Cow Corner

Dominant tourists set the tone

Cow Corner

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The faces of the England players in the field told the tale. Gone was the fresh-faced exuberance of Wednesday morning. Gone was the intensity. Gone was the hope.

In its place was a collective expression of bewilderment and fear. If you listened hard, you could almost hear Andrew Strauss and his men questioning their credentials.

Even the barmy army were quiet. There was nothing to cheer, nobody to champion and little to suggest the day would justify the expense and the heady anticipation. Only sing-alongs to the Home and Away and Neighbours theme songs got them going - and we all know the origins of those ditties.

In the space of two days, Australia's batsmen have brutally deflated this England team and set an ominous tone for the series.

It's been the type of demonstrative start Ricky Ponting has been dreaming of for four long years, and one that could well see his team take a 1-0 lead to Lord's - a ground that historically has not been kind to England fortunes.

Coming out on a damp and overcast Saturday morning in Cardiff, England's bowlers looked tired, lacked pace and were worryingly short on ideas. Andrew Flintoff, James Anderson and Stuart Broad might be world-class seamers, but they were made to look like gentle trundlers by Marcus North and Brad Haddin - Australia's number six and seven batsmen respectively.

It was 41 overs before Haddin finally holed out in the deep and Ponting declared to end England's suffering - in the field anyway.

Ten minutes later, England's openers were out in middle and suddenly Cardiff's benign track looked a very different proposition altogether. Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus attacked with real verve, got the ball swinging and within five overs England were two down and reeling.

Admittedly Ravi Bopara was unlucky to be triggered by a rising delivery destined to sail over the stumps, but momentum was on their side - and momentum can be a powerful thing in the mind of an umpire.

Fortunately for England, rain intervened. But it will take a lot more of it, or a perfomance of real character to save Strauss and his men from suffering a crushing one-innings defeat.

For England to earn a draw, they need at least two of their number to make a big score (four Australians made centuries for the first time in an Ashes Test). With Bopara and Alastair Cook gone, that responsibility falls primarily to Kevin Pietersen and Strauss.

Both are eminantly capable, but their decision-making and composure will be severely tested by the buoyant Australians when play resumes. There will be no hiding place if either concede their wicket cheaply - as Pietersen did in the first innings.

If England do fall tomorrow, confidence will be shattered and the Australians will smell blood. And Strauss's men will have less than a week to assess the wreckage and prepare for the second Test at Lord's.

If they lose again there, the series could be as good as over two matches in.

USER COMMENT OF THE DAY: "As anyone with half a cricket brain could have­ predicted, the shambolic bunch of brainless,­ incompetent, couldn't-care-less prima donnas­ masquerading as our national cricket team, are being­ given a lesson in every department of the game by a­ mediocre Australian side, who look to be finding it­ increasingly difficult to keep the smug look off their­ faces, such is the ease with which they are rattling up­ what could ultimately be an astronomic total." - kingsleymiles47

STAT OF THE DAY: No England batsman could manage a century with the bat, but five bowlers got there in runs conceded as Australia piled on the runs - Raise your bowling arms Andrew Flintoff, Monty Panesar, Graeme Swann, James Anderson and Stuart Broad. 

SHOT OF THE DAY:  Brad Haddin taking a step down the track and lifting Monty back over his head for a maximum.

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