Where on earth do you start after that?
Was yesterday a contest to determine which side could collapse most quickly? Who’d have thought, as the day began, that sixteen men would bat and the best of them would be Steve Smith? And if you have tickets for Saturday, do you have any hope of seeing much play?
The most surprising aspect about the subsidence of our own innings was how unsurprising it was. No genuine England supporter was ever taken in by the nonsense talk of five-nil: we knew it would be tough, and as the start of play approached, I was far from the only one feeling very nervous. One Facebook friend of mine described his “impending sense of doom”.
I’m not just being wise after the event. I awoke yesterday gripped by a premonition we would begin the series with an agonising, tone-setting, batting collapse, and be dismissed for 220. Outlandish pessimism, I tried to tell myself, barely contemplating the idea that 220 would actually prove an optimistic forecast. We didn’t even make that.
The worst thing we could do, for the sake of our sanity, was bat first – and inevitably, we did. Alastair Cook probably had little choice, but in such swing-friendly conditions, it would have been a great toss to lose.
Our dismal innings was a shame in many ways – what a chance it might have been to begin the Ashes by blunting the Australian attack. A pity, too, that we still ended up collapsing despite the poor start by the much-vaunted opening pair of Pattinson and Starc.
Ultimately, it’s hard to believe that of all their bowlers, it was that ludicrous buffoon Peter Siddle who caused such damage.
Not only does he look like a clown, P Siddy usually bowls like one too, and the odd wobble apart, in general our batsmen easily bested him in 2009 and 2010/11.
Geoffrey Boycott attributed our flawed batting to arrogance and complacency – suspecting that we’d just casually breezed in, expecting to win as a sheer formality. But from my admittedly distant vantage point, it seemed the other way around – we were nervous, diffident, and tried too hard, hence the limp attempts to force the pace without conviction.
215 ain’t much to bowl at, and it seemed inevitable we would then freeze in the field and allow Australia to build the foundations of a 450 total. So our three early wickets came as a surprise to almost everyone, and not only changed the mood of the entire day but dealt an important psychological blow: the tourists’ batting is indeed as fragile, and our bowling as potent, as the hype has suggested.
Michael Clarke’s glorious dismissal will now haunt him each time he takes guard against Anderson, but the Aussie approach to Steven Finn will be more ambivalent. In his first spell yesterday, Finn bowled two of the worst balls I’ve ever seen, and then shortly afterwards, three of the best.
Steve Smith – whom we have rightly ridiculed in the past – now seems the most likely candidate to become the biggest pain in the arse of this series. His irritatingly nuggety performance yesterday evening undid some of our early damage, to the extent that by stumps the balance of power was probably 50/50.
And so, what a day we have in store today. The early removal of Smith and Hughes would give us a first innings lead. But if they dig in, the Australian tail has the potential to change the equation again.
With so much in the mix, I’m not sure I can stand another day of such intensity. I think I’ll go and hide behind the settee until September.
Steve Smith is such a bizarre batsman. He bats like a poor wicket keeper, has no style or finesse whatsoever, yet seems to have lots of time to play the ball. I can’t work him out. He looks totally rubbish, yet has scored quite a few runs recently. He must also have the most punchable face in world cricket (except maybe Siddle!)
Check out my blog post about The Ashes! I don’t like cricket,oh no, I love it!