Ashes Cricket News 05/01/02
Report By Jon Cocks
Other than two purple patches by bowlers of both teams, bat continued to hold sway over ball on Day Four of the best Test match of the series. Despite the courage of Andy Bichel late in the day and resolute determination of his England captain, Michael Vaughan bestrode the day like a colossus, unluckily robbed of a deserved double century by a bad umpiring decision, but still achieving his highest score in Test match cricket. England finished the day as it began, with a strong grip on the match that has been notable for not only brilliant batting from both sides, but some poor umpiring by the two officials, especially when adjudicating LBW appeals.
The fourth morning belonged to England, as Michael Vaughan (166*) and Hussain (72) continued their good work from the previous evening, adding 95 runs through a combination of determined defence and flashing strokeplay on anything not ‘in the corridor’. It wasn’t until the new ball had been taken and the penultimate ball of the morning that Brett Lee and Adam Gilchrist combined to prise the England captain from his tenacious occupation of the crease. His partnership with Vaughan gathered 189 for the third wicket, a new England record in Tests at the ACG.
Brett Lee went around the wicket late on Day Three because the surface was loose, so some glue-like substance was added before play on Day Four to the surface of the popping crease to help hold it together. Also, the soil in the rough outside the right-hander’s leg stump had crumbled further, causing some of MacGill’s deliveries in the first session to turn square.
A little surprisingly, Steve Waugh bowled the first two overs from the Paddington End, seaming a couple into his England counterpart Hussain. Mindful of the useful and growing lead enjoyed by England, Waugh possibly erred on the side of defensiveness, placing plenty of men in run-saving positions.
Lee beat Vaughan twice with balls that seamed away, but it wasn’t long before the Yorkshireman got into his stride. Gillespie replaced Waugh at the Paddington End and Vaughan dispatched him for two boundaries in his first over. After a long summer at the bowling crease, Dizzy was looking a little below par, almost certainly struggling with various minor niggles that dulled his normal sparkle.
Lee and (16-3-59-1) Gillespie (16-4-64-0) worked away at the England batsmen for the bulk of the first hour, restricting them to 35 runs. Lee showed another side of himself as a developing fast bowler, dropping his pace a little and concentrating on the line and length that his captain’s field placings demanded. He beat the outside edge of bowl batsman with several well-pitched deliveries that seamed away off the wicket.
As the morning progressed, the wicket became more obviously two-paced, with balls from both bowlers pitched in the same area alternately lifting chest-high or staying down to be taken by the keeper at shin level. The scoring rate was slow for a substantial period of the first hour, but Hussain went to his half-century from 123 balls, with six fours, guiding one that stayed a bit low down to third man and Waugh brought MacGill (27-3-89-1) into the attack.
The legspinner began well with a maiden, spinning sharply across the right-handers, but his very width outside off stump allowed cuts and square drives for runs any time he dropped a fraction short. The Australian fielders maintained their desperation in the field, as Bichel fielded a pull from Hussain, stopping the four and his throw broke the stumps at the bowler’s end, with the captain only just home for the single.
Both England batsmen gave a clinic on the pull stroke, but Hussain – showing finesse as well as stoic defence - worked Bichel’s last ball of his first over back off his pads to the mid wicket fence. Vaughan edged MacGill past a diving Love at slip to bring up his 150 (23 fours and a six) keeping run-rate climbing upward by picking off a MacGill full toss to the mid wicket rope and driving Bichel on the up for another boundary through cover.
Vaughan continued his uncompromising attack, clearing Ponting at mid off with a lofted drive and Hussain rode England’s improving fortunes by edging MacGill just short of a diving Love, whose lack of runs and catches to this point in his second Test brought him back to earth with a thud.
The new ball was taken by Bichel and Lee, after the England score became anchored briefly on 299. Some swing was evident immediately, but it didn’t stop Vaughan driving twice to the off side boundary, as his innings continued to grow in stature and authority. Given his life late on Day Three and the fact that a half a dozen lofted shots from his bat eluded the Australian fieldsmen, he might well have gone to lunch certain that God was now not only domiciled in the Old Dart, but was in residence at Headingley.
The middle session of Day Four saw England falter somewhat, once magnificent Michael Vaughan (183) was rather unluckily given out LBW to a Bichel delivery that looked to be passing over leg stump. His innings featured 27 fours and a six from just 278 balls, and, while he was in occupation, England dictated the course of the Test.
After he departed, though, the tourists lost 4-71 in the two hours leading up to tea, extending their lead to 385, but all the while losing valuable time they needed to dismiss Australia in the fourth innings. Lee (25-5-94 -3) enhanced his reputation, bowling a good line during his spell after lunch.
England began on the front foot, with Vaughan seeking to close in on the double hundred, before his dismissal. It was Key (14), however, who was first to go, caught by a back-pedalling Matt Hayden at square leg, top-edging an attempted pull from Bichel, with the score on 344. Vaughan fell a run later, to be replaced by Crawley (8), who tried to force the pace but fell ‘plumb’ LBW to Gillespie.
Shortly afterwards, Jason Gillespie (18.3-4-70-1) fell over after his delivery stride and appeared to hyper-extend his left elbow and was unable to complete the over. He left the field and Bichel (25.3-3-82-2) completed his over. It remained to be seen what damage this latest piece of ill-fortune had done to the injury-plagued South Australian paceman.
Alec Stewart (10*) found the going tough, as he couldn’t get enough of the strike to emulate his first innings form. Richard Dawson (12) did his best to score quickly, but in the end he chipped one back to Bichel and England became further becalmed, when it was becoming more and more urgent that their batsmen should try to force the pace.
Stuart MacGill (35-8-101-1) needed to be more on leg stump, as his best work fizzed across the right-handers, without threatening the stumps. Dawson and Caddick were unable to hit him from the square and Stewart couldn’t get down to the striker’s end often enough to do some damage. The veteran ended the session blocking a maiden from Bichel, as England’s adjusted game plan looked to resume after tea and seek quick runs and a declaration.
Immediately after tea, both batsmen added quick runs from Lee and MacGill to raise the 400. Caddick (8) lofted MacGill down the ground for a boundary to long off, but holed out to Langer at mid on, trying to repeat the dose from the next delivery. Instead of declaring, confident in the ability of his bowlers to dismiss Australia, Hussain’s innate conservatism saw Hoggard emerge, only to bowled by a MacGill wrong ‘un for a duck, the ninth wicket falling on 409.
Still the England captain would not declare, obviously seeking to place the match beyond Australian grasp. Alec Stewart, stuck at the non-striker’s end, could do little more than observe the death of the final England innings in Australia, in which he was a participant. He had cause to smile when Harmison thick-edged Lee for a boundary.
Stewart essayed the slog-sweep to add four more against MacGill (41-8-120-3), as each minute at the crease became more vital in that its run-scoring potential should not be wasted. He glanced the legspinner fine, but good fielding restricted the shot to a single, exposing Harmison. A big LBW shout was turned down two balls later, as MacGill’s wrong ‘un beat Harmison and struck his back pad.
Left exposed after Stewart took one from the first of Lee’s next over, Harmison swung and missed, according to the umpire, with a vociferous but unsuccessful appeal for a catch behind incurring Gilchrist’s severe displeasure, along with an official reprimand and a 20% of match fee fine for expressing dissent. Snickometer showed definite contact, so Gilchrist’s annoyance was justified, but not as much as Brett Lee (31.3-5-132-3), when Harmison stepped away from his stumps and hoisted the bowler for three successive lofted boundaries at the end of his subsequent over.
The unbeaten tenth wicket partnership added 43, as Stewart (38*) became content to take the single to give Harmison the chance to slog further late runs. The instant Lee bounced and hit Harmison (a breezy 20* - his highest Test score), Hussain called the players in at 9-452, setting Australia that many for victory in a minimum of 110 overs. Steve Waugh called for the heavy roller without hesitation, to minimise the vagaries of the wearing pitch.
Three LBW decisions against Australia – two justified and one not - set England up for victory on Day Five, as the hosts slumped to 2-5 and 3-25 early in the final session of Day Four. Nevertheless, Andy Bichel’s surprise promotion to Number Three bore fruit, the gutsy Queenslander defying the pain of a blow from Harmison’s bowling to his already injured left index finger to reach his highest Test score of 49* by stumps. His unbeaten fourth wicket partnership with Damien Martyn (19*) added 64, as Australia went in at 3-89, requiring a further - if unlikely - 361 on Day Five for a record-breaking victory and clean sweep of the Ashes series.
Hoggard and Caddick bowled the first two of twenty overs before stumps, both Englishmen swinging the ball into the left-handed Australian openers. Langer (3) was the first to go, the victim of a bad decision, as Caddick clearly pitched the ball outside the line of his leg stump. Langer’s facial contortions would pre-sage subsequent match referee deliberation.
No such controversy clouded the dismissals of Hayden (2) and Ponting (11), who almost hit a return catch to Hoggard (5-0-17-1) from the first ball he faced. Determining the perpetrator of the smashed window in the Australian dressing room remained less clear-cut, since Hayden – like his opening partner - was less than enamoured with his decision, given he was struck on his front pad by Hoggard’s inswinger to the left-hander nearly 2.5 metres forward of his middle stump. The official reprimand and 20% of match fee fine would hopefully help to restrict such destructive urges to opposition bowling attacks.
Other teams might go into their shells at 3-25, but Andy Bichel just saw the gaps in the field, given the Australian-looking attacking field set by Hussain. Cutting over the slips, driving through the covers and pushing down the ground on the on-side, Bichel raced past 20, as Damien Martyn played straight at the other end.
Caddick aimed for a spot just on a good length and was able to get the ball to rear alarmingly several times. Undeterred, Bichel rocked onto the back foot and crashed two forcing shots to the off-side rope and sliced another over slips, before the blow to his already injured finger brought a concerned Errol Alcott onto the field to assess the damage. Steve Harmison (5-1-13-0) was introduced to the attack, but he struggled to find a consistent line, either over or around the wicket.
Perhaps mindful that he needed to play an innings of substance and this was the time to do it, Martyn, who had looked solid in defence, square slashed for a boundary over point. Hussain began to move men away from catching positions, as the runs began to flow. Bichel sliced one straight to thin air until recently occupied by Third Slip. Butcher got a despairing hand on the ball before it raced to the rope.
Andy Caddick (9-0-55-2) returned to the bowling crease, only to go for two more boundaries to Andy Bichel. His bowling may have been expensive, but he attacked as well and was rewarded with his early wickets. His later efforts might have drawn more reward, as he offered the scoring potential, but the lofted shots evaded the fieldsmen.
Richard Dawson (0-2) bowled the final over of the day, one in which England held the upper hand from start to finish. Could his gentle turn help propel England to a memorable, if consolation Ashes Test victory on the final day of the series? This solitary over offered no real clue to the final stanza in this outstanding contest between the two Old Enemies for the most long-standing prize in international sport, other than yachting’s America’s Cup.