Thursday 20 August 2009

It's Cardiff, all over again

Day 1 - Close

It's been a month and 12 days since the series began at Cardiff. On that day England squandered a strong position to finish 336/7 with Broad & Anderson the men in. Today, their batsmen repeated the same careless strokeplay to gift Australia pole position, closing 307/8, with the same two batsmen at the wicket.

The symmetry with Cardiff was also replicated in Australia's bowling. Unable to match the flair of Headingley, they reverted to the muted, hard-working approach of the first Test. England were not so content to stick-in - they flayed aimlessly as batsmen got in, got bored and got out.

Collingwood, Cook and Bell possess the same frailties they showed two years ago, which says little for Andy Flower and the selectors. However, Miller's team can be relieved with the debut of Trott. The certainty of his strokes, if not his technique, brings a much needed spine to England's middle order. He'd make a decent partner for England's missing talisman.

Pietersen was left on the sidelines as Freddie received standing ovations for walking in, playing a daft shot and walking out again. Being a champion batsman is clearly no route to becoming a people's champion in England.

Ponting will feel satisfied with the game situation, if not quite the performance of his bowlers. With Australia ahead already, the Oval pitch has displaced Freddie as England's great hope. But before getting carried away with the cries of dust-bowl, we should again remember Cardiff, where everyone apart from Swann found purchase.

The series now hangs on Australia's first innings. Should day two mirror Cardiff in the same way, England's Ashes campaign will be over.

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