Spilled catches spoil bowl-off allowing Tremlett to stay ahead

Victoria 216-2 dec England 50-1
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The auditions went well yesterday. After they were done, those responsible might have been thinking that they could share the one part available between all three candidates.

Unfortunately, this was not the role of Billy Elliot and the third Test match in Perth next Thursday is not governed by those restrictions about hours worked that apply to young actors. Whoever is picked for the Waca can expect to plough a lone furrow for hours in to the Fremantle Doctor.

Thus, from the applicants for the place on the big stage sadly vacated by Stuart Broad when he tore an abdominal muscle during the second Test, the likelihood remains that Chris Tremlett will be the chosen one. Neither Tim Bresnan nor Ajmal Shahzad did quite enough – and the implication was that they would have to do a considerable amount – to alter the thinking of the England management.

There remains the dreaded outside possibility that there will be two holes left in the attack for the Waca. Jimmy Anderson flew home immediately after the second Test for the birth of his second child, a little girl, who was successfully delivered yesterday weighing 7lb 9oz. He is due to rejoin his colleagues in Perth on Tuesday.

Leaving aside the fact that new babies can be tricky blighters, Anderson will still do well to roll up on Thursday morning shipshape and Bristol fashion. He will have been on two long flights, to and from England, within a week. There are worse things at sea but it is not conducive to the playing of a Test match that could decide the Ashes.

The possibility of his falling asleep at the end of his run-up cannot be excluded. But if he makes it, there might at least be relief for the batsmen. Anderson has been on their case in every way in the two Test matches so far, peppering them with verbal onslaughts which he will presumably be much too tired to reprise.

Of the backing trio, only Bresnan took a wicket, though both the others, like him, had catches dropped off their bowling. None was quite a straightforward chance but the culprits would have been grateful in the extreme that they were erring in a low-key match. It was not the fielding performance of the brave new England where chances are plucked from the air as if catching flies.

There is something bizarre about a professional contest watched by no more than 1,000 spectators being played in a stadium which can hold 100,000 people. On Boxing Day, when the fourth Test begins (with, who knows, the destiny of the Ashes already decided) the MCG will be full but yesterday there was an eerie quality surrounding the place.

Tremlett, Bresnan, and Shahzad, however, had to bowl as though their lives depended on it. They all brought to the proceedings what it was expected they would bring, a professional competence and observation of decent bowling principles not always shown by Test aspirants in recent years.

Not that the droll Bresnan saw it as a three-way contest. "I know people have been calling it a shootout, but that's not the way we see it," he said. "We just turned up as a bowling unit with a match to win." Uh huh, Tim.

The favourite to replace Broad is Tremlett because he possesses similar virtues and physical attributes. He had a catch dropped off his third ball yesterday, by Matt Prior, in the unfamiliar position of third slip (the squad's reserve keeper for the tour, Steve Davies, was behind the stumps).

It was Davies who narrowly failed to gather another chance induced by Tremlett off an inside edge later in the day. Bresnan had a catch put down at mid-on by Tremlett, Shahzad a sharp one at gully by Ian Bell. To make it a full house, Monty Panesar also had a catch dropped, this one by Prior at midwicket. The left-handed Michael Hill was reprieved on four of these occasions and not surprisingly went on to his maiden first-class century before Victoria declared at 216 for 2.

The wicket fell to Bresnan, who was pretty fiery early on, and had Ryan Carters caught behind from his second ball. Panesar took the only other wicket to fall. Nobody then made a "you must pick me" case.

England were in for an hour and there was the surprising sight of Alastair Cook being dismissed after a mere 43 minutes at the crease. He edged a cut to the wicketkeeper and turned and went immediately, probably glad of a break.

But then a man who has batted as he has recently was auditioning for nobody.

Melbourne Scoreboard

(First day of three) England trail Victoria by 166 runs with nine first-innings wickets remaining

Victoria won toss

Victoria First Innings

R G L Carters c Davies b Bresnan: 16

M W Hill not out: 105

*C L White c Shahzad b Panesar: 23

D J Hussey not out: 67

Extras (lb 4, w 1) 5

Total (2 wkts dec, 74 overs) 216

Fall: 1-19, 2-69.

Did not bat: A J Finch, A R Keath, †M S Wade, J W Hastings, J M Herrick, C J McKay, J M Holland.

Bowling: C Tremlett 15-5-29-0, A Shahzad 19-6-47-0, T Bresnan 18-4-56-1, M Panesar 15-1-53-1, P Collingwood 7-3-27-0.

England First Innings

A J Strauss not out: 17

A N Cook c Wade b Holland: 27

I R Bell not out: 6

Extras: 0

Total (1 wkt, 14 overs) 50

To bat: †S M Davies, P D Collingwood, E J G Morgan, M J Prior, T T Bresnan, A Shahzad, C T Tremlett, M S Panesar.

Bowling: C McKay 6-3-9-0, J Herrick 4-0-22-0, J Holland 3-0-16-1, J Hastings 1-0-3-0.

Umpires: G C Joshua & P Wilson.

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