Talk about time to sack the scriptwriter. Whichever sporting God was put in charge of the First Test of this endlessly hyped Ashes series — won by Australia by 277 runs earlier today — needs to watch a few blockbusters to freshen up.

In Bond films, 007 doesn’t often get shot dead in the big action sequence that precedes the opening credits. The Titanic didn’t sink in the first reel. The Prestige, now showing, doesn’t reveal its climax until the last gasp.

If Ricky Ponting and his men had had their way, England would have been clubbed to oblivion by the end of Day Three. Cliches like revenge being a dish best served cold have gone out the window over the weekend.

In boxing, when there’s revenge involved, a fighter would try to prop up his battered opponent on the ropes, so he could hit him with a few more shots before he fell. Sure, everybody wanted England – pretender to the Ashes throne, luckily declared champion last time around – to be given the thrashing they deserved, but over five Tests, not a couple of days.

All of which is why it’s a relief that Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood remembered how to hold a bat long enough yesterday to move the game into today’s fifth day. England still lost by several hundred runs this morning but finally there was a semblance of chance that this summer might not be a total anti-climax.

Ponting’s rejection of the follow-on to save his bowlers and make totally sure of Australia’s position extended the match. Funny that in a once-in-a-thousand-years drought, critics are on Ponting’s back for chancing the odds that it could rain all day today to save his opponent.

And weird that he should cop so much criticism for not enforcing the follow-on when his team includes Glenn McGrath, whose only pre-match question mark was whether he could handle the sustained amount of overs required in a Test – so back-to-back innings would be a good idea? – and a bloke called Warne who is the all-time world champion of dismantling batting lineups in a fourth innings and on a fifth day pitch.

Not to mention the fact that when a follow-on blows up on you, it’s the worst look in cricket. Even worse than the handlebar moustaches popping up everywhere, including on Australian substitute fielder Michael Buchanan (son of coach John) as Movember hits the final stretch.

Australia has just wrapped up a 277-run win to take a deserved 1-0 lead, but England has shown enough to keep us interested (they were all out 370 in their second innings).

Peter Fray

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