Mark Butcher - The big man begins to understand his talent
Sunday 07 August 2005
He's a terrific lad and it's brilliant to see him performing so well against Australia. He's an idol in the country already but this is the first time he's played in an Ashes series and he knows this is where you're judged as a cricketer.
That shoulder injury could have been a devastating blow, but he nursed himself to lunch, and then took responsibility for getting England to a a total from which they could win the game. He's become a real professional, someone Michael Vaughan can turn to.
I remember when he started. A big lad with a big reputation, but he had back trouble then and wasn't the reliable bowler he has now become. He was almost a shy character at first. He still didn't have any idea what his talent would allow him to do.
His contribution was incomparable yesterday because this was a game England could not afford to lose. If we did, the Ashes would be all but lost.
It wasn't surprising to see the Australians come back yesterday morning. They would have had a long meetings in their hotel last night, and they came out like the champion side they are. Brett Lee looked like a real threat and Warne's a total menace. That's what great sides can do. It was nothing less than you would expect.
Vaughan's dismissal is worrying because it was almost a carbon copy of Lord's. It does look as though there is a technical problem there. It looks to me as if his right shoulder is coming towards the ball too early. The top half of his body opens up, and he plays slightly inside the line. The ball angling back in at pace will find a way through. You have to become aware that you are doing it in the first place, but the fact is that if the heaviest part of your body starts moving and your shoulders move with it, it throws the rest of your body out of alignment.
This whole Test has been remarkable. To score at five an over for an entire day against Australia is as rare as a Bob Dylan bootleg album. England's first innings of 407 from 72 overs was audacious, exciting and controlled and put them in a strong position. I cannot imagine for a moment that this sort of rate was all part of a cunning plan. You do not plot five runs an over. But the tone was set by Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Strauss.
It was incredible from the first over. From top to bottom the batsmen went for their shots and were rewarded. The pitch was slower than anybody might have expected and the ball still travelled through the air, so it enabled strokes to be played. Australia were without their trump card, Glenn McGrath, whose freak ankle injury was a happy accident from England's point of view.
A total in excess of 400 was exactly what England would have had in mind. Sometimes that is achieved with one batsman scoring a big hundred and the others chipping in. On this occasion three men got big fifties, another almost made fifty and the bottom four all reached double figures. True, nobody went on to get a hundred but the point is that the team went on to achieve their objective. It was another example of what a strong team this is and after Lord's it was especially heartening.
Getting that score brought Ashley Giles into the game in a very different way from usual. It immediately allowed Vaughan to set attacking fields and to use different options.
Giles responded magnificently. It had unquestionably been a tough week for him leading up to the Test. He had had a few things to say after certain things were written about his contribution at Lord's. Journos can have a go, Ashley can have his say back, but he showed here how important he is to England's cause.
Of the other England bowlers, Simon Jones caught the eye. He is one of the rare breed who appears to have a reverse away swinger. I first saw this in a match in Perth on England's last tour Down Under. He took a few wickets, looked good and then five days later he suffered the horrific knee injury which kept him out of the game for so long.
Warne, of course, was not to be kept out of the game for long. He was brought on for the last over of the day on Friday and no doubt will have deliberately intended to give it a huge rip. He had one over and he had the blaze of intent in his eyes. The ball with which he then bowled Strauss turned hugely. Had he got to the pitch and played it with his pad it is extremely unlikely that the umpire would have given him out leg before. But it was a remarkable delivery from a remarkable bowler. The way I have tried to play him in the past is to get to the pitch, but he remains a genius.
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