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Sunday, 19 December 2010

Ashes still very much alive...

It's not really surprising to see Australia storm back at England in the third Ashes test after being completely outplayed in Adelaide because, after all, they are Australia. A team that never knows when to give in and will always fight till the very end.

Following a thrashing just nine days ago, many people would be forgiven to think that Australia might just roll over, allowing England to win the series and in doing so retaining the Ashes.

The way England played in Adelaide suggested that it would be a comfortable ride but let us not forget that this is the ashes and this is England, nothing is ever straightforward. Australia were clearly hurt by the criticism they've received, especially Ricky Ponting, and they looked determined to set the record straight by proving that they are still a force in test cricket with an impressive performance in Perth.

They still have problems, though, in the shape of having so many batsmen out-of-form and only Mike Hussey saving them thanks to some immaculate batting. A major concern is the form of the top order, in particular Phil Hughes, who has a very suspect batting technique.

Shane Watson seems incapable of going on to make a big score, the normally reliant Ponting is struggling and Michael Clarke looks more out of nick then a

But they have Mitchell Johnson; a bowler that one minute can make Xavier Doherty look good and  the next produces a magical spell of quick, swing bowling brining carnage to the best batsmen on the planet.

That was what did for England. He produced a brilliant 19-ball frenzy, causing panic amongst England's bamboozled batsmen. The movement and sheer amount swing was unplayable, sparking an England collapse that Gillian Mckeith would have been proud of during a bushtuker trial.

Johnson celebrates the wickets of Jonathon Trott, his second wicket of day 2.

Hussey then compounded England's misery with a chance-less and quite magnificent century. In doing so he set a new Ashes record by scoring a sixth consecutive 50, a record that emphasises his class. Despite persistent efforts from England, they didn't even get close to dislodging Hussey until he finally departed in an attempt to score quick runs with the tail.

Many people predicted, that if there would be any ground England will struggle on, it would be Perth. A bouncy track, similar to Headingly in 2009, something which is one of England's biggest frailties.

One of the most disappointing things to come out of the match from the tourist's perspective is the poor discipline shown by the bowlers. Bowling short is a fair tactic to use at Perth but it must be done with consistency and accuracy. In contrast, England sprayed it all over the place and got far to carried away with the short stuff.

Plain evidence of pitching it up more is evident through the types of dismissals in the match, so many were taken at slip or batsmen getting caught on the crease. If you bowl with precision and persistence then you'll get your rewards.

England had Australia 68-5 shortly after lunch on the first day and then let it slip. Conceding 200 runs for the last five wickets was, in hindsight, where it was lost. Had England bowled them out for around 150 then they would have been chasing around 280, a much more realistic target.

The form of Paul Collingwood is also an issue but it should not be much of a concern. He's valuable member of the team even when he's struggling for runs. Not only is he a fantastic fielder, highlighted by a stunning catch at slip to get rid of Ponting, but he also can bowl useful spells with some gentle medium pace which allows the quicker bowlers to take a break in the hot conditions.

Paul Collingwood's sensational catch to account for the wicket of Ponting on the first morning promised much but ended up a false dawn.

England should remain unchanged for the boxing day test at the MCG because it's only one bad performance. The bowlers have bowled well, again taking 20 Australian wickets, and the batsmen, up until Perth, have been impressive.

England must not, and Andy Flower certainly won't, panic. One bad match doesn't turn them into a bad team and they are still very much in this series with two to play.

Cricket is the most unpredictable game and that is why it is such a fantastic sport to watch, 22 players over 5 days of cricket and so many spectators with so many twists and turns.

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  1. As an Australian supporter I hope Collingwood stays in. He is there primarily as a batsman and he can't bat. So keeping him in the team improves Australia's chances of victory.

  2. Issue with England is when they lose their 6th wicket they are only 20 runs away from all out! Australia will win in Melbourne as its on a new strip with new type of turf - expect tennis ball bounce. Mitchel got back his Mojo, Harris was dead eye dick in 2nd innings and Australia learnt how to catch again. If Englands top 3 dont fire, Pietersen is in early and gets exposed and its the house of cards. Before Adelaide i thought it would be 2-2 into Sydney, with England retaining Ashes. Now I think it will be 2-1 to Aussie, and with bad weather predicted for the Sydney Test - a draw or an Aussie win. Come back again in 4 years and try and win a series down under - its pretty hard eh!