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Melbourne victory

As the tumult and the shouting dies, it may be worth looking back at the crucial phases of play that ensured the brilliant England victory at Melbourne.
It was a handy toss to win, but a “gutsy” decision to bowl first – after the same ploy came nastily unstuck at Perth. Well done Andrew Strauss. But who could have imagined the Australians collapsing to 98 all out, a record low at Melbourne in Ashes history? Six catches by Matt Prior deservedly brought attention to his high quality of keeping throughout the series.
Then the gods really smiled when the combination of heavy roller and a burst of sunshine combined to produce the easiest batting conditions of the whole match for openers Cook and Strauss. They took full advantage and virtually sealed the fate of the Australians by the close on the first day.
Then the phlegmatic Jonathan Trott played one of the great Ashes innings to ensure that there would be no possible salvation for the home side. He adopts the technique common to so many of the very best batsmen whereby he scores the bulk of his runs on the leg side. It means that he always has the line of the ball well covered with any edges sliding off the inside of the bat into the second line of defence i.e. his pads.
Even so it still seems preposterous to allow anyone to score 70 – 80 percent of their runs in a relatively small arc without taking suitable stop gap measures. Rather than asking the bowlers to change their normal line of attack, surely it makes sense to shift the field according to the batsman. If you can force the Trotts of this world into changing their style, it is at least some kind of a victory even if it is not always immediately rewarded with their wicket.
He clearly frustrated the opposing Captain, Ricky Ponting, culminating in the final indignity of his argumentative episode with umpire Aleem Dah. He got off pretty lightly with a fine which neither dents his bank balance very much nor really deters other like minded Captains from following suit. The first lines under the Fair and Unfair Play section in the Laws include the placing of responsibility squarely with the Captain to ensure that the game is conducted “not only within the Laws but within the Spirit of the Game”. A suspension cannot have been far away.
There was a moment in the Australian second innings when a major rescue act seemed just possible. England had bowled for over three hours with only a run out to show for their efforts. Watson 50 not out, Ponting 20 not out – if either could do a Jonathan Trott there was still a glimmer of hope. Then came the dramatic spell of swing bowling by Yorkshire's mister dependable, Tim Bresnan with the three prize victims, Watson, Ponting and Hussey. The selectors must take a bow here for selecting him ahead of England's leading wicket taker Finn.
I was interested to hear Watson's take on what happened. He thought that the rougher pitch conditions at Melbourne compared with the previous venues made the ball “reverse” swing earlier than usual, when it was still hard enough to do damage.
One area where this England side has been the best I have ever seen is in the close catching. They make some of the slip catches look so routine that we will need to rethink the old adage that there is no such thing as an ”easy” one off the outside edge. Add to those some of the brilliant ones by Collingwood and Swann and they seldom gave any of the Australians a second chance.
Now England faces the ultimate challenge of winning the Series outright in Sydney. My side in 1963 was hoping to do just that and we were thwarted by a dead pitch and an outfield so slow that that there was barely a boundary the whole of the first day. It had rained for a fortnight before the match making it impossible to get the mowers into action. It would be a rotten shame for the same sort of outcome this coming week but the forecasts are sadly discouraging.


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