Could it be all over today? Will the urn be in Alastair Cook’s mitts by this evening? England have every likelihood of batting on, and on, and on, while Australia will surely bat a little better second time around.But in this series, anything can happen.
Like me, you’re probably still coming to terms with the fact that Australia were bowled out for 60. In the old days of Grandstand’s vide-printer during Final Score, a scoreline involving an unusually large number of goals always had the word written after the number, in brackets, as if to say – yes, really. This machine should have been dusted off yesterday, to shake us out of disbelief.
Australia first innings – 60 all out (SIXTY).
England may have won four of the last six Ashes series, and are about to win this one, but even so, for those of us who endured all the agonies of the years 1989-2002/3, this was an extraordinary moment of catharsis. Sixty. Sixty! Sixty!!
Sixty is a ridiculous score even in a village match. It’s the worst case scenario when a rampant South Africa skewer Bangladesh. Australia weren’t simply embarrassed; this was humiliation on an industrial scale. They forfeited virtually an entire innings.
Yes, Stuart Broad bowled extremely well. Yes, every nick went to hand. Yes, England caught brilliantly. But this was not sixty all-out bowling, nor a sixty all-out pitch. Australia batted as limply, as apologetically, and as amateurishly, as is humanly possible.
This was worse than any England batting disaster during even the most emphatic years of Australian hegemony. We were never this bad, and when we were nearly as bad, we could blame Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne. This wasn’t Ambrose and Walsh wreaking havoc at Perth, Kingston, or Trinidad. Australia were bowled out for 60 by Stuart Broad at Trent Bridge. In 111 balls – the shortest first innings in test history. Michael Clarke had moved himself down to number five to protect himself from the new ball. He ended up facing the ninth ball of the match.
The misery of 2013/14 still abrades the self-esteem of England supporters. Here was recompense. Here was redemption. During those long, dark weeks, I wrote here that Australia’s triumph was a freak, a blip on the graph. The team who were pulverising England comprised largely the same players who had lost to them, with varying degrees of severity, three times in a row.
I didn’t then realise – and in fairness, few did – how bad England had truly become. Not till later did we appreciate the extent to which Andy Flower’s regime had corroded and corrupted itself. Only during the course of 2014 did the scale of England’s fall from grace become fully apparent, although sages wiser than me had spotted the signs of decay as early as 2012.
Had I known then what I know now, I might have analysed 2013-14 in a different way. But then again, given Australia’s travails since Lord’s, perhaps my first instinct was correct. Maybe Australia’s performance in that series was a freak: a convergence of circumstance and player-form which could not be repeated and which masked extensive structural weakness.
During 2013-14, every time Australia chanced their arm, it came off. Warner slashed and hoiked, and found the boundary. But this summer, against a moving ball, positivity has metamorphosed into recklessness.
In 2013-14, England lost Jonathan Trott to illness, Graeme Swann to retirement and Steve Finn to the yips. The captain was runless and emasculated. Their dressing room environment, fuelled by Flower’s paranoid megalomania, collapsed. This summer, Australia have lost Ryan Harris to injury, and Brad Haddin (goodness, didn’t they miss him yesterday), to a combination of form and circumstance. Their captain is even more diminished than Cook was in Australia. Fissures divide the team, and the team from its management. Michael Clarke is at war with his selectors.
This is now officially Australia’s Difficult Summer. Expect them to respond by saying everything is fine, apart from their top run-scorer, the sole cause of their problems. He will then be sacked without explanation, to allow a new team, with a new ethic, to be built around Clarke.
Meanwhile, as day two gets under-way, a few other random observations.
– The Oval, 2009. Durham, 2013. And now Trent Bridge, 2015. This is now the third time in successive home Ashes that a Stuart Broad spell has won the Ashes.
– Jonny Bairstow, once he got in, was excellent. He’s a lovely cricketer, and who can’t be pleased he made the most of his opportunity. But will he ever score a test century?
– Speaking of which, Alastair Cook has now gone twenty seven Ashes innings without a ton. He has never made one at home against Australia, in fourteen tests.
At time of writing, England have recently lost Joe Root and Mark Wood and are now 306-6, leading by 246. Our comments thread on today’s play is already up and running. As always, we’d love you hear your thoughts and views.