Preamble Good morning/afternoon/night etc, and welcome to the latest instalment in England's audacious bid to get through their entire three-month tour of Australia without winning a single game. So far they're right on track, thanks to defeat against the Prime Minister's XI, draws with New South Wales, South Australia, and Western Australia, a 5-0 defeat in the Ashes and Tuesday's plucky 77-run drubbing the Twenty20 international at Sydney. Suffice to say, there are high hopes that's today's day/nighter at Melbourne, the first of up to 15 Commonwealth Bank Series matches over the next five weeks, will end in disappointment too. While England won only five of their 19 completed one-day internationals in 2006 - and one of them was against Ireland - Australia won 20 out of 28. On paper, it's no contest. And I suspect it won't be much of a contest out on the pitch either. Still, someone's got to write about, and Muggins here drew the short straw.
Toss etc England have won it and will bat. Andrew Strauss comes in for Ed Joyce after recovering from his blow on the head from Brett Lee during the Sydney Test, but otherwise it's as you were from the Twenty20. And that means a 50-over debut for Paul Nixon and Monty Panesar.
"What motivates you to wake up at 3am to give OBO commentary on a match which you are destined to lose?" wonders Bisheswar Mukherjee. Money.
1st over: England 3-0 (Strauss 1, Vaughan 1) McGrath gets things going in Australia's new bottle-green kits and Andrew Strauss nudges his second ball to fine leg for a single. There is now a macabre fascination about the form of Vaughan, who is being hailed as a saviour or derided as a meddler, depending on which newspaper you read. He keeps saying his knee is fine, but how does he know? He's hardly been out there long enough this winter to know. Anyway, McGrath sends down an off-side wide, and chunters all the way back to his mark, before Vaughan tucks him to square-leg for a single. A nothing-doing first over.
2nd over: England 9-0 (Strauss 2, Vaughan 5) For those interested - and the inbox is not exactly overwhelming at 3.20 in the morning - England's attack will consist of Jimmy Anderson, Jon Lewis, Andrew Flintoff, Panesar and James Dalrymple, with a bit of Paul Collingwood thrown in. Liam Plunkett might have played, but he was injured in the nets, as was Ed Joyce, who was hit on the head by a shot from Chris Read. You couldn't make it up. Meanwhile, Nathan Bracken sends down some off-side filth which was lucky not to be called wide but disappears through the slips for a bye. Strauss then works him to third man for a single before Vaughan collects the first boundary of the day courtesy of a streaky inside edge to fine leg. Look in the book. Incidentally, is anyone out there? If so, why?
3rd over: England 14-0 (Strauss 7, Vaughan 5) Strauss works the fourth ball of McGrath's over behind square-leg for two, then pushes the third through midwicket for three - a neat shot. A solid start by England. And it's been a while since I've been able to write that.
4th over: England 18-0 (Strauss 11, Vaughan 5) Watching England this winter has been like having your teeth pulled, but more slowly. And if that isn't a particularly imaginative simile, then you should try producing witticisms with half your gnashers out. But as Strauss runs Bracken fine of third man for four, I digress.
5th over: England 20-0 (Strauss 12, Vaughan 6) Vaughan edges his old adversary McGrath about two yards in front of his other old adversary Ricky Ponting at second slip, and is then beaten outside off-stump by a beauty. McGrath grins, and Vaughan returns it - for old time's sake. He then hurries a single to third man, which suggests the knee isn't, well, knackered, at least. Strauss shuffles across his stumps to work a single to backward square and England have begun quite reasonably here. Which is usually the sort of thing I write moments before a pack-of-cards collapse.
WICKET! Strauss c Hayden b Bracken 12 (20-1) Whoops, that'll be my fault then. Strauss nibbles inexplicably at Bracken and Matthew Hayden dives to his right at slip to collect a very good catch. It was a nothing dismissal really - a not particularly threatening ball helped conveniently to slip. That's one-day cricket, I guess. Or maybe it's English one-day cricket.
6th over: England 24-1 (Vaughan 6, Bell 4) Ian Bell is dropped first ball by Adam Gilchrist! Bracken slants one across him, Bell pushes forward in familiar fashion and nicks it high to Gilchrist's right. But he can only tip it round the corner - almost into Hayden's face - for four. Very lucky indeed for Bell.
7th over: England 25-1 (Vaughan 7, Bell 4) Still no emails, which is a real disappointment. I just can't fathom why no England fans have got up at this time of morning to watch a famous victory. Eh? Oh. Are there not even any Aussie gloaters out there, or are they all bored? Questions, questions. Vaughan heads off for what would have been a suicidal single off McGrath, and tests out the knee by shuddering to halt and turning quickly to regain his crease. He does manage a run off the fifth ball of the over to third man, before Bell is beaten.
8th over: England 32-1 (Vaughan 14, Bell 4) Ah, the emails have all arrived in one huge chunk, presenting me with more funnies one one page than any man deserves. But before we indulge, there's a fantastic off-drive for four by Vaughan, who uses his feet to Bracken to play a Gooch-like clump. The next ball brings two to fine leg and the last ball of the over elicits the quickest of singles to mid-off. Seven off the over. Manna from heaven. Sunil definitely blames me for the Strauss wicket. "Keep schtum!" he shushes. "You've gone and done it AGAIN!" Why you oughta...
9th over: England 42-1 (Vaughan 24, Bell 4) Vaughan pulls McGrath for four and for a fleeting moment my mind goes back to the winter of 2002-03. That was over midwicket rather than the square-leg swivel of four years ago, but beggars etc. There's two more, thanks to a sashay down the crease and a push for two through midwicket. That was almost authoritative. And the last ball brings four through the covers as McGrath overpitches. Ten off the over and - with a cautious nod to Sunil - Vaughan is looking good. "I'm here because I live in Siberia, right in the middle of the Samotlor Oil Field," says Malcolm McNeill. "I can report that: a) nobody knows anything about Litvinenko, and b) you can buy framed photographs of Vladimir Putin reclining on a divan. Want one?" Hold that thought, Malc.
WICKET! Vaughan c Hayden b Bracken 26 (47-2) Oh. I appear to have done it again. Vaughan is on the move against Bracken, but succeeds only in squirting a catch to Hayden's right at slip. A poor shot to end a very promising innings, and England are doing their old trick of losing wickets at crucial moments. "I'm in Arizona right now," says Neil Johnson, "avoiding the dreaded dissertation. Following England should provide the intestinal fortitude required to graduate...and it gives me a break from the American media currently crackling with news of Beckham's impending arrrival. At least, he got a minute after news of the latest spat between Rosie O'Donnel and Donald Trump anyway. Don't ask." Don't worry. I won't.
10th over: England 47-2 (Bell 7, Pietersen 0) Pietersen is beaten second ball and this could all go horribly wrong very quickly. Which would at least mean I could get back to bed. "I refuse to believe Chris Read played a shot with enough power to injure Plunkett," says James Hamilton. "Heck , I refuse to believe Read even played a shot."
11th over: England 51-2 (Bell 8, Pietersen 3) Bell picks up an untidy single into the off-side off McGrath, but the spectre of another thrashing is already hanging over this game. Shame, because Vaughan was playing some beautiful shots. Still, there's three to Pietersen, who drives beefily through the covers. "It's 10:30 in snowy Montreal," says Phil Hucknall, "and I'm poorly, and wallowing in England's ineptitude might in some strange way perk me up a bit. Happiness is relative, after all."
12th over: England 53-2 (Bell 9, Pietersen 4) Bell and Pietersen collect off-side singles off Bracken as various OBOers wonder whether they have jinxed England this winter by turning on the TV or radio seconds before a wicket. Guys, England have lost a lot of wickets this winter. It's called probability. Here's Miss P in Sydney. "I am gathering recruits and organising bumper stickers for my newest campaign called...BRING BACK BICHEL. Whatever happened to the man who loved cricket more than life itself?" I'd be all for bringing back Bichel. He can replace Stuart Clark.
13th over: England 54-2 (Bell 10, Pietersen 4) And here comes Clark, the man cruelly keeping Bichel out of the side. In Miss P's imagination. He's right on the money, as you'd expect from a qualified lawyer. He was the unsung man of the Ashes series: 26 wickets at 17 and it could have been even better. He's the kind of guy you just. Can't. Get. After. Bell spoils a maiden with a quick single into the leg-side off the last ball. "So it turns out that England's only chance of salvaging some dignity is in a form of the game they were so smug about not caring about," says Ranajit Dam. "Fletcher should be ashamed of himself." Not sure that it's Fletcher who should be ashamed of himself, Ranajit. How about the entire country?
14th over: England 54-2 (Bell 10, Pietersen 4) Enter the very promising left-arm seamer Mitchell Johnson, who more alert readers will remember got rid of Pietersen in thrilling fashion during the Champions Trophy: bouncer followed by pitched-up tempter. I have high hopes/serious concerns about this boy. A maiden. "Normally, you might have a few Sydneysiders send you a mail hopelessly following the match but I can tell you where four of my English mates are at the moment," says John Parnell, before revealing the list of shame. "1. Wedding stuff with his fiance. 2. Donating blood. 3. Organising a work Fun Run. 4. Took a "sick" day to avoid his workmates. Australia-dwelling Poms will do anything to avoid it at this stage."
15th over: England 58-2 (Bell 10, Pietersen 7) Ponting cuts off a certain two by hurling himself to his left at short midwicket after Pietersen had worked Clark off his toes. That tells you all you need to know about the Aussie commitment. Bah. Still, there's two to KP, who works Clark to deep backward square and is so excited that he drops his bat en route to the other end. Clark then serves up a real collector's item - a leg-side wide before Pietersen plays tip-and-run to mid-on for a single. "Andy Bichel would walk into the England ODI side, Zimmer frame in tow," guffaws Andrew Jolly, in what must be an example of the famous Australian sledging.
16th over: England 62-2 (Bell 10, Pietersen 11) Australia have maintained the pressure superbly with their second-string seamers. And what second-string seamers they are! Bell has stopped scoring and not even KP can loosen the shackles. Oh, and I keep writing in cliches as Pietersen slashes desperately at a wide one and collects four to fine third man through the vacant slip region. "Am currently switching attention between your fine depiction of the cricket and Series 5 of 24," admits David Stringer. "President Logan is steadfastly refusing to heed criticism and is confident, in the face of all common sense, he can outwit his nemesis Jack Bauer to achieve a victory. Absolutely no similarities to events in Melbourne then."
17th over: England 72-2 (Bell 15, Pietersen 16) Bell edges Clark just wide of slip, who is now in place, for four, then nudges a quick leg-side single. Pietersen is defeated by the very next delivery, but then launches into an easy-as-you-like straight-drive for four. Glorious! "When did you stop talking sense?" asks Richie Rich. Er, I wasn't aware I ever spoke any in the first place, Richie, but it's nice of you to suggest otherwise.
WICKET! Bell c Hussey b Johnson 15 (73-3) Odd shot from Bell, who drives very elegantly straight to Mr at mid-off. Now why, as Richie Benaud might say, would you want to do that? "There's no need, as you suggest, for the whole of England to be ashamed of itself," says Kieren Naish. "On the flipside, that would mean the whole of Australia should be proud of itself. God forbid."
18th over: England 77-3 (Pietersen 20, Collingwood 1) Johnson hurries Paul Collingwood with a short one first up, but Colly digs it out from under his nostrils and scampers a quick leg-side single. That was a nothing shot from Bell, and Australia are delighted. After all, it's been too long since they beat England as Pietersen pulls for three.
19th over: England 81-3 (Pietersen 24, Collingwood 1) It's all down to KP. Again. I bet he wishes he'd thrown his lot in with Australia instead. Can you get kangaroo tattoos? Pietersen nudges Clark into the leg-side and Collingwood would have been comfortably run out with a direct hit from Hayden. But that's two runs, and there are two more mext ball to backward square. Frantic running. "If England are looking for a win in Australia they could try taking on our 5-a-side football team," says Martin Bansey, helpfully.
20th over: England 81-3 (Pietersen 24, Collingwood 1) A maiden from Johnson to Collingwood. Not a lot happened, hence the brevity of this entry. And that's the end of the powerplays, as if you care.
21st over: England 89-3 (Pietersen 30, Collingwood 2) Collingwood is almost run for the second time thanks to a fantastic piece of work by Ponting at short midwicket. Pietersen pushed the ball to his left and set off straight away for a single. But Ponting gathered the ball in his left hand, rolled over, transferred the ball to his right hand as he gathered himself and took a virtually blind aim at the non-striker's stumps with Collingwood well out of his crease. He looks genuinely gutted to have missed, but what athleticism. Pietersen then hammers Clark down the ground for for - fine shot. A no-ball and a couple of singles complete an over that was so eventful it actually kept me awake.
22nd over: England 93-3 (Pietersen 31, Collingwood 5) The long and the not very short of it is that England need these two to bat for another 20 overs, because after Andrew Flintoff comes Paul Nixon, Jamie Dalrymple and the tail. The bare minimum to make a game of it is 250. I'm not optimistic as Collingwood mis-times a pull off Johnson just out of reach of Bracken at mid-on, who turned like a tank: two runs followed by a scampered single off the last ball of the over. "John Parnell's Pom colleague who claims to be giving blood may be having him on," says Bryan Paisley. "The Aussie Red Cross will not accept blood from anyone who lived in the UK for more than six months between 1980 and 1996. They claim it is because of CJD." Yikes.
23rd over: England 95-3 (Pietersen 32, Collingwood 6) Australia continue to field like men possessed, which I think they probably are. Collingwood steers Clark behind point for a single and Pietersen drives easily to long-on for one off the last ball of the over. It's all gone quiet. "I'm just in my lunch break, looking forward to my year 5s this afternoon," says Paul Bourdin. "Thought I'd laugh at some other poms having a worse day." Nice.
24th over: England 100-3 (Pietersen 33, Collingwood 10) I've been watching the second series of Cold Feet on DVD this week. Does anyone else think that Caron's relationship with David lacks credibility? I mean, why would an independent spirit like her be with an anally retentive snob like him? Ah, mysteries. Less crucially, Collingwood can't get the ball off the square against Johnson, and when he does he's almost run out (for the third time) going for a second - good fielding from Clark at third man. He is then almost caught at backward point, but his squirt just eludes the fielder: two runs.
25th over: England 102-3 (Pietersen 34, Collingwood 11) Michael Clarke enters the attack to bowl his left-arm spin, which doesn't say much for Cameron White's reputed leg-breaks. Pietersen immdeiately pre-meditates him for one with a paddle-sweep, and England need to milk five or six an over off Clarke. Collingwood cuts repeatedly, but keeps picking out the field. Two off the over was not what the English doctor ordered.
26th over: England 106-3 (Pietersen 35, Collingwood 14) Collingwood is struggling with his timing - he is yet to reach the fence - and he defends two balls from the accurate and lively Johnson before pulling the third for a single. Pietersen is having no such problems: his first ball in that over is cut comfortably to third man for a single. It's game of two ends out there.
27th over: England 110-3 (Pietersen 37, Collingwood 16) Clarke continues as the game enters its go-and-make-a-cup-of-tea phase: four singles off the over. Here's Sean Boiling. "The Australian Red Cross actually say this: 'The UK is experiencing an ongoing epidemic of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), the human form of mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy.' How are you dealing with the epidemic Lawrence?" I close all the windows and don't pick up the phone.
28th over: England 111-3 (Pietersen 37, Collingwood 17) Back comes Bracken in place of the frighteningly assured Johnson (7-2-22-1 after spending the Test series on his backside). Yet again, Collingwood can't pierce the infield. He has now faced 40 boundary-less balls for his 17 - and takes a single off the last ball, thus depriving Pietersen of the strike at the start of the next over. Bah. "The reason they don't want us to give blood is so that our cricketing prowess doesn't creep into their gene pool," says Richie Rich, for once making sense.
29th over: England 116-3 (Pietersen 38, Collingwood 20) Five off the Clarke over as my computer goes on the blink. "One of the major benefits of my time in the UK from 1995-97 is that I can never feel guilty for not giving blood now," says Wade Howland. "That - and discovering The Fast Show - pretty much made the 'working holiday' worth it alone."
30th over: England 122-3 (Pietersen 39, Collingwood 25) Collingwood gets away with a hoick off Bracken that is heading straight down Cameron White's throat at deep midwicket. But then the sun intervenes and White collapses in a comedy heap as if he has been shot. The ball lands a yard to his right and bounces away for four. It was a bit like Monty Panesar's howler in Mumbai in March - except that Panesar got a chance to redeem to himself three balls later. No such luck for White. Alas. Still, that was Collingwood's first boundary, and about time too.
31st over: England 124-3 (Pietersen 40, Collingwood 27) Two off another over from Clarke, who is being allowed to hurry through some cheapish overs. Still - and I write this touching wood - at least England are laying a platform of sorts. "Er, keep up," demands Nigel Baker, in between slapping his butler and enjoying a foot massage. "I am listening on ABC and just checked the over-by-over report and found that you are at least two overs behind!!! What's going on?" I'd say your computer must be even slower than mine, Nigel. I press "live" seconds after the end of each over!!!
32nd over: England 127-3 (Pietersen 42, Collingwood 28) So, here comes Cameron White, whose first ball is a googly to Collingwood. He has a lamb-like gambol to the crease, even if the hideously spiky fake blond locks are very like another leg-spinner who never made much of himself. Collingwood pushes the second ball down the ground for a single, but these ought to be the overs when England cash in. I fear for them if they don't. That was a tidy over from White and a quick one too: very little thinking time, as the pros call it.
33rd over: England 135-3 (Pietersen 43, Collingwood 35) Collingwood sweeps Clarke for two, then drives him to deep cover for one. But England need boundaries - and there's one as Collingwood uses his feet to loft Clarke over extra-cover for four. That was his best short of the innings and England have eight off the over. That is much more like it. "Sorry to be so late in joining you," apologises Clare Davies. "For some reason I thought this was starting at 5am and have only just dragged my weary bones out of bed. Seem to have missed England's mini-success in winning the toss, but otherwise normal service appears to be resumed. Looks like being another edition of OBOs own version of car-crash tv. There's no way we're going to get 260 is there?" Wellllll.....
34th over: England 144-3 (Pietersen 51, Collingwood 36) Easy singles off White, and then a very big six over long-off by Pietersen to reach his half-century from 63 balls. Shot! I've suddenly realised who White reminds me of when he approaches the crease: Shahid Afridi. Nine off the over. "England are very wisely are playing for a draw here," says Geoff Arnold, whose email, in fairness, arrived before England took 17 off the last two overs.
35th over: England 148-3 (Pietersen 53, Collingwood 38) Now we just need Pietersen to get a hundred. Do I ask for too much? I don't know. There's one of them, thanks to a force to long-on off Clarke moments after the drinks break. Collingwood, content in his seemingly perennial role as second fiddle, er, fiddles a single to backward point, before KP flicks another to backward square. Four off the over. "I would have thought with the amount of Poms over here for the cricket there wouldn't have been much of a blood shortage," says Ben Grant, setting up his own punchline. "They seem morose enough for a spot of wrist-slitting."
36th over: England 163-3 (Pietersen 67, Collingwood 39) England should get 265 at least from here, but that does preclude the very distinct possibility of a collapse. See what 5-0 does for a man's optimism? Meanwhile, Collingwood chips a single over the leg-side infield off White and Pietersen sweeps a leg-stump delivery for two. He then hits Collingwood with a lofted straight-drive, before hitting someone in the crowd with another six, this time over long-on. And there's six more off the next ball - a bit straighter, this one. Fantastic stuff from Pietersen!
37th over: England 166-3 (Pietersen 68, Collingwood 41) Collingwood's task here is to nudge an early single and give Pietersen the chance to do his worst. Collingwood sticks to his part of the bargain with a push for one off the first ball of Clarke's over, but Pietersen can only manage a single off the next three deliveries. A rare Ponting misfield allows Collingwood to pinch the strike.
WICKET! Collingwood c Johnson b McGrath 43 (168-4) Back comes McGrath, and there's a wicket as Collingwood lifts a slower ball straight to Johnson at long-on. "There's little noise from the Army on the ABC radio," points out Sean Boiling. "I'd have expected lots more noise after KP's two sixes. What does the contingent of England fans look like from where you're sitting?" Most of them have gone home, Sean. The English can't really be bothered with one-day cricket. Which explains why they've been such a world force since 1992.
38th over: England 168-4 (Pietersen 68, Flintoff 0) It wasn't the most fluent innings from Collingwood, but at least he hung around and allowed Pietersen to play his shots. Those two added 95 in fewer than 20 overs, which is precisely the kind of partnership their one-day side has been lacking in the past few years. Andrew Flintoff is greeted with a McGrath bouncer, possibly in homage to the short one that did for him in the Twenty20 match on Tuesday. The next ball is a yorker, which Flintoff just digs out. McGrath then beats Freddie with the next ball. Great bowling. He looks promising, McGrath.
39th over: England 175-4 (Pietersen 70, Flintoff 5) The stage is set for a Fred special. I'm not saying it's definitely going to happen, Sunil. I'm just saying he couldn't have asked for too many better moments to arrive at the crease than the 38th over with Pietersen playing it with Geoff Boycott's mum's rolling pin at the other end. And there's a decent start: a mow for four off Clarke to midwicket. "I've just been asked by my Aussie workmates if I would like to go watch the Aussie innings over a beer after work," confesses Stephen Oxford. "Can anyone come up with some good reasons to excuse myself from this obvious bout of sledging, gloating and general spiral of despair that has been the last two months in Perth?"
40th over: England 179-4 (Pietersen 73, Flintoff 6) McGrath surprises Pietersen with a bouncer and he's not easy to get away in that over. McGrath could still be a World Cup winner on the slow pitches of the Caribbean. Anyhow, Pietersen pushes him down the ground for two but is then hit in the ribs next ball as Pietersen charges down the pitch and misses a pull. KP collapses in a typically melodramatic heap and the Aussies are very amused. "I think Ben Grant (over 35) confuses being morose with having a Sahara dry sense of humour," says Andrew Jolly. "To support England in any sport you need plenty of that, along with a strong heart. I'd like to think that Bill Murray in Lost in Translation would make a good England supporter. But who wouldn't with Scarlett at your side?" Smyth would second that, Andrew. And I'll third it.
41st over: England 182-4 (Pietersen 74, Flintoff 8) Back comes Johnson, who bowled an immaculate first spell and looks a real World Cup prospect. Flintoff cuts his second ball for a single and Pietersen is then treated to the inevitable rib-tickler which is helped gingerly to short fine leg for no run. Pietersen is wincing after every shot - England can't afford to lose his momentum now as he steers a single to Clarke's left at backward point. "If England make 250, I'll eat my Boycs-style boater," says Sunil. "If it's 275, I promise to do unmentionable things with a pickle-grabber." The mind doesn't boggle.
42nd over: England 193-4 (Pietersen 76, Flintoff 16) Stuart Clark returns to the attack but his first ball is a marginal leg-side wide to Flintoff, who had walked across his stumps in any case. Flintoff tonks the first legitimate ball to wide long-on for two, then times a low full-toss down the ground for four: a remarkable shot. The next shot is less remarkable: a flappy pull which balloons back over the bowler's head for a single. Eight or so an over off the last eight will get England to 255-260. Sean Boiling has some advice for Stephen Oxford (39th over). "Get to the pub Stephen. Give as good as you get. Do not take a backward step. And watch an England win. I too will be spending the evening on the receiving end of a bout of 'sledging, gloating and general spiral of despair'. At home. From my beautiful wife." It's a hard life, Sean.
43rd over: England 201-4 (Pietersen 78, Flintoff 22) Pietersen is not batting with as much fluency as he was before McGrath tickled his ribs, but he's still there and still on course for a hundred. At the risk of administering the kiss of death, Flintoff is playing very nicely and lingers prophetically on the back foot to pull Johnson over midwicket for four. I think he knew the short one was coming. "Ask Stephen Oxford where he's watching it," says David Mitchell. "I also work in Perth and have been subjected to two months of ritual humiliation, so I'll happily go along with him for moral support..."
WICKET! Pietersen c Symonds b Clark 82 (206-5) The ball after pulling Clark for four, Pietersen goes for broke and picks out Symonds at wide long-on. Shame: if he had batted until the end, England might have had a decent total. As it is, I think they might now struggle. "Stephen Oxford should tell his workmates that he would love to accompany them," says Andrew Gerrard, "with the proviso that if the Aussies are ahead of the required run rate, they get the beer in. If they are behind it, he will buy the round. Either way, he has a good evening."
44th over: England 206-5 (Flintoff 23, Nixon 0) Michael Holding points out that KP and Fred failed to cross, which means Paul Nixon can only play out two dot balls. The same thing happened when Collingwood was out. Sloppy. Very sloppy.
WICKET! Nixon lbw b Mitchell 0 (207-6) Paul Nixon's one-day international debut is ended almost before it has begun by a leg-stump yorker. That Pietersen dismissal, which was a little needless, if truth be told, has taken the sting out of this England innings and possibly the match. "Watching the England Team this Aussie summer is like watching Frank Bruno slog it out against Mike Tyson," says the improbably monickered Dom O'Nions. "So much anticipation, so much hope, but defeat is inevitable when the fight is so one-sided."
45th over: England 207-6 (Flintoff 24, Dalrymple 0) In the hypothetical world in which I am the England coach, Jamie Dalrymple bats ahead of Nixon. In the real world, he does not, despite a one-average of 27. Ah well. England are making a right mess of this. Surprising, eh?
46th over: England 210-6 (Flintoff 26, Dalrymple 2) England will have to readjust their sights to around 240, but it's their own fault. Pietersen didn't need to attack Clark after five runs had come off the first three balls of that over, and he then walked straight off as the ball headed to Johnson, rather than crossing to allow Flintoff to face the next ball. Nixon played out the over for no runs and then fell in the next one. Why are England bad at one-day cricket? Episodes like that tell you precisely why. Only four off that Clark over. "I've just got back to Kathmandu after a two-week trip to Mount Everest base camp in Nepal," brags Jacob Reed. "The trek was hard enough, but made more difficult as I was accompanied by four gloating Aussies, who used a satellite phone to get the results of the Sydney Test and haven't stopped going on about it since." Did they run up Mount Everest for fun, Jacob?
WICKET! Dalrymple c Gilchrist b McGrath 2 (211-7) Dalrymple tries to hook McGrath and is given out caught behind off the helmet by Ian Howell. The Aussie barely appealed, but no matter: England's pathetic slump continues. Did I say 240? "Just wondering if England can at least avoid suffering the ignominy of scoring under 221," says Steve Gilbert-Davies, dangerously using a noun that might interest Justin Langer's lawyers if Cricket Australia's reaction to Cricinfo's gags about small stone men who populate British front gardens is anything to go by. "If they do so, at least they will have beaten the Aussies' score in the Twenty20 on Tuesday."
47th over: England 213-7 (Flintoff 28, Lewis 1) Jon Lewis runs his first ball to third man for a single and I am silently fuming that England have done all the hard work and are now undoing with all the lack of confidence of a team that has just lost the Ashes 5-0. It is painful to watch. That's seven runs and three wickets in the last three overs. Poor.
48th over: England 223-7 (Flintoff 36, Lewis 3) Flintoff mows Clark's length ball over cow corner for four, then steals a quick two to midwicket, but this is too little too late. Did I mention the fact that England have blown this? Thought not. Ten off the over, but Lewis has the strike. "Indeed get to the pub, Stephen," encourages James New. "I will be heading to the most Australian pub in Sydney with 52 Australian colleagues for a verbal battering myself. But Australians do have a weakness - they don't fully comprehend the nature of verbal banter which involves doing unspeakable things to their mother while they watch the end of the match. It shuts them up for at least 30 minutes at a time. If they have pets, you're guaranteed 45 of silence." Charming.
49th over: England 230-7 (Flintoff 37, Lewis 8) Running out of space. Don't ask. Need to be brief. Four singles off McGrath, then a Lewis slash for two and a single. McGrath 10-0-42-2.
WICKET! Lewis c Ponting b Bracken 10 (232-8) Fred getting no strike. Madness. Lewis cuts. Great diving catch by Ponting.
50th over: England 242-8 (Flintoff 47, Panesar 0) A flurry from Flintoff gives England a chance. Oh, and Pietersen has gone for a scan on his ribs. But an outside one. Join me soon for Australia's reply.