Andrew Strauss copped quite a bit of tap for his third ball dismissal in the first innings, so to bounce back today with a hundred - especially with his side behind the eight ball at the start of play - exemplified hisimmense mental strength and resilience. The luck was with him as evidenced by his narrow escape to the first ball of the innings and Mitchell Johnson's butter fingers, but like Michael Hussey yesterday, Strauss deserved his slices of good fortune. He became the seventh Englishman to follow a 1st innings duck with a 2nd innings Ashes hundred - following in the footsteps of Vaughan, Botham, Randall, Sheppard, Woolley and Tyldesley. The ultimate zero to hero story.
Cook's hard work pays dividends
For a man that was supposed to be the weak link in England's batting line-up, Alastair Cook has had a remarkable match. A watchful fifty in the 1st innings and now a workmanlike hundred in the second. Cook's technique looked all over the place in the English summer but time at the crease during the tour seems to have corrected most of these glitches and given Cook the requisite confidence. Perhaps the most notable beneficiary of England's approach to playing three warm-up matches prior to the series?
Better than Hobbs & Sutcliffe?
Strauss and Cook's ninth century opening stand in their 82nd test innings together took them past the Jack Hobbs-Herbert Sutcliffe union to become England's most prolific opening pair in Test cricket (see full list here). A fantastic achievement, yes. But, Hobbs and Sutcliffe - arguably the greatest opening partnership of them all - managed their 3249 runs in only 38 innings with 15 century stands and an average of 87.81 - over double that of Strauss and Cook. But given their highest opening partnership of the ill-fated 2006-07 series was 45, their 188 run stand today was quite brilliant.
Ponting's gun fires blanks
Even though the pitch suited the batters, Ricky Ponting must be worried about his misfiring attack. Johnson was hopeless and Ben Hilfenhaus has only really been dangerous in the first over of each innings. Xavier Doherty has bowled tidily but for the most part has been unthreatening and Shane Watson looked a part-time option at best. Even Peter Siddle has looked a shadow of the bowler he was in the 1st innings. With England toiling for 158 overs in Australia's 1st innings, it would seem that the attack that most quickly finds the ability to take 20 wickets in a match will win this series.
Player of the Day
Alastair Cook - most of the attention will go to Strauss, but it was Cook that batted for the whole day and he now has just one run shy of 200 in both innings and has occupied the crease for over 10 hours in the match.
Zero of the day
Mitchell Johnson - for spraying the ball around like a sex-addicted rabbit on viagra and dropping an easy chance to reprieve Strauss. No wickets, a 19 ball duck, that drop and a comedy moustache - the joke is certainly on Johnson in this Test. Even Ponting seems to be losing the faith.
What happens next?
The draw seems the most likely result. But if England can push on, carve out a 300 run lead before tea and take a few wickets with the new ball, who knows? Just a note of caution for England fans though - in Adelaide in 2006 England were 97 runs ahead at the end of the fourth day and looked what happened then.