There are few things more exciting in sport than the cliff-hanger of a Test match cricketing team hanging on for grim death in the final session of the fifth day to grab a draw. (Are you listening, IPL franchisees?) I won't pretend that I was on the edge of my seat at 3.40am this morning - I was fast asleep - but I was pleased when I heard the news of the First Test draw when I awoke about, oh, half an hour after the game finished. Somehow I think this was the best outcome of all. For others, it was either The Great Escape, the toilet seat compromise, or A Big Cheat By The Poms.
If you want to follow some of the live action of the final day at the Gerddi Soffia in Caerdydd, read the logs at the BBC, The Guardian, and Cricinfo, from whom allow me to reproduce this little vignette before the start of the 103rd over of the England second innings (three overs before the eventual end of the game):
"Shafayat is on the field with some gloves and questions. Ponting's told him where to go in true Aussie style, and you can't blame him. The physio's on, too. Oh come on England, just suck it up and get on with it. Embarrassing. Right, they've bogged off so here we go."
- Source: CricInfo
Enter Ricky Ponting. He played a superb innings in this Test of 150, and there's no denying he still has the batting genius. However, in almost four decades of following the game, of all the Australian captains I have seen (dating back to Bill Lawry), I find Ponting to be the most dislikable (with the possible exception of Graham Yallop). He did nothing to change that reputation in my eyes with a graceless post-match bagging of the England "time-wasting".
If it was indeed time-wasting, then it was a tactic just like every other tried by England in the First Test - it made no difference. But wasn't Australia's failure to secure the win more to do with the failure to take the final wicket at 69 attempts than England physio Steve McCaig's urgent application of a pat on the back to Monty Panesar?
It was all explained by Andrew Strauss, as reported by Agence France-Presse: "There was a lot of confusion. We firstly sent the 12th man out to let Jimmy and Monty (Panesar) know there was time left and not just the overs. Then drinks spilt on his glove and Jimmy called up to the dressing room and we weren't sure whether we needed the 12th man or the physio."
The drink has been independently verified as Gatorade, so yes, a physiotherapist's presence would be prudent in that case.
I said at the start of the First Test that England will take the series 2-1. That seems a little less plausible now, but one can still live in hope. I write this about five hours before the England selectors announce the team for Thursday's Second Test at the 2012 Olympic home of archery. They'll find room for Harmison no doubt, but will they have the courage to put Kevin Pietersen in his rightful place, ie number four for Hampshire against Sussex this Wednesday?
Midwinter-Midwinter points for Day Five: Collingwood 3 pts, Hauritz 2 pts, Hilfenhaus 1 pt. Collingwood is the outright leader at the end of the First Test with six points, and must be due for promotion to OBE.
Today's commentariat: Alex Brown (Cricinfo), Jonathan Agnew (BBC), Stuart MacGill (SBS) and Oliver Holt (Daily Mirror), while David Penberthy, of Murdoch's new Australian Huffington Post wannabe "The Punch", offers his views on the controversy that I shall hereby dub "Gatoradegate".