What can I say?
I’m not surprised, let’s be honest. I’ve said during the summer that this is a mad scientist’s experiment of a cricket team, and while a freak compound came together for a day and a bit at Leeds, as I said many times in the past few years, pretty little half centuries, or grinding 70s aren’t going to win test matches. Double hundreds on good surfaces that decline do. So while we raised Steve Smith’s pedestal yet further, we see Joe Root pale in comparison. Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes must be absolutely livid at what they are seeing. Both are near, or close to, the top of their game, but we persisted with this twisted, mangled wreck of a batting line-up and the rewards are shown for all to see this evening.
Tomorrow Australia will wrap up the Ashes for another couple of years, and given we travel about as well as English wine, probably another four before we get a crack again at our old foe on home soil. That would be another crack at test cricket, because Australia are over here next year for some hit, giggle and white ball contest again. It’s what we want. An hors d’oeuvre for the Hundred.
Back to the start of the day, and England started on 200 for 5. Bairstow got cleaned up pretty early on, and it’s hard to argue with the reaction of one of this parish…
Stokes couldn’t repeat the miracle of Headingley, nicking off to slip, and Archer did not detain us for too long with another low score. Dobell is getting a little impatient, thinking Jofra should bat at number 11. Stuart Broad did his best, which is far from what his best used to be, but he’s bloody trying, and stuck with Jos almost up to the follow on mark, before some blows got England past the follow-on, but not much more. Jos has not yet made 100 runs in 7 digs for England in this series and is played as a specialist batsman. Not much use when he’s coming in at number 8, due to the nightwatchman, but hey, I’m not a Dean of Sports History, so what the hell do I know?
Broad and Archer bowled superbly to start with, removing Warner for a duck, Harris soon after, and then Marnus for fewer than 50 for the first time this series. Head didn’t last too long. But despite looking more vulnerable than nearly any time in this series, Smith wasn’t out, and he accelerated the pace of the innings in an 82 that allowed Australia to declare and set England 383 to win. Or more reasonably a full day and a half an hour to bat out time and take the series to the Oval.
BOOM! Cummins induces a poor legside shot attempt from Rory Burns and the ball skewed off the leading edge to mid-off. Third ball, 0 for 1
CRASH! Root gets a decent one first up and has his off stump pegged back by Cummins. His second first ball duck of the series. Root’s average drops to barely above 48. After a dodgy spell captaining after tea, where he clearly needed to balance bowling workloads, but allowed Smith to get free, is his captaincy under pressure? It should be.
Jason Roy (and I wonder what would have happened and what the comment would have been if he’d had fallen to Cummins ball to Root) came in at 4, in the first over. He’s faced his first ball later in the innings opening the batting! He and Denly saw out the day and the game finished the day with England 18 for 2.
We won’t bat out tomorrow. I’d be surprised if England get to tea, and not be surprised if they are done by lunch. They took the momentum from Leeds, bowled and fielded poorly, lost it to the human spirit sapper Smith, and found themselves in their area of weakness, chasing a big score. England can’t make these without miracles aligning, and so they proved, scraping over 300, which is a rarity these days, so I suppose it was a success of sorts.
England’s test cricket is unfathomable. It can align and beat India 4-1, it can unravel, and but for miracles and mis-steps, it should really be 3-0 tomorrow. All through it I’ve watched as much as I can, taped as much as I can, reviewed as much as I can, but the spirit isn’t there. This is ADHD test cricket and I’m not a fan. Paul Hayward, a journo who should really know better, was eulogising how this series has transcended sport, but to me it is a crap series, with one man dominating, and when he didn’t play, we got an extraordinary finish. One great theatrical contest. The third test was Highlander, the rest has been Highlander II. I’ve just not been into it at all. I wasn’t that keen to write tonight’s opus.
So, onto tomorrow. The Inevitable End, as Royksopp named their final album. I hope we put up a fight, but the two in at the moment have been almost walking wickets, and then we go to the expansive all rounders and their gates and swishes. We’ve got a slightly longer tail as well. If they survive….. oh stuff it. Don’t get your hopes up.
Ashes to Ashes. Dust to Dust. If the hope is there, well I admire your trust.
And we were 13 overs short. Who gives a shit that the paying public, probably shelling out £100 for a ticket, get 15% of their play taken away because the players don’t give a stuff about getting a wiggle on. We can go on about this, but no-one gives a shit in authority. No-one.
Comments below on the final farce.