Fintoff made 47 out of the 57 runs England scored on day twoGilchrist took five catches
SYDNEY: As the Ashes urn was being sent back to its home at Lord's first class courtesy of Richard Branson's Virgin Airlines, England was demonstrating once again just how far behind Australia it is when it comes to controlling a Test even when the series is long dead.
England began the second - rain-hit - day of the fifth Test in a comfortable position with its captain Andrew Flintoff clearly in great form and Paul Collingwood, its bravest hero, in charge of a fifth wicket partnership which had already realised 67 runs and promised many more. That promise was soon broken. Collingwood was caught behind by Adam Gilchrist who demonstrated the bounce in the pitch by taking five catches all as simple as the six Chris Read pouched earlier in the week at Melbourne.
Read put up a fine performance wearing both keeping and batting gloves in the fourth Test but there is something about his walk to the wicket that betrays a man lacking confidence and here he was caught - by Gilchrist, of course - for two. It was to be the top score among the five batsmen - a term which flatters them - who followed Collingwood so that while Flintoff batted until 20 minutes before lunch for 89 England only increased its score by 57 of which he made all but ten.
Its last five batsmen have put on only 53.37 on average in this series; of course the Aussies have averaged 130.66.
There is much talk of new selectors, of Duncan Fletcher, the coach, dropping off the panel and of incorporating an umpire into the selection process but whoever is in charge must ensure that there are fewer than five men ready to bat at No.11 among the last six batsmen. Sajid Mahmood was out the ball after Read Brett Lee could not pitch his hat-trick ball in any dangerous place even though he had an over to think out his strategy Steve Harmison batted nearly an hour for two, Monty Panesar made nought and James Anderson failed to get off the mark before the innings ended at 291.
England had thought it might score 350, which would have put Australia in great difficulties judging from the way it chased this modest total. Justin Langer, who dropped another catch to make his final Test a miserable one, was caught for 26 off Anderson who is still staring at his feet as he bowls. Matthew Hayden was caught in the slips to give Harmison his first victim, Ricky Ponting run out by Anderson's direct hit when another big score seemed inevitable and Michael Clark caught by Read off Harmison for 11.
Break for rain, some confusing mathematics which gave England 12 overs after the resumption but it could not take another wicket and Australia seems set for a first innings lead at 188 for four. As Tests go this day was dull and slow and almost without incident although it appears that Panesar is in trouble after an appeal against Michael Hussey when he was on three and that Flintoff may have damaged his ankle again during his innings because he bowled only six overs in two bursts for 31 which is all right if you are taking wickets but not if the batsmen play you with ease on a pitch which helps the bowlers.
Vaughan sorely missed
I hear there is some doubt still about Michael Vaughan's return for the one-day matches; my, how
England has missed him. He would not have allowed Australia to saunter through 55 overs and would have heightened the intensity in the 12 overs after the rain.