Mark Butcher: Famous five give Vaughan a perfect hand
Sunday 14 August 2005
The key to the position in the Third Test was England's first-innings score of 444. It is not too often that the world champions have conceded first-innings totals of more than 400 twice in succession.
Australia are a very different proposition when we've got a score on the board. I think we'll win this match, definitely. England would have wanted to bowl last on the pitch anyway despite the follow-on being saved, and if they do win, it will be the first time we've been up in an Ashes series for God knows how long. And we deserve to be in the position we're in. Michael Vaughan was exceptional, and the bowlers have all done very well.
I've never known an England bowling attack as strong as this. All five of them have different attributes. They all complement each another. It's a five-man attack without a weak link. It's no longer a case of the opposition seeing off our first two bowlers and tucking into the rest. Ashley Giles gets better and better. He's a pressure valve for the captain, not just holding down one end, but taking wickets as well.
As for Vaughan, it was nice to see a Lancastrian coming home and doing something. His pull, the drives and the shots off his legs were magnificent. That was because the bat was coming down in a beautiful arc again. The left-hand side was dominant in defence and attack - the top hand and the left elbow were doing all the work again. This was his fourth hundred against Australia and, as he said, as good if not better than the other three. This was one to put England in the ascendancy.
As for Freddie Flintoff, there is no doubt that he is one of the finest players in the world at the moment. Improving now is no longer a case of bowling faster or scoring more runs, it's a matter of consistency. He's playing at an extraordinary level and the only question is whether he can keep it up for a series or throughout a whole year.
Credit to England for putting Australia under such pressure. We've been used to seeing Australia scoring fast against us. It has put pressure on the fielders and we'd made mistakes because of it. Pressure means you can put down the easiest chances, just as the Australians did in the field on Thursday. Adam Gilchrist's mistakes were extraordinary. I've never seen them drop so many catches.
I think Australia took a huge gamble with Glenn McGrath when he clearly wasn't 100 per cent fit. Jason Gillespie is exposed as hopelessly out of form. Their bowling is misfiring and they're forced to rely too much on Shane Warne. When Ricky Ponting calls on Simon Katich to bowl the overs, as he did on Thursday, you know something is very wrong.
Their batters are not scoring runs either. Things are looking bad for them. Some people asked me last summer, when we were beating the West Indies, whether I felt sorry for them. Not a bit, after they'd crucified us year in, year out for so many years. It's the same with the Aussies. They are now experiencing the injuries that we became used to in the England team, but I never feel sorry for them. They had little sympathy for England when we had our injury problems. They've never felt sorry for us.
This has been an important week for me too. I've been out of cricket for the whole of this year with a wrist tendon injury I sustained in South Africa last winter. When I came home early from that tour, still an England batsman, I never imagined that I would be out of action for so long. I've had it operated on and it took much longer to get better than I had expected. In the meantime, I'd been appointed captain of Surrey and, so far, I've been a non-playing captain, which was never my ambition.
This week I finally got a game, against Bangladesh A at The Oval. I'm sorry to say that my first innings back was not a triumph. I was out for five, but in the second innings on Friday, I got 90, which gives me a first-class average for the season of 47.50 exactly.
My problem is that I'm still a bit down on strength in both arms, but I've felt no pain and I'll be playing against Gloucestershire next week. I'm looking forward to it. We're involved in a little bit of a tussle in the bottom half of Division One of the Championship at the moment, and we've got to repair that.
The other Surrey news this week is that our coach, Steve Rixon, will not be back next year, but I don't have anything to say about that. Not in a newspaper column anyway.
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