Finn proves a knockout as England's bold new approach lands victory

<b>Western Australia 242-8d &amp; 223 England 223-8d &amp; 243-</b>4: Only Cook's performance provides a worry after tourists take first match with fine bowling and an unbeaten century by Strauss.
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The Independent Online

As Roy Orbison sang half a century ago it's too soon to know. But the way England dispatched Western Australia in the opening match of their tour yesterday was as melodious as anything the Big O came up with, which is saying something.

At the start of proceedings on the third and final day, any result other than a draw looked improbable. England, however, had promised a bold approach and demonstrated it. First they bowled out their opponents, starting the day on 109 for 1, for 223 and then chased down the 243 runs they required with four overs to spare.

It was as complete a performance as any touring England side has supplied for many a long year. Indeed, they were still known as MCC when they last won the opening first-class match of an Australian tour in 1965. Since they did not manage to go on to win the Ashes, it is to be hoped the comparison ends there.

The two key elements in the eventual romp to the six-wicket win were provided by Steven Finn, who bowled a splendidly accurate spell in the morning when he constantly hit a telling length, and the captain, Andrew Strauss, who scored an unbeaten 120, his first first-class century in Australia.

"I'm very pleased, especially because of the position of the game at the start of play," said Strauss. "It was a tough ask to force a result from there and we had two choices. We could have gone through the motions but what we did was hit the ground running. Steven Finn bowled an outstanding spell right from the start and we got some momentum. We're delighted with the way bowlers bowled and the way the batsmen went about chasing the target."

Early days, as Strauss was forced to point out, when asked about Alastair Cook's second failure of the match, but this laid down a marker. Australians are clearly rattled. Their team managed to win a one-day match against Sri Lanka yesterday after seven consecutive defeats since July but the country believes the Ashes will be lost to the Englishmen.

In a nationwide internet survey conducted by a Sunday newspaper, in which 6,000 cricket followers took part, 56.6 per cent said they did not expect Australia to regain the Ashes. A whopping 90 per cent said the selectors were not doing a good job and 47.2 per cent want Shane Warne to take over as coach. Since 6.6 per cent also think John Howard, the former Prime Minister, should be coach it is a further measure of the turmoil the Aussies are in.

If they had an eye on England yesterday, they might have been further disconcerted. The purposeful approach with which the tourists went about their cricket was remarkable. It would, as Strauss averred, have been easy, even convenient, to use the third day of the first match for practice. But England sensed there was something more to be had.

Finn was a revelation. On the first day of the match he was undercooked and looked it, struggling to find any sort of appropriate length. Several Australian observers were heard to mutter, wondering what the fuss had been about. By yesterday morning, they knew as Finn hit the pitch hard and directly and never let any of the batsmen settle.

He was rewarded with the wicket of Michael Swart, leg before, and generally comported himself with the skill and intent of a Test fast bowler.

There seemed to be more where that came from. At the Prindiville Stand opposite, Graeme Swann settled in for a long, unbroken spell. There was little or nothing in the pitch for him, the Fremantle Doctor barely mustered a breeze to help him but he worked on his variations in pace and line.

Swann took four wickets, a stumping, a catch behind, a catch at short leg and a caught and bowled. He caused trouble and although he went for a few runs liberties will be taken against him at the batsmen's peril this winter. Similarly, Stuart Broad was immediately potent when he took over from Finn, claiming two catches behind with balls that were of the perfect length. True, the home side hardly helped themselves.

Strauss had left the pitch for a few minutes when his counterpart, Marcus North, dashed for a quick single only to be run out by a sharp piece of fielding from the substitute, Eoin Morgan with one stump to aim at running in from square leg.

If it was all heartening stuff at such an early stage of the tour, Strauss became almost dewy-eyed about his young fast bowler. "Finn was rusty first innings but he got better as it went on," he said. "Anderson and Broad were spot on in that first innings but Finn really set the tone today. He was consistent lengthwise and he caused all the batsmen some trouble. That was really encouraging as was the way the bowlers bowled in partnerships and applied pressure."

There was still the little matter of knocking off the runs – 243 in 52 overs – and the careless manner in which England had batted the previous day did not suggest that it would be a breeze. Or, at least, that they might play too many injudicious shots.

Although Cook fell playing down the wrong line, the win was rarely in doubt. Jonathan Trott showed intent, which is not necessarily his strongest suit as a batsman, Kevin Pietersen pushed the intent metre up a few notches and only Paul Collingwood looked scratchy.

Strauss was in control throughout and he accelerated at will towards the end, finishing with 120 not out from 131 balls with 14 fours and a six. He was accompanied by Ian Bell, who looked resplendent in a brief vignette.

Any assessment of the result must reflect that Western Australia, coached by Mickey Arthur, once of South Africa, did not show much gumption yesterday. They would have been disappointed after competing properly for the first two days. It was the difference between a state side and an international side, a difference England tourists have not always shown. Too soon to know then but England could yet make sweet refrains.

Countdown to the Ashes

17: The number of runs England's opening bowler Steve Harmison conceded in his first two overs of the opening Test of the 2006/07 Ashes series in Brisbane. England lost the match by 277 runs and went on to suffer a 5-0 series defeat.

Pointers from the Waca

Hit the ground running...

Andrew Strauss: He had a miserable tour four years ago with one 50 in 10 Test innings. He has points to prove and began proving them with his highest score in Australia.

Graeme Swann: There was almost nothing in the pitch for him but he was constantly probing, making sure the batsmen had to think. He went for a few throughout and the tailenders made merry yesterday. Australia will certainly target him in the Tests but he looks up for his role.

Steven Finn: Only 21 and perhaps too much is expected of him in a four-man attack on a long, arduous tour. Yet he responded to his early vagaries in length with a wonderful piece of controlled fast bowling on the third morning which augurs well.

Ground to make up...

Alastair Cook:

Needs time at the crease before the first Test and did not get it here, being bowled twice in single figures. Composed enough to be unconcerned but has two matches and perhaps four innings to find some semblance of form.

Paul Collingwood: So many times has he come back from runs of indifferent form that it is pointless writing him off. So although he looked decidedly dodgy he will be gearing everything to Brisbane at 11am on 25 November.

The Australians: The last thing they wanted, with their team in apparent disarray, was the Poms hitting their straps so effortlessly early on. The country must hope that South Australia can halt the gallop this week.

Waca scoreboard

Perth (Second and final days of three): England beat Western Australia by six wickets.

Western Australia won toss

WESTERN AUSTRALIA First Innings 242-8 dec (Voges 72, Robinson 62).

ENGLAND First Innings

Overnight Friday: 10-1

       Runs       6s       4s       Bls

*A J Strauss c Ronchi b Magoffin       14       0       2       25

J M Anderson c Pomersbach b Duffield       4       0       0       40

I J L Trott c Ronchi b Beer       24       0       3       85

K P Pietersen c North b Hogan       58       0       9       90

P D Collingwood c North b Hogan       4       0       1       10

I R Bell c Pomersbach b Beer       21       1       1       42

†M J Prior c Voges b Beer       0       0       0       4

S C J Broad not out       53       3       5       48

G P Swann not out       37       0       6       25

Extras (w 2, nb 1)       3

Total (8 wkts dec, 62 overs)       223

Fall: 1-8, 2-19, 3-27, 4-88, 5-101, 6-116, 7-117, 8-159.

Bowling: R Duffield 17-3-57-1, S Magoffin 5.4-2-12-2, M Hogan 13.2-6-36-2, M Beer 24-4-108-3, L Pomersbach 2-0-10-0.

Western Australia Second Innings

Overnight Saturday: 109-1

       Runs       6s       4s       Bls

L M Davis lbw b Finn        43        0        7        64

W M Robinson st Prior b Swann        54        0        9        122

M R Swart lbw b Finn       30        0        5        76

*M J North run out       1        0        0        3

A C Voges c Prior b Broad        1        0        0        14

L A Pomersbach c Collingwood b Swann       21        0        4        33

†L Ronchi c & b Swann        27        1        2        32

R Duffield c Prior b Broad        0        0        0        12

M A Beer c Cook b Swann        5        0        1        26

S J Magoffin not out        13        0        3        27

M G Hogan run out        21        2        2        12

Extras (lb 5, nb 2)       7

Total (69.5 overs)       223

Fall: 1-77, 2-130, 3-134, 4-135, 5-142, 6-164, 7-177, 8-185, 9-194, 10-223.

Bowling: J M Anderson 11-3-37-0, S C J Broad 12-2-26-2, G P Swann 28.5-4-101-4, S T Finn 15-3-50-2, P D Collingwood 3-2-4-0.

England Second Innings

       Runs       6s       4s       Bls

*A J Strauss not out       120       1       15       141

A N Cook b Hogan        9       0       2       14

I J L Trott c Ronchi b Pomersbach       23       0       3       49

K P Pietersen lbw b Beer        35       1       5       22

P D Collingwood c Hogan b Beer        26       0       2       42

I R Bell not out       22       1       3       18

Extras (b 4, lb 2, w 2)       8

Total (4 wkts, 47.4 overs)       243

Fall: 1-8, 2-76, 3-142, 4-196.

Did not bat: M J Prior, S C J Broad, G P Swann, J M Anderson, S T Finn.

Bowling: M Hogan 12-3-37-1, R Duffield 10-0-52-0, M Beer 16.4-0-99-2 L Pomersbach 4-1-15-1, M R Swart 5-0-34-0.

Umpires: I H Lock & J D Ward.