England 226-6 (Pietersen 67*, Carberry 38) v Australia(Harris 2-32, Johnson 2-59)
The script for the first day of the fourth Test at the MCG read a bit like a Tarrantino film. There were fireworks in the begining, a long sedated period in the middle with lots of dialogue and limited action and it concluded with an epic shootout. Here are four crucial moments you missed if you passed out from a food induced Christmas coma and forgot to tune in.
Australian Buffet happy hour
Perhaps wanting the ball to swing/seam on a pitch wearing a healthy veil of grass, the Australian opening bowlers (Johnson in particular) served up a healthy dose of delicious half volleys in the 1st hour. Alastair Cook moved swiftly to 21 at a run a ball as a result and England cruised to 48-0 without incident. The pitch was playing beautifully and England's skipper looked in good touch, Carberry also looking extremely comfortable. England fans began to dream of a decent Day 1 total. Alas the happy hour did end. Ryan Harris was the man who seduced him into playing at a ball outside off he had no reason to. Michael Clarke accepted the simple chance in the slips and Cook’s ploy of dominating backfired.
Watson's golden arm strikes again
Michael Carberry has been England's best batsman this series. His technique and temperament are clearly made for Test cricket and the way in which he dealt with the accuracy of Harris and the pace of Johnson was admirable. Having survived a genuine edge (fumbled in the slips by Smith and Clarke) and a dubious LBW shout, he'd looked solid and moved effortlessly onto 38. Enter Shane Watson. Perhaps it was his lack of pace, or maybe just his improved ability as a bowler, but he somehow managed to extract some swing from the ball. Something none of the other seamers had managed. It was with one such swinging delivery he ousted the well set England batsman. Bowling around the wicket Watson maintained a disciplined and consistant line outside off stump, occasionally seaming one away. Carberry had left them all alone until Watson got one to swing back sharply from the same line and length. This time when Carberry shouldered the ball, it clipped his off stump. For a few moments he stood there in disbelief, Watson also stood still, arms aloft. He'd just bowled the ball of the day.
Taxi for Coulter-Nile
Nathan Coulter-Nile is a fairly young fast bowler who's one Harris hamstring injury away from a Test debut for Australia. He was the substitute fielder for Shane Watson (who'd gone off briefly with a mild groin strain) and may have made the slightest of contribution to affect the outcome of the game. Kevin Pietersen was in single figures when he hooked a surprise bouncer from Harris. On the fine leg boundry, the youngster misjudged the flight of the ball intitially and raced in from the boundry before retreating. Having caught the ball well, he realized that he was about to overstep the rope. His attempt to hop and flick the ball back into the field only resulted in him hurling the ball into the stands. It was a comedy moment but the slice of luck that had evaded Pietersen in the series thus far finally arrived. He took it well.
Michael Clarke has made a habbit of calling on Mitchell Johnson everytime a new batsman comes to the crease. Add to that occasion a newly acquired cricket ball and 90,831 roaring spectators at the MCG(world record) and suddenly his menace takes on a whole new meaning. His quickest delivery in the afternoon heat was touching 97mph. That is some serious pace, the kind of pace that'd trouble the best of Test batsmen around the world. It came as no surprise then that neither Ben Stokes nor Jonny Bairstow lasted very long against the Aussie speedster. Bairstow in particular looked particularly at unease. A good eye as a batsman can overshadow a poor technique at first class level but not at this level where it can be embarrasingly exposed. It'd be worrying for England fans and selectors that this wasn't the first time he was bowled convincingly playing across a straight one. Matt Prior might not be sitting on the bench for very long after all. Tim Bresnan survived a tense last over, but he'll have to bat for a lot longer than that tomrrow if England have any hopes of restoring any pride with a win at the MCG.
image: © Gareth Williams