Ponting pacemen lack the X factor, says on-song Shah
Middlesex 273-5 Australia 277-5 (Australia win by five wickets)
Sunday 20 June 2010
One of the split-innings proposals currently being discussed in Australia with regard to reforming one-day cricket amounts, essentially, to giving batsmen a second chance. Ridiculous, perhaps, but there were plenty of people in Lord's yesterday who would have liked to see Adam Gilchrist return to the crease.
Having struck Clint McKay and Shane Watson for glorious sixes, the former Australia wicketkeeper was threatening to wreak entertaining havoc among his countrymen when he top-edged Watson into the hands of Mike Hussey at deep square leg.
Gilchrist's demise, barely an hour into play and coming after David Warner was dismissed in Doug Bollinger's opening over, removed some of the edge from proceedings, but what followed may not have been entirely without consequence. Having been left out of England's squad for the NatWest series, Owais Shah took the opportunity to make something of a point by scoring a characteristic, wristy 92, an innings that will at least keep the 31-year-old's name in the selectors' minds should replacements be required.
They will also have noted, however, that on a good though not particularly fast track, this appeared to be a very ordinary Australian attack. Shah certainly did. "There wasn't the firepower around, they looked a little bit different to last summer," said the Middlesex batsman. "They definitely don't seem to have the X factor."
The absence through injury of Mitchell Johnson, Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle means Bollinger is very much the leader of Australia's pacemen, which, for those who remember a lonely figure toiling through an almost wicketless season for Worcestershire a couple of years ago, may cause a certain amount of bemusement. Bollinger cut a different figure then, in several respects. He was billiard-ball bald, for a start, but as well as now being impressively hirsute, he is a yard quicker and consistently accurate, neither of which virtues were remotely apparent in his time at New Road.
It makes you wonder what else they injected when they put in his new follicles. Whatever, Bollinger was comfortably the pick of the Australian bowlers here, troubling every batsman and picking up the wickets of Dawid Malan and Neil Dexter to go with that of Warner.
But while Bollinger's left-arm pace looked more than respectable, the same could not be said for Ryan Harris, McKay and Watson, all of whom came in for plenty of tap from Shah, Dexter and Scott Newman.
Neither, on a pitch that offered a measure of slow turn, did the spinners Nathan Hauritz and Steven Smith appear to trouble any of the batsmen as much as they might have done. Newman, whose unbeaten half-century came off 38 balls and included two sixes, had few problems middling the ball. James Hopes, who took 5 for 14 against Ireland, may have made a difference, but the all-rounder was rested.
If the bowling appeared to be under-strength, Australia's batting looks to be as strong as ever. Watson and Paine looked in excellent touch until the bowler Tim Murtagh deflected a hard-hit Watson drive on to the stumps with Paine stranded out of his ground.
Remarkably, Watson was then run out when Ricky Ponting called him through for a sharp single, Warner hitting the stumps with a throw from point, and when Michael Clarke was lbw for a duck, playing lazily across the line at Murtagh, Australia were 51 for 3.
Ponting's dismissal shortly afterwards added to their problems, the captain falling leg before on the back foot to Murtagh, but Cameron White and Hussey rebuilt the innings against bowling that, once the accurate Murtagh was out of the attack, offered little threat.
White went to his hundred off 114 balls, hitting eight fours and a six before holing out off Murtagh, but Hussey and Smith carried the tourists home with a comfortable 13 balls to spare.
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