It’s indicative of the mess England have got themselves in that this was probably the best day of the game so far for them. And they still well and truly lost it. In isolation, a total of 312 having been 30-4 isn’t that bad, but it represents a major fall off from 266-6 which had represented a decent recovery, albeit while still miles behind in the game.
The trouble is that having got off to such an awful, and frankly careless, start, each wicket was a huge blow further deteriorating the team position. The pressure on the batsmen in such circumstances is immense, knowing a single error cannot be made, while conversely the Australians simply have to be patient, waiting for that mistake.
Cook and Stokes both batted very well, but such was the disastrous state of the game, each needed another hundred on top of what they got to become significant. Doubtless Cook will receive his usual media adoration for his innings, because that’s just how it is, but it wasn’t anything exceptional. He batted well, as did Stokes, and both were deeply frustrated by their dismissals, but in neither case was it close to being enough, and simply that means it has no material effect on the game. It’s not being churlish about this, but the focus on Cook to the exclusion of all else is so tiresome, it becomes vexing when he scores runs to know that it’s coming. In today’s instance, there is absolutely no reason whatever the focus should be on Cook rather than Stokes. None whatever. Both batted well, but it isn’t the story of the day.
Australia didn’t surprise anyone by refusing to enforce the follow on, and batted freely thereafter. That’s also not much of a surprise. But what this awful performance has done is to play a whole host of Australians into form. After Cardiff, the pressure was certainly on, Warner going so far as to publicly talk about the difficulties he was having. No longer, especially after he was given a life on 0 second time around.
As far as this particular game is concerned it is likely to matter little, as far as the series goes it could yet prove fatal. England had their foot in Australia’s throat after the first Test, to say they have released the pressure is an understatement, England have been every bit as awful at Lords as Australia were at Cardiff, Cook and Stokes the batsmen excepted.
Quite why this is is hard to pinpoint, but it’s not exactly hidden from view. Assuming England do go on to lose this game, it will the third time in a row that they have lost immediately after winning. And the third time in a row they’ve played poorly immediately after winning. Of course x the opposition in each case deserve the credit, but it isn’t coincidence that England don’t match up to their winning display, indeed don’t even begin to get close to matching their winning display.
Not that you’d know that from the media coverage, whi h on each occasion has got extremely giddy and made the customary ludicrous assertions that England are becoming a fine side, only to then brush that under the carpet with the subsequent collapse.
The game is now in one of those phoney war periods while we wait for the real action to begin. Australia will spend tomorrow winding up their attack on the England bowlers, and England will be forced into the position of simply trying to restrict the scoring to keep Australia batting as long as possible. Clarke is in the enviable position of knowing that the lead is already far beyond what England can achieve, and so can simply tire out the England bowlers and turn an overwhelming position into a completely impregnable one.
Midway through the day, Australia will be over 500 ahead, and leave England around 130 overs to survive. It’s not impossible that they do it either, this remains a very flat pitch, and is if anything dying for the bowlers rather than showing signs of wear. It’s that that is the risk for England, as the repeated drag ons today showed – the classic sign of a pitch that is getting even slower.
If Cook does an Atherton and bats through the last say and a half, that will indeed be worthy of note, for its hard to see too many others doing it.
In reality, England look a beaten side, it won’t cause paroxysms of shock if when they do come to bat they lose wickets early again.
UPDATE – I hope TLG doesn’t mind me tapping on to the end of his post, but we are setting up a site to take on Century Watch and most of the photos, as well as things like book reviews etc. This is especially for the busy times so we don’t flood the main site with material.