Cow Corner

The View From Down Under – Timidity & lack of resolve scuppers England

Alastair Cook Day Four Melbourne

The Australian press were in gleeful mood after England collapsed to 179 all out on day three of the fourth Test, having been in a pretty solid position at various points in the day. It was a familiar scenario, after the tourists inflicted similar debacles on themselves in the other three Tests, but this one was perhaps the most unexpected.

And England are given both barrels. Jesse Hogan writes in The Age:

At the start of the day it was timidity that shackled the visitors, as Australia's final pair Brad Haddin and Nathan Lyon were given an unduly easy ride in shaving 40 valuable runs off the team's deficit to England. At the end of the day it was a lack of resolve from its batsmen - again - that led to its advantage being squandered.

Alastair Cook is already officially a beaten captain in the series, and he led like one in search of that final wicket as Australia began day three at 9-164, trailing by 91. While Haddin has excelled with the bat in this series, Cook overreacted in starting with six outfielders to the wicketkeeper, so desperate was he to prevent boundaries.

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Malcolm Knox in the Sydney Morning Herald takes an alternative angle to criticise an England player.

I was about to start typing this column when some litter blew behind the computer screen, distracting me. I had to stop and walk away and recompose myself. Meanwhile, a couple of hundred metres away, Kevin Pietersen was suffering the same indignities. Do Kev and I have to put up our GENIUS AT WORK sign before people start showing some respect around here?

Batsmen's mania for stopping the cricket while a speck of reflective lint is removed from the fifth seat in the 11th row to the left of the sightscreen reached its absurd endpoint as a gusty change blew all manner of refuse across the MCG late on the third day. Pietersen was backing away from the bowlers even before he had a chance to back away from the bowlers. Getting him to face a ball was going to require the UN to send in a Spotless Services peacekeeping force.

When Pietersen kept walking away, Mitchell Johnson took exception. Some please-pick-up-the-trash-talking ensued. The conversation, ended by umpire Kumar Dharmasena, went something like this:

Johnson: Come on, this is rubbish.

Pietersen: That's what I'm saying - absolute rubbish!

Johnson: I'll give you rubbish.

Dharmasena (with hands full and bulging pockets): Don't give it to him, Mitchell, please give it to me.

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Elsewhere, Malcolm Conn frets about the state of the Australia side, with a series against South Africa coming up, writing in the Sydney Daily Telegraph:

This is the downside of stability. Ryan Harris has bowled himself to a standstill and Shane Watson is moving like a bullock dray.

Naming the same side in four successive Tests for the first time in almost a decade has given Australia an unexpected look of certainty and confidence levels have gone through the roof with each emphatic victory. But the last Test in Sydney is a bridge too far.

Five Tests in six weeks is an enormous ask, particularly for the bowlers, and this side cannot remain intact.

The plan has always been to rest Ryan Harris in Sydney next week following just a three-day turnaround from Melbourne and Saturday produced ample evidence why.

The limp from his dodgy knee has become more pronounced with each passing day and his pace has dropped off a little.

If Harris was to try and play at the SCG next week he would need the postman's motorbike.

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Brad Haddin

Mark Hayes in the Herald Sun praises perhaps the crucial man in the series for Australia – not Mitchell Johnson, but Brad Haddin.

Thanks, Brad - we owe you a beer or six. That's what the Australian top order should be saying after wicketkeeper Haddin spared their blushes for the fourth time in as many Ashes Tests on Saturday.

The New South Wales gloveman, thought by many at this time last year to have played his final Test match, continued his extraordinary summer on Saturday with another rearguard action to ease his mates' burden.

Only time will tell how valuable his 65 - 22 of which came in a potentially pivotal last-wicket stand of 40 with Nathan Lyon - will be at the MCG. But suffice it to say, it's not his first rescue mission.

Batting at No.7, Haddin has come to the crease in the first innings with his side in various levels of crisis - three times with fewer than 150 runs on the board.

Each time he has made at least a half-century and only once has he not batted for at least two and a half hours - and that was during Saturday's knock when he fell only seven minutes shy of the mark.

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Finally, there's an interesting item in the Sydney Morning Herald, in two respects. Firstly, it is a comment piece by Sir Richard Hadlee, and a comment not on what has unfolded on the pitch in Melbourne. Secondly, it is in defence (after a fashion) of Piers Morgan.

Hadlee writes:

As a former fast bowler I was appalled and outraged at what I witnessed during the tea break on the second day of the fourth Ashes cricket test at the MCG when former Australian fast bowler Brett Lee faced off British media host Piers Morgan in the nets. I am so incensed I felt I needed to make comment.

While there were media jibes and a build-up to this bowling and batting contest on Friday, I could not believe my eyes - Lee's brutal assault on Morgan was extremely dangerous and unnecessary.

It was clear that Morgan could not bat or defend himself against Lee's pace and intimidation - this was an unfair and one-sided contest that could have had severe consequences. Sadly, in the past batsmen have died from receiving blows to the body.

I only hope that Brett takes a few minutes to reflect on his stupidity - this was a brain explosion of the highest order - it was a deliberate attempt to hit, injure, hurt and maim his opponent that I viewed as a form of grievous bodily harm or a human assault that could have proved fatal. Morgan, aged 48, was hit four times on the body and if he was hit on the head or across the heart the result could have been devastating.

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