The Australian’s confidence and optimism was swiftly ripped away by Andrew Strauss and Alistair Cook. Strauss, Cook and later Trott made the Australian attack look pedestrian and timid as the English firmed as the superior team. England finished day 4 with a remarkable and courageous 1 for 309. An Australian bowling attack failed to penetrate an accomplished English top order. While Ben Hilfenhaus kept the English honest with some testing outswingers, Mitch Johnson and Peter Siddle struggled for line and more importantly length. Siddle who reaped the rewards of bowling a full length in the first innings, reverted back to his old short length. Johnson followed Siddle’s length and too often gave width to the grateful Strauss and Cook. The question mark over Australia was can they take 20 scalps in a match. From today’s struggles, they can’t. What is more glaring and worrying for Australia is their inability to identify the appropriate line to bowl to Cook. In both innings, Cook has dictated the Australian attack and as a result he has already scored a fine half century and an unbeaten century. Australia kept pitching short and the English kept reciprocating accordingly by punishing an ill-dicliplined attack.
Ricky Ponting frowned as the Australian crowd cringed at the sight of a plundering English lineup overcoming their Baggy Green heroes on home soil. As Strauss and Cook’s opening stand grew more threatening, Ponting turned more defensive with conservative and unimaginative field placings. Shane Warne made note on day one about the importance for imaginative captaincy in the field. Too often Punta pushed mid-on and mid-off back, and kept two men deep on the leg-side. The experienced Strauss or the impressively focused Cook would not so readily throw away their wicket by falling into such a wishful trap. However, Ricky was poorly supported by his bowlers and fielders. They failed to remain patient and allowed the English to rotate the strike with inexcusable misfields and sluggish attack on the ball.
The result seems more than likely to be a draw. The Australians have lost a golden opportunity to impose their authority in the series. While the English have dramatically swung the momentum back their way and have forced the pressure back upon Australia. A week is normally a very long time in cricket but not much has changed. Question marks remain over the erratic Mitchell Johnson and the battling Marcus North. Meanwhile, the English team seem stable and prepared to accomplish a rare feat of retaining the Ashes on Australian soil.