Are you England in disguise, Tim de Lisle asks the touring Australians after Michael Clarke with a repeat second innings century and Marcus North with a well compiled 96 saved the third Test.
Strange — for a while now, I’ve been wondering if Australia was India circa 1990s in disguise: performance that is below the paper strength of the team; controversial selections; non-performing spearheads; a captain who seems increasingly out of his depth in the field, to the detriment of his own batting… even a very India-like attempt to find ‘balance’ by dropping a talented neophyte opener and promoting an all-rounder [though that is one experiment that appears to have worked, with Shane Watson’s various body parts holding up under the strain, and with the batsman managing fifties in each innings. Watson looked the part, says Peter Roebuck. [He only bowled 3 overs in the one innings England played, though, which seems a case of under-utilization].
With all the time lost due to rain, the most likely result at Edgbaston was always going to be a draw — but now, with two games to play and an Ashes series to win, Ricky Ponting and his men are really up against it. The Australians continue to make noises about how they are never more dangerous than when pushed to the wall — but to pull this one off they’ll need to create history; Ponting has never led his team to a win from behind, after trailing early in a series.
Shane Warne has a point: Australia seems to be struggling to take 20 wickets over the course of five days and for all the ‘he is improving’ buzz about Mitch Johnson, the bowler looked nowhere near being able to break through consistently. Oz needs Lee to play the enforcer and ideally, Stuart Clark and Shane Watson to spell each other in a containing role at one end so they can attack at the other. Save Lee for the final, is a thought you hear expressed fairly often — trouble is, with Oz needing to win two in two, you might as well then save him for the next Ashes series, if he cannot be used now.
Three days before it begins all over again; at this point, my money would be on a 1-1 result and Australia retaining the Ashes.