by Vinay Anand
Birthday boy Stuart Broad turned out to be the star of the show as he picked up four crucial wickets including that of Australian skipper Ricky Ponting’s and helped the English restrict the old rival to a paltry score of 239 in the second ODI of the Natwest Series.
For the second time in a row Ponting won the toss and chose to bat in what looked like overcast conditions. Shane Watson and Tim Paine made their way to the Sophia Gardens looking to impose themselves on this English bowling line up. Watson started in trademark style with three boundaries of the first James Anderson over. Despite of the overcast conditions there was not much swing available as the aussie openers trusted the wicket and played through the line. It was clearly a case of no swing available rather than the bowler not being able to swing it as Jimmy Anderson would be the quickest to find any swing on any ground in the world. The pitch looked a good one but there were instances where the ball bounced off a good length.
One look at the Australian fall of wickets and one could easily tell the hard work and the amount of planning and strategising that has gone on in the England dressing room with respect to each of the Australian batsman.
Firstly, young Tim Paine who is now a part of the Tst squad was worked out with back of a good length bowling right in the mid-rift region. The ploy got him frustrated and eventually paid off as he was caught trying to flick a broad delivery down the leg side. This scalp ensured that Broad was the youngest English cricketer to take 100 wickets in one day cricket and what a day to do it too (his 24th birthday). Secondly, it was skipper Ponting who promised but failed to deliver. The world knows Ponting is a nervous starter as he prodded at one outside the off stump only to knick it to Craig Kieswetter.
Michael Clarke’s dismissal was one of the most annoying things to watch as an Australian fan. Watching the Australians struggling against bounce was never thought off by even the optimists a decade ago. Clarke was bumped once again as soon as he step foot on the popping crease. Andrew Strauss’s captaincy was praise worthy today as he saw this and deployed two fielders in the deep behind square leg, a forward square leg and a short leg in Graeme Swann to add to it. The plan was evident.
Former England coach and now commentator, David Lloyd, said on air it was a signal to Clarke telling him what was to come. Clarke survived a couple before he fell prey to a bumper from Broad. What was disappointing to watch was that he had received a couple of short notices before and as an international proven Test cricketer who has played most part of his cricket on bouncy wickets down under. This could be a huge blow to the Australians psychologically in terms of what is to come later this summer when the English begin their journey to defend the Ashes urn.
Michael Hussey and Cameron White tried to resurrect the innings but failed to do so as Hussey was found wanting when an Anderson ball seamed off the wicket only to hear the rattling of the stumps behind. At that stage Australia were staring down the barrel at 5 for 118 with the best part of the innings behind them. In walked young Steven Smith who along with Cameron white helped Australia get to something respectable. The duo put on 84 in a little over 16 overs leaving the bowlers something to defend. Cameron White then took off from there as he belted the English bowlers in the last few overs of the innings.
In the four completed matches on this ground, the team batting first has won none of them. In order to win this one the Australian fielding must be top notch and they must seize on to any opportunity that they get. They would really want to get rid of Kevin Pietersen and mEoin Mrgan early in order to stay in the competition. A lot depends on Doug Bollinger, the senior bowler of the team who would have to shoulder a lot of responsibility and would have to pick up crucial wickets early on in the piece so as to provide a cushion for the spinners to follow. Should be an easy chase for England if they stick to the basics and play their natural game. Australia will have to be at their best to pull this out of the kitty.