From Sam Collins in Melbourne
Tea: fourth Test, day two, Melbourne
Match score: England 304-5 (Trott 65*, Prior 12*) lead Australia 98 (Anderson 4-44, Tremlett 4-26) by 206 runs with five first-innings wickets remaining
Session score: England 78-3 Australia win
Session in six words: Ricky Ponting loses the plot again
You’re under pressure, you’re out of form, your team are being humped and your little finger hurts a little bit more than the rest of your ageing body. A national newspaper has your picture on the front next to the words “A disgrace”. The opposition are two hundred and plenty for two and the umpire turns down an appeal for a nick behind – their gun batsman, the one you dislike the most. You lose it. You can see the nick on the screen – the nick that leaves no mark on hotspot, causes no sound on snicko, and that you didn’t even appeal for in the first place – so why can’t he?! Why can’t the crowd who are singing louder and louder: “Sacked in the morning, you’re getting sacked in the morning, sacked in the morning”?
If Australia sending Michael Clarke to last night’s press conference was a clue to Ricky Ponting’s mental state, his 2005 Trent Bridge-style meltdown this afternoon was a ride into a troubled mind. He space-invaded, he harangued both umpires – for a moment Australia was led by John Terry. Will this go down as the day Australia realised they must move on?
Coupled with some high-octane Peter Siddle, a return of sorts by Mitchell Johnson and shot-selection out of mugs corner from Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell it made for an absorbing afternoon. If only this had been day one, it would be a very different game – England would be 147 for 5 and far from coasting.
Siddle started the rot, breaking Pietersen and Trott soon after the Ponting hullaballoo with one that kept low. It was a surprise – Pietersen had looked nailed on for a century and his dismissal brought Collingwood to the crease, a sight that has given constant cheer to Australian bowlers this series. Johnson was back by now, given a one word brief – PACE. It was too much for Collingwood, who helped a lame hook straight to Siddle at fine leg. Collingwood will not be playing Test cricket for England this time next year.
Bell followed in similar fashion a few overs later to a slightly less controlled shot. It’s a worry for England – Australia shouldn’t have a sniff in this game, yet now through this carelessness they had a full on whiff of possibility. Fortunately Aleem Dar was to the rescue, extraordinarily referring a front-foot no-ball after Johnson had had Matt Prior caught behind.
Throughout all this Jonathan Trott plodded on, a model of the patience required to bat on this surface.
Sam Collins is TWC‘s man in Australia and will be blogging on TWC and sampsoncollins.wordpress.com throughout the Ashes
Read more on the Ashes:
Jrod sounds dazed and confused by the series scoreline
John Stern on why England should be too good for Australia
Merry Christmas Melbourne – Good will messages for England: Alan Tyers
10 Ashes questions that need answering: Lawrence Booth
Patrick Eagar’s Perth portrait
Sam Collins’ session-by-session at the Waca
Benj Moorehead feels the joy in England’s pain