Monday, July 20, 2009

English Mans Victory in 75 yeas

History was going to be recorded any way on Monday on the final day of the second cricket battle of Ashes test between England and Australia at the great Lord’s ground.

England was planning to end 75 years of vainness against its oldest and most appreciated opponent on its most historic ground. Australia’s mission was to crash the record for the highest flourishing final innings run-chase in 132 years of test cricket.

England got what it wanted, and in the approach most fans would have asked for. Andrew Flintoff, a much-loved all-rounder who pronounced last week that he will go away from test cricket at the end of this five-match series, had a supporter crowd noisy as he charged in from the end dominated by Lord’s famous pavilion to shatter Australia’s hopes.

In his first over he ended the 185-run sixth wicket stand that had become a real peril to England’s hopes, inducing Brad Haddin to edge the ball to slip-fielder Paul Collingwood for 80.

Every ball bowled by Flintoff undertakes fresh drama as he exposed the wickets and the bodies of Australia’s batsmen, hitting Michael Clarke on the shoulder.

Flintoff bowled 10 six-ball overs unchanged, a lengthy task for a big man who has suffered continuously with injury. He bowled tail-enders Nathan Hauritz and Peter Siddle to end with five wickets in his last test match at Lord’s.

Flintoff found a fine, different, bowling partner Graeme Swann. The spinner struck in his first over, Hitting Clarke for a magnificent 136. Swann ended the match when he bowled Mitchell Johnson, who had produced Australia’s best batting of the morning, for a well-struck and spirited 63.

Australia fell short of its decisive target but still recorded its own highest-ever final innings score and the best ever in a test match at Lord’s.

England’s first success over Australia in eight matches means it leads the series, which it must win to recover the Ashes trophy, 1-0 with three games to go.

A challenge between well-matched but unsound teams, neither as strong as when they last met in England four years ago, seems unlikely to be resolute before the final match at the Oval, London next month.

Ricky Ponting, the Australian captain, accepted that “England were much the better team and deserved to win. We were outplayed from the first ball until the end.”

He chose not to repeat complaints about the doubtful umpiring decisions that cost Australia three of its top four batsmen in the final innings.

The choice of Flintoff as Man of the Match was basically sentimental, taking one of the few enduring opportunities to festoon a national hero.

Andrew Strauss, the England captain, had set the tone for the victory from the start with his first-day innings of 161, batting his team into a leading position that it never consequently lost.

England’s anxieties ahead of the next match in Birmingham, starting on July 30 are with the fitness of key players. Kevin Pietersen, the star batsman who missed much of the early season with an Achilles ligament problem, looked uncomfortable throughout and must be a doubt.

Flintoff was optimistic about his probability of playing the remaining three matches, saying that while he had felt some soreness while bowling, “I’ve played in discomfort for most of my career.” Australia’s impenetrabilities appear more fundamental. It’s most skilled fast bowler Brett Lee is expected to return after absenting the first two matches because of injury. What nobody would have predicted before the series started is that this could be at the expense of Johnson. The left-armer from Queensland is almost certainly the best No. 8 batsman in the world, but is deteriorating in his primary task as spearhead of the fast bowling. Johnson accepted an average of more than five runs per over at Lord’s and his mistakenness gave England flying starts in both innings. Philip Hughes, the draftee opener, also has to find an answer to an evident weakness against the fast short-pitched ball Flintoff’s stock-in-trade that gives him little extent for footwork. Here Australia has two difficulties not wanting to hold back a vibrantly original talent and the absence of a reserve top-order batsman in a wildly chosen tour squad.

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