Stewart leads from the front
A pulsating 1st test ended with just 20 minutes left on the final day when Stewart scored the winning single to give England an unexpected but well deserved victory. Going in to the test Australia had been firm favourites but England managed to edge them over five enthralling days of cricket.
England won the toss and in a very brave move Stewart elected to send the Aussies in. The pitch looked pretty good and bouncy but the overcast conditions must have been the deciding factor. England did not get off to a good start. Stewart dropped Slater with the score at 25 as the Aussies raced to 50 without loss in just 11.4 overs. Taylor reached his 50 off just 51 balls as poor bowling by England was punished. Cork managed to get one to nip back and bowl Taylor off the inside edge but 101-1 at lunch the decision to bowl was looking wrong.
Following lunch Australia made steady progress and Slater reached his century only to be dismissed shortly afterwards caught by Stewart off Mullally. A further couple of quick wickets ended the 1st day with Australia 220-6. Day 2 dawned and the Australia late order ground out runs in the face of some tight bowling. Cork and Croft showed great control and the innnings closed at 297.
Butchers early tour form had been of some concern but he and Atherton made a solid opening stand of 61. Hussain followed shortly afterwards but Stewart was in very fine form. Atherton fell for 71 just before the end of play so Mullally appeared as nightwatchman. Mullally was out first over of day 3 but Thorpe (44) and Ramprakash (66) made useful contributions but they played second fiddle to Stewart who scored 131. England ended up on 410 a lead of 113 runs.
All of the Australian top order got off to a good start second time round but only Taylor (73) and Steve Waugh (115) made good on their starts. Healy played one of his excellent late order innings in a 106 6th wicket partnership with Waugh. After that partnership was broken the tail folded to Fraser and Mullally. Australia were all out for 380 25 minutes in to day five leaving England needing 268 to win.
Previous England sides have folded under such conditions but the current side is trying to make themselves much harder to beat. Despite the early loss of Atherton, Hussain and Butcher guided England to lunch at 66-1. Both continued well after lunch, Butcher reaching 50. Macgill managed to remove both to reduce England to 128-3 but this was not to be the start of a Warne-esque devestating spell. Stewart and Thorpe played sensibly and formed a 101 run partnership before Thorpe was run out for 31. The Aussie attack was looking very ineffective and Ramps (20*) and Stewart (78*) were able to reach the desirede target with very few alarms.
Man of the match was easily Stewart for 2 commanding innings and some excellent captaincy. whether England would have won if Warne had played can be debated but over the five days England deserved their victory. The difference was none of the mini or major batting collapses seemed to happen for England and all the batsman and bowlers contributed to a fine overall team effort.
Saturday, 16 March 2013.