The sun is shining on Lord’s on day five of this fascinating second Ashes 2009 test match.
After Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin spent yesterday evening scoring runs at a good lick and, more importantly, not getting out, they have played Australia into a position where this match, once again, hangs in the balance.
The cloudless sky, which could have been such a boon for England, were Australia two or three more wickets to the bad, may indicate more of the same unless England can pick off these two batsmen who are well and truly ‘in’.
Australia resume on 313 for 5, just over 200 short of England’s total score.
Yesterday morning and afternoon, things could not have gone better for England, who dismissed the top 5 recognised Australian batsmen with relative ease. There was talk around MCC of an Australian defeat by more than 300 runs, a feat which has only been achieved twice in test cricket history.
That talk, after tea, soon stopped, as Clarke ended the day on 125 and Haddin finished on 80 not out.
This partnership is one England must break in the first hour or so today, or face the ignominy of defeat from a commanding position.
Strauss and the England backroom staff must also realise that their decision not to enforce the follow-on on day three may come back to haunt them if Australia can pull off the rest of this huge effort and win this match.
That said, the required total of 209 for 5 wickets on day five of a test match is difficult at the best of times, if you’re doing it under pressure of defeat and with only bowlers to follow you, then that pressure is surely ratcheted up a notch.
Without rain, there are plenty of overs to knock off the remaining runs, the question remains whether Australia can do this down to their last two legitimate batters: if one, or both, of this pair gets out in the morning, then England will really fancy their chances against the Australian tail.
Haddin and Clarke have shown themselves to be up to the task yesterday, but who knows how they – or the pitch – might play this morning, after a night’s sleep few would envy them?
Both sides have their work cut out – England must take an early wicket; Australia must simply bat session to session without losing one. England are slight favourites, but would not want this pair to put on many more runs before a breakthrough.
Whichever way this match eventually falls will be down to one or two special moments today. Another fascinating piece of Ashes history will be made today by somebody.