Australian Angle: Strauss bowling errors leave door open

Peter Roebuck of the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age writes from Lord's
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The Independent Online

No cause is ever quite lost. A magnificent partnership between Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin has given the Australians an outside chance of securing an extraordinary victory. Of course they are a a long way from home and the tail beckons but the fact the issue can be raised indicates the extent of their rally on the fourth afternoon.

Just as Englishmen were nervous in Birmingham in 2005, when Australia needed 80 or so with two wickets in hand, so the hosts will feel palpitations this morning as the unbeaten pair continue their superb partnership. English cricket is littered with memories of hopes crushed by indomitable Australian sides.

England remain the firm favourites because the ball is new, the bowlers will be fresh and the batsmen will be under the pump. But Clarke has played the innings of his life and Haddin has been an ideal partner.

Throughout, Clarke was able to stroke the ball away off his pads and through the covers. His placement has been superb and he showed the patience that was missing in Australia's first attempt. Likewise, he used his feet to counter spin. Plain as day he did not consider the cause to be lost while his wicket remained intact. Haddin counts among the best straight drivers in the game and is happier with bat than gloves. His keeping has been untidy but his batting has made up for it.

Meanwhile, England lost their way in the final session, putting too much faith in the new ball, keeping the spinner going too long and letting Paul Collingwood bowl his cutters for too long. Andrew Strauss' best idea was to call his men in as things went from bad to worse. Otherwise he was too inactive, omitting to change his bowling around.

From the English point of view, the worst of it is that the visitors had been completely outplayed until that sixth-wicket pair began their inspired collaboration. Indeed, the hosts appeared to be on the verge of inflicting a grievous wound. Australia had lost the winning habit. Not once on this Ashes and Twenty20 trip has Ricky Ponting's beleaguered party been able to sip from the cup of victory, among the sweetest libations of them all.

For Australian cricketers, that's a long time between drinks. Suddenly winning has become an aspiration not an expectation. Inevitably, luck has also deserted them. Fortune does not believe in helping down and outs. Instead it gives them a kick in the ribs and walks away with a smile.

Nor had Australia remotely looked like winning this Test. To the contrary, they had been out-batted and out-bowled by an England side themselves not yet the finished product. Nor are Australia's problems easily solved because the selectors sent a party consisting of the Lord's side, a spare gloveman, two crocked speedsters and an array of all-rounders. Competition for places is minimal. Mitchell Johnson is delivering more tripe than a war-time butcher and the only man fit enough to replace him is an ailing Stuart Clark.

Among the batsmen, Phillip Hughes and Marcus North are the headaches. In both cases their left feet are straying to leg, putting them off balance and out of position.

Although the Australian batsmen were mostly to blame in the first innings, luck did let them down in the second. Strauss' slip catch was too close to call. A day before, Ravi Bopara was spared in much the same circumstances. On what basis was the England captain's opinion worth more than Nathan Hauritz's?

Worse followed as Michael Hussey was mistakenly given out caught at slip. Neither umpires nor toss, luck nor the conditions, though, were to blame for Australia's poor position. Throughout, their fate has lain in their own hands. Thanks to Clarke and Haddin, it still does.

Twitter Wars: Bumble v Aggers

Pork pies, chips, Rolf Harris, shades and a French connection: the Ashes twitterati ranged far and wide yesterday. But never that far from the favourite subject: food, or how much can Shane Warne put away in a sitting. "Sporting gods breakfast... Botham bacon roll... Warne bag of chips," began David Lloyd, remaining quiet on his own eating habits. But not as quiet as dear old Blowers, who since posting about a large chocolate cake on Saturday afternoon has clammed up completely. Are you out there, Henry?

"Lunch Warne (708 test match wkts) chips, ketchup, pizza but body a temple so diet coke (no full fat). Atherton: sauteed breast of guinea fowl, fresh english asparagus with a hollandaise sauce (direct from Holland)," continued Bumble, before returning mid-afternoon with the startling, and frankly shocking news: "Standards dropping... Atherton with a pork pie."

And then came Rolf: "Next door here to Rolf Harris......what a trooper!" Next door was Aggers with the Aussie icon (they have to have one, or two actually – we can't forget Kylie).

"Isn't it wonderful when someone like Rolf Harris turns out to be every bit as nice and enthusiastic as you hope. Top man...79 years old now," twittered Aggers, as the Beeb trumped their neighbours again following Friday's Russell Crowe-coup.

Sartorial issues were next for Aggers: "These Aussies have such style. Such je ne said quoi." A couple of minute's pause and: "or even je ne sais quoi.....French was never my strongest subject." Plus ca change etc

Catch the twittering trio today on: twitter.com/bumblecricket, /blowersh, /Aggerscricket

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