A combination of excellent English swing bowling and yet more unspeakably bad umpiring have conspired to wipe out Australia’s smiles on day two of the third Ashes Test.
England accepted a bad light offer from the umpires at two for 116 in reply to Australia’s 263 all out, in a day completely dominated by the English but assisted by some mystifying umpiring decisions.
Starting at one for 126, the day started extremely poorly for the visitors as overnight sensation Shane Watson (62) was out LBW first ball and then Michael Hussey (0) bowled leaving a ball aimed straight at his off stump the very next ball.
Graham Onions found himself on an unexpected hat trick, which Michael Clarke saved, and he and Ricky Ponting set about restoring order to the innings. After a partnership of 37 for the fourth wicket, Ponting (38) was out to a loose shot, trying to a hook a slow bouncer from Onions and only feathering a catch to Matt Prior.
Then the controversy which has dogged this series reared up again. Clarke was trapped playing across the line to a James Anderson ball that was drifting too far to the leg side, but embattled veteran South African umpire Rudi Koertzen slowly raised the finger regardless.
Marcus North (12) followed soon after nicking Anderson to Prior, and the tail offered slight resistance to make the day’s return 137 runs for nine wickets for the Aussies.
James Anderson managed his first five-wicket haul against Australia with five for 80 and was clearly the pick of the bowlers, extracting a fearsome amount of swing in overcast and humid conditions that were set up for it. Onions’ figures of four for 58 flattered him somewhat but he provided good support.
Then it was the turn of the English batsmen, and it looked like the procession of wickets might continue when Peter Siddle’s first over produced two rip-snorting balls and then a wider one which lured a snick from Alastair Cook (0) to have England one wicket for two.
Andrew Strauss (64 not out) then partnered Ravi Bopara for a 58-runs second-wicket stand that was ended when Bopara (23) played on to Ben Hilfenhaus.
The final twist in the tale came when Iam Bell (26 not out) was trapped absolutely plumb LBW in front by Mitchell Johnson just before the close of play, only for Koertzen to refuse to give the obvious decision.