Australia 602-9 dec & 202-1 dec England 157 & 370: Panesar no panacea for ills of England

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The Independent Online

After England's shocking defeat in the first Test of the 2005 Ashes series, Andrew Flintoff went away to contemplate. In the tranquil splendour of Bovey Castle in Devon, looking out on to the balustraded Edwardian gardens he refreshed himself. Eleven days later in Birmingham he and England were transformed.

But Dartmoor then is a long, long way from South Australia now and there is no time to ponder. Flintoff has three days to effect his own reincarnation and marshal his players into the kind of unit that might put up a decent argument instead of being hectored, browbeaten and intimidated - and that was usually only in the closer sessions of play.

The story of the first innings often tells the story of Test matches. Australia, who won an important toss at the Gabba, made 602 for 9 declared; England, who were too bothered about losing it, scored 157. The lead of 445 runs was the third-highest Australia had ever compiled against England and it offered no scope for competing properly again in the match.

All those who harboured optimism did not recognise the fragile state of the English psyche: a nation expected and they collapsed quicker than a Queensland gold rush. Of the 13 sessions Australia won 11, England one, with one halved. It was a hammering and it was merciless. England thought they knew what to expect; they had no idea. They were ambushed.

Only in the uplifting batting of Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood on the fourth afternoon could the tourists find a glimmer of eventual salvation, but they could not build even on that. This failure compounded the discouraging nature of the defeat.

Flintoff has always stressed how much the gap meant between matches last year. His break gave a chance, not to put to fine a point on it, to purge the soul. Not surprisingly, he wanted it all ways yesterday.

"We can't mope around," he said. "We've got four Test matches to play and another one to sink our teeth into straight away. Being thrown into another is probably the best thing that can happen."

No Bovey Castle there. In the absence of contemplation time, matters have to be rushed. First they have to decide on the bowling. Only Flintoff was truly up to it in Brisbane yet he bowled only five of 45 overs in Australia's second innings.

Stephen Harmison needs reconstructing in mind and body. He has been a hero for England, but his was a failure of nerve and technique.

Monty Panesar, perhaps the best pound-for-pound bowler in the side, will probably come in with the hope that he understands quickly the pace of these pitches. But it would be a mistake to think Panesar is a panacea.

The batting was mostly woeful (157 all out on that track, indeed) but it stays. The only spare batsman is Ed Joyce, and since he has never played a Test it would be asking a lot for him to come in now and see off Australia.

Joyce represents another selectorial fudge: nice lad, good batsman but without international experience. Twirling their bats in the nets in Perth with the Academy squad are Rob Key and Owais Shah. Key can open or bat in the middle order, struck the Australians with his feistiness on the last Ashes tour and has a top Test score of 221, greater than anybody here. Shah made 88 in his only Test, the exciting win against India last February. If they are not wanted in the squad, why pick them for the Academy?

But the biggest questions of the next few days concern the two men at the top. Duncan Fletcher faces his biggest examination as a coach. And then there is Flintoff. Gigantic in so many senses, he may not be able to manage his own bowling, he does not look or sound the right leader for this tour - and the selectors had enough precedents and pointers to know that.

Yesterday, the proceedings were terminated quickly. Pietersen rammed the fourth ball of the day down midwicket's throat and the game was up more or less. There was some jolly carving thereafter, the equivalent of gallows humour.

Brisbane Scoreboard

Fifth day of five; Australia won toss

Australia - First Innings

602 for 9 declared (*R T Ponting 196; *A Flintoff 4-99)

England - First Innings

157 (I R Bell 50; G D McGrath 6-50)

Australia - Second Innings

202 for 1 declared (J L Langer 100 not out)

England - Second innings

Overnight: (293 for 5)

K P Pietersen c Martyn b Lee 92

228 min, 156 balls, 14 fours

ÝG O Jones b McGrath 33

69 min, 47 balls, 5 fours

A F Giles c Warne b Clark 23

55 min, 38 balls, 3 fours

M J Hoggard c Warne b Clark 8

48 min, 35 balls, 1 four

S J Harmison c McGrath b Clark 13

31 min, 18 balls, 2 fours

J M Anderson not out 4

8 min, 8 balls, 1 four

Extras (b8, lb10, w2, nb11, pens0) 31

Total (447 min, 100.1 overs) 370

Fall: 6-293 (Pietersen); 7-326 (Jones); 8-346 (Giles); 9-361 (Hoggard), 10-370 (Harmison).

Bowling: Lee 22-1-98-1 (nb7, w1) (5-0-22-0, 8-0-37-0, 4-0-22-0, 5-1-17-1); McGrath 19-3-53-1 (nb3) (3-1-5-0, 5-0-10-0, 4-1-15-0, 7-1-23-1); Clark 24.1-6-72-4 (1-0-1-0, 9-3-27-1, 6-1-23-0, 3-1-5-0, 5.1-1-16-3); Warne 34-7-124-4 (nb1, w1) (13-4-32-2, 18-3-76-2, 3-0-16-0); Hussey 1-0-5-0.

Progress: Fifth day: New ball: taken after 80.1 overs at 293-5. 300: 367 min, 82.2 overs. 350: 422 min, 94.1 overs. Innings closed: 11.31am.

Result: Australia won by 277 runs.

Umpires: B F Bowden (NZ) and S A Bucknor (WI).

TV replay umpire: P D Parker (Aus).

Match referee: J J Crowe (NZ).

Man of the match: R T Ponting.

First Test Ratings

ENGLAND

ANDREW STRAUSS: Two shots extracted directly from the Manual of Silly Shots. One is unfortunate, two complete stupidity. 2

ALASTAIR COOK: Looked composed against the new ball but he has been easily Warned once and looks ripe for further abasement. 5

IAN BELL: One well-crafted half-century exhibited real class but the leg-spinner might still have the sign on him. 5

PAUL COLLINGWOOD: For an hour there the Durham man looked the real deal. Doubts remain, but it may be the making of him. 6

KEVIN PIETERSEN: Took the attack to the Australians. Indomitable, and crucially important to any renaissance. 6

ANDREW FLINTOFF: Mighty first-innings bowling performance when the rest were not at the races. Batted poorly. Was leading donkeys. 4

GERAINT JONES: Kept wicket and batted with genuine adequacy but whether he deserves his place is still a great debate. 5

ASHLEY GILES: A brave comeback, but his bowling is not so rejuvenated that the Aussies could prevent their eyes lighting up. 4

MATTHEW HOGGARD: Apart from one useful short spell, was largely anonymous - and probably two places too high in the batting order. 2

STEVE HARMISON: One of the great stage freezes of all. Can the England spearhead come back from that? We will shortly know. 1

JAMES ANDERSON: In between occasional pearls, was trundling dross. Also affected by the occasion, poor lad. 2

Ball of the Day

* The fourth ball, basically innocuous, which finally breached what passed for resistance, from Brett Lee to Kevin Pietersen.

Shot of the Day

* Geraint Jones hitting McGrath for four on the up, while England were still going down.

Moment of the Day

* Steve Harmison pulling into long leg's hands to bring defeat. The match was bookended, Harmison ending as he started.

Debate of the Day

* Will they or won't they drop Stuart Clark for Sydney? Seven wickets, bowled like a dream and could be out of the side. An embarrassment of riches for Australia.

Stephen Brenkley

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