Match in the balance at the SCG

Michael Clarke may not have made much impact with the bat so far in this match, but he made his first tactical decision in batting Brad Haddin in his rightful position ahead of Steve Smith.

Not that it made much difference: a wild swipe at a James Anderson delivery outside off stump proved fatal, and once again it was looking like a case of wickets squandered for the Aussie batsmen.

Paul Collingwood got one of the loudest cheers of the day when he when he bowled Mike Hussey with the last delivery with the old ball, which Hussey inside-edged onto his stumps, while Steve Smith succumbed to an airy nonsense of a shot when he really should have known better.

Anderson struck again in the same over to remove Siddle, and the possibility of Australia laboriously dragging themselves to a score beyond 200 looked extremely shaky.

I suppose you could class Mitchell Johnson as an allrounder, but you could also say that he approaches his job with the bat like a bowler given carte blanche to have a hit. At the same time, he can play shots that would not disgrace one of his batting brethren further up the order.

Between them, he and Ben Hilfenhaus took the score to 265 before Bresnan got Johnson going for the big heave and taking the top of his off stump, ending an innings of 53 in which he’d taken a particular liking to Graeme Swann, hitting him for 6 over midwicket followed by 4.

That this entertaining half century was accompanied by chants from the crowd slagging off Johnson’s bowling seemed strangely illogical: perhaps an amended version which ends “his batting’s alright” rather than “his bowling is shite” could be used when he’s wielding the willow.

Mitchell did serve up some shite when, after his side were bowled out for 280, Michael Clarke made the second tactical decision of his nascent Test captaincy and had Johnson share the new ball with Hilfenhaus.

This proved costly. Strauss and Cook reacted by batting as if they were opening the innings in an ODI. England’s opening partnership has rarely looked so dynamic.

Clarke looked strangely unperturbed. This was not popular with a lot of people. A few of the Australians sitting near me got quite irate. In a recent newspaper poll, only 15 per cent of readers thought Michael Clarke should be Australian captain. I’m sure 99 per cent of that 15 per cent were wondering if they were possibly inebriated at the time.

Finally, Hilfenhaus, going round the wicket, prompted a rash shot from Strauss at a full inswinger, and only one run had been added before Johnson went on a roaring celebration with the wicket of Trott for nought; a rare failure for England’s number three.

I had originally intended this article to be composed entirely of puns centred around the surname of Australia’s new (or “latest”, if you prefer) spin bowler, basically just to piss people off. But instead I would rather confess I am warming to Mr Beer.

Whether it was the whole-hearted way in which he entered into proceedings, the fact he actually got the odd one to turn, his crestfallen disappointment and dirt-kicking fury at being denied the wicket of Alastair Cook off what transpired to be a no-ball, or his ability to steady his nerves after this long enough to take a catch at deep backward square to remove Kevin Pietersen who had pasted him for a boundary first ball.

I still think Nathan Hauritz should be Australia’s spinner. But I will also be watching Beer’s progress tomorrow with renewed interest.

England are 167-3 and may be left regretting that they let that Johnson-Hilfenhaus rearguard partnership get away from them. With the crucial wicket of Pietersen gone, the game now feels uncomfortably in the balance.

Trott b. Johnson 0

Trott b. Johnson 0

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