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Air force gives Australia new high

Sir Isaac Newton died 275 years before Twenty20 cricket was conceived.

Which is just as well. Had he survived long enough to see last night's match at the SCG, Lincolnshire's most noted mathematician might well have scrapped Principia, his theory on universal gravitation, due largely to the uninspiring efforts of his countrymen.

England's bowlers provided the launching pad for Australia's free-swinging batsmen to all but debunk the mathematical representation of gravity, the small, white orb suspended in space frequently, and for extended periods. That assault on England, and physics, resulted in Australia amassing a Twenty20 international record of 5-221 which, to no one's surprise, proved too daunting a task for England's batsmen to rein in. The tourists finished with 9-144.

"You've got guys there hitting not just ten yards over the boundary, but forty yards," said England captain Michael Vaughan. "That's powerful hitting. I don't know if they've got different bats to what we're using, but it's powerful."

Australia's "cricket in space" demonstration didn't begin immediately. In fact, by Twenty20 standards, Australia's innings began disastrously. Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden allowed Andrew Flintoff to get away with four dot balls in the first over. The over line resembled binary code more than an inner-western suburbs phone number. Not what the 35,628 fans had envisaged.

But crowd appeasement was not far away. Over the next 19 overs, Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Cameron White and Andrew Symonds took turns in punishing England's Ashes-weary attack; most notably James Anderson, who conceded a cringeworthy 64 runs from his four overs.

At one point, it seemed Anderson might suffer the further ignominy of conceding six consecutive sixes, after Gilchrist began the sixth over with blasts over midwicket, long on and square leg. A yorker on the fourth ball temporarily stemmed the haemorrhaging, but Gilchrist's appetite was far from sated.

By the time Monty Panesar had claimed his wicket for 48 (from 29 deliveries), Australia's vice-captain had equalled the Twenty20 international record for sixes in an innings (five), a feat achieved by Ponting against New Zealand and Damien Martyn against South Africa. Newton had been placed on notice.

Michael Hussey was next to the crease and reverse-swept his first delivery, and several others, as he attempted to disrupt Panesar's line. Ponting attempted a different approach: launching the finger-spinner to all corners of the ground and thereby lifting Australia's run rate within sight of an even dozen.

Both batsmen fell in the final few overs, leaving Symonds and White to complete the demolition job. Symonds' greatest obstacle was not the England bowlers, but having to bat through several Justin Timberlake numbers, none of which is presumably on high rotation at his Queensland home. He finished with an unbeaten 39 from 22 deliveries, while White, who defeated England as captain of the Prime Minister's XI in the first tour match of the summer, belted 40 not out from 22 balls in a man-of-the-match effort.

England couldn't catch a break in their innings. Even the SCG announcer was conspiring against them, labelling the recently deposed Flintoff as "England's captain", and introducing "Paul Collingwood, MBE" to the crease, in reference to Shane Warne's jibe at the ground during the fifth Ashes Test. Flintoff fell for a duck; Collingwood for five.

The absurdity continued when Channel Nine asked a miked-up Gilchrist to commentate on a portion of the match from behind the stumps. "England in real trouble here," Gilchrist noted. "As they have been all summer."

The only bright point for England came in the form of Vaughan's return to international cricket after a career-threatening knee injury. Vaughan, who captained England to a 100-run Twenty20 win over Australia in 2005, top-scored with 27 from 21 balls. before being trapped lbw by Symonds. Ben Hilfenhaus, representing Australia for the first time, led all-comers with 2-16.

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