England have given themselves a fair amount of chance in winning the third Test Match after they bowled out the Kangaroos for a moderate 244 on the opening day. Monty Panesar making his Ashes Debut was the star of the day, justifying his inclusion in the side with the third five-wicket haul of his short career. Duncan Fletcher and the rest of the team management may have been reduced to a joke for not having Monty play in the first place in the first two Tests which England had lost. Monty had got turn, bounce and all the variations in flight and pace going in today’s spell to look a much superior left arm spinner to Ashley Giles. It’s not that England have taken all the honours on the first day at the WACA, in fact they are battling against some terrific fast bowling from the Aussies and have already lost two wickets in the 14 overs they batted before close. England at stumps are trailing behind by 193, so their batsmen have a big job in their hands in tomorrow’s play.
It wasn’t just Monty Panesar who has had an impact on the Australians but it was also Steve Harmison who raised his game few notches upwards. The gigantic fast bowler bowled consistently in the mid 140 kmph speeds and had got quite a bit of uneven bounce whenever he hit the deck in certain spots of the wicket. Harmison picked up four wickets while Panesar took 5. Ricky Ponting had won the toss this morning and had batted first. An ordinary start from the new ball bowlers saw Langer and Hayden stroke the ball with ease to take their side to a solid start of almost 5.00 runs per over for about 10 overs. But a classic delivery from Hoggard that induced Hayden in playing across the line had changed the story of the day’s play for Flintoff’s men. Hayden was dismissed caught behind for 24 with his wicket going down at a total of 47. After just three overs, Steve Harmison got Ricky Ponting plumb in front of the stumps after the latter had fallen across his stumps to miss a pitched up delivery. Ponting who has had great success so far fell making just 2, that was a confidence booster for the big Harmison. Just before lunch, England would have had their third wicket in the form of Justin Langer who was put down by Andrew Flintoff at second slip. A tough chance it was to his right after Steve Harmison had produced a genuine outside edge. But it didn’t matter at all with Monty Panesar going through the defence of Justin Langer just at the stroke of the lunch break. Langer was looking for the ball to turn into him big and had played inside the line to that flighted delivery that didn’t have much turn to beat the outside edge and crash onto the timber. That was lunch and what a session it was for a side who had come into this Test at 0-2 down. Langer for the record had scored 37.
It was an Aussie fightback in the post lunch session with the relatively young guns – Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke batting out carefully to repair the damages. Both the batsmen had worked out hard to put up a 52-run partnership for the fourth wicket which was broken by Steve Harmison in the 41st over. Michael Clarke fell miscuing a pull shot to give a return catch to Steve Harmison in his follow through. Clarke’s promising stay in the centre was cut short to an individual score of 37. New man in was Andrew Symonds who got into the side following Damien Martyn’s retirement. The strong Symo had decided to take on Monty and hit him out of the attack. In one of his overs, Symonds had jumped down the track to hit a six straight down the ground which was followed by another lofted shot that was flatter but the result was the same, six more! If that wasn’t enough, he had followed that six with a bludgeoning cover drive for a boundary. Symonds in no time moved onto 25 but he would be adding up just one more to that score as he fell edging his cut shot to the wicket keeper. Monty who could have been taken out of the attack after the onslaught was persisted with and it was the extra bounce that he had got from the hard WACA pitch that had got the edge off Symonds’ blade which was taken in the second attempt by Geraint Jones. At the same total of 172, Monty got another wicket and this one was the big one of Adam Gilchrist, caught brilliantly by Ian Bell who moved towards his right from short leg to take a diving catch. Gilchrist didn’t trouble the scorer nor did he trouble the umpire as he decided to walk off as and when he realized that he had got a nick.
Shane Warne played a nice little cameo to put up a useful partnership with Michael Hussey who was trying his best to gather as many runs as possible. Shane Warne like Symonds had edged his cut shot off Panesar to the keeper but not before contributing 25 runs. Monty had got his third-five wicket haul when his armer had thudded into Brett Lee’s pads leaving Australia to 234 for 8. Steve Harmison finished the innings off by removing Stuart Clark and Glenn McGrath who was given caught at silly point after he had got hit on his shoulder. Michael Hussey was stranded on 74 for which he faced 162 balls and had stroked 10 boundaries including some lovely cover drives. Monty Panesar had bowled 24 overs, giving away 92 runs and in return taking 5 wickets while Harmison was economical this time, taking his four wickets for only 48 runs in 19 overs. Andrew Flintoff and Sajid Mahmood who had replaced James Anderson in this game went wicketless.
In reply to Australia’s 244, Andrew Strauss provided the ideal start as he cover drove a full toss and a half volley for boundaries in the first two balls bowled by Brett Lee. Just when the start from England was looking threatening, Glenn McGrath produced the breakthrough by inducing Alastair Cook in driving away from his body to be taken in the slip cordon. Brett Lee who was bowling red hot pace, often going past the 150kmph deservingly got the wicket of Ian Bell in the next over with an outswinger. While Cook was sent back after making 15, Bell wasn’t fortunate enough to open his account as he was dismissed for a second ball-duck. Strauss (24*) and Collingwood (10*) survived the remaining part of the day’s play with quite a bit of difficulty with the ball seaming around. Collingwood had a lucky escape when he was put down by Shane Warne at first slip off a leg cutter from Stuart Clark. England might be two down already and the bowling might have been of the top draw but somehow their batsmen need to fire up and get them a big lead. It’s a big opportunity for them to come back in this Ashes Series after they had got the homeside out cheaply on the first day’s play.