Anderson and England revive lost art

Australia 263 England 116-2
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The Independent Online

Let's hear it for jolly, old-fashioned, conventional swing bowling. Forget for a moment the new-fangled reverse malarkey with the shine one way, the movement the other and all manner of potentially dubious practices in between.

England, where the craft was once a source of pride among a legion of bowlers, rolled back the years yesterday and as a result came charging back into the second npower Test. The Ashes did not exactly hove into view but on the horizon for the first time it was possible, as it were, to discern an urn.

From the first ball of the second day, England had Australia on the back foot and against the wall. It was an utter reversal of fortunes after the opening day when the tourists had climbed into bowling which was inappropriate in the conditions, in any conditions as it happens.

Australia, beginning at 126 for 1, were bowled out for 263 and by the close, making full use of the rub of the green that has accompanied them throughout the summer, England were 116 for 2. Their captain, Andrew Strauss, once more led from the front with a dead-eyed composure, and was unbeaten on 64, and Ian Bell, less assuredly, was, importantly, still there.

The ball moved just enough under skies that were much less sullen than they had been in Birmingham all week, but still hardly a sea of blue. Graham Onions, the least experienced of England's bowlers but a man in possession of the precious commodity known as form, was on the button from the start with two wickets with the first two balls of the morning session.

It brought the full house to a fever pitch that never diminished much for the next seven hours and James Anderson was able to take extreme advantage of Australia's unexpected discomfort. His first five-wicket return against Australia was enabled by adept swing bowling in which the ball went both ways but, crucially, was beautifully controlled. From a position where they seemed to be in command of the direction of the match the holders of the Ashes lost their last nine wickets for 77 runs 70 minutes after lunch.

At this point the gloomier thoughts of English followers turned to the fact if it could swing for us it could swing for them. In those circumstances a total of 263 looked serviceable if not imposing. But it did not swing either sideways, or high, or low, or at least not sufficiently to make significant early breaches.

When bad light forced a premature close, England had lost two wickets. It might have been more. Alastair Cook went in the second over playing at one going across him and nicking low to the keeper.

In came Ravi Bopara, a No 3 batsman desperate to assert himself by constructing an innings rather than throwing one together. Bopara can clearly bat – three successive hundreds against the West Indies attest to that – but he has temporarily forgotten the most important element of batting. He is the builder who is throwing one brick on top of another, splashing a bit of cement about in between, but forgetting to look at the plans.

This followed a similar course to his Ashes series so far. His first four was whipped through midwicket and if it looked classy it was imbued with risk at that stage of the innings. He seemed to settle but then it was not a surprise when he dragged one on from Ben Hilfenhaus, his bat dangerously crooked.

But that was as far as it went for Australia. They had a good leg before shout against Bell turned down on 18. The unfortunate bowler was Mitchell Johnson and, wouldn't you know it, two balls later he offered a wide one that Bell crashed to the cover boundary.

It was the third questionable decision of the day by the umpire, Rudi Koertzen, and the other two went in England's favour as well. But then England bowled so persuasively in the morning that any umpire might be minded to find in their favour. It was Aleem Dar who did so correctly after Onions, a slightly surprising choice to start the bowling, brought one back into Shane Watson's pads with his first ball.

The second, according to Mike Hussey's calculation, was meant to pass harmlessly by so he shouldered arms only to see his off stump struck. Leaving the ball only to be bowled has become a favourite pastime of batsmen in this series and Hussey was following Kevin Pietersen and Strauss among others. Good company, wrong reason for joining it. Onions missed his hat-trick – he tried a bouncer at Michael Clarke – but this was a high-class spell of fast swing bowling. Perhaps the skies were in his favour but he bowled straight at batsmen not always used to it and he deserved his third wicket when Ricky Ponting found a bouncer on him quicker than he might have liked and top-edged to the wicketkeeper. By then Ponting had become Australia's leading run scorer, overhauling Allan Border.

But his dismissal made Australia 163 for 4 and there was no coming back as Anderson entered the fray. It took him a few minutes to find his radar but then, boy, was he something. Clarke, having been dropped off a dolly by Andrew Flintoff at second slip, was beaten by a probing inswinger. It might have been doing too much but it was an impressive piece of bowling.

In his next over, Anderson became England's second bowler of the morning to be on a hat-trick. Marcus North was acrobatically caught by Matt Prior, flinging himself well to his left beyond first slip. Maybe it was not the wicketkeeper's catch but it was purposeful stuff, the sort of catch that can change the direction of a career.

Johnson followed straight afterwards, leg before leaving one alone that might have gone over the top, and Anderson had his fourth on the stroke of lunch. Australia's last two wickets made 60 between them, more than England would have liked but 263 was a total the home side would have gladly settled for at the start of the day.

Edgbaston timeline: How action unfolded

*11.00am: Perfect start The first ball of the day from Graham Onions swings into the hapless Shane Watson's pads and the Australia hero of the first day becomes a villain.

*11.01am: Dream start The second ball of the day from Onions is left rather ostentatiously by Mike Hussey and bangs into his off stump. Two balls, two wickets, easy game...

*11.19am: Making history Ricky Ponting clips through mid-wicket to become Australia's highest Test runs scorer, beating the record of 11,174 held by Allan Border since 1987.

*1.00pm: In the swing Jimmy Anderson produces a peach of a swinger to Mitchell Johnson. The batsman makes a late decision to leave and he is on his way first ball. Anderson has three wickets in eight balls.

*2.18pm: Five for Anderson claims five wickets against Australia for the first time in his sixth match against them when Peter Siddle edges an outswinger behind.

*3.06pm: Driven to distraction Alastair Cook provides Australia with the start they need by edging a drive behind, a dismissal that Cook must rehearse in his nightmares.

*3.50pm: Oh dear At last Johnson joins the attack to the delight of a crowd all too ready to taunt his poor form. His third ball is directed to slip, his fifth is dispatched for four.

*4.36pm: Footloose Ravi Bopara, having promised to break free, is shackled once more by poor use of his feet as he plays on.

*5.45pm: Night night Bad light stops play and England walk off with alacrity, Strauss having passed fifty.

*Weather Report

Persistent rain, becoming heavy after lunch. May clear by late afternoon. Maximum temperature 19C.

*Television Times


Live: 10.00-19.00, Sky Sports 1, HD1

Highlights: 19.15-20.00, Five


Live: 10.00-19.00, Sky Sports 1, HD1

Highlights: 19.15-20.00, Five