, without the drift that Warne gets, but with a testing middle and off stump line that forced the batsmen to play the majority of the time.

White and Foster battled away with the kind of grit and determination associated with the England's teams of the sixties and seventies, denying the pacemen and even causing Steve Waugh to limber up for a rare bowl at this level.

White moved past fifty, driving Lee's slower ball for a boundary and edged Gillespie through slips for another. Foster began to take a leaf from the White Book of Leaving the Crease, driving at MacGill, a lofted shot that fell just short of mid off and followed it with a top-edged sweep that just swirled over Gillespie's head at backward square leg.

Mindful of the relative freshness of his quick bowlers, Steve Waugh came on at the old Members' End to send down four overs of his wobbling medium pacers. A couple down leg side, a couple short outside off and very little menace characterised his work, until he trapped Foster (19) on the front foot with a ball of near yorker length, only just in the line of the leg stump, his first Test wicket in four summers.

With the enterprising eighth wicket partnership of 55 broken, the Australians closed in with the new ball for the kill. However, Andy Caddick swung the willow to thwart the inevitable for a few overs, knocking up a quick 17 before Gillespie beat his ambitious swipe aimed past backward point to take his off stump.

Harmison (2) didn't last long, offering Gilchrist a catch at the wicket and Craig White was left high and dry, fifteen short of what would have been a great rearguard hundred, regardless of how many were needed to avoid the follow-on.

After 34 overs in the final session, England finally broke even, finishing at 2-111, but still trailing by 170 at the end of a long, hot day in the field. Michael Vaughan stood tall with 55*, but Hussain (8*) must be considered lucky to survive a stumping appeal that went upstairs to third umpire Darrel Hair.

England began the second innings, following on, in a positive frame of mind and - with the heat and relative freshness of the pacemen in mind - Waugh brought MacGill back to the Great Southern Stand End after just nine overs, to add to the 25 straight he bowled in the first innings.

Trescothick and Vaughan both played the pull shot well to the faster bowlers and the runs had mounted at 3.5 an over. Trescothick raised the England 50 with a punishing slog-sweep from MacGill for six and edged Lee for another boundary shortly after, before following up with two more cracking cut shots to the rope at deep point.

MacGill (13-3-37-1) grabbed the first breakthrough, however, trapping Trescothick (37) LBW with the England total on 67. The opener was probably unlucky, as the ball pitched outside off and Hawkeye showed that it was probably missing off, although spinning into the batsman and striking him on the back pad.

Gillespie returned to the bowling crease at the northern end for the first time in the match, but in keeping with his work in the match, he had an immediate impact. Butcher (6) edged one for Love to take a smart catch low to his left at first slip.

Vaughan passed Dennis Amiss as the highest Test runscorer in a calendar year, when his score reached 44. England's hundred came up in the 29th over, as Vaughan in particular continued to play his shots, rocking onto the back foot and pulling Lee to the square leg rope to pass fifty.

Lee returned for a final burst at the northern end, but it was MacGill who might have had the late wicket the Australians were straining to find. The stumping appeal attracted much scrutiny by Hair before it was turned down, a payback of sorts for the unfortunate Trescothick.

Report - Day 1

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