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The Ashes 2009 3rd Test: England Begin Steadily After Dismissing Australia

By on July 31, 2009

The Ashes 2009: James Anderson

Tea England 56 for 1 (Strauss 33*, Bopara 23*) trail Australia 263 (Watson 62, Onions 4-58, Anderson 5-80) by 207 runs…

Australia struck England an early first-innings blow, but could not undo the damage inflicted by swing specialists James Anderson and Graham Onions. Anderson and Onions claimed all nine Australian wickets to fall on the second day, reducing the tourists from a position of strength overnight at 126 for 1 to 263 all out in 40.4 precise overs.

England, in response, advanced to 56 for 1 at tea, having lost Alastair Cook to a fine Graham Manou catch off the bowling of Peter Siddle along the way. But with Australia unable to swing the new ball as England had the old, and Andrew Struass and Ravi Bopara driving with authority, the hosts could feel satisfied with their second-day efforts which wrested back momentum from the Australians in dramatic fashion.

Australia, as predicted, opened the bowling with Hilfenhaus and Siddle, prompting a large section of the Eric Hollies Stand to erupt with several irony-laced verses of “Super Mitchell Johnson”. When Johnson was eventually introduced into the attack in the 14th over, he was greeted by a rousing Bronx cheer which became all the more vociferous after his third delivery sprayed towards first slip. The weight of two nations – one mocking, the other expectant – will weigh upon him this afternoon should he not improve on his opening three-over spell of 0 for 13, which featured a boundary each to Bopara and Strauss.

Earlier, Anderson collected his seventh career five-wicket haul and his best return against Australia. Ricky Ponting may have usurped Allan Border as Australia’s leading Test run-scorer in the first session, but the morning well and truly belonged to Anderson and Onions, who more than made amends for a wasteful evening session on the first day. Onions began the morning in the most emphatic manner imaginable, removing Shane Watson and Michael Hussey with the first two deliveries of the second day, while Anderson also found himself on a hat-trick with the wickets of Marcus North and Mitchell Johnson in consecutive deliveries on the stroke of lunch.

Anderson’s spells either side of lunch produced figures of 5 for 35 , and Onions’ 4 for 37 – an analysis which might well have been enhanced if not for several dropped catches off his bowling – as Australia’s age-old problems against the swinging ball surfaced once again.

Onions played a lead role in the only first-class result at Edgbaston this season – taking nine wickets to guide Durham past Warwickshire – and continued his love affair with the ground in the first session of play on Friday. Exploiting the heavy overhead conditions to full effect, he bowled unchanged for nine overs, during which he swung the ball extravagantly into both the right- and left-handers and threatened off the seam.

Onions struck with the first ball of the day, beating a lunging Watson for pace to trap him lbw for 62. The dismissal served as an underwhelming exit for Watson, who the previous evening had gone some way to justifying the faith of Australia’s selectors in his first outing as a Test opener with an assured half-century.

The tremors intensified for the Australians the next ball when Onions angled a delivery into Hussey, who obliged by hoisting his bat high above his head and watching helplessly as the ball cannoned into the top of off-stump. Hussey has twice been bowled this series without offering a shot – the other to Andrew Flintoff at Lord’s – and now possesses the modest record of 81 runs at 20.25 this series. Many more muddle-headed performances like this, and Australia might well ponder more changes to their XI moving ahead.

Onions’ would-be hat-trick ball might have been his most disappointing of the morning – a short, leg-side offering to Michael Clarke – but could not detract from an otherwise fine spell of bowling in which he probed the Australians’ pads and proved a constant menace. The Australians steadied just long enough for Ponting to notch his 11,175 career run to overhaul Border’s long-standing national record, but he could not capitalise on his historic moment, top-edging a hook off Onions to Matt Prior for 38.

Michael Clarke appeared the only man capable of sparing Australia’s blushes, and fortune briefly smiled upon him. The vice-captain was blessed to have been ruled not out to an exceptionally close Onions lbw shout on 18, and again when dropped off the same bowler by Andrew Flintoff at second slip. Interspersed with these reprieves were some fine periods of batting in the cauldron-like atmosphere of Edgbaston, however his hopes of leading a middle-order fightback were dashed when Rudi Koertzen adjudged him leg-before to an Anderson delivery that appeared to be slipping down the leg-side.

Finding the aerial movement that eluded him at Cardiff and Lord’s, Anderson crashed through for the wickets of North to a superb, one-handed catch by Matt Prior and Johnson to a dubiously high lbw decision in consecutive deliveries. He rounded out the session by comprehensively bowling Graham Manou, the Australian debutant who had been presented with his baggy green cap prior to play.

Australia coaxed a valuable 60 runs from their final two wickets, padding the total to a reasonable 263, but they would not emerge from the second session. Anderson prompted Peter Siddle into a feathered edge to Prior shortly after the lunch break to complete his first five-wicket haul side against the Australians, while Onions returned for the scalp of Hilfenhaus for a career-best 20.

Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo

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