Almost Gone

Things haven't worked out for England in Perth over the last couple of days. But it wasn't unusual and it wasn't a surprise. On this tour, with the exception of the Adelaide first innings, they never quite have. They didn't get enough runs yesterday on a relatively blameless track and today they were massacred by a heady combination of Mike Hussey's incessant accumulativeness, Michael Clarke's impregnable mixture of flashy strokeplay and technical rectitude and the one and only Adam Gilchrist's coruscating hitting. The Ashes are almost gone and the game and the series just need to be played out.

The exceptions to the rule as far as England are concerned have chiefly been Kevin Pietersen and Monty Panesar. Pietersen with a brilliant 70 and Panesar a revelatory 16 not out yesterday and three good wickets before Gilchrist took a liking to him today. After the close yesterday, the following pieces from Cricinfo caught my eye. In the first, Peter English discusses the problems which Australia are having with Pietersen in this series, which, in themselves, confirm what an extraordinary batsman he is, and in the second, Andrew Miller uses Panesar's successes in this match to lacerate England's selection policy. We all knew Monty could bowl, but his poise, his common sense and some of his strokeplay yesterday (a straight drive off, I think, Stuart Clark, was one of the shots of the game) revealed that much of the talk about the incompetence of his batting has been exaggerated and ill-conceived. I see Fletcher's already talking about reviewing his place in the order and, if his batting continues to improve, it'll make his place in the side even more secure. He's going to be around the side for the next ten years unless something goes drastically wrong.

England's successes yesterday were few and far between, but there was even less to cling to today. Monty bowled well at times but the cracks in Flintoff's captaincy have started to show. Matthew Hoggard, England's most consistent performer in the series so far, has been under-bowled, and Sajid Mahmood, Flintoff's Lancastrian compatriot, has been almost completely ignored. Okay, he currently looks about as far from being a Test match quality seamer as it's possible to be, but why on earth pick him if you're not going to bowl him more? Why not just stick to your four bowlers and give Ed Joyce a game instead? Just don't go back to Jimmy Anderson.

Much the best thing about today was the astonishingly powerful and fluent century from Gilchrist which took Australia to their declaration. Doubts have rightly started to be raised about his future in the side over the last year or two, and he can't go on for ever, but this was a throwback to his greatest days - think Edgbaston 2001 or Johannesburg 2002.

It's doubtful that there's ever been a cleaner hitter of a cricket ball or a better wicket-keeper batsman.

We may never see his like again.

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