The Australian angle: Ponting's tactics let home side off hook

Ricky Ponting's limitations as captain were exposed on an increasingly entertaining opening day played on a supine surface. After the visitors had taken three unexpected wickets on a patchy morning, all Australia expected their captain to spare no bones in pursuit of further scalps. As much has been the antipodean tradition since Fred Spofforth first glared at an English toff. After all it was the first day of an Ashes series, not a time for holding back. Everyone could remember the explosive exchanges at Lord's in 2005, outbursts that set the tone for the campaign. Every 20 minutes or so a wicket fell or a batsman was hit on the head. It was great stuff. But, then, the pitch was firmer and the venue more inspiring.

In the first session yesterday, Ponting had seemed to be at his sharpest, reacting quickly to Kevin Pietersen's arrival at the crease, tossing the ball to his fellow Tasmanian by way of executing a plan. For that matter his decision to include Ben Hilfenhaus had been justified by the brickie's unstinting work. Ponting has always been a good judge of a cricketer. An independent thinker, he had also chosen his spinner. Dismayed to lose the toss, the Australians were relieved to take lunch with English backs to the wall.

Far from seeking a fourth wicket, though, the tourists went into their shell after the break, relying for an eternity upon presentable spinners sent down by a specialist and a part-timer. Accordingly Pietersen and Paul Collingwood were able without any particular difficulty to rebuild the innings with sweeps and dabs to cover, shots indicating a reluctance to drive on a grudging deck. Inexplicably, Nathan Hauritz was retained for 14 overs. Presumably Ponting felt obliged to support him and the tactic was overdone. No wickets fell, or looked like falling, for two hours and still he did not intervene. Hilfenhaus was not called upon all afternoon. Upon his reappearance he produced the spell of the day, and was unjustly denied Pietersen's wicket.

To make matters worse, Ponting used his spinner at the wrong end. The Australian speedsters must have been crying out for a chance to bowl at the River End. Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson did their best work with the Taff at their back. As the dangermen, they deserved choice of ends. Admittedly the wind was sweeping across the ground but that merely confused the issue. None of the pacemen looked comfortable from the Cathedral End.

Nor did Ponting put any pressure on the fourth-wicket pair, sending three and sometimes four men to protect the boundary, allowing the batsmen to play themselves into form with singles. It did not seem much of a way to start an Ashes campaign. Allowing England's batsmen to find form was a huge concession. Australia were dangerous only in the periods when the bowlers produced the aggression missing in the pitch.

Perhaps Ponting was trying to push along the over-rate, or else waiting for the ball to start "reversing". Not that reverse-swing worked. Australia had lost their leading practitioner, Brett Lee, to injury and it soon became apparent that Peter Siddle lacked the required control. From a distance it seemed they prematurely loosened their slender grip. At a vital time easy runs were conceded, and no attempt was made to break the pattern.

If the morning belonged to the visitors, though, and the afternoon to England, the antipodeans did rally in the final session. Hilfenhaus deservedly ended Collingwood's industrious innings.

At last Hauritz changed ends whereupon he provoked an indiscretion from the local champion. Although he unfurled some wristy drives, Pietersen was below his best and at times his footwork was clumsy. Australia persevered and by the end of an ever more compelling day England was only marginally the happier side, with runs on the board and a long match looming..

sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor