England have been winning the battles of the new ball in this match.
And the reason is simple. Whereas all four Englishmen involved seemed in control, two of the Australians are in a tizzy. As a result Australia's middle order was put under immense pressure after being insufficiently protected against the new ball with a huge total to chase down. And it was a good day for full-length swing bowling. Cardiff was a distant memory.
On the previous trip overseas Phillip Hughes and Mitchell Johnson were bankers in the Australian team. Now they look like bankrupts. Of course the same is true of our eminent financiers. Unless they fix their accounts the Aussies will be hard pressed to retain the Ashes. Meanwhile the hosts are wondering if they have been oversold. For some extraordinary reason locals think Australians bang the drum a fair bit.
After a sketchy start in South Africa, Hughes batted with the grit, individuality and adventure often found in those raised in remote locations. Admittedly his game lacked solidity but he had an exceptional eye and was fearless. So confident were the selectors about his prowess that they did not include a spare batsman in their Ashes party. With every day that decision seems more dubious.
Hughes has lost his way in the last few weeks. Steve Harmison roughed him up in Worcester, denting his confidence. Suddenly the newcomer had problems. And its not easy to sort things out on a modern tour. England let Hughes off the hook in Cardiff by bowling badly to him. Not until Andrew Flintoff took the ball were the wounds re-opened. Between Tests Hughes contemplated his predicament. Until then batting had been a breeze.
Knowing that England intended to pepper him, accepting that his strategy of cutting the bumpers had not worked, he searched for a solution.
As soon as he took guard Jimmy Anderson went after him, aiming at his ribs. Hughes subdued the first few and then decided to attack. But his pull was played off the front foot without conviction. The ball brushed his glove and he was gone.
England had broken through. Naturally they wanted to have a crack at Ricky Ponting as quickly as possible. Most especially they wanted to probe him with full-length deliveries that periodically catch him off-balance.
And so it proved. Ponting may have been unlucky with how he was given out but he was out one way or the other. England had opened up the oyster and bagged the pearl.
Doubtless the Australian opener learnt a lot from Strauss' stoical manner and pragmatic technique. Later he could watch the stalwarts in his own camp as they attempted to rebuild. Self-knowledge is crucial in cricket. Not that they were infallible against the swinging ball, a missile that has often troubled these Australians. But, then Hughes is 20. Remember 20? Fellows of that age have a slender understanding of life's requirements. They are supposed to be chasing girls and listening to hip-hop. Brilliant young sportsmen have to grow up in public.
Strauss, Michael Hussey and Simon Katich figured it out the hard way. Hughes has not been granted that luxury because Australian cricket was anxious to avoid the onset of middle-age. And, anyhow, even seasoned campaigners make mistakes – yesterday Strauss and Hussey ignored straight deliveries and Katich hooked to long leg.
Twitter Wars: Blowers v Bumble
As a sport that stops for lunch and tea, food is an integral part of cricket and it has become a key battleground of the Twitter war that has broken out between the BBC and Sky. Sky's David Lloyd, who had a spectacular debut at Cardiff, was in prime form again yesterday. "Warney still on his fitness trip – pizza and chips. Atherton on roasted tartlets of Venison drizzled with apricot-infused olive oil," twittered Bumble at lunchtime.
"The splendid supply of pork pies have arrived," retorted Henry Blofeld from Test Match Special. Blowers though was struggling to get the hang of it and had to call in Aggers to give him technical advice, which left the field clear for Lloyd: "Sir Beef stuck in lift last night for 45 mins... tee hee!" Next door, things were still not going well for Aggers: "Total nightmare reading Royal menu. Bang goes the knighthood." And as for Blowers... "ak last night. I hope Andrew Strauss also had a decent glass. He dec" ...declared bafflingly.
Then as Australia collapsed, off the field events took an unexpected twist. "Been turfed out of my seat... Russell Crowe is coming into the box!" reported an excited Bumble, but Blowers topped the lot: "When I met famous actor Russell Crowe in the TMS box he said to me 'Your voice has been in my ear all my life'. I was hugely chuffed!!!"
Catch the twittering trio today on: twitter.com/bumblecricket, /blowersh, /Aggerscricket