England’s bowlers were poor in the 30-over session possible on the opening day of the third Test, and Australia – after the disappointment of losing at Lord’s – have seized back the momentum of the series in the short amount of time available.
Shane Watson was excellent, especially in his straight-driving, and Ricky Ponting has been rewarded for doing exactly the right thing when he won the toss. He had to bat, as the Edgbaston pitch looked very good, and the damp outfield was always going to make it a bit difficult for the bowlers.
But England need to have a think about how they approached their bowling, as 22 fours in the 30 overs is far too many. Andrew Flintoff was the most economical, as you would expect, but he was again far too short in his length. He also didn’t make the batsmen play enough.
James Anderson was guilty, once more, of trying to do too much. He was trying inswingers, outswingers, short-pitched and full, but never settled into anything consistent.
Graham Onions only had three overs, so it’s a bit hard to judge him, and at least he pitched the ball up more than the others, while I am still not convinced about Stuart Broad.
Like Anderson, he tries too much all the time, but he is young and has years on his side and his youthful enthusiasm is probably making him try for the magic ball too often.
But, with Broad, the question I would ask is if he would be in anyone’s pick of the four best fast bowlers available to England. I’d wager that, if you asked any batsman on the county circuit, they wouldn’t include him – although, of course, most of them would pick Steve Harmison, who was left out of the 12.
Australia’s selectors, meanwhile, have been proved totally justified in their choice of Watson to open in place of Phillip Hughes.
Personally, I would have kept Hughes in the team and – because of the bad weather around and the fact that this is not going to be a full five-day contest – I would have left out Nathan Hauritz in order to bring Watson into the final eleven.
That would have been terribly unlucky for Hauritz, but for this one game I think that would have been Australia’s best bet.
As for Brad Haddin, to break a finger in the warm-ups is gutting for him, but it has given Graham Manou his opportunity to wear the baggy green.
Graham is someone I know very well, and he was my captain at South Australia for the last couple of years of my career. He is a highly-experienced player, a more than handy batsman and a very good gloveman indeed. There was a tear in my eye when I saw him after he had heard he was in the team for his debut Test at the age of 30.
He actually took over as South Australia’s number one wicketkeeper from Tim Neilsen, who is now the Australian head coach, and he is excited and nervous about the five days in store. That’s exactly how it should be when you are winning your first Test cap, and I am delighted for him.