There comes a time in a person’s life when you really have to make the decision about a series like this. Is it actually worth sacrificing anything to invest your heart in it? I had a Christmas do yesterday, and came home well oiled, without having hit anyone or poured a drink over someone (although I did have a beer with an MP, so maybe that’s as bad a sin). I wasn’t feeling very festive during the middle of the night, so sleep was always going to win the day, but there were days when I might have stayed up to watch.
As I also sleep quite lightly I wake up and look at the phone. For most of the day the figure on the right was 4. The number 4. All night long.
All morning long.
Until the end of play long.
I made the correct choice.
On our WhatsApp group this morning there was a strong desire for me to do a “Dmitri” on it. What’s the bloody point? What’s the point of investing any more of my heart and soul into a team that looks to be absolutely cooked? We’ve been rubbish in the past, beaten by an all-time great team on many occasions at Perth, but there’s been a spark of a fight in the field. This was the test match you could watch with your breakfast and listen to on the way to work. I’ve not switched on the TV or bothered to listen on the way in. Malan may have given us some enthusiasm, the joy of the first hundred, but since then we’ve had very little to cheer.
The day ended with Australia 549 for 4. The suspicion now is if England make 400, it is a 650 wicket. The suspicion is if England don’t have any movement off the pitch or in the air, they are absolutely stuffed. The suspicion is that they are told this so much they believe it. While Steve Smith is always capable of a double hundred, and so we should expect this on flat wickets where it is brutally hard to get top players out, but Mitchell Marsh is sitting there with 181 not out. 181.
I thought Chennai was bad. I thought letting a jobbing pro like Karun Nair make a test triple hundred was embarrassing. But that series was dead. It was 3-0 and we were about to fly home. Anderson missed the match. The captain was in the dying embers of his career. You could almost understand why the team was bereft. Today the series was still, in theory, alive. We could still win this test with a really good session or two, and although not likely, we might stay in the series going in to Melbourne. But no, Mitchell Marsh is sitting on the brink of a double, Smith could well make a triple here, and Chuckles comes out with the rubbish he does at the end? Mark Waugh played 128 test matches and never made more than 153. Steve Waugh played 168 tests, 89 of them at home, and his highest score in his home country was 170. The standard of play is dropping, you can see it before your eyes. We don’t live in a vintage time for test cricket and jobbing pros are making historic scores against England. It’s all the more frustrating that we’ve kept Warner in check just to let a couple of Marshes take us to the cleaners.
I’m obsessed by that Karun Nair triple century. It’s chastening watching your team cough up 700 plus, and they might be looking at that again. It’s even more chastening watching average players do it to you. It gives off distress signals. It intimates that you are intimidated. You have sub-consciously given up. That the end is nigh. I’ve heard the words “body language” too much today. Body language doesn’t take wickets. Ability and a bit of luck does.
As I type this I have Smith getting to 200 on the highlights. He’s an assassin. He will not only put his foot on your throat, he’ll stamp on you. He’s ruthless. We get a player like that and we apologise for it? Alastair Cook, sadly, is the poster child. You ever see him give it like Smith did when he got to 200? You know how we apologise for the 3-0 win in 2013 as if benefiting from the weather in a couple of games, and winning the close ones was something we should be ashamed of?
We’re forced to listen to commentators who hyped up the series, even tongue in cheek saying will Aussie be able to give us a game when they had a wobble against South Africa last year, now telling me this is inevitable. How Mark Wood might have been the answer here so why didn’t we give him a go? How the fielders weren’t into it. Jesus. What have you been doing to help the situation Shiny Toy? Bottling an application to put your money where your mouth is? You might get a chance if Andrew Strauss is held accountable (and given the news about his wife, which I’d wish on absolutely no-one, it’s not time to go into that aspect) and a vacancy arises. Will you stand up or is it too cosy being the annoying voice of venality on BT Sport and every other media outlet that gives you the oxygen of publicity?
We suspected Cook is past it. Nothing to change our minds. No-one was saying that pre-series. We were worried about the middle order fragility, and that’s not exactly been assuaged just because Malan made a good pitch hundred. We all gasped at Vince, but were told he had the game for Australia. One nice 80 and the rest is the same old same old. We pointed out that Anderson and Broad might not have the legs for this series, and one purple spell when the game was more or less dead in favourable conditions doesn’t change that. We worried about Ali taking wickets. We worried that this fragile team doesn’t make enough runs. And all I hear is “we don’t have extreme pace or mystery spin”. It’s like Southeastern trains blaming broken down trains for the delays – it’s your problem, fix it.
There will be a lot more, a lot more to come on this. But let’s see this test match out. England will have to bat for 4 and a bit sessions if Australia score another couple of hundred runs to try to not have to bat again. Then we’ll be in the realms of batting out time which we’ve shown plenty of aptitude for in recent times. On roads we collapse under pressure. We are the most mentally fragile team I have seen wear England colours for many years. We are up against a decent foe, but not all time great by any manner of means. There is no excuse for not putting up a decent fist of the second innings.
Which brings me back to the start of the piece. We need something to make us invest our heart and soul in this team. Maxie may well not be able to forgive and forget, but part of me wants to. It’s not bandwagon hopping for a winning team. It’s for someone to do something that makes me think this is worth it. That blogging about this lot is something I should invest my time in at a point in my life when time is something I am short of. I might have got past anger, which at least meant I cared, to resignation that we pay a lot of money to watch this absolute shambles and no-one seems to want to do anything about it. I love Ramps, but how can you justify extending his contract when the test batting is laughable? Those sort of decisions put my back up, but it’s typical ECB so why be angry?
Day 4 is an important day for England. Do they have it in them to put up a fight or is our bowling attack now really like the Zimbabwe and Bangladesh of yore, there for average players to make distinctly un-average scores? And do they have the fight in them to bat time on a flat deck? If you have faith, I’d take you back to last Christmas. And Karun Nair.
I’ll leave you with Danny’s take on the day…
If I wrote it, it would be a very short post:
Woke up at 4am. Saw Smith was still in. Decided to go back to sleep.
Woke up at 5am. Saw Smith was still in. Decided to go back to sleep.
Woke up at 7.30am. Saw Smith was still in. Decided to go back to sleep.
Woke up at 9am. Saw Smith was still in. Decided to catch up with my Twitter feed.
Got out of bed after 10am. Saw last 2 overs. Felt pretty good about getting a full night’s sleep rather than watching this crap.
Maybe this would have been a better post.
Someone might be back to preview this. I will mostly be listening to the 4th day’s play on my way to Heathrow to pick up the Missus. She’s missed all this. Lucky her.