Friday 21 August 2009

The 'Golden Age' of batting exposed

Day 2 - Close

In years to come, today’s play will form delirious memories and nostalgic ad campaigns.

Thirteen wickets fell in two sessions to leave England within touching distance of a glory that yesterday seemed to have eluded them.

The day shed light on the so-called ‘golden age of batting’. Never before have so many batsmen in the world averaged in the 50s, never have so many runs been scored so quickly and so often.

Yet today exposed how the flat pitches that dominate Test cricket are entrenched in the mental and technical make-up of batsmen. When confronted with a remotely sporting wicket, they folded instantly.

No batsman fell to a grubber, no ball leaped off a length; instead wickets were earned through a spell of quality seam bowling, lively spin bowling and some questionable decisions. It’s difficult to believe more defensively equipped players, like Rahul Dravid or Shiv Chanderpaul, would have crumbled in the same way.

If Test cricket is to really live up to its name, more fair pitches should be prepared. Scoring runs should be a challenge not a formality.

As Strauss and Katich showed, the gremlins today were more in the head than the pitch. Ashes pressure, so often England’s undoing, proved Australia's nemesis. But it was Stuart Broad, timing his coming of age to coincide with Flintoff’s retirement, that unleashed the doubts in Australian heads.

Australia's three wickets gives them a sliver of hope, but the series now is England's to lose.

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