Aussies seek the clincher in Perth

In the first innings the Australian bowling attack was savaged by the English batsmen, in particular by Paul Collingwood and Kevin Pietersen.

wicket 88 (photo credit: )
wicket 88
(photo credit: )
"Take That Poms" was the headline on the front page of the Sydney Daily Telegraph the day after the second Test in Adelaide. The back page of the same newspaper proclaimed the Australian six-wicket win as the "Best Ever". In terms of excitement and drama, the fifth day of the Adelaide Test will go down in the annals of Ashes history as one of the most exciting - up there with Headingley 1981 and Edgbaston 2005. It now seems incredible to recall that the second Test was nicknamed the "bore war" after four days. In the first innings the Australian bowling attack was savaged by the English batsmen, in particular by Paul Collingwood and Kevin Pietersen. Shane Warne conceded 167 runs, a record for the great spin bowler. Glenn McGrath looked jaded and Mark Nicholas on Channel 9 commented that the "predators have become the prey." This Aussie team has enjoyed "rubbishing" the critics. At virtually every stage since the last Ashes series they have proved the doubters wrong. In this series both Justin Langer and Michael Clarke have produced big innings when it seemed their places were under threat. On the last day in Adelaide, McGrath and particularly Warne had the last laugh. On a wearing pitch the old adage was proved: "It's not over till the fat boy spins." Warne took four wickets on the last day, none more important then the dismissal of Pietersen. The ball mesmerized the batsman hitting his off-stump and defying all known physical laws. Ricky Ponting later described it as the turning point in the match. Ominously for England, Warne goes into the third Test in Perth six wickets away from his 700-haul, on a pitch that should "have a lot of turn on offer," according to the curator at the Waca. In addition to Warne, Stuart Clark, Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting appear to be in prime form. Hussey, the fastest test player to hit 1,000 runs, showed a calming influence on the last day to steer Australia to victory. His partnerships with Ricky Ponting are becoming crucial to every Australian innings. Ponting appears to be a man possessed, and as Simon Hughes, an analyst for the Daily Telegraph, has commented, "The series which was billed as Australia against Flintoff is turning into England versus Ponting." The England camp in recent days has been under enormous scrutiny. Rumors in the media have suggested a falling-out over selection between captain Andrew Flintoff and coach Duncan Fletcher. The performance at Adelaide will haunt many of the players for years to come. No team in history has lost after declaring on a higher total than England's 551-6. The negativity shown by the English batsmen on the last day was hard to fathom. Had they scored just one more run in each of the 54 overs they would have claimed a creditable draw and would be very much in the series. Pressure to recall England's spin bowler Monty Panesar for the third Test has been increasing in recent days. The BBC Web site even started a petition for his inclusion. He could take the place of Ashley Giles who has been heavily criticized for dropping Ponting on 35 in the first Australian innings. Giles has admitted that he "will spend the next 20 years worrying" about the missed opportunity. Yet, England did dominate the first four days of the second Test and Matthew Hoggard is in impressive form. The England team needs to play aggressive cricket from the first ball to the last and never give up, just like the Aussies demonstrated in Adelaide. As Peter English, the Australasian editor of Cricinfo has commented, in an article titled "Feeble England ruin series," while the second test was "a fantastic result for Australia," it was "a disaster for such a marquee series." England has its work cut out to keep hold of the famous urn. No touring team has ever recovered from 2-0 down in Australia to level a series. The current series is sponsored by 3 Mobile, and it seems increasingly likely that this may have been a premonition if the Aussies win in Perth and regain the Ashes within three Tests.