The Ashes, Fifth Test, Day Four: On The Brink

3 more wickets to win the Ashes and send Australian cricket into the age of introspection. Just hurry up about it...
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3 more wickets to win the Ashes and send Australian cricket into the age of introspection. Just hurry up about it...

As a number, 644 doesn't normally cut much mustard. 22 behind the fabled 666, I'm not sure anyone has previously given it much thought. It now enters the record books as England's highest ever test score in Australia. Despite the inclusion of the bowling equivalent of a flat pint of Banks's Mild in the Australia ranks, this is no small (Michael) Beer. We have an England team to be proud of, to shout about, to follow into a new age of Test cricket.

If I'm honest, I'd have preferred them to have scored at an even higher rate in the early session and get into Australia quicker. As it is, I'm left waiting for the inevitable. But there will be no sofa for me tonight. England will win the Ashes 3-1 in Australia, and fans like me and you will feel the glow of a win in Australia for the first time since Thatcher strode the halls of power and yuppies swapped filofaxes.

The future of this England team hung heavily around the commentary box. With the retirement of Paul Collingwood, and the frankly ridiculous amount of time the TV spent cameras spent watching Colly talk to KP, Beefy and his boys were concerned with who will come into the slip cordon. This is important. England have several batsmen who can step into the side but have to promote the correct individual into the crouching ranks. Botham thinks Jimmy Anderson should get the nod, not only for his safe pair of hands but also so he can conserve energy rather than hare around in the outfield. Sounds about right to me.

Bresnan is averaging 17 and Tremlett was again unplayable at times. The future is bright, the future is English.

Botham was also down the wine bar after the third day with Monty Panesar. A curious pairing if ever I've seen one, the only bad thing Botham had to say about Monty was that he drunk Diet Coke. I have no idea what they talked about, but it would've been interesting if Ian Chappel had walked in and him and Beef got into another ruck. Monty has hands like shovels and would definitely be a windmiller.

Apart from the aberration in Perth, England have proved to be better individually and collectively. And not only talent but in application and execution. You'd have to think that Australia have bowling plans, and they must just not be good enough to stick to them. Two of the England bowlers here were not in the original Xl in Adelaide, but the way Tremlett and Bresnan have come into the side and hit their areas time and time again proves that not only is David Saker absolutely vital to England's chances of becoming number one in the world, but that we have the strength in depth to chop, change and push horses towards courses. Anderson, Broad, Finn, Tremlett, Shahzad, Bresnan and Onions would all walk into the Australian attack. Anderson has now taken the most wickets here since Frank Typhoon Tyson in the black and white era. Bresnan is averaging 17 and Tremlett was again unplayable at times. The future is bright, the future is English.

A special mention must also go to Matt Prior. It has been said that he is the only player to have been outplayed by his opposite number. Brad Haddin may have scored more runs, often in a rearguard action, but Prior is averaging more, has scored his runs at a strike rate of 76, taken more catches (22-8) and hit a record breaking 109 ball ton. He’ll do for me.

There was a joke doing the rounds last night…

What do you call an Australian with more than 100 runs?

A bowler.

Arf, Arf.

See you tomorrow for the victory parade and my Ashes awards.

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