Leeds Day Three: It's Deja Vu Till The Fat Lady Sings

Submitted by Rick Eyre on August 11 2009, 11:56 am

Wasn't it kind of the England team to forfeit the Fourth Test at the fall of the sixth wicket on Sunday and play a Twenty20 game instead. Nice, too, for the Australian bowlers to join in the fun.

It's not uncommon to have a late-order batting spree against the run of play when all is lost. The pressure has dropped away for both sides and the unorthodox takes over. That was definitely the case with Broad, Swann, Prior and Harmison at the end of the Headingley Test on Sunday. The madness of the moment shouldn't be used to denigrate Stuart Clark's vital first innings contribution to the winning of the Test for Australia.

Test cricket history is full of stories of late-order batting madness once a game is otherwise done and dusted. There has never been a case more insane than Nathan Astle's 222 as New Zealand went down to England at Christchurch in 2002.

But of course the most extraordinary batting explosion of all time in a losing cause was that by Sir Ian Botham and Graham Dilley in 1981. So much so that England went on to win.

Two last reflections from me on the final day of Australia's innings and 80 victory in the Fourth Test. One is that the symmetry between the fortunes of Stuart Clark and Mitchell Johnson is a sign that Australian cricket is in good shape. Of course, if they both fired at the same time it would be even better. The other is that Brad Haddin reminded us that he does not always play like a glorified backstop who can slog the ball when he bats.

Where does that leave the likely conclusion of the series? Just like 2005. Billy Bowden ceremonially removing the bails at The Oval to proclaim a draw. Different winner of the Ashes this time though.

'Tis deja vu till the fat lady sings.

Some views on the Fourth Test: Gideon Haigh (Business Spectator), Michael Henderson (The Telegraph UK), verse from Nick Whittock, undossiered bloggage from Justin Langer (cricket.com.au), and the following conspiracy theory:

"I still think the last test was a plot and Ahmadadinejad took the new ball, not Onions"

- Jonathan Agnew, Twitter, 10.8.09

T4D3 points for the Midwinter-Midwinter (and wouldn't a re-enactment of the great 1878 poaching scandal be a great idea before the start of play at The Oval?): Stuart Broad 2, Graeme Swann 1 in one-and-a-half sessions of play.

Michael Clarke and Paul Collingwood (8) share the lead going into the final Test, followed by Anderson, Flintoff, Hilfenhaus and North all on 6; Haddin, Ponting, Strauss on 4; Broad, Hauritz, Katich, Prior, Siddle on 3; Clark, Cook, Onions, Swann (sounds like a law firm at a gamefowl BBQ) on 2; Hussey, Johnson, Pietersen, Watson on 1. Nil pointes to Hughes, Manou, Bopara and Panesar.