Second day: Australia trail England by 378 runs with five first-innings wickets in hand
England?s domination of Australia in this series continued apace at Trent Bridge yesterday, and it will take a remarkable rearguard action if the series is still all square at the Oval next month.
Michael Vaughan?s men proved yesterday they can bat and bowl better than the tourists, who are now close to disintegration.
If England take the last five wickets before lunch today, surely the follow-on will be enforced. Only if Simon Katich, Adam Gilchrist and the tail protract the innings until mid-afternoon might England bat again. Even then, with a fine weather forecast and a likely big lead, Australia would still have to survive five sessions to save the match.
Swap attacks and it might be different; if Australia could bat against their own bowlers, and even the now inform England batsmen might struggle against their own.
Also, the Aussies had no luck with two rotten decisions against them, but good sides tend to make most of their own luck, and England are now a good side. The old days of the odd good session followed by a poor one have gone, and it is difficult to say when a session in the last 30-odd in this series was won by Australia.
Day after day, session after session and hour after hour England are forcing the opposition to thresh about like a team that is in danger of drowning in waters that are becoming ever choppier. This fourth Test match - and particularly yesterday - has been all England from the moment Ricky Ponting lost the toss.
A full, fit and firing attack might have made a difference for him, but England?s determination to attack even the great Shane Warne has brought rich dividends. England?s overnight 229 for four became 241 for five yesterday morning when Kevin Pietersen was caught behind in the fifth over of the day, but they refused to consolidate and thus sailed past their original target of 450 by scoring at virtually four runs an over.
They plundered their way to 477 (248 off 64 overs in the day) with Andrew Flintoff and Geraint Jones thrilling the 11th successive capacity crowd of the series with a sixth wicket partnership of 177 in 39 overs. Flintoff will get the headlines for his 102 off 132 balls, but Jones deserves equal praise. His wicket-keeping has been well below any acceptable standard at this level, but Duncan Fletcher and Vaughan were determined to stay with him.
There is a school of thought in Kent that he could make his way for England as a specialist number six batsman, and his 85 off 149 balls showed the theory is not totally fanciful. Having done the job for which he has been picked this summer, it was then the turn of the bowlers to put their counterparts completely in the shade.
Warne always commanded respect; Brett Lee tried his heart out and should have been given Geraint Jones?s wicket to a catch behind which would have made the score 344 for six, and Shaun Tait looks a good prospect. But, the brutal truth is that, without Glenn McGrath, Ponting simply does not have a bowling pairing which can exert pressure and give him control.
Compare that with Vaughan?s options. With a four-man pace attack that still has to fire on all cylinders, he always has two or three who, because they are so different in style, complement each other perfectly.
Before the start of the series, the popular view was that only if Steve Harmison fired in every Test could England compete.
This is his third successive ordinary Test, but the others have obliged around Flintoff with Simon Jones improving beyond recognition. Until yesterday, Matthew Hoggard was always bringing up the rear. But the configuration of the modern Trent Bridge ground has helped orthodox swing in recent years, and Hoggard exploited it brilliantly yesterday.
He can be carried around until conditions are right for him. It happened in Johannesburg last winter and it happened again yesterday.
He and Simon Jones pitched a fuller length than did the Aussies, and made batting a much more demanding exercise than when England were creaming their way to that 477 total. Matthew Hayden, Ponting and Damien Martyn were all given out lbw in 11 balls to give a score of 22 for three in the first 12 overs.
Martyn got his second stinker of a decision in successive innings, when the only difference this time was that the inside edge missed by Aleem Dar was not quite so blatant as that which eluded Steve Bucknor at Old Trafford.
Poor man. He stood dumfounded for several seconds, before turning and walking away with a disbelieving smile, as he tossed his bat in the air and caught it on its way down. Dissent? A hard match referee might say so, but sheer shock at such a poor decision must surely be taken into account.
The other two were plumb; Hayden nailed by a lovely curving inswinger just below the knee roll, and Ponting playing around his front pad to one which nipped back. The fourth wicket to fall was that of Justin Langer who, got one similar to Hayden, and could only edge it to Ian Bell at short leg, via his pad.
The out of form Simon Katich could have gone second ball, but a firm deflection offered a difficult, unaccepted low catch to Bell, The final piece of icing came from Harmison who, just as he did at Edgbaston, nailed Clarke with the final ball of the day. The Birmingham one was a well concealed slower ball; this one thudded into Clarke?s pad at top speed and Steve Bucknor seemed to take an age before the forefinger was raised.
England have now had several good days in this series, but none better than yesterday. They did not want to lose an early wicket, for fear of not topping 350, but Flintoff and Jones stayed true to their natural aggression and the sixth wicket partnership crackled along at four runs per over. Flintoff reached 50 in the grand manner with a swept six off Warne and, with Jones rotating the strike well, the 100 partnership came up in a mere 21 overs.
The morning session was worth 115 from 29 overs, and a crucial turning point came first ball after the break. Jones edged to Gilchrist, but Bucknor neither saw nor heard anything, and the part-nership gratefully smashed another 106 runs, including 61 off the first ten overs after lunch. Michael Kasprowicz was ?Freddied? for 14 in an over as the Lancashire man went to his fifth hundred for his country - and arguably his best.
He finally swung across one from the promising Tait, and that started a run of four wickets for 32 in 12 overs. Geraint Jones was caught and bowled off bat and pad, and Warne cleaned up Ashley Giles and Harmison to make the score 454 for nine. Still there were a few grains of salt to rub into the Australian wounds, with Simon Jones hitting a brisk unbeaten 17 before Hoggard was caught behind off Warne.
When Australia survived the first nine overs without too much trouble, there was no sign of the mayhem Hoggard was about to cause once he had adjusted his sights. It was swing bowling at its best, with Simon Jones not far behind, and the Australians must wonder what has hit them.