Monday, 31 August 2009

Welcome signs put Lambeth on the map

Welcome signs put Lambeth on the map

Lambeth gateway sign

Lambeth is putting itself on the map with brand new welcome signs being installed at key arrival points to the borough.

The 'Welcome to Lambeth' signs will greet visitors as they enter the borough via major transport and pedestrian routes, and are being put up to help give residents and visitors to the borough a sense of place.

The scheme is part of the council's 'Better Neighbourhoods' project, which is seeing an extra £3.5 million invested to improve the environment this year, and also includes the planting of around 250 new trees and major improvements made to streets and highways.

Councillor Sally Prentice, Cabinet member for Environment on Lambeth Council, said: "These new signs are a small but important way of showing that we are proud of our borough and of its attractions, its green spaces and its history. We want make sure visitors who come to Lambeth feel that they are welcome, and know that when they visit attractions like the Southbank, Brixton Market, and Clapham Common that these are Lambeth icons, and that as Lambeth residents we are proud of them!"

Signs will be installed around the borough, including Vauxhall, Kennington, Brixton, Herne Hill, Norwood, West Norwood, Streatham and Clapham.

The Better Neighbourhoods scheme is designed to make long lasting improvements to Lambeth's environment. The council, in partnership with Lambeth Living, has earmarked £3.5 million for a major programme of environmental works to make Lambeth cleaner, greener and safer. Roads and pavements will be resurfaced, hundreds of new street trees planted, green champions recruited, recycling facilities will be improved on estates and tired and outdated street signs and furniture will be replaced. The programme will run from the end of May and last until March 2010.

Published on 17 August 2009

New sports festival aims to 'Activate' Lambeth residents

New sports festival aims to 'Activate' Lambeth residents

Young basketball player

A major 'Festival of Sport' that will kick off Lambeth's countdown to the 2012 Olympic Games is being held on Saturday 5th September, and Lambeth residents are being invited to put on their sports kit and get involved.

Kennington Park will play host to Lambeth's first annual borough-wide sport and cultural festival - Activate 2009.

The free festival, which is being organised by Lambeth Council, will give visitors young and old alike the opportunity to 'have a go' at Olympic and Paralympic sports such as tennis, rowing, cycling, badminton.

Local sports clubs will be on-hand on the day to offer training and support as well as advice for those who want to join a club to continue with their chosen activity. There will also be a focus on health and well being with stands offering Body MOTs, vascular screening or healthy food and drink options.

The Activate Festival is the first of a series of sporting and cultural events planned between now and the 2012 Games. The festival is Lambeth Council’s showcase event to encourage everyone to take part in healthy positive activity as part of its 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games programme.

Cllr Rachel Heywood, Lambeth Council’s Cabinet member for Culture and Communities, said: "The Activate Festival will be a great opportunity for people of all ages to come and try out new sports, learn about sports clubs in their area and even join a team.

"Coaches and players will be on hand to offer advice and information about a range of sports, from fencing and handball, to taekwondo and ice hockey. With the Olympics in London rapidly approaching we want to encourage as many people as possible to get active and involved in sport."

The festival runs between 12am and 5pm in Kennington Park and all are welcome.

Published on 20 August 2009

Murdered Croydon rapper's friend under police protection

Murdered Croydon rapper's friend under police protection

7:20am Wednesday 19th August 2009

The friend of murdered teen rap artist Carl Beatson Asiedu is under police protection for his safety.

DJ Sayps was also injured in the attack on Mr Asiedu, from Norbury, who was stabbed to death outside Club Life in Kennington in the early hours of Saturday, August 1.

The pair were part of the rap combo Kid n Play and had both performed at the club just hours before the attack.

The two men left the club at about 5am and were set upon by a group of at least nine men wearing dark, hooded clothes.

The attack appears to have been planned, as they shouted out a name to the two men, though police refused to say whether it was DJ Sayps, or Mr Asiedu, more often known as Charmz.

DJ Sayps escaped but Mr Asiedu was fatally stabbed. His friends piled him into a car and tried to rush him to hospital.

Police discovered 19-year-old Mr Asiedu’s body when they stopped three cars seen running a red light in Baylis Road, Waterloo, just after 5am.

Mr Asiedu was found stabbed in one of the cars. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police have said DJ Sayps has had extra security measures put in place for his safety, after fears he may still be a target.

The family of Mr Asiedu made an impassioned plea for anyone with information over the incident to come forward, while trying to deal with the “void” left by the De Montfort University student’s death.

His sister Annabel, 24, said: “Carl was always smiling and was so funny he could make you cry with laughter.

“He said a week before [he was killed] he was going to be famous before the end of the summer.

“He joked he was allergic to being broke.

“Carl is an irreplaceable jewel, a lovable son and an amazing brother.

“He was attracted to achievement and wanted to make headlines for his achievements, not like this.”

Detective Inspector Le Pere, investigating, said: “This was a totally unprovoked attack.

“All motives are possible. It could even have been envy or jealousy.

“I am urging anybody with information to come forward. Do not assume somebody else will take responsibility.

“You can’t let them have the opportunity to take another life and devastate another family.”

Anyone with information can also call the incident room on 020 8721 4005 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Or they can email a specially set-up address by the police if they are worried about coming forward. The email address is

• Do you know more? Let us know by email here, phone the newsdesk on 020 8330 9555 or leave a comment below.

Friend and school pay tribute to slain Croydon rapper Carl Beatson Asiedu Murdered Croydon rapper Carl Beatson Asiedu

Lambeth police splash out £45,000 on bottled water

Lambeth police splash out £45,000 on bottled water

6:50am Thursday 20th August 2009

Lambeth police have splashed out on more than £45,000 on bottled water in the past three years, leading to strong criticism from tax watchdogs and environmentalists.

Critics said buying water bottles for coolers was both wasting taxpayers’ money, and causing unnecessary environmental damage.

The expenditure - which dwarfs that of Merton and Wandsworth police forces who spent just £188 between them over the three year period on water - was revealed through a Freedom of Information (FoI) request.

Mark Wallace, of campaign group The Taxpayer’s Alliance, said bottled water was “an unnecessary luxury which diverted much needed money away from the front line fight against crime”.

He added: “Lambeth’s residents pay large amounts of council tax and the police precept should not be used on something that comes out of the tap for free.”

Duncan Law, a coordinator for climate change campaign group Transition Town Brixton, said it was “regrettable” any organisation used bottled water.

According to Thames Water, a litre of mains water creates about 0.0003kg of CO2, around 600 times less on average than a litre of bottled water.

The water cooler bottles used are also often made from a type of plastic derived from oil, which is not recyclable and takes up to 1,000 years to biodegrade.

The FoI showed Lambeth police spent £16,859.93 in 2006/7, £6,172.02 in 2007/8, and £22,704.27 in 2008/9 - that included unpaid invoices for 2005/6.

Lambeth police said the provision of water coolers - a total of 16 across its police stations and headquarters in Kennington - was under review.

A police spokeswoman also said the amount spent was misleading because a £7 refund was given to the police for each empty water container returned to the supplier.

She added: “The company we used to supply our water always try to minimise the distance from the bottling centres to their customers to reduce unnecessary road transportation.”

She said officers also required bottled water when they were on operations and accessibility to refreshments were limited, and water coolers were provided in some police buildings that did not have kitchenettes.

Sports festival aims to get Lambeth residents active

Sports festival aims to get Lambeth residents active

6:00pm Wednesday 26th August 2009

By Matt Watts

A sports festival taking place in a Lambeth park will give residents the chance to try out a range of Olympic sports ahead of the Games in 2012.

Activate 2009 is intended to get more people exercising, and will give residents the chance to get free coaching in sports like tennis, rowing, judo, cycling, badminton and athletics.

There will also be the chance to sign up with local clubs.

The event in Kennington Park on September 5, from 12pm to 5pm, will also focus on health and wellbeing with demonstrations and stands offering Body MOT’s, vascular screening, and healthy cooking tips.

The event will also feature the final of the Lambeth World Cup – a major football tournament that has seen boys’ and girls’ teams from across the borough battle it out on the pitch all summer.

Councillor Rachel Heywood, the council’s cabinet member for culture and communities, said: “The Activate Festival will be a great opportunity for people of all ages and abilities to come and try out new sports, learn about sports clubs in their area, and even join a team.”

© Copyright 2001-2009 Newsquest Media Group

Calling all young green volunteers to help Plant Your Future

Calling all young green volunteers to help Plant Your Future

7:30am Sunday 30th August 2009

Young aspiring green volunteers are invited to join the launch of Plant Your Future to see what they can do for the environment.

The event, organised by London charity Trees for Cities and Vinvolved, aims to encourage 16 to 25-year-olds to find out about environmental volunteering opportunities in London.

It is due to take place at Kennington Park on Wednesday.

David Blair, regional Co-ordinator at Trees for Cities, said: “I’d really recommend volunteering with Trees for Cities.

"I found that even a few days’ volunteering built up what I could say about myself in job applications while demonstrating my passion about the environment.”

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Charity Auction: Cataloguing has begun!

Dear Neighbours
We are in the final stages of putting together the catalogue for our Auction. If you are holding items that you would be willing to donate to this worthy cause, please call 020 7091 0841 to arrange access to the storage unit at Red Devil this week. (We can collect.)
Best wishes
Cathy Preece
KA Administrative Assistant


Do you have any paintings, prints, drawings or art catalogues you no longer need? If so, we’d very much like to hear from you !

We are keen to collect all forms of art – from works on paper to ceramics, jewellery, and interesting objets d’art for the annual charity action which takes place on Thursday 17th September 2009 6.30 til 8.30pm at City & Guilds of London Art School, Cleaver Square SE11.


A big thank you to all the local artists and students who have donated works for the event so far. We are particularly excited about several original stone carvings – ideal for gardens and patios - which will go under the hammer.

As usual, we will also be auctioning pledges and promises donated by local businesses. The Auction is an ideal marketing platform for local businesses keen to attract new customers who live in the neighbourhood. In a reciprocal arrangement, those who donate a voucher for say, a meal for two, or a hair cut, for the auction, can promote their business free to all KA members. A big thank you to the most recent donations made by Hub Coffee House, Belgrave Hotel, Oval House Theatre, China Walk TRA Hall, Tesco and Cotton Tree Interior Designers.

Each year we raise several thousands of pounds: and every £40 coming from the event buys vouchers for a local family who would otherwise have little to rejoice about at Christmas time. Everyone gives their time freely to help with this important local scheme which assists needy families in the area entirely anonymously.

In the past five years the auction has gone from strength to strength: from a cramped basement in a restaurant at Kennington Cross, to a wonderful venue – the City & Guilds of London Art School - in the heart of Kennington. After three years in the hot seat, Catey is stepping down as coordinator at the end of this year – so we’d love to hear from you if you are organised; enthusiastic; keen to meet new people; and have the time to develop the auction further.

We do hope that you will join us in this Auction. Do tell your friends and neighbours too.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Interior filming location needed this Sunday

Dear Neighbours
I am looking for a bright, modern, large, interior for filming this coming Sunday. I'm working on a new Channel 4 TV series with Jo Frost (known to all as 'supernanny'!) We are doing interviews with her and shots of Jo Frost playing with children.
We need a big living room, kitchen, child's bedroom and a garden would be a bonus. A modest location fee is on offer. The production company is Outline Productions - who make BBC2's Economy Gastronomy.
It doesn't have to be in Kennington - please pass this onto to anyone you think would be interested!
Please call Chloe Thomas on 07971 405 257 or email me or at address above
thank you so much!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Film Shoot

Please get in touch if you know of a period flat/House for rent between 7-11 September for a small cast and crew to make a film.

I'm looking for a 2/3 bedroom period flat/house with wallpapers on the wall for a 3-4 day shoot for a student graduation short film (University of Westminster).


Need to use: Living room, bedroom, kitchen and hallway (basically whole flat or house)
Date needed: between 7 – 11 September
Location Insurance: Covered by University of Westminster.

If interested please send description or pictures of flat.

Please get back on this asap.

Concern for dog seized by cops


Concern for dog seized by cops

Monday, 24 August 2009

Claire Toynton with Roxy the dog and her family, from left, Stephen, Zion, two, Leon, five, and Summa, three

Claire Toynton with Roxy the dog and her family, from left, Stephen, Zion, two, Leon, five, and Summa, three

A DOG seized during a crackdown on dangerous breeds has been returned to its owner.

Lambeth police raided a series of addresses on July 9, seizing more than 20 dogs they feared could be used to intimidate people.

Claire Toynton, 24, of Renfrew Road, Kennington, had her mongrel bitch Roxy and its litter of six pups seized during the operation.

She has now been returned, but Claire has been told by cops that the puppies were destroyed as they were part pitbull – a banned breed.

The mum-of-four said: “I’m upset about the state my dog is in. She was 21 kilos when they took her and now she’s down to 18 kilos.

“The puppies were an accident. I was out with her and a boy dog got on her and she fell pregnant.”

Lambeth police were unavailable to comment at the time of going to press.


Tuesday, 25 August 2009

'I'm moving to New Zealand' ... what the Australians made of Ashes defeat

'I'm moving to New Zealand' ... what the Australians made of Ashes defeat

As the celebrations began in Kennington, so did the recriminations in Australia, as seen by our man Down Under

Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke

The calls for Ricky Ponting's head are growing in Australia, though his deputy Michael Clarke has also been criticised. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

The dingoes are out. They have crept into the Australian camp and dragged away the carcass of a once-great cricket team, devouring what meat is left on the bones of Ricky Ponting's losers.

"Let the Ashes inquest begin," said the Sydney Daily Telegraph before even that giant flag of St George had been rolled across the Kennington turf on Sunday evening.

Watching from a distance, in Coff's Harbour, the sub-tropical paradise on the northern coast of New South Wales and home of the discarded Phil Hughes, lent the experience a more detached perspective, I'm sure, than the triumphalism engulfing England.

Wherever you watched it, from whatever point of view or couch, the margin of victory hardly reflected the tension. Tellingly, even when wrestling with defeat of alligator-sized proportions, the Australians gave the impression, at least, of being a threat. The buggers are as hard to kill as a redback spider. The feeling would not have been the same had the situations been reversed.

Those of us who spectated on into the small hours detected even through the television ether the familiar English silence that comes from years of crushed hopes when in sight of victory. That palpable sense of deferred celebration until the last soldier had been knocked down was the unspoken praise these noblest of foes deserved.

There is not much nobility evident in the wreckage of defeat, though. The sentiment here is that Ponting will survive for the time being, and lead Australia against the West Indies at home next summer, but his hopes of getting revenge in England after becoming only the second Australian captain to surrender the Ashes twice in England are the stuff of wild ambition.

Brett Lee and Stuart Clark are headed for the fast bowlers' knackers yard and even his grinding century might not save the 34-year-old Mike Hussey after a hesitant campaign. The thirst for fresh talent looks to be insatiable.

The experiment with Shane Watson as opener, even though a success, will be abandoned when he returns to the lower middle order, leaving the way open for the return of young Hughes. Discarding the most exciting batsman to come into their ranks since the other Hughes, Kim, reflected a nervousness among the selectors at odds with our perception of Australian cricket as the home of "step-up-to-the-plate" daring. There were no "back-yourself" clich├ęs to sustain the bluff this time.

Elsewhere, they – or their successors – will look for someone to turn the ball with more mystery and bite than the sound servant Nathan Hauritz.

In all, there could be half a dozen casualties from the tour, an almost English upheaval and one not experienced here outside the passing of legends. Australians, an essentially conservative lot despite their larrikin swagger, do not like enforced change – and they do not cope well with the reality of failure, given they are less accustomed to its regular visits than England.

Only in Australia would an heroic but doomed effort to haul down an improbable target of 545 be described as "a humiliating defeat".

Quite where the humiliation lies in grinding out 348 runs on a wicket that had been derided from days one to five as a doctored minefield is a question the readers of the Sydney Morning Herald and Australia's other newspapers were left to ponder over their late-winter cornflakes as the critics who'd cheered them until the fall got properly stuck in. Coping with officially being the fourth best team in the world after 14 years at the top of the ICC rankings will be tough. We wish them well.

It would be cruel and unjust to simply blame the players, though. The other, perhaps more culpable, villains are Andrew Hilditch and his selectors, whose decision to deny Hauritz a chance to exploit the Oval dustbowl is fast being cooked up into the crime of the century. Their reluctance to recall Clark, then their insistence on keeping him past his usefulness on a turning track, were avoidable blunders.

Nor did just the team management contain internal confusion, as Lee, Clark, Watson and Johnson shamelessly campaigned for selection while contradicting not only each other but the facts.

Hilditch and co will not last long if the chorus call from former Australian heroes, headed by the ever-honest Ian Chappell, are heeded.

Michael Slater, no stranger himself to selectorial whims, observed, "The fact of the matter is that we have gone over to England with the wrong squad. We needed an aggressive off-spinner ... and our best option was Jason Krejza."

That was the pre-tour opinion also of John Benaud, a former chairman of selectors. The general view is that the generals got it wrong.

The blogosphere, of course, was filled with the usual wise-after-the-event half-wittery. You've got to chuckle at the likes of Mike of Sydney: "It was just great to watch Michael Clarke's mammoth contribution in this match ... run out for 0 in the second innings ... what a bloody boxhead." A boxhead who averaged 64 – 12 better than anyone else who played more than one Test in the series – and will one day be hauled up alongside his country's greats.

Then there was Patrick Porter: "Beaten by the Poms in the Rugby World Cup twice, then in the Olympics and now the Ashes. I'm moving to New Zealand."

In London, it was another Kennington roof-top finish; here the 2009 Ashes came to its dramatic conclusion on the TV screens of the disbelieving through-the-night faithful, supporters who dreamed against the odds almost until dawn for one more miracle.

It was a detached way to witness a momentous occasion, eyelids propped up until they surrendered, then reopened over coffee and the bright Monday morning sunshine of a new cricketing age. It didn't half feel good.

This article was first published on at 11.06 BST on Monday 24 August 2009. It was last updated at 11.28 BST on Monday 24 August 2009.

'Use Crossrail levy to extend Tube'


Crossrail workers
Wandsworth council wants to use “Crossrail tax” on the Northern line instead

'Use Crossrail levy to extend Tube'

Ruth Bloomfield

A London council is calling for millions of pounds of Crossrail cash to be diverted to extend the Tube network.

Mayor Boris Johnson is imposing a levy of 2p in the pound on developers across London to help pay for the £16billion project.

Wandsworth council chiefs want to use the "Crossrail tax" to fund improvements to the Northern line instead, including stations near Battersea Power Station and New Covent Garden Market on a new spur. This extension, being considered by Transport for London, would meet the Northern line at Kennington.

Leslie McDonnell, chairman of Wandsworth planning committee, said: "Crossrail will have little or no benefit for people living in this area. We are discussing with the Mayor the possibility of some sort of surcharge for developers to help pay for the extension."

Wandsworth wants a £488,000 Crossrail levy from a planned 42-storey tower at Bondway, Vauxhall, to go to the spur. But TfL said funding would not be diverted from Crossrail, which would benefit all boroughs.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Activate - Lambeth's annual festival of sport

Australia say goodbye to the Ashes

Australia say goodbye to the Ashes

Jamie Pandaram in London
August 24, 2009

Last man falls . . . England celebrate winning the Ashes after Michael Hussey is dismissed for 121.

Last man falls . . . England celebrate winning the Ashes after Michael Hussey is dismissed for 121.
Photo: AP

Jamie Pandara

FAREWELL the Ashes, farewell Andrew Flintoff.

Australia's autopsy into this disastrous 2-1 series failure must now begin, with the team sinking to its lowest Test ranking after the heavy 197-run defeat at The Oval on Sunday.

All the huff and puff of making amends for 2005 came to nought with Australia comprehensively outplayed over four days against an English side resolute in its belief, despite suffering a humiliating third Test defeat. Set an improbable world-record chase of 545, Australia were dismissed for 348 late in the day as long shadows crept across the Kennington outfield.

The shadows will now creep over Australia’s selectors, coaches and players. Ricky Ponting's side has now lost three of its past four series, but this one will hurt most. How England were allowed to come back into the series following their innings and 80-run loss at Headingley is difficult to fathom.

Ponting admitted he faced a tough reception upon his return to Australia.

"No doubt I'll have a few questions to answer when I get back," he said.

"We’ve given everything, 100 per cent since we've been here.

"We haven’t been good enough. [England] won the big moments and they deserve to win the series.

"It was a poor wicket I thought, but it had no influence on the outcome."

Australia have now been relegated to fourth in the ICC rankings. Australia had never been lower than second since the inception of the system in May 2003.

England captain and man of the series Andrew Strauss said the fluctuating series was a highlight of his career.

"It’s a special moment for all of us, the players have had to dig pretty deep.

"We’ve had to show a hell of a lot of character and determination and fight. When we were bad we were really bad and when we were good we were just good enough. As for Freddie, we’re going to miss him, he’s a great advert for cricket, it's not going to be the same without him."

Man of the match Stuart Broad, who took 5-38 in the first innings and has been annointed as England's next superstar all-rounder, also said Flintoff would be sorely missed in the Test arena.

"No one can replace Freddie, he has been fantastic for English cricket and he’s been fantastic to play with," Broad said.

Australia’s man of the series was Michael Clarke, who said: "We didn't get the result but full credit has to go to England."

A dogged Michael Hussey saved his place in the side with 121 runs but he could not save the game for his country. Hussey's first Test century in 16 Tests and 28 innings was also his highest score against England. After Brad Haddin (34) was caught in the deep trying to launch Graeme Swann into the stands - ending a 91-run stand between him and Hussey - the end came quickly as Australia lost 5-21.

Mitchell Johnson (0), Peter Siddle (10), Stuart Clark (duck) and Hussey fell within 30 minutes.

Hussey pushed a Swann delivery to Alastair Cook at short-leg to finalise the issue and the jubilant English players embraced as a raucous audience voiced celebration songs.

A huge flag bearing the St George cross was brought onto the ground and with champagne flowing freely the home-town stars looked at each other in disbelief, having managed the great escape.

Flintoff was destined to produce something magnificent in his final Test and when he threw down the stumps to dismiss Ponting to end a defiant innings The Oval faithful - and the whole of England - had their moment.

The run-out, one hour after lunch, ended an ominous 127-run partnership between Ponting and Hussey and sparked a middle-order collapse that guided England to within a whisper of the urn.

Ponting had shaken hands with Flintoff as the all-rounder came out to bat on Saturday. If only he’d known that same hand would orchestrate his downfall, ending what’s likely to be his final Ashes innings in England, Ponting would have gripped much tighter.

Ponting (66) was called through for a quick single by Hussey, who had guided Steve Harmison's 64th-over delivery to Flintoff at mid-on off, but as the skipper scampered down the unhelpful pitch he would have realised the mistake and stretched out with desperation, only to see the ball pin down the off-stump.

With a frustrated glance at Hussey, and the roar of the crowd as Flintoff raised his arms and basked in the adulation, Ponting spun and trudged to the pavilion as the third umpire's decision lit up the giant screen.

Having failed to contribute significantly with the bat or ball this match, Flintoff rose in the field just as a flicker of hope crossed the minds of Australian fans. Australia lost 3-16 in the 51 deliveries from that dismissal to Marcus North's stumping.

Clarke was run out for a duck six minutes after Ponting. Australia’s vice-captain and leading run-scorer was extremely unlucky in the manner of his dismissal, with a Swann ball flying off his bat onto the foot of short-leg Alastair Cook, then ricocheting to slip Strauss, who broke the stumps half a second before a confused Clarke was able to slide his bat back into the crease.

North (10) attempted to slog-sweep Swann and missed, with Matt Prior whipping off the bails as the batsman could only manage to get his foot on the line.

No meaningful partnership in the series thus far had survived such difficult conditions and near-misses as Ponting and Hussey's, with balls repeatedly beating the bat, pull-shots mistimed, and edges falling short. The vast bulk of deliveries were more likely to yield wickets than runs, but the veteran pair dug in their wrinkled claws in the age-old Australian tradition.

Ponting could have easily been dismissed in the 54th over when he edged a Swann delivery - the ball flew into Paul Collingwood’s boot and was launched into the air, but as the slip fielder raced back to attempt a spectacular catch the ball fell beyond his despairing reach.

Hussey had earlier survived a chance on 21 when another Swann delivery caught the side of his bat and speared between the legs of Collingwood too quickly for a reflex catch. Under immense pressure following a series of failure, Hussey proved his merit on the big stage.

After notching his half-century, Hussey endured a heart-stopping lbw shout from Harmison but the ball was heading too high. Ponting and Hussey stemmed the tide after England's double strike early in the first session had sunk Australia's hopes further.

This story was found at:

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Ricky Ponting facing ignominy of two Ashes defeats in England

Ricky Ponting facing ignominy of two Ashes defeats in England

Australia captain looking likely to suffer unwelcome experience of his forbear Billy Murdoch in 1890

Australia's Ponting leaves

Australia's captain Ricky Ponting leaves the field after being hit in the face by the ball. Losing a second Ashes series would hurt more. Photograph: Philip Brown /Reuters

Ricky Ponting was spitting blood after the ball smashed him in the mouth at silly point. Real blood, not the rugby joke shop kind. The whole of Australia will expectorate with him if England complete their spectacular recovery from the indignities of Headingley.

Out goes Ravi Bopara, a temporarily broken man, and in comes an Ashes virgin with a South African birth certificate and an iron constitution. Jonathan Trott scores 41 and 119. Andrew Flintoff's Test farewell turns out to be a minor sideshow and not the distraction it threatened to be. Stuart Broad files a claim to be the new Fred. And right there at the top of the heap, a modest, cultivated leader, who responded to a meltdown siren back in January to assume the captaincy, establishes himself as the man of the series. These are Andrew Strauss's Ashes, unless Australia chase down 546 to win, in which case Ponting would be the new Houdini.

Try telling our old standby, the American tourist, how a team can be eviscerated in Leeds and then torment their oppressors only a fortnight later in London. Account for that turnaround. Watch their eyes frost over as you explain the intricacies of pitch preparation and how it all depends on which way a tossed coin comes down.

The outback is vast, so there will be many dusty places for Ponting to hide should Australia's captain become the first since Billy Murdoch in 1890 to lose two Ashes series here in England. First, though, when this Oval Test has been safely housed in one of those weird-but-true family attractions, baggy greens must be loaded onto a train to Edinburgh, where Australia are due to play a one-day game against Scotland, possibly the only country that hates losing to the English more.

Sympathy would abound in Auld Reekie. But not back home. The Australian public will not want to hear ad infinitum that the Oval pitch was so dry and dirty that only tumbleweeds were needed to turn it into a full Spaghetti Western set. If this pitch is a parched batsman's cemetery, how come England managed to score 705 runs on it? Allowing, of course, for the fact that they won the toss and struck 332 on a less sadistic track.

There have been times this week when Gardeners' Question Time threatened to take over from Test Match Special in the BBC commentary box, so intense has been the horticultural dialogue. Beyond the minutiae of pace, bounce and puffs of dust, there has been a profound and unexpected swing in matters of temperament and character. The two areas, in fact, that generated so much scorn when England bowled wantonly at Headingley and dished up their middle order like a suckling pig.

Anyone who stood on an orange box and delivered a definitive judgment on any day of these five Tests would now feel a chump. Intuition says it is the fragility of both sides that has caused control to lurch this way and that. Somehow the whipped dog that was English cricket rose from its Yorkshire basket to give these Australians a savaging over three days in Kennington.

The 2005 finale was superior to this one in drama and individual talent. On this same field were assembled Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Kevin Pietersen and Flintoff in his prime. Four years on, we found Australia labouring to bowl England out on a turning pitch with Marcus North, a part-time spinner. North's commendable toiling was both a relief and a rebuke to Ponting, who will forever be remembered as the captain who discarded his only specialist twirler (Nathan Hauritz) on a surface that might have been grown in Oklahoma in the 1930s.

Before hostilities were resumed, in Cardiff, you would have drawn plenty of laughs with the prediction that Hauritz, through his absence, would be a prime factor in this Oval end-game. Hauritz as history's catalyst: discuss. Let's put it another way: who could have known that Ponting's captaincy might be broken by his failure to select The Man Who Isn't Shane?

Reading too much into press conferences is a risky activity. But on the eve of this match there was just a whiff of complacency about Ponting. Or premature triumphalism. The expected message was that Australia must be on their guard against an English counter-surge, that the deal was not yet closed. All that boring party-line stuff to catch the ears of the players. It never came. By selecting the same starting XI that had trounced Strauss's mob at Headingley, Ponting ignored the altered circumstances and was too loyal to Stuart Clark, who might have been asked to sit this one out so Hauritz could turn his hand in spinner heaven.

If any county were going to sacrifice gate money for patriotic motives then it was always going to be Surrey, that land of Jaguar cars and stockbrokers. Yes, the pitch has guaranteed a result, but no, the Surrey groundstaff could not assume that England would win the toss, or that Australia would pick the wrong team, so any Antipodean accusations of doctoring can be dismissed on grounds of logic.

A more understandable gripe is that England have returned to the old days of fast-tracking South Africans into the camp. In this case, to solve the crisis caused by Bopara's decline from new star at No3 to baffled twitcher. Trott's 160 runs across two innings served the extra purpose of veiling Paul Collingwood's rotten form. He would be unwise to look for external causes for the mess he finds himself in, but Ponting is within his rights to cry out that Trott, who represented South Africa at youth level, acquired many of his virtues in a different hemisphere.

But unless Australia, who were 80-0 at the close, can reinvent Test batting Ponting will drag the weight of this series through the rest of his life, even more than 2005, because there was "something personal" for him in the quest for atonement, as Tim Nielsen, the coach, concedes. His men swung south in full command of this contest, needing only a draw to retain the urn. After Headingley, only Mike Hussey wore a question mark. Test cricket plays so many tricks.

So while Ponting counts the ghosts that would stalk him from the field if he becomes the new Billy Murdoch, Strauss advances to the heart of England's sporting life. Charisma is not the same as self-promotion; quiet application sometimes counts for more than celebrity leadership. This series could be characterised as recession cricket, for straitened times, and Strauss is the quiet man who has led England back to the sunlight.

This article was first published on at 00.10 BST on Sunday 23 August 2009. It appeared in the Observer on Sunday 23 August 2009 on p3 of the News & features section. It was last updated at 00.10 BST on Sunday 23 August 2009.

Jonathan Trott sets pace to put Ashes in sight for England

Fifth Test, day three

Jonathan Trott sets pace to put Ashes in sight for England

Jonathan Trott, England v Australia

England's Jonathan Trott celebrates reaching his century against Australia on the third day of the fifth Ashes Test at The Oval. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

The sting is still going rather well even though England were unable to separate the Australia openers by the close. With two days remaining the tourists need another 466 runs for victory; the home side need those 10 wickets. England would have settled for that equation in the aftermath of Headingley.

In this series Australia seem to have scored most of the runs; they can boast seven centuries to England's two (it was one until Jonathan Trott's superb effort today ). They seem to have taken most of the wickets as well. The top three wicket-takers are all in the touring party. And yet England are on the threshold of regaining the Ashes, which would be some heist.

It seems that Andrew Strauss's side have managed to win the vital sessions, even if his players have been outscored in this oscillating Ashes summer, none more vital, it now seems, than the last hour back at Cardiff where the circus began six weeks ago.

After the heady melodrama of Friday this began as a day of serene consolidation for England, which transformed into a romp as the lower order made merry against a side in a tailspin, in part due to their lack of quality spin.

England lost one wicket in the morning session, three more in the afternoon, but by then the lead was way in excess of 400. In the evening Trott reached his coveted century, becoming the 18th England player to achieve that feat on debut, while Graeme Swann despatched the ball to all quarters of Kennington.

England's only disappointment was that they could not penetrate Simon Katich and Shane Watson, who, once again, were resolute. Still, the Ashes are on the horizon. Only the advent of rain or a run-chase that surpasses any other in the history of Test cricket can deny England.

The Ashes were most definitely the focus yesterday. So far this match has not been hijacked by the farewell of Andrew Flintoff. He strode out purposefully and thumped a boundary to deep midwicket to open his scoring. Determined to depart in a blaze of glory he swashed, scoring 22 from 17 balls, and then buckled, hitting a straightforward catch to long-on off Marcus North. He was in the mood to try to clear the boundary fielders.

Flintoff was given a raucous reception as he returned to the pavilion for the last time as a Test batsman. But the volume of the new batsman's welcome was just as deafening. Stuart Broad replaced him at the wicket just as he intends to take on the role of Flintoff in the England team for the foreseeable future.

As if infected by the mood of the day Broad also batted with a certain recklessness. He, too, holed out off North after a flurry of boundaries. When the dust settles more discretion will be required from an England No7. But in the cauldron of The Oval – and with England already holding a very substantial lead – such abandon was perfectly apt.

Broad's performance here brings a rosy tint to England's prospects as a Test nation in the post-Flintoff era, but there have been other equally cheering aspects to this match. Strauss remains the future. As a batsman he has discovered that the captaincy is a boon not a burden. He plays better with responsibility and the knowledge that no one is going to drop him. Until he drove and edged a North off-break just before lunch, he batted once again with assurance, patience and deft skill.

Strauss the captain may not have the intuition or inspiration of some of his predecessors. Tactical wizardry is not his speciality, but he is calm, imperturbable and solid as a rock. He declined to panic after the debacle of Headingley, expressed faith in his team, took a deep breath and galvanised his side for this finale.

After all the frenzied speculation the selectors made one change – and what a change. Trott now has a real future, which will start back in his native South Africa, when England tour there this winter. That century brought a broad smile to Trott's face, tears to that of his mother and huge relief to the selectors.

Any worries that this occasion was too big for a debutant had been swept away by an innings more notable for its composure and pragmatism rather than breathtaking strokeplay. Trott was content to lean on his bat and watch the others play the flamboyant shots. He just got on with the business of run-making with marvellous self-possession, looking more the old pro than the tender novice. His arrival as a Test player is great news for England, though possibly not for Paul Collingwood.

The best of the exotic strokeplay came from Swann who made hay against the spinners just before tea before assaulting the second new ball after the interval. He was eventually out trying to hook Ben Hilfenhaus. Quite why Australia declined to bounce him more often is a mystery. Perhaps they were shell-shocked, despite their obvious endeavour in the field.

It had long become obvious that they had the wrong team out there. North had bowled 30 presentable overs – especially for a part-timer – but the "professional" spinner, Nathan Hauritz, should have played.

However, as the shadows lengthened there was no evidence of Australia's resolve weakening. Watson and Katich looked more likely to run themselves out than to be bowled out in the opening overs. They were so determined to be positive that they attempted desperate singles to give the innings momentum. But England could not strike with a direct hit.

For the quicker bowlers there was no encouragement; no swing for James Anderson, no uneven bounce for the big boys. There was turn for Swann and though he beat the bat a few times and had one excited lbw shout when Katich padded up, the openers held firm.

Australia are in a grand canyon of a hole but there was not a trace of resignation last night.

This article was first published on at 19.44 BST on Saturday 22 August 2009. It appeared in the Observer on Sunday 23 August 2009 on p2 of the News & features section. It was last updated at 19.44 BST on Saturday 22 August 2009.

Ashes: England v Australia - day three as it happened!

Fifth npower Test, day three, The Oval

Ashes: England v Australia - day three as it happened!

Jonathan Trott made a memorable debut century but Australia closed on 80 for nought after being set 546 to win

England's Jonathan Trott

Jonathan Trott on his way to a century. On debut. In an Ashes decider. Photograph: Gareth Copley/PA

Preamble Hello. Now then, there are two ways we can do this: the easy way, or the England way.

The easy way England bat for five more hours on a pitch that is not as bad as has been suggested, extending their overnight lead of 230 to around 410. Then tomorrow, on a fourth-day track that starts to go up and down like a graphic equaliser, their tall bowlers torpedo Australia while we all sit back and savour a prolonged example of that lovely window between unspoken confirmation and orgiastic actuality. In short, we very quickly realise that something brilliant is happening.

The England way (aka the Edgbaston/Adelaide Method) The magnificent Andrew Strauss goes in the first over of the morning, leaving England effectively 230 for four, and they add just 68 more runs in a dramatic collapse against Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson. Australia's batsmen, needing 299, redefine the phrase 'over my dead body' and take us to a place where we very quickly realise that someone is in trouble, something bad is happening.

I actually had a dream last night in which Victoria Pend Australia needed seven runs to win with one wicket remaining - and Andrew Strauss threw the ball to George Costanza. That's what years of watching English cricket does to you. Yesterday was pure life-affirming insanity, but I'm not sure how much more of this I can take. Please, England, do it the easy way, just this once. We won't hold it against you.

Links to things that, like Freddie, are very good and maybe great This, this, this, this, this and this.

Stat du jour England have never before won a series of five Tests or more while scoring only a single century. Obviously they might get a second one today but, well, no, exactly.

That stat came from Andy Bull, the last words he uttered before we zipped up the gimp mask and shoved him in the cupboard. You won't be hearing from Andy 'Australia 274 for none' Bull today. There's an Ashes series to win.

So what lead to England need to feel comfortable? 300 and my pulse rate might slip below 200; 350 and I'm cracking open the Relentless, having abstained throughout the series because of its association with 2006-07; 400 and there will be congratulatory handshakes around the desk; 500 and I'm anyone's, thong optional.

So who gets the Man of the Series award for each side? I can't really see beyond Clarke, Hilfenhaus and Strauss. I didn't mean that to rhyme; it's just the way the names came out. Maybe Marcus North if he takes four or five today and gets a matchwinning ton.

Some pre-play emails

"Well I'm not a pessimist.. but had to check the weather forecast for Kennington. If the weather robs me of a single minute of this wonderful match I'm blaming you and the rest of your surrender-monkey t-shirt sloganeers with your ironic defeatism and continental lapdoggery" - Hugh Palmer.

"The most crucial day's play in this entire Ashes series or watersports with 10 blokes in the New Forest? Unfortunately, I have opted for the latter. I am praying that there will be some form of cricket coverage available..." - Jonathan Berger.

"I was going to say that with the Oval pitch trumping all there is really nothing to say about beards today; but no, the English gamemanship involved is fully in line with the worst traditions of the great hirsuteness himself W G Grace" - Keith Flett.

"Is Gary Naylor real?" - Paul Dawson. Yes. Yes he is.

The final word on the pitch

Nasser Hussain: "Are you disappointed as a team; do you think the pitch is unfair?"
Marcus North: "Aw no, not at all."
Rob Smyth: "Next!"

He seems a really good fellow, does North, as he showed with his admirably phlegmatic reaction when he got a stinker yesterday.

A precedent to keep Australians warm Anyone remember this magnificent game of Test cricket? South Africa were effectively 188 for none in the second innings on a dodgy deck, but Australia won. I'm just stating facts here. What we can say is that, just as that innings defined Mark Waugh's career, an Australian will have to play the innings of his life if they are to win this Test. They have a few who will be in the mood to do just that.

Right, here we go The players come out to a fantastic reception. Strauss and Trott are smiling as they walk to the crease, but Strauss will be conscious of the fact that he averages around 0.24 when he resumes an innings the morning after.

29th over: England 62-3 (led by 172 after first innings; Strauss 32, Trott 9) What an unbelievable start! From the very first ball Trott was squared up by a brutal leg-cutter from Siddle and appeared to edge it to Brad Haddin. It looked stone dead, but Asad Rauf said not out! And just as everyone was readying the rotten eggs - Siddle really was apoplectic - replays showed it was a sensational piece of umpiring! There was a huge noise, but it was bat on pad and the deviation of the ball was off Trott's trousers. Unbelievable stuff, and then Trott loops the second ball just short of cover. Then, from the final ball, Strauss is beaten. This is outrageous; this is contagious. "I hope you had a good sleep Mr Smyth and didn't hit it too hard Friday night, because we Australian OBOers need a very good session from you this morning," says Evan Maloney. "Four wickets would be nice. Cheers." What do you think this is: 2005? I was in bed by 11 with only Malcolm Tucker and Hugh Abbot for company.

30th over: England 64-3 (led by 172 after first innings; Strauss 33, Trott 10) Now it's Mitchell Johnson. It was going to be Marcus North but Ricky Ponting changed his mind halfway through that over from Siddle. Trott tucks a single to leg and Strauss continues to look encouragingly assured. As Shane Warne says, there will be no frills at all from Strauss for as long as he's at the crease. On dicey pitches many batsmen decide to hit out, to get as many as they can before they get a bullet with their name on it, but Strauss will go the other way and back his mental capacity to bat time and look to let the brouhaha surrounding the pitch affect his shot selection. "I suspect that if England win The Ashes, Stuart Broad may be the Man of the Series - for all the acreage of tosh printed about the pitch, Flintoff, Anderson and Harmison were innocuous yesterday and Swanny had a lot of help from Asad Rauf," says Gary Naylor. "'Malfoy on stilts' has turned up at the sharp end and still has a lot of work to do - if he does it, he'll be worth the Flintoffian hype that will follow." I know what you mean but he was several shades of innocuous for three Tests and got the dirtiest of fiver-fors in the fourth, so I'd be really loath to give him Man of the Series.

31st over: England 64-3 (led by 172 after first innings; Strauss 33, Trott 10) Siddle turns Strauss round, and the leading edge goes low into the covers. Little else happens and that's a maiden. "If England win this, and they're the only team in the world who could manage to lose it, I'm changing my life on Monday," says Dean Butler. "I'm getting a job. Strauss; the destiny of a tragic, mendacious fool is in your hands."

32nd over: England 68-3 (led by 172 after first innings; Strauss 34, Trott 12) I can understand why Ponting started with Johnson, because he has an air of thuggish menace on even the flattest of pitches and on a good day he could take 7 for 40 here. But the flip side of that is that four poor overs could disappear for 30 and give England momentum. He hasn't started particularly well, with his line all over the place, and in that over Trott and Strauss both help leg-stump filth on its way for a couple of singles. It's too darn quiet. "Why is it that cricketers continue to wear such baggy trousers and shirts when so often they can lead to a dismissal, as that nearly did for Trott?" says Jonny Bennett. "Don't get me wrong, the sight of the entire England team walking out in super-tight lycra isn't likely to boost the popularity of the sport and to put it simply, just isn't cricket but at the same time couldn't they be just a little tighter? Trouser clips or something; I don't know." Look, if you want to know what I'm wearing you just have to ask.

33rd over: England 72-3 (led by 172 after first innings; Strauss 37, Trott 12) Strauss looks calm, really calm, and tucks Siddle off his pads for two. This isn't jinxing him, because he could get a bullet any ball now, but he looks beautifully certain. He has a wonderful ability to play each ball exactly on its merits, which is of incredible importance on this wicket. "Have to agree with you re: Broad," says Sarah Bacon. "From floundering in a deep pool of dross for the past month or so, he finally learned the Australian Crawl, freestyling himself into the history books and English fans' hearts. Most of what he bowled in that special session yesterday was downright unplayable, it's true, but don't get out the tickertape just yet. Apart from a few magical moments here and there, I've yet to see anything to indicate that England, the team, deserves to win the series." I'm not sure anyone does, which has what has made this series so crazily entertaining. It's a disgrace to 2005, really, but like swigging from a bottle of vodka on the bus at 9.10am, it's an enjoyable disgrace.

34th over: England 77-3 (led by 172 after first innings; Strauss 38, Trott 12) Ponting decides that he can risk the errant Johnson no longer in that spell and turns to Stuart Clark. He has two short midwickets for Trott and is bowling gunbarrel-straight, but when he errs ever so slightly the ball clips the pad and flies for four. Then an inside-edge saves Trott from what would have been a very good LBW appeal. The lead is up to 249. "Jonny Bennett has a point," says Robin Hazlehurst, demonstrating a flawless understanding on the difference between male and female genitalia. "Rob Key, for example, walking out in just pads and an OBO thong would also have a big mental disintegration effect on any opposition." It'd have an even bigger physical disintegration effect on him if he took one in the special place.

35th over: England 82-3 (led by 172 after first innings; Strauss 43 Trott 12) Strauss pulls Siddle for a couple - don't bowl short on this pitch - and then drives through mid-on for three. "I'm at work - alone," says Toby Jones. "I've started talking to myself already. I've desperately needed the toilet for 43 minutes but I'm terrified that if I go I will somehow metaphorically pee on Strauss' robust defence.

36th over: England 82-3 (led by 172 after first innings; Strauss 43 Trott 12) Strauss is beaten by a wider delivery from Clark that pops out of the footmarks. Clark is trying to get Strauss to drive, with two men in close on the off side, but as the Sky chaps point out this is not the sort of pitch on which you want to be driving. "Something like Bridgetown 99 is the concern," says Jo Davis, "with Ponting playing Lara. On these kind of pitches it's the single big score by the world class player that's the big risk, and you can just see him doing it." I agree. If Australia are to win it, one man has to play the innings of his life.

37th over: England 84-3 (led by 172 after first innings; Strauss 44 Trott 13) Trott tucks Siddle off his pads. Every run is being cheered like an important medical breakthrough. England are getting 'em in singles; I don't think there's been a boundary this morning. I think it's time for Marcus North. "I'm here," says my former colleague Georgina Turner. "Sorry if it's just me." It'll always be just you, Georgie, at least until [insert name of Scarlett Johansson here] turns up at my door.

38th over: England 86-3 (led by 172 after first innings; Strauss 45 Trott 14) Clark looks pretty anodyne, partly because Strauss is leaving him very well. A maiden. We're just starting to enter the Hope Zone, the square on which there is an almighty snake that takes us back to the Wicket Zone. The lead is 258. "Tell that Jo that the main difference here is Bridgetown 99 was probably the best innings by anyone ever. Against McGrath and Warne. Chasing down 304 in 1.5 days against the anodyne Anderson and Harmison is a relative cakewalk. Did I imagine it or did Graeme Smith do exactly that at Edgbaston last year on a 'wearing' pitch?" Point taken, but I don't think Smith is a fair comparison. That was a fourth-day pitch; this, in terms of the spinner at least, is a fourth-week pitch. Also, I reach Gooch's 154 not out just trumps Lara's 153 not out, qualitatively and quantitatively.

39th over: England 92-3 (led by 172 after first innings; Strauss 45 Trott 20) Here's Marcus North, the man with the impossibly husky voice, and Trott pulls the first boundary of the day behind square to bring up the fifty partnership. At the risk of stating the obvious, if Strauss and Trott can add fifty... "A self-imposed alcohol ban is likely to be tested to its most extreme limits this evening," says Chris Brereton of his heroic alcohol ban, currently in its eighth hour. "Surely it would be wrong not to have a cheeky tipple at some point over the next 12 hours? If this is not a 'win/lose on the booze' scenario then what is. Assuage my guilt somewhat please. Relentless just Does Not Cut It." I don't think you need me to assuage your guilt, do you now.

40th over: England 92-3 (led by 172 after first innings; Strauss 45 Trott 20) Clark continues to try to lure Strauss outside off stump, and beats him with a superb leg-cutter to the left-hander. Apart from that, Strauss is solid. The consequence of this attrition is that Clark's figures (4-2-3-0) look good, but this isn't of much use to Australia. The longer England bat the worse the pitch will get, and I'd be inclined to give Mitchell Johnson a second go. If his line is still bad, take him off, but I'd give him two overs. "Why has nobody mentioned that Trott and Prior have exactly the same face?" says Glenn Allan. "The only difference is that Prior has too many teeth to fit in his mouth."

41st over: England 96-3 (led by 172 after first innings; Strauss 48 Trott 21) No silly point for North to Trott, which is a surprise. There's a slip, leg gully and short leg. Trott takes a single and then Strauss is beaten by a beauty that dips and then spits past the outside edge. Unplayable. Leaving out Nathan Hauritz here must rank as one of the very worst selections of all time, up there with England picking four seamers and Ian Salisbury on a dustbowl in Calcutta in 1992-93, a pitch that turned so much that Graeme Hick took 5 for 28 in the match. "I'm having a four-course breakfast," says Alex Netherton, "and none of them are Monster Munch."

42nd over: England 98-3 (led by 172 after first innings; Strauss 50 Trott 21) Clark is bowling from as wide as possible on the crease to Strauss, to bring the footmarks into play and make Strauss play. It's smart cricket, but England's captain sensible remains almost eerily unruffled and dabs two to third man to bring up a wonderfully temperate half-century. At 154 balls it's the slowest of his England career, and it's also one of the best. In many ways the surprise is that he hasn't got more runs in this series, because he's in a sensational place right now. "Just spoke to the man in the local shop about cricket," says Heather. "It turns out he's an obsessive Chris Broad fan, and it took me twenty minutes plus a detour through Lahore Gymkhana and the wonders of Wasim Akram to actually leave the shop."

43rd over: England 100-3 (led by 172 after first innings; Strauss 51 Trott 22) A couple of singles in that North over take England into three figures. It's going too darn well. "I'd almost forgo The Ashes just for the chance to see someone bat like Lara did at Bridgetown in '99," says Gary Naylor. "It was like watching Usain Bolt, but it lasted all day." Even on teletext it was a pleasure. I'd definitely have it second only to Gooch's 154 in my cricket-watching lifetime.

44th over: England 102-3 (led by 172 after first innings; Strauss 53 Trott 22) Strauss dabs Clark to third man for two more, and is then beaten on the inside by a very good cutter. In other news, Bumble is Tweeting Lily Allen on behalf of Shane Warne. Poor lass.

45th over: England 106-3 (led by 172 after first innings; Strauss 53 Trott 22) Trott, pushing forward, gloves one onto the pad and short of Katich at short leg. Then he gets four leg-byes. It doesn't seem to be spitting quite as much as it did yesterday. I know pitches can sometimes die for no particular reason - Jo'burg 1995, for example - but surely it's impossible for a pitch such as this, with going through the top, to die. There is no precedent for that, is there? "ECB security have literally just added 'No knives' to the rules of entry at their big cricket screen in Regent's Park," says Dan Smith. "So if you were thinking of pitting the olives in your middle-class picnic with a flick knife, think again." I'm going tomorrow. Can you bring your own booze?

46th over: England 110-3 (led by 172 after first innings; Strauss 57 Trott 22) Clark, possibly out of sheer boredom, switches to over the wicket for Strauss and is immediately pulled to fine leg for four. That's Strauss's first boundary of the day. "Quote from Bumble on Twitter: 'Lily in today...had a bath..changed my socks'," says Sunil X. "In what order, I wonder?"

47th over: England 118-3 (led by 172 after first innings; Strauss 58 Trott 29) Hilfenhaus replaces North, and Trott steers his first ball low to third man for four. This has been an uncomfortably comfortable morning for England. Last night, I put the draw just behind the end of the world and Mrs Scarlett Smyth in likely scenarios over the next three days, but now I am ever so slightly worried that the pitch might die. I know it can't; I know all logic says it can't; but since when did logic have anything to do with English cricket. Ah, that's more like it. The moment I typed that that guff above, Hilfenhaus's second ball popped horribly past Trott's attempted forcing stroke.

48th over: England 126-3 (led by 172 after first innings; Strauss 66 Trott 29) Strauss comes down the track to Clark and drives the ball into the ground and over the two men at short extra-cover for four. He does exactly the same next ball. It's really smart cricket to play Clark like a spinner because, as Nasser Hussain points out on Sky, by coming down the track he can get to the ball before it does anything nasty out of the footmarks. Brilliant batting. Anyway, people who know more about pitches than me: is there any possible way a pitch of this precise nature can just die? I really am getting The Fear about this. "We've got a big debate going on here," says Helen Clarkson, inexplicably eschewing everyone's, a-hem, favourite onanism gag. "Every few overs Trott tips his helmet up and quite a large quantity of water comes out. My brother says this is because he's the sweatiest man alive, but my sister-and-law and I think that if he sweated that much he'd collapse through excess water loss and it must be some kind of cooling ice-pack in his helmet which is melting." Could it be vodka? Would that be so wrong?

49th over: England 134-3 (led by 172 after first innings; Strauss 67 Trott 35) England are having a very good spell here, and Trott square drives Hilfenhaus for three to take the lead past 300. My pulse rate is down to 199. Trott then drives three more through midwicket. His temperament is very impressive. An Englishman (sic), on debut, against Australia, making runs in both innings? It's almost unheard of. "Chalky, I never read you anxious," says my colleague and now former friend Mikey Stafford. "However I'm confused – which are you more concerned about? The pitch dying or not being granted entry to Regent's Park tomorrow with your three litre flagon of White Lightning?" Well both, but mainly the pitch.

50th over: England 142-3 (led by 172 after first innings; Strauss 74 Trott 36) Michael Clarke comes on to bowl his left-arm spin, and Strauss slog-sweeps his second ball for four with wonderful authority. Jeez he's playing unbelievably well. Then he sweeps a single to bring up the century partnership. Excellent stuff, but just a bit too easy for my liking of late: they've taken 26 from the last three overs. I'm surprised Ponting hasn't asked Mitchell Johnson to raise hell. "Rob, are you seriously getting The Fear because a couple of England batsmen are playing well? I know we've all suffered in the past but for god's sake man, lie back and enjoy it a bit!" says Jack Lee. 'Enjoy it.' Listen to him.

51st over: England 144-3 (led by 172 after first innings; Strauss 74 Trott 38) It's spin at both ends, with Marcus North replacing Hilfenhaus. Trott dabs a couple to third man and that's the lot. "I am considered something of an expert on the batting strip on our patch of lawn in the garden," says Rhys Morgan. "I can say that it has been known to inexplicably die after the third or fourth hour of play on a Sunday morning. Scientifically, I am not sure if you can extrapolate much from this in terms of a Test-match wicket on the third of fourth day but it has got me worried now you have brought it up."

52nd over: England 146-3 (led by 172 after first innings; Strauss 75 Trott 39) Strauss fails to take advantage of a rancid full-toss from Clarke, clunking it to mid-on for a single. "Yes, you are allowed to bring 'sensible quantities' of booze to Regents Park tomorrow as long as it's not in glass containers," says Melanie Brown. "Just decant your gin into your hipflask/Thermos beforehand and you'll be fine." Or, as an alternative, drink it all by 10am and ride the Wave of Fun thereafter.

53rd over: England 147-3 (lead by 319; Strauss 75 Trott 40) Strauss offers no shot to a full delivery to North that goes straight on and raps him on the pad. Asad Rauf thought about that for ages, and it was a very good shout indeed. Hawkeye has it missing off stump by a whisker. Here's Gary Naylor, ever the optimist. "Whilst the pundits have concentrated on the pitch (and made some fairly unsavoury comments about a blameless groundsman), might it not be yesterday's rain that provoked Broad's er... broadside?" says Gary Naylor. "Broad swung the ball (still Aussies' least favourite bowling) through an atmosphere that must have had water evaporating from the outfield. England need at least 400 and maybe 600 to be safe." I agree about Broad yesterday, but logically the bounce can only get more uneven, and then there's the Swann factor.

54th over: England 157-3 (lead by 329; Strauss 75 Trott 50) Trott gleefully pulls a long hop from Clarke for four. That was absolute filth. Later in the over he rocks back to whip through midwicket for four to bring up his maiden Test fifty. In the parlance of our time, he has a bit of ticket, and he has played splendidly. "After the talk earlier in the series of banning the rolling of the pitch as it kills pitches (eg Edgbaston) why did we use the heavy roller twice?" says Andrew Benbow. "If you ignore what the pitch looks like, it is playing like a very slow turner at the moment. Worried."

WICKET! England 157-4 (Strauss c Clarke b North 75) Andrew Strauss is furious with himself, swishing his bat in frustration. He was lured into the drive by a little bit of flight from North, and the ball gripped enough to take the edge on its way to first slip. Good bowling from North, and the end of an innings for which no praise is too high. As Shane Warne says, he just seemed to lose a bit of concentration at the end - first when he padded up to North and then with a stroke that was unnecessarily risky on this surface.

55th over: England 157-4 (lead by 329; Trott 50, Prior 0) Prior drives one into ground and straight into Ponting's unhelmeted face at silly point. Ouch. A few utter morons cheer but that was awful - there was an almighty crack and it also drew blood. Shades of that hideous whack Nick Knight took in the same position at Trent Bridge in 1995. Thankfully it was the final ball before lunch so Ponting, who just spat the blood out almost contemptuously, can get it checked. He'll be fine; he's as tough as the old Baggy Green perched atop his head. And so ends a very good session indeed for England. They lead by 329 and are in a sensational position, even if the draw - impossible last night - is now rearing its miserably ugly head. See you in 30 minutes.


Disconcerting lunchtime email "Utterly surreal to hear the words 'crack-whore' on TMS (courtesy of Miss Allen's hit)," says Rebecca Heller. "I don't say I didn't like it though."

56th over: England 162-4 (lead by quite a few, look I'd like to update this bit every over but I'm a simple lad and I'll keep forgetting about it, sorry; Trott 55, Prior 0) Ponting is back out with a couple of blood stains on each lip. Siddle opens the bowling and Trott cuts him for two and then works him off the pads for two more. All logic says that England are home and hosed here, that they could declare now. I don't give a flying one for logic and I reckon that this game will go the fifth day now. From there, anything is possible. What if it rained all day? What if? "Enough about Allen, L. More about Pendleton, V," pants Will Bowen.

57th over: England 163-4 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 56, Prior 0) Trott turns North round the corner and this far short off Hussey, endeavouring to justify his existence at leg slip. "Let's get the possibility of another parallel with the 2005 series out the way as quickly as possible: ConvertedSaffermakespivotalcenturyfifthtestsecondinnings," pants Scott W. "There. Hopefully the cricket Gods failed to catch that."

WICKET! England 168-5 (Prior run out 4) Prior plays push-and-run to Katich in the covers, and he does the rest with a superb, almost angry pick-up and throw. His second excellent run-out of the match, even if it was a stupid run from Prior. He also stopped for just a split-second when he was a third of the way down the wicket, and that was ultimately crucial.

58th over: England 168-5 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 57, Flintoff 0) Fred gets a standing ovation as he comes to the crease for his final Test innings, and the hairs on the back of the neck are off on one again. I think I can even feel a wee tear in the eye. Ricky Ponting comes up and shakes his hand, which is a really classy touch from a top man. For all the stuff about Flintoff's stats and even his number of match-winning performances, there is one enormous thing in his favour when his career is judged: he earned the unconditional respect of the best team in the world, and not many do that.

59th over: England 172-5 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 57, Flintoff 4) Fred, our mate Fred, gets off the mark with a hearty biff for four through midwicket off North.

60th over: England 176-5 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 57, Flintoff 4) Siddle beats Trott with a peach, a full outswinger that roared like a yawning dragon past the outside edge. Then he rams a bouncer right onto Trott's helmet and away for four leg-byes. "I gave Arrested Development to some friends of mine, they've watched a couple of episodes and I don't think they like it," says Mark Taylor. "Is that even possible?" Disown them now. A man must have his principles. If people diss Rob Key or Martin McCague, I genuinely never speak to them again.

61st over: England 182-5 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 58, Flintoff 9) Flintoff tickles North fine for four more and then he comes down the pitch to scuff one to midwicket for a single. He looks in the mood to have some fun, and surely it's better he play this way - both in terms of the individual and the team situation - than try to build an innings carefully. "I don't know much about pitches, but I do a bit about stats," says Andrew. "Interesting that in three morning sessions, only four wickets have fallen (including two England tailenders) but 21 wickets have fallen in four and a bit sessions after lunch. What does that mean?" Er. Errrr. You say two tailenders, but it's three in view of Alastair Cook's recent form.

62nd over: England 191-5 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 62, Flintoff 14) This pitch is definitely slowing down. The goalposts have moved significantly and now I reckon England's plan will be to bat until around 5pm today. Runs are coming at a decent rate now, with nine from that Siddle over, including the crispest of swivel-pulls for four from Flintoff.

63rd over: England 197-5 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 63, Flintoff 19) Great stuff from Flintoff, who comes down the track to North and cracks him for a one-bounce four to deep midwicket. There was a slight element of inside-edge but it was a good stroke and he's going at more than a run a ball. Poor old Ponting wears another one at silly point, this time in his doubtless fat-free backside. He finds it all pretty amusing. His conduct throughout this series has been admirable.

64th over: England 200-5 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 63, Flintoff 22) This should be lively fare: here comes Mitchell Johnson, who has bowled only two overs today, to bowl to Flintoff. His first ball is really smart, a slower ball that Flintoff edges over the off-side infield for three. "Jonanthan Trott has the batting stats this season to be worth giving a go in Test cricket and has now shown that he has the ticker too," says Gary Naylor. "Adil Rashid has the batting stats this season to be worth giving a go in Test cricket too. And 170 First Class wickets." And he showed hae had the ticker in the World Twenty20. Be patient Naylor: I like the idea of waiting with Rashid until the moment is absolutely right, almost like a deliberately protracted bit of foreplay. His time will come, and it will come soon, but I would only take him to South Africa as second spinner. On that note, I wouldn't be shocked if Monty Panesar never played Test cricket again.

WICKET! England 200-6 (Flintoff c Siddle b North 22) It's over. Freddie launches North to wide long-on and is taken by Siddle. He walks off, head down, with just a quick point of the bat to either side of the ground. It was a fun innings - 22 from 18 balls - and that was the right way to go. He wanted desperately to be a batting allrounder but he's been a bowling allrounder for eight years now, and that means his real work is to come. But he has given some wonderful entertainment with the bat, not least on this ground in 2003. It's been a pleasure.

65th over: England 204-6 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 67, Broad 0) Trott whaps a shortish delivery from North through midwicket for four. That's a very good stroke. "Not sure how this will help on the loo front but I'm quietly hammered on French vodka," says Alex Hull. "Its 1.15 in the morning and I cann't tear myself away from obo and go to bed."

66th over: England 209-6 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 67, Broad 5) Broad times a short one Johnson exquisitely through the covers for four to get off the mark. "I'm staunchly refusing to concede anything to my bladder," says Toby Jones. "It appears that being in an advanced state of cross-legged agony encourages the England team. Be a patriot, Smyth - and puddle the floor if you must."

67th over: England 211-6 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 67, Broad 6) North drops Broad off his own bowling. It was a fairly straightfoward chance as Broad choked an attempted drive but North, leaping, couldn't hang on with both hands. The following ball is a ludicrous jaffa that pitches on off and middle and turns to miss off by a whisker. An absolutely ridiculous delivery. "At the risk of revealing precisely how empty my life currently is, I'm still here," says Georgina Turner. "I did go away for a minute to buy Eddie Izzard tickets, but I'm back now. Loving your work. Really." Never rated yours, love.

68th over: England 212-6 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 68, Broad 6) In attempting to describe the South African team, Nasser Hussain comes up with a new word: 'ruethal', presumably a mix of ruthless and brutal.
"French vodka?" sniffs 'The Cape Colonial'. "Yeah, and I'm drinking Russian claret."

69th over: England 216-6 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 72, Broad 6) A delivery from North spits past Trott's outside edge and bashed Haddin on the helmet. Ian Healy sometimes wore a helmet against Shane Warne as a psychological trick but you certainly need one here. Trott then snicks a cut stroke up and over Clarke at slip for four. That turned and bounced a long way. In an unrelated development, I really need them to have a drinks break soon. My legs are crossed, but it's not exactly a free-and-easy Basic Instinct pose. I'm hanging on for dear life here! "Smiff," says Glenn Miller. "Following his second less than memorable innings with the bat and after picking up a solitary tailender in the first Aussie innings, what's your prediction for Freddie with the ball in final innings? An explosive five-for or a forgettable limp into Test history?" Balls to a five-for; I want a ten-for. Actually I can see a dullish 2 for 47, but maybe with him taking the final wicket. That'd be nice. I'd like that. Especially if it it's at 5.13pm tomorrow and I'm in Regent's Park and so drunk that I can't even remember my gender, never mind my own name.

70th over: England 225-6 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 72, Broad 15) It's a drinks break, a lovely drinks break, a beautiful drinks break. "Why do you think you're sat covering the cricket, and I'm sat cobbling together my thesis?" says Georgina Turner. "The only person who ever rated my work was me, and I was only being polite." Yes, that's the same Georgina Turner who won New Online Journalist of the Year in 2005. The only thing I've ever won was Redheads on MUTV. 2003, thanks for asking.

71st over: England 237-6 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 72, Broad 27) Broad drives North for two delicious lofted boundaries, first over mid-on to take the score over 400 and then over extra-cover. He then makes it three fours in four balls with a dragged slog-sweep from well outside off stump before being beaten by a spitting snorter. "Redheads, eh?" sniffs Brian Cloughley. "Well I once won an epsisode of Channel 5's Brainteaser (before it got pulled off the air for some sort of competition fixing nonsense.) Beat that viewers."

72nd over: England 239-6 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 73, Broad 28) Trott goes for a big drive at Johnson, bowling around the wicket, and is beaten by a bit of late movement. "Given your previously stated love of man like Collingwood, I'd be interested to hear your views on the batting order of a fully fit post-Flintoff England batting order?" says Scott W. "If Trott can transfer his serene, almost opium-addled, sense of otherworldly calm to No3, then we can consider that particular conundrum closed; we can then move on to getting the fancy dans Pietersen and Bopara to come in at four and five and put on 100 from 70 balls. The prospect of that, followed by Prior, Broad, Rashid and Swann makes me drool. Of course, all of this depends on Trott's ability to play 3, but the signs from these two innings are encouraging: he seems to build innings based on confidence in his own technique, rather than hope in his ability to subsist on looseners." I don't think Trott is a No3. Collingwood on South African pitches is a worry, but I'd still prefer him to Bell. The big problem, though, is who bats No3. Is it time for Pietersen to take full responsibility in the most important position in the order? Or, and I prefer this approach, do you get a dashing right-handed opener in, put Cook at No3 and then have either Bopara or Collingwood at No6. As a few of you have pointed out, the likelihood is that England's top seven (six?) this winter will have four South African-born players: Strauss, Pietersen, Trott and Prior.

73rd over: England 240-6 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 73, Broad 28) The game is drifting a little, and it's odd to realise that we are only 16 minutes past the halfway point of the match. "My old flatmate won three Gold Runs on Blockbusters as a goofy teenager," says James King. I tend to get five. "His prize was a safari in Africa. He was all smiles to Bob on-screen, but away from the cameras he threw a hissy-fit and turned down the dream trip. Why? Because he doesn't like spiders."

74th over: England 243-6 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 74, Broad 29) A couple of singles and a no-ball in that Johnson over, which he ends by throwing the ball angrily back towards Trott. It's an odd little passage of play, this. I'm not sure either team knows quite where they are, particularly England, as I doubt they thought a declaration might come into play when they came to the ground this morning. "Smyth," says Georgina Turner, "the only TV title worth having these days is Total Wipeout champion, and I'd pay good money to see you do that course." You haven't seen me since I buffed up big-style, have you?

WICKET! England 243-7 (Broad c Ponting b North 29) A cheery cameo from Stuart Broad comes to an end when he slices to mid-off. Marcus North has four wickets and is surely going to take a five-for here. I wonder what Nathan Hauritz is thinking.

75th over: England 245-7 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 76, Swann 0)

76th over: England 245-7 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 76, Swann 0) Swann is beaten by another grotesque, lifting leg-cutter from Johnson. It's a maiden. England lead by 417.

Trott is playing calmly, content to deal in low-risk ones and twos unless he gets a rank bad ball. He takes a single and Swann drives a full-toss through Hilfenhaus at mid-off for a couple. Then he pulls out the reverse-sweep to successive deliveries, fresh-airing the first and getting two from the second. "I must say the South African B side is doing extremely well against the Aussie A side," says Clive Sacke. Better than the South African A side, in fact.

78th over: England 260-7 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 78, Swann 12) Johnson overpitches from around the wicket and Swann blasts a superb cover drive for four. Then he squirts another drive to third man for four. It's utter dross from Johnson, who should know that Swann is at his best when the ball is pitched up outside off. "A new slogan for the 2009 Ashes series," says Scott W. ""Is it bold to pray for cloud cover?"

79th over: England 264-7 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 79, Swann 15) Ricky Ponting has left the field, presumably to get his face treated, and Twitter's Phillip Hughes is on as substitute. Swann reverse-sweeps North for two more. He could end his batting series as he began it: winding up Australia a treat. "Does Trott have more ts in his surname than any other England player ever?" asks Nemonie Craven Roderick, who obviously isn't familiar with the Test career of hirsute 19th-century allrounder Danny Twitterbottom.

80th over: England 269-7 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 80, Swann 16) Johnson is wided on length after an extraordinary delivery that bounced in the rough at the bowler's end. England continue to tick along, although Trott is a little becalmed and might want to get a jump on. Then Johnson is no-balled for what was also probably a wide. He is ending the series as he started, by bowlling abject filth.

81st over: England 275-7 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 81, Swann 21) Ponting is back on the field and, although the new ball is available, he persists with the old one and Marcus North. Swann comes down the track and bashes him straight back over his head for four. England lead by 447. 447. If they get to 500 they will surely declare.

82nd over: England 278-7 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 82, Swann 24) Katich replaces Johnson. The atmosphere is a little flat, but I guess that's just a reflection that England are doing as they please. "We're approaching the tantalising possibility of a lead where Smyth is anyone's, thong optional," says Rebecca Heller. "Perhaps we could have another caption competition where you are the prize." We'd get some particularly interesting captions given that everyone would, or at least, be trying to lose.

83rd over: England 290-7 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 83, Swann 33) Swann is having some fun out there - how good has the intent of England's Nos 6-9 been in this series - and strikes North for four from the last two balls before tea: the first a pull and the second a scorching drive over mid-off. England are in an unbelievable position here, leading by 4632, by 462, and I'm off to try on a few thongs. See you in 10 minutes.

TEA "What's a good declaration total in your esteemed?" says the lovely Jennifer Roesler. I feel sure that England should declare with a lead between 499 and 499. It would be feckless to get that lead up to 500 because the psychological barrier would stimulate Australia further. Yes, that's it. Either way, they should get it done quickly. Awp, as an actress said to an etc.

Tea-time stattage "Trott now has the best debut scores in an Ashes Test since P E Richardson in 1956," says Chris Bourne. "Better than KP in 2005, better than Graham Thorpe. Sixth best of all time. What a way to gatecrash the party: not so much a flagon of White Lightning as a case of Chateau Montrachet."

Tea-time emails/pleas for Andrew Strauss to do the right thing for the sake of English cricket/the female population

"This is a good opportunity for Strauss to show his inner steel as a captain making tough decisions for the team rather than pandering to individuals. If Swann can go out and give it some welly, then Strauss can declare just before Trott gets the opportunity to complete his century, ideally when he is on 99 or 98. Real captains, like Atherton, have the mettle to act like that" - Tom Van der Gucht.

"My brother in a thong? Let's hope the declaration comes soon!" - Olivia Gannon.

84th over: England 295-7 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 87, Swann 35) Ben Hilfenhaus, who doesn't deserve to be bowling in a situation like this after his outstanding work throughout the series, starts after tea and is driven splendidly down the ground for three by Trott. "If you look at total runs scored in each position for the whole series (current innings excluded) then you see just how pathetic our middle order really has been, but 8 & 9.... they rock," says Michael Hamilton. "Without them, we would have already lost." Tellingly, Flintoff, Prior, Swann and Broad are the only men on either side (except the statistical freak that is Stuart Clark) with a strike-rate of over 70 in the series, as this link shows. I love that stat and am now patting myself on the back for digging it out. Well done Bobbie. Well played sir.

85th over: England 309-7 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 88, Swann 47) Glorious shot from Swann, who smacks Siddle on the up over extra cover for four. Later in the over he reaches well outside off stump to clout four more down the ground - an absurd stroke. This is a fabulous, nose-in-the-dirt cameo from Swann, who has 47 from 42 balls. "Declaration?" says Graham Allsop. "Two bloody days left; bat it out for eff's sake!" Don't give weather - or Sod - any chance to influence proceedings. Get them in tonight.

86th over: England 322-7 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 95, Swann 52) Ricky Ponting drops Graeme Swann. It was a desperately hard chance, high to his left at second slip as Swann threw the kitchen sink at Hilfenhaus, and he could only push it on its way for two. Swann works the next ball through midwicket for two more to reach a deliciously mischievous half-century from only 44 balls. Trott then waves one through the covers to move into the nineties before edging low to third man to within five of his century. It's almost too much to take in. "You are only publishing Nemonie Craven Roderick's question (Over 79) because she once appeared in Weekend's now-lapsed 'We Love Each Other' section, and is therefore a Guardian insider," says James Womack. "This is worse than the BBC scandals. Resign now and keep whatever shreds of dignity you still possess." Dign- Digni- what word is this you speak of? What is this concept?

87th over: England 329-7 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 95, Swann 59) Swann is seeing it like a football now and pulls Siddle's first ball for four with real authority. The lead is 498. Balls to Trott's hundred; declare! He doesn't, and Swann works two more through midwicket to take England's lead into barely believable territory: 500. England have scored 39 in four overs since tea. "If Swann looks this comfortable on this wicket, has it occurred to anyone how comfortable say, Ponting and Clarke might look for a day or two?" asks Martin Gillam. The pitch has definitely died down a bit, but surviving for more than two days is, in the parlance of our time, the biggest of asks.

WICKET! England 333-8 (Swann c Haddin b Hilfenhaus 63) Swann's brilliant cameo of 63 from 55 balls ends when he top-edges an attempted pull straight up in the air. Earlier in the over he had played a majestic stroke, walking down the track to Hilfenhaus and slamming him over mid-on.

88th over: England 335-8 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 96, Anderson 0) "Normally my pee goes in a straight line," announces Srirahayu Suyoto. "However, after sex or after an England wicket I tend to spray double or even more gloriously. Am I alone in this?" Based on that email, I suspect you're alone in that and a whole lot more.

89th over: England 336-8 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 97, Anderson 0) Trott continues to get 'em in singles, screwing the new bowler Stuart Clark to fine leg to move to 97. Anderson blocks and leaves the remainder of the over as the camera cuts to a pretty girl. Why do they never cut to pretty boys (except when Stuart Broad or Rob Key are in action)? "I think Sisqo puts it best: 'I know you wanna show da na da na. That thong th thong thong thong'," says Rebecca Heller. "Go on - get it out for the lads." I said I was anyone's; I didn't say I'd be doing it in public. If it'd been Rob Key on 97 not out, on the other hand...

90th over: England 346-8 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 107, Anderson 0) He's done it! What an unbelievable moment in the life of Jonathan Trott, who works Hilfenhaus off his hip for four to reach a magnificent century. On debut. In an Ashes decider. In an Ashes decider. Extraordinary stuff, but even now he remains almost indecently calm, swishing the bat proudly but not too extravagantly. He had a big escape earlier in the over, on 97, when a back-defensive went off the pad and a fraction wide of leg stump, but he fully deserves this because he has played a sensational knock. The camera cuts to his mum in the crowd, who is in tears. What a beautiful moment that is.

91st over: England 354-8 (led by 172 on first innings; Trott 107, Anderson 8) Anderson joins in the fun, rocking back to clatter Clark through extra cover for four and then cutting the next ball just over point for four more. We're now just waiting for the declaration/thongs to arrive. "No: not alone," says Scott Poynting. "You can find the phenomenon described in admirably grandiloquent terms by Joyce in Ulysses. The stream is compared to the bifurcated penultimate letter of the alphabet."

92nd over: England 357-8 (lead by 529; Trott 108, Anderson 10) Mitchell Johnson returns to the attack. Perhaps England are so secure in the weather forecast (which is good) that they have decided not to declare and just bat until they are dismissed. "So I take it we all agree that Ashley Giles is now decisively not a somehow daunting-but-also-confused Warwickshire nepotist but in fact a swashbuckling warrior for truth, justice and the Victorian spirit of imperialist requisition?" says Scott W. I'd spend a penny for his thoughts now. He won't be seeing much of Jonathan Trott next season.

93rd over: England 360-8 (lead by 532; Trott 109, Anderson 12) "The England selectors have got to take a lot of credit, not just in this series but for quite a few years now," says Chris Goater. "When I first started watching cricket in the 80s, the England selectors were a bad joke - we had the likes of Ted Dexter referring to 'Malcolm Devon' and relying on astrology. Then we had the disaster of the Ray Illingworth period, and lumbering us with a selection policy so lacking in consistency that it ruined almost an entire generation of England players. But whatever England's flaws since, say 2005, you can't really blame selection. With the exception on some bad calls for the captaincy, by-and-large the selectors have picked the right players in the squad. Australia's selection cock-up in this Test offers a useful comparison, wouldn't you agree?" Absolutely. Obviously they're not perfect but it's an extraordinary improvement on picking 29 players in one series, as they did in 1989. And if you can name all 29 without recourse to Wisden or Cricinfo, I apologise for the hand you have been dealt in life.

94th over: England 361-8 (lead by 533; Trott 110, Anderson 12) And on we go. "Why even THINK of declaring?" says David Keech. "OK weather forecasts can be wrong but there is hardly a possibility of a two-day downpour. This is a wearing pitch. The longer they bat on the more it will wear and the easier it should be to get wickets. Also with a lead of 600 or more Strauss can keep ultra attacking fields the entire time as runs don't matter. Bat on! Quite right too!" I disagree. Do what the opposition least want you to do. What do you think Simon Katich and Shane Watson would rather do for the next hour?

WICKET! England 373-9 declared (Trott c North b Clark 119) That's a gorgeous stroke from Trott, a straight-driven four off Clark. "That's pure class," coos David Gower, who is surely the cricket-world's leading authority on that particular subject. Because it was so good, Trott does exactly the same next ball. Later in the over he slices to backward point, where North takes a lovely low catch. With that comes the declaration, and Trott walks off to a richly deserved standing ovation. So Australia need the small matter of 546 to win this match, and there are still 22 overs left today. See you in 300 seconds' time.


"Effing loved that shot of Trott's mum crying into her clenched fists...." says Modern Man Olly Lambert. It really was the feelgood shot of the summer. Is there anything in life as piercing and beautiful as a mother's love for her son? Is there heck.

1st over: Australia 5-0 (chasing 546; Watson 4, Katich 0) The crowd are alive, fuelled by industrial quantities of booze an awareness of just how close England will be if they can take one or two wickets tonight. Anderson, as is his wont, starts with an unthreatening over in which Watson creams a pull behind square for four. I've been desperately disappointed with Anderson in this series.

2nd over: Australia 11-0 (chasing 546; Watson 9, Katich 1) Fred, who incredibly has only taken three wickets in this series if you exclude the second innings at Lord's, will begin at the other end. He has just two slips and no short leg - "weird" says Shane Warne - and Katich gets off the mark with a horribly tight single to Bell in the covers. Incredibly Watson then does exactly the same, and Watson would have been well short had Bell hit any of the three stumps he had to aim at. He missed and it went for four overthrows. "I'm pleased that Broad isn't opening the bowling," says Gary Naylor, "but only because I'm going to The Oval tomorrow. Broad has been the most threatening bowler in this match by a country mile and really should be given a go with the hard ball. No short leg either. Both captains play a bit by numbers with Strauss possibly playing for run outs." Agreed. I'd have gone with Fred and Broad.

3rd over: Australia 11-0 (chasing 546; Watson 9, Katich 1) Anderson has a big shout for LBW against Watson, but Asad Rauf - who normally spends a few centuries considering these things - said no straight away. He was right, too, because it exploded from the pitch and was going over the top. "After two overs it's 11-0," says Will Wilkin. "At this rate Australia win just after tea tomorrow. Ah well."

4th over: Australia 15-0 (chasing 546; Watson 10, Katich 4) Katich times Flintoff through the covers for three, and in the Sky box Shane Warne and Mike Atherton and trying and failing to work out why Andrew Strauss has no short leg. Ah, finally he does, with Cook coming in. But early impressions from this innings are that these wickets will take some prising out. The pitch has lost a fair amount of its zing, even if the odd delivery is still misbehaveing horribly. "Can I just say how much I've enjoyed Matthew Hayden on TMS," says John Goldstein, echoing the thoughts of many of you. "Some really good insights in to life as a top-class cricketer and a sense of humour to go with it."

5th over: Australia 19-0 (chasing 546; Watson 14, Katich 4) Four more to Watson with a classy, checked back-foot force off Anderson.

6th over: Australia 23-0 (chasing 546; Watson 14, Katich 8) There is very little happening for England. You have to wonder how fit Flintoff is because he's bowling at what Richie Benaud calls half ratpower, and Katich cover-drives him for four. I would get Swann on straight away with four men around the bat. Imagine if Australia started the last day on, say, 360 for five.

7th over: Australia 23-0 (chasing 546; Watson 18, Katich 8) Watson pulls Anderson witheringly in front of midwicket for four. Strauss is playing around with his fields - he has a man at short midwicket and another close in on the off side - but Anderson isn't bowling well. "When Australia are 517-8 at 12.25 on Monday morning Andrew Strauss might come to regret this declaration," says Benjamin Arthur. "Oh well, there's always 2013!" 2010-11, please."

8th over: Australia 32-0 (chasing 546; Watson 18, Katich 12) Harmison replaces Flintoff (3-0-14-0), and Katich squirts a cut stroke down to third man for four. It was a good over, but Australia have started very well; I think they have accepted that they can't draw this game so they might as well look to score runs whenever possible. This is going to be seriously hard yakka for England. "I always get a bit nervous when England declare to the Aussies - they need to make an impact on the Aussie batting order sooner rather than later," says Kate Neilan. "Can we not have Anderson bowling any more, please?! Aargh!!"

9th over: Australia 36-0 (chasing 546; Watson 19, Katich 15) A good move, this: Swann replaces Anderson. He has a slip, short leg and silly point for Watson, but surprisingly no leg slip. The second ball spins really sharply, but Watson had got well outside the line when the ball hit the pad. Watson takes a single and then Katich works one through midwicket for three. "Speaking of mothers in tears, the last time I remember seeing my mum cry was when I had decapitated all the daffodils in our back garden with a cricket stump when I was about eight years old,' says Christopher Emm. "I imagine that Trott's mother is slightly prouder of her offspring than my mum was with me."

10th over: Australia 45-0 (chasing 546; Watson 19, Katich 24) Katich times the ball beautifully most of the time, and in that Harmison over he pings one square on the off side for four before edging the next ball low and past gully for four. There have been a couple of thick edges and that big LBW shout, but really it's been plain sailing against the seamers. "Watson & Katich sound like an early 20th century chemist's shop, full of grey powders and blue bottles," says John Starbuck. "The sort of place that promises resilience, I fear." True, but against that, Swann & Broad sound like a lothario duo who wear nothing than the tightest, most fragrant leather chaps, and who, as a consequence, no woman or man can resist.

11th over: Australia 47-0 (chasing 546; Watson 19, Katich 26) Katich pushes forward and is beaten by a peach from Swann that crackles past the outside edge. Katich comes down the pitch to the next ball and only just gets there before it turns past him. A fascinating over.

12th over: Australia 52-0 (chasing 546; Watson 19, Katich 30) Katich wallops a cut stroke for four off the hitherto ineffectual Harmison. I've been really impressed with Katich in this series, especially compared to the blundering clown of 2005. "I must say I'm heartened by the fact there seem to be so many female OBOers emailing in these days," says Darren Fox. "Suddenly sitting here on my own watching endless hours of Sky coverage in just my pants seems somehow disrespectful!" Pants are soooo Headingley. It's thongs for the Oval.

13th over: Australia 61-0 (chasing 546; Watson 24, Katich 30) Watson, off balance as he rocks back, pulls Swann high over midwicket for four. Swann then spears four byes down the leg side. Australia's need 485 more. Don't. Even. Think. It.

14th over: Australia 67-0 (chasing 546; Watson 30, Katich 30) I have no idea why Broad hasn't bowled yet, but I'm sure he'll be on very soon. A sly bet on this wicket, as a couple of the Sky boys have mentioned, might be Paul Collingwood with those sharp cutters of his. In the meantime Harmison squares Watson up and finds the edge, with the ball shooting through Strauss at first slip. Then Watson drives beautifully past midwicket for four. Finally Harmison has a big shout for LBW but Watson was clearly outside the line. "Can you point out to Darren that us girlies have been reading (and emailing in to) OBO for quite some time?" says Amy Clements. "Though there's no need to share his state of (un)dress with us... (On which note, personally I prefer those hipster short things, very comfy). Now come on Swann and get a bloody wicket or three."

15th over: Australia 71-0 (chasing 546; Watson 30, Katich 34) Broad replaces Swann (3-0-11-0), who I'm sure will switch to the other end. There are expectant roars as he bounds in for his first ball, which explodes from a length and beats the groping Katich. The final ball draws the edge and falls short of Strauss before hurrying through for four. "It's not going to happen, they can't get those runs," says Anna Leitch. "Let them tire themselves out like a three-year-old child having a tantrum. This time tomorrow the Ashes will belong to England." This time on Monday, I think you meant to say. This won't end tomorrow.

16th over: Australia 71-0 (chasing 546; Watson 30, Katich 34) Harmison continues, which is a slight surprise as I thought Swann might switch ends. Watson is pretty comfortable against Harmison, safe in the knowledge that he is very unlikely to be LBW because of Harmison's length and bounce, and that's a maiden. Six overs left today. "I did say I was happy when the lead went over 500, but I'm beginning to have doubts," says Gary Naylor. "The pitch hasn't got easier, because it was never difficult, despite the endless bleatings of the pundits, who have shown yet again that they cannot read pitches - nobody can. Australia are relishing this and the history books mean nothing in 21st-century Test cricket." That last point is so, so true and I get really, really cross when people cite fourth-innings records as if they are gospel. But I think the pitch has got easier, or at least slower, and I'm also sure England will be fine. As I am invariably wrong, I suppose that is a concern.

17th over: Australia 72-0 (chasing 546; Watson 30, Katich 35) Broad has a really big shout for LBW against Watson, but there was doubt over height, a possible inside-edge and whether he got outside the line, so Asad Rauf said not out. Watson is a big LBW candidate, having gone that way in all three Tests I think. "Annoying statistic for Darren (12th over)," says Helen Moffett. "Last year, more women than men watched cricket on telly worldwide."

18th over: Australia 78-0 (chasing 546; Watson 30, Katich 41) Now Swann does replace Harmison (5-1-24-0), and this is the end from which he took his four first-innings wickets. His first ball is garbage: short, wide and cut for four by Katich. What a marvellous game this is. Fifteen wickets yesterday, and today we've had 393 runs for the loss of just six wickets. But we almost had another wicket there; Katich padded up to one from Swann that was only just missing off stump. A superb piece of umpiring from Billy Bowden. The final ball turns sharply and Katich does well to jab it down just short of slip. "Why on earth, given the obvious danger, do batsmen pad up not playing a shot?" says Sunil X, not unreasonably.

19th over: Australia 78-0 (chasing 546; Watson 30, Katich 41) A maiden from Broad to Watson, and with play due to finish at 6.30 we have time for just one more. Thank goodness for that because I'm shattered.

20th over: Australia 80-0 (chasing 546; Watson 31, Katich 42) Swann has four men around the bat in the final over of the day - I'd have had six or seven - but their defence is solid and that's the end of another fantastic day's play; not at all what we expected but riveting nonethless, most notably while Jonathan Trott was reaching a famous debut century. Australia need 466 more to win this; Andy Bull will be let out of the cupboard at 10am tomorrow to chart their progress. Cheers for all your emails. Night.

This article was first published on at 09.48 BST on Saturday 22 August 2009. It was last updated at 18.34 BST on Saturday 22 August 2009.