First Test: Day Three

Mike Hussey and Brad Haddin cemented Australia’s imposing position on day three with a gritty and classy 307 run partnership. Haddin showed wonderful maturity and leadership with a more tempered and controlled innings. He defied his natural aggressive instincts early with watchful stroke-play. He and Hussey survived a gruelling and testing spell from Jimmy Anderson in the morning session. Hussey’s good fortune continued with escaping multiple LBW shouts from the luckless Anderson. Anderson bowled with such threatening accuracy and perseverance all day, particularly in the morning session. How he didn’t collect a deserved wicket haul is still one of astonishment. He had Hussey plum, dead in front, yet, Aleem Dar was convinced Hussey got bat to it. Hussey survived other desperate shouts but Hussey kept fighting and more importantly kept amassing a potentially match winning score with the inspired Haddin.

As Anderson grew more frustrated, the Australians grew more confident and increased the scoring rate in an imposing fashion. Once Haddin past 30, he raced his way to his finest Test century of his career. He reverted to his more known self with belligerent drives and lightning quick footwork. Meanwhile, Hussey also broke free from the Anderson hold with some glorious cover drives and confident pulls and hooks.

To much of the English delight, Haddin finally fell to Swann for 136. Ironically, Hussey soon followed Haddin after tea with the stroke that gave him the most satisfaction and reward in his heroic 195- the pull shot. Like Haddin, Hussey probably played his finest innings of his career. He entered the crease yesterday with extreme pressure because of the critical match situation and the blaring doubts over his career. For nearly two years, Hussey seemed to have batted with a mind tangled with insecurities and fears. In the last two days, Hussey has batted like a man free of psychological constrain and lingering doubts.

As Australia’s innings came to a close at 481, the lanky Steven Finn finished with a 6 wicket haul, which should be commended. However, despite his commendable wicket haul, England will not win the series if he is the leading wicket taker for England. Furthermore, Stuart Broad’s toughness and preparation is questionable at the moment. Australian home series have a history of identifying the faint-hearted from the seasoned and composed campaigners. Broad has shown already in the match his obvious talent with the ball at various times but the news of him suffering from blisters on the foot because of new shoes is laughable. This certainly wont please Andrew Strauss. England will need Broad at his fittest and most focussed state if they are to retain the Urn.

The Victorian Peter Siddle, Hussey and Haddin are the clear elite performers of the summer so far. However, two men have been denied sufficient praise and admiration. Umpires Billy Doctrove and Aleem Dar have been most impressive. In a match that has had as many LBW shouts then one would bother to blink, the umpires have stood tall with admirable composure in a highly heated contest between two old foes. Despite all of the controversies surrounding Pakistan cricket, the best umpire in international cricket hails from the torn country, Aleem Dar.

The Australians take the honours on day 3 with a first innings lead of 202 at stumps. The first Test of this much anticipated Ashes series has been a wonderful show-case of the true brilliance of Test cricket. Unlike the “hit and giggle” One Day and Twenty20 formats, Test cricket proves a cricketer’s worth as a competitor and as a person. One’s grit, determination and class is tested for all to see. The enthralling intensity in the first three days of this test can hardly be matched with any other sport in the world. The game’s purity is on show with two evenly and equally desperate sides.

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