x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Australia punish soggy England

After the rain, Australia open the floodgates to leave England fighting against the raging current at Edgbaston.

When the rains eventually receded and the heavens took mercy upon a sodden Edgbaston, Australia opened the floodgates to leave England fighting against the raging current. The monsoon-like conditions which had left the field unplayable for much of the day appeared to have done little to dampen the determination of the Australians to avenge their defeat at Lord's. Not even the loss of Brad Haddin to injury during the warm-up managed to distract Ricky Ponting's men as they enjoyed a fruitful opening session in the fading sunshine. Haddin was taken to hospital with a suspected broken index finger in his left-hand after suffering the blow during the warm-up - an injury which threatens to rule him out of the fourth Test at Headingley in eight days time. Having lost Glenn McGrath in the warm-up four years ago in similar circumstances, Ponting might have feared the worst after being forced to hand a Test debut to rookie wicketkeeper Graham Manou. However, any lingering worries were soon firmly extinguished as Australia's opening pair punished a lacklustre England bowling attack. Simon Katich struck a fluent 46 before succumbing lbw to Graeme Swann, while Shane Watson excelled at the top of the order as the opening duo recorded a stand of 85. The all-rounder, 28, in the side for the run-shy Phillip Hughes, played quite beautifully and soon passed 50 as Australia flexed their muscles. Watson may only have a Test match average of 20 but his ability to score quickly has already helped to establish him at the top of the order in both one-day and Twenty20 cricket There was no change of tactics here however, Test match or not, Watson continued to play as he always does - by dominating the bowlers with a flurry of aggressive strokes. Andrew Flintoff and James Anderson were hit into submission, while both Stuart Broad and Graham Onions were wild and offline with their efforts to unsettle the Aussie batsmen. Watson finished the day unbeaten on 62 and just 16 runs of his highest Test match score which came against India in Mohali last October. Not a bad way to ease yourself into an Ashes series. sports@thenational.ae