Australian angle: Ponting knows McGrath would have got it done

Although they came extremely close on a thrilling last day, the Australians were unable to take the eight wickets needed to secure victory on a soporific Sophia Gardens pitch. A runout was missed, a few appeals rent the air but in the end the home team escaped the noose. Victory does not always go to the deserving. Rather it must be grabbed by the ambitious, seized by the hungry and retained by the desperate.

Australia were not quite good enough. Ricky Ponting and company toiled tirelessly but were unable to shift Paul Collingwood, a batsman of high character relishing the dogfight. And when this stubborn foe was finally removed the tailenders clung to the crease with a tenacity befitting the occasion. Monty Panesar did a fair impersonation of Trevor Bailey as he thwarted the Aussies. Not that he was called upon to face the most dangerous bowlers.

Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne were past masters at winkling out opponents on the fifth day, so much so that captains often did not enforce the follow-on. McGrath had an even better record than his barley-headed comrade in the fourth innings. His ability to hammer away on a length and to exploit low bounce served as a reminder that pace bowlers have roles to play towards the end of long matches. Uneven bounce presents a bigger problem to batsmen than sharp turn. As English cricket cannot remain in a 2005 reverie, though, these visitors cannot hark back to yesterday's champions. Except in helpful conditions, Australia are going to need a lot more time to take wickets.

As much was obvious in Cardiff. At various times the Australians appeared to be on the verge of victory only to encounter more dogged resistance. Kevin Pietersen's early dismissal seemed to indicate a doomed state of mind and to consign the hosts to defeat. Andrew Strauss's departure left England with only one batsman with the focus and skill needed to bat the rest of the day. But England bat a long way down and the pitch was dead.

Towards the end, Ponting did not make the best use of his bowlers, showing undue faith in Mitchell Johnson, too little in Ben Hilfenhaus and inexplicably relying on Marcus North in the last 15 minutes. Overall the bowlers served him well. Hilfenhaus continued to swerve the ball, and was the only paceman on either side to pose a consistent threat. Bafflingly, he was not given the ball in the last hour. Peter Siddle produced his best and fiercest spells of the match on the final afternoon and likewise might have seen more of the ball in the denouement.

But Johnson's loss of form was a serious blow to a limited strike force. Had he been able to produce even remotely his best, the match could not have outlasted tea. After all he is the key man in the modern Australian attack. His arm was low and he did not swing the ball or attack the stumps with sufficient hostility. From over the wicket almost every delivery was directed wide of the sticks. He was a bit more dangerous from around, but not much. Experts watching him for the first time concluded he had been over-hyped, and not without reason. Certainly he was a shadow of the bowler last seen in Cape Town, an operator capable of cracking heads and unleashing late swing.

Nathan Hauritz performed above expectations. No-one, least of all the genial Queenslander, casts him as a destructive Test tweaker. Lacking a deadly delivery, unable to bowl a heavy ball, his strength lay in his control, variation and flight. During the course of a long and frustrating day he hardly bowled a bad ball. But Warne used to rip the tops off bottles. Hauritz politely removes the cap. Although he troubled the left-handers, their orthodox brethren were able to keep him out. He bowled well but could not quite finish the job.

And so the teams go to Lord's all square. History will record Australia's superiority, reporters will remark upon it, but otherwise it matters not a jot.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor