The difference in quality between England and Australia was perfectly illustrated in the first two overs yesterday. Australia were 69 for 1 overnight, 207 runs ahead, and it was important for England to bowl as tightly as they could in order to delay the Australian declaration for as long as possible.
Alan Mullally bowled the first over to Matthew Hayden in which 11 runs were given away. The fourth ball went down the leg side, Alec Stewart failed to take it, and it went away for two byes.
The fifth ball was a full half- volley, which Hayden drove thunderously to the straight boundary. The next ball was a no-ball and Hayden then pushed forward to the final delivery, which went away off an angled bat wide of second slip for four. Straight away, the psychological advantage was back with Australia.
As if this was not bad enough, the second over, bowled by Darren Gough to Ricky Ponting, produced 10 runs. A searing drive past point for four was followed by a stroke off his pads just behind square for two. Gough then produced a full half-volley which Ponting drove straight for four and the first two overs had produced 21 runs.
The two overs starkly revealed England's frightening lack of discipline, which has been such an unfortunate feature of so much of their cricket this summer. It is inconceivable that Glenn McGragh or Jason Gillespie could have produced similar overs as it is that Adam Gilchrist would have let through those two byes.
The few overs that were possible on this fourth day also showed how well the present generation of Australian batsmen played the hook. Shortly before he was out, Ponting received a short one from Andy Caddick. With fast footwork he moved inside the line, swivelled and hooked the ball far over Alex Tudor's head at deep backward square leg and about 10 rows deep into the new West Stand. The stroke was played with breathtaking certainty.
Later, Damien Martyn had a short one from Gough which, rolling his wrists as he hit the ball, he hooked along the ground like a bullet through the old Pavilion. The certainty with which Australia play this stroke comes from learning the game on pitches which have an even bounce.Reuse content