England forced to face unexpected adversity

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The Independent Online

England could hardly have imagined a tougher day than the one they endured on day three at the Gabba - even in the most exacting moments of their painstaking Ashes preparations.





Yet after Michael Hussey and Brad Haddin had shut them out for 93 overs in their monumental stand of 307, Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss' tourists proved they still have the mettle to mount a fightback from the unlikeliest of positions.



Steven Finn rightly observed his surge of four wickets for 14 runs - and six for 125 in all - were reward not for his individual performance but for England's collective discipline and determination.



Australia nonetheless reached 481 all out - on the back of Hussey's career-best 195 and Haddin's 136 - and England had reduced an alarming first-innings deficit of 221 by just 19, without loss, at stumps.



There could be little doubt they face a long and improbable battle to avoid going 1-0 down at some point over the next two days, albeit on a pitch expected to favour the batsmen for most of that time.



Yet some hope, for the remainder of the series if not this opening contest, must lie in the resilience and skill demonstrated by James Anderson, in particular - alongside Finn, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann - as Australia's sixth-wicket pair piled up the runs.



England's diligence in adversity spoke volumes for the Strauss-Flower regime.



Only in the mid-afternoon sun did they wilt noticeably, Anderson dropping Haddin at mid-on on 113 - as Cook had in similar circumstances on 63 in late morning.



By then, they had beaten the bat to no avail many times, had seen Hussey survive via DRS on 82 and then had no remaining recourse to the third umpire when Anderson thought he had the left-hander in front again just three runs later.



All this, of course, came in the absence of Flower - expected to be back tomorrow after surgery yesterday on a melanoma at the top of his right cheek.



Finn confirmed the team are expecting to have their coach in attendance again soon.



He also made no attempt to claim sole credit for his own flattering figures.



"Obviously we're concerned about Andy, but he's fine," he said.



"He's pulling through, and it hasn't drawn anything away from what we've been doing as a team.



"We've got highly capable back-room staff who are filled in, and we've gelled together as a unit.



"That helps us through times like this. We hope he'll be fine."



Natural justice would have ensured Anderson had the best statistics - instead he finished with two for 99 - and Finn agreed: "I picked up the wickets but I was the least consistent bowler - and I'm aware of that.



"Jimmy and Broady, and Swanny at times, bowled fantastically well - and when we work together as a unit that's when we get our wickets. These wickets are for the unit."



England did their best - while Hussey was taking his boundary count to 26 fours and a six, and Haddin to 16 and a six - to stick to the orders Flower would surely have given them.



They were determined too that their DRS disappointments would not get to them.



"It was frustration ... that wasn't going to affect our performance," added Finn.



"We realised we didn't have any reviews left, so there was nothing we could do about it.



"When you're in the huddle there and you think you've go the wicket, you're over the moon - and then it gets taken away. But it's something you can't let affect you.



"They played really well. They didn't give us a chance, rode their luck and survived the tough times - and that's what it takes to score hundreds like that in Test cricket. "To concede a first-innings deficit is not good, but we feel we've done things properly.



"We kept the intensity up in the field, kept the pressure on."



Haddin confirmed he and Hussey had to struggle for survival, let alone prosperity, for much of an extended morning session.



"The first hour-and-a-half was probably the hardest Test bowling I've ever had to face," said the wicketkeeper-batsman.



"It was a pretty conscious effort for us to get through that unscathed and hope that at the back end we might be able to get on top of the bowlers and play with more freedom.



"That first hour-and-a-half was the toughest Test cricket you could get, facing Broad and Anderson."



Veteran Hussey began this morning on 81.



He was disappointed not to make a maiden Test double-century but still had plenty to smile about, having heard many calling for the end of his career at the highest level last week - until his timely hundred for Western Australia.



"It's a very satisfying moment," he said.



"Just to play in an Ashes Test is pretty special, a childhood dream. It's something I'll remember for the rest of my life."



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