Even for the most sadistic of cricket fans, the current state of the Australian team is hard to smile at. It was a sadly familiar sight at Lord’s on Sunday, where the Aussies looked like a deer in headlights. Or perhaps even a dead deer, hit multiple times and left for collection as roadkill.
The Aussies went 2-0 down in the second Ashes Test at Lord’s after a disastrous outing where they lost by 347 runs within four days. There were even fewer positives to take from this match than the first one, as Australia continued their slide into the abyss of hounding defeats.
After a diabolical collapse in the first innings, bowled out for 128 in response to England’s first innings total of 361, the visitors were made to toil. Alastair Cook opted not to enforce the follow-on, and despite the visitors losing three wickets in quick succession, the familiar embarrassment was soon to return for Australia.
Joe Root, who had looked so unsettled at the top of the order, finally managed to capitalise on the ineptitude of Australia and became the youngest person to score a ton in the Ashes. It wasn’t even that the visitors’ bowlers were atrocious, they were just tired and run into the ground. Despite all their efforts in the first innings, the batsmen had seemingly forgotten that cricket is a team sport. England made them pay. With Root, Tim Bresnan and Ian Bell all taking advantage of worn-out bowlers who must all be hoping that they pick up injuries to avoid being shamed any further.
England even went so far as to afford England the luxury of batting for sentiment. Despite an already ballooning lead by the end of the third day, the hosts decided to allow Joe Root to get his 200. The Australians responded by not taking the new ball and making the young Yorkshireman sweat for his efforts. If moral victories were real, perhaps Australia could harness one from those efforts. Root, in his frustration, eventually succumbed and was dismissed for 180, immediately signalling the declaration.
England had not only rubbed salt in the wounds of the Aussies, but they had rinsed it with vinegar. With a lead of 582, the visitors had a rather slim chance of winning. But when winning is taken out of the equation, the distinct possibility of saving a Test appears.
It had been done before, at this very same venue in 2008. South Africa, forced to follow on in their second innings, batted for nearly two days. In that match, England had amassed 593 in their first innings, with 152 from Kevin Pietersen and 199 from Ian Bell. Following the hosts’ declaration, the visitors were skittled out for 247. They were into their second innings by the third day and survived 167 in their second in order to survive and save the Test.
It would, of course, be obtuse to compare the current Australian team to the Proteas side of 2008, but the possibility was not out of reach. All that was needed was a little bit of logic and patience. But those two qualities had evaded the Aussies on their tour to India earlier this year already. Shane Watson was once again caught leg-before, the ninth time in 18 innings he was dismissed this way. Chris Rogers left a straight ball. Phil Hughes then continued his new-born giraffe on ice approach against spin and the Aussies found themselves in the familiar spot of bother with being three wickets down for not many runs.
Consolidation was needed and it came, briefly. For a period of time, while Michael Clarke and Usman Khawaja were at the crease, Australia made England look decidedly average. On a flat track, where there is no need for an overzealous onslaught, batting was relatively easy. Despite a few balls turning out of the foot marks, there was nothing fiercely intimidating about the wicket. Occupation of the crease was all that was needed, but even that was a bridge too far. Clarke, fell for the leg-side trap, engineered by captain Cook, as Root picked up a wicket. The Australian skipper was sent packing after 51 runs off 85 and the collapse had been triggered. Khawaja followed just two overs later, also to Root. A far better delivery from the young part-timer forced an edged which was snaffled by the man in the gully and at 135-5, Australia were in the soup and starting to disintegrate.
After a fighting 98-run partnership, it was back to the usual collapse and controversies. Despite Ashton Agar’s wicket, Australia will be hard pressed to say that they were hard done by.
Agar’s wicket, once again, exposed the frailties of the Hot Spot system. Given not out for a caught behind, England opted to review the decision. Hot Spot showed nothing on the bat and although there was a sound, it came only after the ball had drifted past the bat. Agar could do little but accept the decision and trudge off.
Brad Haddin followed, padding up to a straight one, and Peter Siddle was on his way after a fighting 18 off 62 balls. The tenth wicket combined for a 34-run partnership, Australia’s second highest of the match, before Swann ended their woes.
As far as positives go, they were pretty limited for the Australians, while England was emphatic. However, it’s also true that their performance might have been flattered by Australia’s inability to play cricket.
England 361 (Ian Bell 109; Ryan Harris 26-6-72-5) & 349/7d (Joe Root 180; Peter Siddle 21-6-65-3)
Australia 128 (Shane Watson 28; Graeme Swann 21.3-5-44-5) & 235 (Usman Khawaja 54l; Graeme Swann 30.3-5-78-4)
England won by 347 runs. DM
Photo: The England team celebrates defeating Australia on the fourth day of the second Ashes test match at Lords cricket ground in London July 21, 2013. REUTERS/Kieran Doherty
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