Pietersen and Co see the best but ignore it
Ponting's sublime batting lesson goes unheeded by England
Question: How should England's batsmen cope with such a dreadful day at the Brisbane Test? Answer: Watch a video. Not any old stuff, but a record of Ricky Ponting at bat - in the first innings rather than the routine, rather bored, fifty yesterday afternoon.
Why? Because they would observe a batsman with a model defence against good bowling, what there was of it, and a fluent, elegant and often unpredictable offence, especially the fierce on-drive streaking between bowler and mid-on.
But they should look for one more quality. Ponting had a strategy and he stuck to it relentlessly. He batted like the man who would personally see to it that Australia broke the psychologically damaging 600 barrier. It was noticeable that he became more watchful on the second morning as he moved past 150, curbing his aggression and allowing the scoring rate to slow.
Consequently, when Matthew Hoggard broke through his defence when he was on 196, Ponting ignored the standing ovation that followed his every step, and banged his bat on the turf to show that he was a very cross batsman. Not because he had missed out on 200, but because he had not scored 250 or more.
His innings was a model of conviction, style and intent, and it differed entirely from the performances of those English batsmen who failed catastrophically in their principal duty, which was to stay in long enough to accumulate the 402 they needed to avoid the follow-on.
The fact that Ponting did not enforce it adds insult to deep injury. He thinks England will not be able to cope with Shane Warne on a fast-deteriorating pitch, or with Glenn McGrath after he has had a good night's rest. Sad to say, you can't argue.
England's batting has been no more convincing than their bowling. The batsmen might have hoped that McGrath would not be back to his best, but that does not excuse an underpowered hook shot by Andrew Strauss which might, with luck, have landed between midwicket and fine leg, but was hit hard and high enough for Michael Hussey to take the catch: 28 for 1.
Alastair Cook was mesmerised by McGrath's next ball, which was fuller and straighter. Poor boy: 28 for 2.
Paul Collingwood played a stroke which lacked timing and conviction. He must have been very nervous. Make it 42 for 3. Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff were victims of incorrect umpiring decisions, but Pietersen had already courted disaster, hooking Brett Lee and escaping only because Stuart Clark lost the ball in the sun.
Flintoff was out to a no-ball, but the awkward truth is that he was beaten by Lee. He would have been a lucky man had the no-ball been called, but England were out of luck, and no one could say that they deserved better fortune. They were 78 for 4 and 79 for 5 and, with the entrance of Geraint Jones, down to their last recognised batsmen.
Jones worked well with Ian Bell, who had played and missed but stuck around. (So far, Duncan Fletcher's faith in Jones has been justified.) When Shane Warne began to bowl, neither was intimidated. In fact, both drove him straight to the boundary. They had put on 47 together, but 20 minutes after lunch McGrath returned to the attack and pinned Jones back in front of the stumps: 126 for 6, and the vulnerable tail was available for stress-testing.
Ashley Giles, who had not played a first-class innings for a year, looked like a man who was trying to remember batting, but his preferred option, to hit out hard and often, was working well. Giles was actually making the running in a stand with Bell, who had grafted his way to his eighth Test fifty. At that moment, he slashed wildly at Clark, taking his hand off the bat and delivering a catch to Ponting at second slip. Bell was cross, and rightly: 153 for 7. As he said later, his job is to score hundreds, not fifties.
The last four wickets justified Fletcher's native pessimism, falling for just eight runs. Hoggard and Harmison edged to the keeper. Giles finally clipped a top edge to point, and the innings was over: all out 157 in 61.1 overs. Australia's fast bowlers had performed admirably. McGrath especially. Clark was much more impressive than for Middlesex, Lee is always ferocious.
But the disaster was largely of England's own making. Most of them need a good talking-to. Will they get it? Probably not. Maybe they would have done from Michael Vaughan.
THE GABBA SCOREBOARD
Australia won toss
Australia - First Innings
602-9d (*R T Ponting 196, M E K Hussey 86, J L Langer 82; *A Flintoff 4-99)
England - First Innings
I R Bell c Ponting b Clark 50
(Pushes at one that nips away slightly; 229 min, 162 balls, 5 fours)
K P Pietersen lbw b McGrath 16
(Shoulders arms to one cutting back; 72 min, 44 balls, 1 four)
*A Flintoff c Gilchrist b Lee 0
(Edges poor defensive shot with no foot movement; 4 min, 3 balls)
Ý G O Jones lbw b McGrath 19
(Beaten by ball nipping back; 90 min, 57 balls, 2 fours)
A F Giles c Hayden b McGrath 24
(Slashes high to point; 61 min, 39 balls, 4 fours)
M J Hoggard c Gilchrist b Clark 0
(Back-foot defensive shot down wrong line; 11 min, 6 balls)
S J Harmison c Gilchrist b McGrath 0
(Nick behind pushing half-forward; 5 min, 5 balls)
J M Anderson not out 2
(9 min, 8 balls)
Extras (b2, lb8, w2, nb6) 18
Total (284 min, 61.1 overs) 157
Fall (contd): 4-78 (Pietersen), 5-79 (Flintoff), 6-126 (Jones), 7-149 (Bell), 8-153 (Hoggard), 9-154 (Harmison), 10-157 (Giles).
Bowling: Lee 15-3-51-1 (nb5, w2) (3-1-11-0, 1-0-2-0, 6-1-19-1, 5-1-19-0), McGrath 23.1-8-50-6 (nb1) (6-0-25-2, 7-5-7-1, 10.1-3-18-3), Clark 14-5-21-3 (6-2-9-1, 5-1-11-0, 3-2-1-2), Warne 9-0-25-0 (1-0-2-0, 8-0-23-0).
Progress: Third day: 100 in 165 min, 35.2 overs. Lunch 118-5 (Bell 41, Jones 19), 45 overs. 150 in 261 min, 57.2 overs. Innings closed 2.03pm.
Bell 50: 208 min, 155 balls, 5 fours.
Australia - Second Innings
J L Langer not out 88
(176 min, 134 balls, 9 fours, 1 five)
M L Hayden run out (Anderson/Jones) 37
(Beaten by throw from third man attempting second run; 67 min, 41 balls, 6 fours)
*R T Ponting not out 51
(108 min, 66 balls, 3 fours)
Extras (lb4, nb1) 5
Total (for 1, 176 min, 40 overs) 181
Fall: 1-68 (Hayden).
To bat: M E K Hussey, M J Clarke, ÝA C Gilchrist, S K Warne, B Lee, S R Clark, G D McGrath.
Bowling: Hoggard 8-1-31-0 (4-1-8-0, 1-0-9-0, 1-0-8-0, 2-0-6-0), Anderson 9-1-54-0 (4-1-30-0, 5-0-24-0), Flintoff 5-2-11-0 (nb1) (one spell), Harmison 10-1-45-0 (7-1-24-0, 3-0-21-0), Giles 5-0-22-0, Pietersen 3-0-14-0 (one spell each).
Progress: Third day: tea 33-0 (Langer 7, Hayden 25), 7 overs. 50 in 39 min, 9.3 overs. 100 in 108 min, 24.1 overs. 150 in 151 min, 34.1 overs.
Langer 50: 110 min, 85 balls, 5 fours, 1 five. Ponting 50: 104 min, 65 balls, 3 fours.
Umpires: B F Bowden (NZ) and S J Bucknor (WI).
TV umpire: P D Parker (Aus). Match referee: J J Crowe (NZ).
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