Cow Corner

Quiet progress the way for England

Cow Corner

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This might be the series in which England fans come to love the mundane aspects of Test cricket. Even on the day where the chances of retaining the Ashes went from highly probable to one where only Acts of God or Botham could prevent, they were not the focus of attention.

Instead Ricky Ponting and Peter Siddle's prolonged and absurd rant at Aleem Dar will steal headlines rather than the steady progression to a 346-run first-innings lead.

If England's success is summed up by anything it is quiet efficiency. Breathtaking moments have been few. Even in the spells that reduced Australia to 2-3 at Adelaide or 98 all out yesterday it was due to perfect application of basics and practiced professionalism rather than brilliance like Mitchell Johnson produced in Perth.

No one epitomises this more than centurion Jonathan Trott, his third in five Ashes Tests. Added to his balding pate which is yet to receive the Warne/Bollinger/Ponting/Kallis treatment, a very English set of gnashers, his possession of a workmanlike technique rarely leaves one purring or mooing for more.

But as great as Alastair Cook has been in this series, Trott has perhaps been even more important. When Trott fails England fail. After he was dismissed at Perth England managed just another 105 and 42 runs were added respectively. If he was Australian Paul Kelly would surely write a song about him. Perhaps we'll get Billy Bragg onto it.

As England's new rock is cemented in for the cycle until the next Ashes series, so it is time to bid farewell to the old one. With no pressure on, Paul Collingwood fell early again today. Nothing too shocking about this, but the problem is England's personification of the Spirit of Dunkirk also failed in Brisbane and twice in Perth when contributions were needed.

Collingwood averages 17 since his superb tour of South Africa last winter, where he saved England from a series defeat and 18 months on from the miracle of Cardiff he inspired. He may be given a last run out at Sydney but he shouldn't be. It's time to give Eoin Morgan a chance to fill the number six berth before the all-round talents of Adil Rashid, Stuart Broad and/or Tim Bresnan present a compelling case for England to return to a five-man bowling attack.

Back to Australia's indiscipline when a catch behind from Kevin Pietersen was appealed, referred and then argued incessantly.

For Ricky Ponting it was the desperation of a man unable to prevent an ignoble end to a fantastic career in scenes reminiscent of Mike Gatting-Shakoor Rana and Arjuna Ranatunga-Ross Emerson. The difference being that he had no right on his side whatsoever.

As for Siddle, were he a literary man like Cowers he might reflect on Camus' description of Sisyphus's task of continually rolling a boulder up a hill only to see it repeatedly fall: "There is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor," the French goalkeeper mused.

Siddle produced three fine deliveries and then took two catches, the second to dismiss Ian Bell with what the Australians distastefully call a ripper, to ensure five wickets were taken on Sunday in an effort of heroic futility.

Like Sisyphus he took only momentary joy in Pyhrric victories but a lengthy retention as his generation's Merv Hughes as Australia battle back to respectability is likely to be his ultimate reward.

Shot of the day: An on-drive from Trott off Ryan Harris as he released the shackles once his primary job of consolidating the England innings had been achieved.

Man of the day: Trott edges Siddle due to his being more relevant in the course of the match.

Stat of the day: 158 - Trott and Prior's unbeaten sixth-wicket partnership at the MCG - another record England have accumulated this tour.

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