If England was the one who dominated the most of the first day of the WACA test, the hosts definitely took the honors on day two and have set up an exciting contest in the Ashes. Australia’s Johnny boy (Mitchell Johnson) contributed significantly with the bat and the ball to put their nose ahead by the end of the day. Johnson’s performance triggers a very big question to be answered by Greg Chappell and Co. as to why he was left out from Adelaide squad. They sugar coated the move by calling it “he was rested”, however, rested or dropped, it was the biggest blunder to leave out the player of such potential when you are 0-0 in the Ashes, just because of one bad bowling outing of 1/517.
Johnson had a point to prove and he did that in a splendid fashion. With the Chappell chopper hanging over his head, he knew a failure would mean a long time in wilderness. He first came to his side’s aid with the willow to rescue them from 7/189 to a much better 268 and then he rediscovered his magical in swinger to claim 6 for 38 to reduce visitors to 187. The rest of the attack also did well in a support role, only Hilfenhaus couldn’t get a breakthrough but bowled a very tight line. For once in this tour the hosts bowled in partnership. Only if Chappell and his team would have shown a little faith in them after Brisbane and stuck with them, perhaps Australia might not have been staring down at 0-1 right now.
Even the Australian dominance on the day couldn’t revive the bad form of Skipper and his deputy with bat. Their woes continued as they have now combined to get 198 runs in 11 innings at an average under 20. If you take out Ponting’s 51* at a placid Brisbane wicket on the last day, he has scored 32 in his other 5 outings. Clarke on the other hand had one gutsy knock of 80 in the second essay at Adelaide while the rest of his innings have contributed to 35 in 4 outings. Shane Watson did make a useful 61*, but it still hurts me to see him wasted at #1. Imagine him walking in at the fall of fourth wicket with Australia 200 plus ahead and the damage he can do then.
All is not lost for England yet as there is plenty of cricket left in this test. The first two days have seen a lot of assistance to the bowlers in the morning session and if England can grab some early breakthroughs tomorrow morning and restrict the overall Aussie lead to under 300, then we are in for an exciting contest. Australia has the benefit of their three in-form Batsman still out there (Wato-Hussey and Haddin) and can hope to build up a massive lead to bat England out of the game. England, yesterday paid the price for not playing straight to Johnson and the shuffle-to-off-n-play-across shots resulted into three LBWs on beautiful in-swingers.
The test is at point where hosts can’t feel too comfortable and get loose and the visitors can’t give up yet. Both teams are well aware of the other’s strengths and more importantly the weaknesses. One thing is for sure, the test will definitely have a result. If England pulls of a win, they not only seal the Ashes but also boost their confidence to a level where the hosts will find it impossible to penetrate them. If the hosts go on to win, it will not only keep the Ashes alive like a live wire but also keep the selections committee’s chopping knives away, for some time, and some a sense of stability be restored to the host’s dressing room. The day three at WACA might just be the defining day of the Ashes 2010-11.
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav