What an intriguing first day in the fifth test. It was as if the clock had been turned back twenty years, with tight bowling, a fair balance between bat and ball, and runs having to be eked out in Steve Waugh or Geoff Boycott fashion. And the weather intervened too!
Our bowling was close to excellent. The experts will say we were a little short of the ideal length, but I suspect strangling dismissals is the best policy on that wicket. The morning session was painful to watch, with Australian openers batting like opening batsmen: letting anything short or wide of the stumps pass by harmlessly and plundering runs on the very few occasions that the England bowlers sent down a genuinely bad ball. Fifty five runs in an entire session? When was the last time that happened? Tavare and Boycott must have been at the wicket together!
But it so nearly worked for the Aussies until Hughes wafted at one he could and should have left and, bang, the whole balance of power shifted. I went to bed smiling, instead of worrying.
Mind you, it still didn't go exactly to plan. According to my script, Khawaja ( the first Muslim to ever represent Australia apparently) was going to follow very quickly. Instead he and Watson built another good platform, until bang, bang, bang, it all fell apart. And that again was down to superbly disciplined bowling that kept the Aussie scoring rate down to 2.29 runs an over, boring them into making poor shot selections rather than exploiting any great demons in the pitch. What a reversal! For two decades now, the Aussies have been hammering along in Test cricket, scoring at comfortably three an over and often at four or more. They changed the way the game was played. Well today, we turned the clock back!
Those who do not understand cricket would have found that first session the ultimate bore. But it was a brilliant tactical tussle, with both batsmen and bowlers sticking to a game plan and each daring the other to crack. Had Hughes kept his head until the end of that final over, I fancy the day would have ended with Australia in the ascendancy. But he didn't. And as the day bore on, so we bored out three more Aussies, all victims of frustrated impetuosity.
The test remains in the balance as Haddin and Hussey have been Australia's best players so far but if we get them cheaply, then the Test and the Series will be as good as won. And Haddin, for one, will not be trying to grind out an innings, he will go for his shots. It should be another interesting first session!