Australia 263 and 375/5: England 376
How much England live to regret not forcing home their advantage going into the final day of the 3rd test remains to be seen. Resuming the day on 88/2 and still 25 runs behind Englands 1st innings score the Aussies were in a bit of a hole at the start of the final days play.
The wickets of Watson (53) and Hussey (64) fell in the morning session leaving England’s bowlers only one wicket away from exposing the tail, then Michael Clarke and Marcus North ensured the game ended in stalemate with a partnership of 185 for the 5th wicket.
It is hard to know who will take the momentum to Headingley from this game, England were pretty much in the driving seat – apart from the 1st session on Thursday evening – up until lunch on the 5th day. The Aussies can point to the fact that they finished the game the stronger with their batting looking solid and the bowling showing signs of improvement.
In Michael Clarke they have a player who is fast becoming the batsman of the series with big contributions in all 3 tests to date, Shane Watson proved a reasonable success opening with scores of 62 and 53, while Marcus North showed again what an assured middle order batsman he is with his 2nd big score of the series.
In the bowling department Australia have the top wicket taker in Hilfenhaus (13 wkts), he got another four in Englands only innings in this game and Mitchell Johnson has showed some improvement in this game. Brett Lee looks unlikely to be ready for Leeds but he should be available for the potential showdown at The Oval. Stuart Clark could possibly come in at Leeds to freshen things up, but the Aussie selectors seem content to stick with the same three seamers and spinner Nathan Hauritz.
England seem to have more worries moving on from Edgbaston. At times on Monday the bowling looked very flat and weary, they gave it their all though with no assistance from the pitch or the conditions. That being the problem with England’s seamers, if the conditions don’t help them and the batsmen don’t make any stupid mistakes they can struggle to take wickets.
Stuart Broad bowled a decent final spell but overall in this series his bowling has been well under par, the Aussie batsmen seem to have the measure of him. Andrew Flintoff didn’t look himself – not taking one wicket – and gave the impression at times in the field that his battered body can’t take much more – it could be a major risk going into Headingley in 3 days time with both Broad and Flintoff.
On the positive side Graham Onions is looking like a test class bowler and proved he can compete with the Aussies with a devastating burst on Friday and Jimmy Anderson again proved he is nearly unplayable in swinging conditions.
Steve Harmison will probably retain his place in the squad with the doubts over Flintoff but how long can the selectors keep on ignoring his Durham form before he earns his place on merit alone rather than someone getting injured.
The batting looked shaky with the late order again having to bail out the top 5. Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara and Paul Collingwood all chucked away their wickets very cheaply again. Bell looked his usual technically gifted self scoring a half century while looking like he could get out at any time, surviving a couple of decent – one certainly was out – lbw shouts from Johnson before he finally got him.
The Aussies must fancy their chances against England’s middle order with Bopara at 3 looking very fragile and Bell at 4 playing for his future, with the limited Collingwood as the last recognised specialist batsman at 5 Australia must be targeting this as an area of weakness over the next 2 tests.
England name their squad on Tuesday and fitness permitting I wouldn’t expect any changes, it could be though that a brave decision from the selectors is needed. A fired up Steve Harmison could be what England need to put the Aussie batsmen back on the back foot.