Australia on the verge of levelling series
by CricketArchive Staff Reporter

Ground:Headingley, Leeds
Scorecard:England v Australia
Player:MJ Clarke, MJ North, MG Johnson
Event:Australia in British Isles 2009

DateLine: 8th August 2009


England were looking down the barrel at close on Day Two as they face the prospect of an innings defeat and conceding the advantage and momentum that they have so far held.


The day started with England hoping to limit the Australian lead to manageable propositions, but Clarke and North had different plan for the day. It was an opportunity for them to retain the Ashes and they were determined not to let it go. With still four days remaining the Australian team had enough time on their hands to put the match beyond Englandís reach.


England started the day with Anderson who was still seen stretching his left hamstring and off the third ball of the day North played a crunching straight drive to signal his intentions. Harmison shared the bowling duties and immediately Clarke played an authoritative pull shot off a long-hop. Harmison still preferred the shorter length and it seemed lost to him that the pitch did not have the desired pace to intimidate the batsmen who were well-settled. Harmison still continued to leak runs and Strauss had to replace him immediately with Stuart Broad.


After being dispatched for a boundary through midwicket, Broad opted for a line well outside the off stump. It was the sign that England had gone on the defensive and the batsmen just kept shouldering the arms. Anderson tried to aim for the stumps and he taken to the cleaners by an attacking Clarke who was now reading the swing that Anderson was able to generate. After watching for ten overs the futile attempts of his pacemen, Strauss turned to Swann to put a lid on the run scoring. Swann was immediately into his element as he dried up his end and Broad with his wide ball tactics was able to push the batsmen into a more defensive mode. Clarke and North waited patiently for the loose balls and were content to take the singles whenever they felt that the ball was in their area.


Broad gave way to Onions and he located the good length immediately but again his line off attack was wide to cause any sort of discomfort to the batsmen. Meanwhile North moved serenely to his half-century and the pair raised 150 run partnership. Clarke entered the nineties and his calm demeanour gave way to nervousness. He seemed to be more fidgety and one of his shots landed in between short cover and mid-off. But a couple of balls later Onions produced a perfect inswinging yorker which trapped Clarke before his middle stump to give England the much needed breakthrough.


North was joined by Brad Haddin and the pair took Australia to lunch without much fuss. After lunch, Harmison was handed the ball ahead of Onions and still he continued to disappoint with his short pitch strategy. Swann began to generate some serious spin but the batsmen were able to see him off without much concern .With the new ball available, Strauss immediately opted for it and Harmison struck when he got Haddin to pull a short one straight into Bellís hands who was at leg gully. Mitchell Johnson played well as he waited for the loose balls to put it to the boundary rather than go for an all-out attack.


North and Johnson added 70 runs in 16.1 overs and it looked bleak for England. Broad was called back into the attack and this time he bowled a better line. Broad got one to rise sharply and Johnson mistimed a pull straight into the hands of Bopara at deep midwicket and then couple of balls later cleaned up Siddle. It seemed that England might run through the tail without much trouble but then they encountered a rampaging Stuart Clark.


North played a slog sweep off Swann over the deep midwicket boundary to complete his second Ashes century and he looked good for more. In North, Australia have found a very capable number six who could be one their batting backbone in the years to come. Once North completed his century, Clark began to open up as it looked like he was enjoying his return to Test cricket after a long break. Clark clattered Broad for a boundary and then swung Swann over long-off for a massive six. He then turned his attention to Broad as he took two consecutive maximum off the paceman. Broad had his revenge when he cleaned up Clark via an inside edge to claim his fifth wicket. In his very next over, North swung straight to Anderson at deep midwicket and Ponting declared the innings with a massive lead of 343 in their kitty. Broad finished with figures of 6 for 91 in 25.1 overs.


England in reply got off to a solid start with Strauss and Cook adding 58 for the first wicket. Both were troubled by the fuller length of Hilfenhaus but the pair went about their task with utmost determination. It was not obdurate defence from the pair as they found the boundaries when a loose ball came their way. It seemed that the pair would take England to stumps without much trouble when Hilfenhaus trapped Strauss lbw with one that swung back into him. Bopara continued his poor form in the series when Hilfenhaus had him leg before the very next ball as England slipped from 58 for no loss to 58 for 2 in no time.


Ian Bell stayed at the crease for twelve balls when he failed to read the straighter one from Johnson which he edged to Ponting at slips and the English score read 67 for 3. Collingwood was welcomed by a ripsnorting bouncer which was homing onto his head and he just managed to keep the ball down. With the wicket of Bell, Ponting opted for more attacking field as there were more men in the catching position and the bowlers aimed for the stumps. Johnson set-up Collingwood beautifully as he pushed two balls well outside the off stump, one which curled back just into the batsmen and then delivered the sucker-punch. Coming closer the stumps, Johnson bowled a fast and fuller length delivery which swung in a long way and Collingwood was struck in line with middle and leg stump. The bowler and the close-in fielders only just had to ask the question and the umpire immediately replied in affirmative and England looked down the long barrel.


Johnson was not yet finished as he got Cook to edge one through to Haddin and England slipped further. The score read 78 for the loss of five wickets and a defeat by a huge margin seemed on cards for England. It could have been 82 for 6 for England but North was unable to cling onto an easy catch which was offered by Prior off the last ball of the day.


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