Today two England batsmen showed they had learned the lessons of Cardiff. Alastair Cook’s 95 showed patience and determination in the face of his ongoing battle with his batting technique. Andrew Strauss’ innings of 161 not out got a deserved standing ovation as he left the field but these two innings were the only good things on show from England’s batting.
Strauss won the toss and batted on what looked to be a belter of a pitch. Australia’s bowling during the morning session lacked penetration, although Siddle and Hilfenhaus continued to show good lines and control. Mitchell Johnson looked nothing like the match winning bowler he was in South Africa. Time and again his bowling arm came over at almost 45 degrees rather than the perpendicular of Siddle and Hilfenhaus.
The morning session belonged to England, 126 for 0 from 29 overs. The afternoon session looked to be heading the same way until Alastair Cook played round a straight one from Johnson and was correctly adjudged leg before for 95.
By then Nathan Hauritz had been hit out of the attack. Not by a blaze of boundaries but by a straight hit from Strauss that Hauritz couldn’t hold on to and which dislocated a finger on his bowling hand. I speak from experience when I say that hurts like hell.
Australia chipped away, Hilfenhaus getting another correct decision from Billy Doctrove sending Bopara back for 18. Pietersen looked promising for his 32 but by now there were signs of swing. Collingwood shovelled Clarke to Ponting for 16. Prior scored 8 before showing another gate for a swing bowler to exploit and Johnson happily accepted the offer. Flintoff edged to slip for 4 and England had squandered a great position.
Strauss carried on to 161 and Broad accompanied him to the close for 7. At 364 for 6 England may say they feel ahead but this could and should have been fewer wickets lost. The Australians will have learned more about the England batsmens’ techniques and will back themselves to outscore England in their first innings.