Playing the field

By Joe Drabble   Last updated: 3rd January 2011  

Playing the field

England's fielding brightened up a gloomy day at the SCG

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Rain may have had the final say on day one of the fifth Ashes Test, however it was England's fielding unit that were the real winners at the SCG.

While Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, James Anderson and co will grab the headlines for England's historic series triumph, there is another name fans should remember when looking back on the 2010-11 campaign... Richard Halsall.

"Who?" I hear you cry. Well this is the man behind all the flying catches and sharp run outs you have seen England pull out of the bag during this series.

Never have I seen an England team look as sharp in the field, and yet again they took all chances presented to them today to leave Australia toiling on 134-4 at the close.

While England have outplayed Australia in most facets Down Under, it is the fielding department which has shown the biggest gulf between the two sides. Indeed, Ricky Ponting's international future may not be up for debate had Matt Prior, Paul Collingwood and Graeme Swann not all taken spectacular catches to dismiss him during the series.

Four more catches were taken on day one of this, the final Test of the series, one straightforward, three made to look simple.

Collingwood, reaching high above his head, started the ball rolling before lunch to dismiss Hughes, and then Strauss, sprawling low to his left, and Anderson, reacting sharply, turned the screw before Jonathan Trott took a regulation chance.

The fielding performance backed up another disciplined bowling display from England, who were given little assistance off the pitch on a true batting surface in Sydney.

Debutant Usman Khawaja was given a rousing reception from the home fans on his way out to the middle. Partly because he plays his club cricket here in New South Wales and also because a significant score could have seen Ponting's career come to an abrupt end.

The roar that greeted his first Test run was something special, however the groan of despair when he top-edged Swann to Trott late in the day was even more poignant.

Australia are yet again reliant on veteran Mike Hussey to steer them away from trouble, while his wicket early on day two could spark the start of a dramatic collapse.

For more updates from Down Under, follow Joe on Twitter @DrabsDownUnder.