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2009 Ashes - Fourth Test at Headingley

Category: Cricket. Published: 11 Aug 2009 (first published 10 Aug 2009)

Before this game, Australia had five of the six top run scorers in the series, and four of the top five wicket takers. How are they one down in the series?

Day 1

For the Fourth Test of the 2009 Ashes series at Headingley, Leeds, England made one change to their team and Australia made two. The injured Flintoff was replaced by Harmison; Hauritz and Manou were replaced by Clark and Haddin. On the first day Clark demonstrated why he should have been in the team earlier; Harmison showed why he hasn't.

After Strauss won the toss and decided to bat, Australia bowled well but England batted poorly to be all out for 102. All of Australia's bowlers bowled a good line and length, with a bit of movement through the air and off the pitch, and with good bounce, which made batting a challenge, but shouldn't have been anything that a good batsman couldn't handle -- but this England team struggles for good batsmen. Replacing Flintoff with a bowler backfired on England; tail-end batsmen may be able to score a few runs when the team is on top, but it's a different story when the bowlers are on top. Broad may be able to score runs when he comes in at 6/250 but it's a bit more difficult when the team is 5/60.

England's bowlers seemed to lose the plot. Everyone knows that you need to pitch the ball up to Ponting when he first comes in, and Australia's bowlers showed on this pitch that keeping the ball up to the batsmen made best use of the conditions. Bowling short to Ponting and Watson resulted in Australia's 50 coming up in 39 balls. When they eventually did pitch the ball up they took a couple of wickets. Despite Watson scoring his third consecutive half century opening, I'm not convinced of his ability in this position -- England made it easy for him.

Day 2

North and Clarke showed England's batsmen how to bat on a pitch that is doing something, while England's bowlers demonstrated how not to bowl on a pitch that is doing something. North and Clarke put on 150 for the fifth wicket, with North in particular keeping out the occasional good ball, hitting the bad ball, and leaving anything he didn't want to play at. England's bowlers were again much too short and Broad somehow managed to end up with six wickets -- two were caught on the boundary, Clark was bowled trying to hit another ball over the boundary, Broad's other three wickets were bowled or LBW when he actually pitched the ball up and at the stumps. Most of his bowling was short and/or well wide of the stumps.

England started well, with Strauss and Cook showing the required patience for an hour and a half, but once Strauss went they lost five wickets in half an hour. I've never rated Bell or Collingwood, and Bopara looks worse. When you only have five specialist batsmen and at least three are not up to standard you're always going to struggle.

Day 3

England's tail has a bash, scoring 181 in 29.3 overs while losing their last five wickets. Broad and Swann put on over 100 for the eighth wicket -- the second fastest century partnership for any wicket in the history of Test cricket. Broad scored 61 from 49 balls with some nice shots, Swann 62 from 72 mostly with his eyes shut. Ponting as usual just let the game flow, luckily Australia were a long way in front. Can someone tell Ponting that when the batsmen are on top you try something different? Change your bowlers around, bring on someone different -- a bowler like Katich is more likely to take a wicket in those circumstances. Johnson took five wickets and Hilfenhaus four, Clark went for nearly seven an over.

It will be interesting to see if there are any team changes for the last Test. Generally a spinner is required at The Oval so Hauritz has to have a chance of coming back into the team. After the first innings Clark would have been safe; after the second he's the one to go. England have big problems without Flintoff and Pietersen.

Cricinfo scorecard here.

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