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Monday, July 13, 2009

Ashes 2009 : England hold on for dramatic draw in 1st test

In a year where the future of test cricket has been brought into question as it battles against the Twenty/20 juggernaut, the dramatic finish at Cardiff proved there is life in the old dog yet.

England supporters were once again put through the emotional mill as their side toiled in the face of some steadfast batting from Australia on Friday and Saturday. As they established a healthy first innings lead and put England in twenty minutes before tea on day four, I am sure I wasn’t alone in feeling a sense of dread. Our worst fears were realised as England were reduced to 20-2 at the break. Thankfully, and crucially, the Welsh weather intervened and wiped out a final session which surely would have given Australia the extra time needed to polish off the England batting line-up.

That said, they nearly didn’t need it as at Sunday lunchtime the odds on a draw were long to say the least. With 70 overs remaining England were 70-5, thirty overs later they were 159-7 and the subdued crowd were contemplating a heavy, humiliating and all too familiar inning defeat at the hands of the old enemy.

But the British love an underdog, a fighter, a man defying the odds. On Sunday that man was Paul Collingwood, whose brave five hour innings dragged his side back into the game and gave hope to the awakening crowd. He was ably assisted by Graeme Swann who hit a handy 31. But when Collingwood’s heroic innings was finally brought to an end, bringing last man Monty Panesar to the crease, there were still over 11 overs left to be bowled.

An unlikely batting hero as you would ever see, Monty survived alongside James Anderson, with the crowd living and breathing each ball they blocked out. As Ponting and Anderson shook hands, signalling the end of the game, the huge cheer that ran round the stadium was reminiscent of the famous 2005 series, even if the performance wasn’t.

Make no mistake, England got away with it and were not far away from a crushing loss. But this Australian side, while still world class, is not what it once was. I feel the likes of Warne and McGrath would not have let this opportunity slip from their grasp.

The test may have ended in a draw but it was a psychological victory for England who could, and perhaps should, have lost. But the fact they avoided defeat, in such spectacular and dramatic circumstances, could give them crucial momentum as they prepare to do it all over again at Lord’s.

Make sure you keep up-to-date with the Lord's Test odds ahead of any Lord's Test betting and take a look at Betfair's new fanvfan site for some more good old-fashioned rivalry!

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