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    December 27, 2006

    Australia vs England - Fourth Test - Day 1 & 2

    Whenever there is a low score in the first innings of a match I like to reserve judgement until we see the other side bat - so often you realise conditions aren't what they appear or some factor is influencing things, and the game is more even than it appears. So too I warned on Boxing Day as England's dismal performance unfolded. Out psyched and out played. Warnie took all before him - big players perform on big occasions - this was one of the biggest, and Warnie is one of the biggest. Five wickets on Boxing Day, the first of which was his 700th and didn't he do it in style. A classic, dipping, drifting leg break, straight through the gate of Andrew Strauss just when the Aussies needed a wicket too - fantastic, unforgettable stuff. Then it was Australia's turn - and led by Freddie Flintoff, they managed to stay in the hunt.

    A great morning session had them right in the hunt with Australia at one stage slipping to 5 for 80 odd - enter the men-mountain - twin peaks - Symonds and Hayden. Awesome stuff. They turned things around in one session and by tea, England looked, in fact "were" insipid.

    England are out of this match! They were poor, soft and unimaginative in the second session and now, 5 nil is a very real possibility. Without Vaughan at the helm, they've lost their hardness - their belief and their competitiveness.

    I'm not saying for a second, Flintoff is not a leader - he is, but I don't think he's a captain. You have to be a leader of sorts to be captain, of course, but you don't have to be a captain to be leader. Flintoff's leadership in the 2005 Ashes series was far more effective than it is now. I read a lot about the difference between management and leadership. Flintoff can lead his side like Braveheart (is that a bad analogy to use in this scenario?) but he doesn't manage it real well. Vaughan has been sadly missed, for the slant he adds to leading the side, and managing it also.

    England will need to regroup quickly after this tour - my money now is on the 5 nil result the Aussies so desperately want. What a way for this champion side to go out, and go out they will, as many won't play Tests again after this - and no-one will take their title away for a long time.

    England will then have plenty of re-grouping to do, and I feel they should stop paying so little attention to the One Day game. Sure, I don't place even 1/4 the importance on success in that arena, but they need to grab back that team morale, that "feeling" that was so obvious just 15 months ago - and with a World Cup around the corner, what better way to put this disaster behind them. Can they do it? They can - they should let Flintoff lead by his performances, but not by title.

    Congrats too to Andrew Symonds. What an awesome innings! Do you get the feeling he was happy to risk his maiden Test century, just so he could bring it up with a towering six! How appropriate.

    How stiff must poor Watson be feeling now. Clarke, now Symonds have now more or less relegated him to a fringe player. And Matthew Hayden - how much must he love the MCG? That's something like 5 centuries in 6 Tests in Melbourne for him. That aggressive stand in the middle of the mess that was 5 for 85, was something.

    Cross posted on STUmpcam

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    Thus spake Stuart Helwig @ 3:43 PM |
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