Sadly I can’t say I’m surprised. I thought we’d get rolled over for about 200 and so it proved. Australia’s bowlers are just too good. They have four genuinely world class performers. England have just the two.
Like England’s attack in 2005 there’s never any let up in quality. If you get through Starc and Hazlewood then the next two bowlers are just as effective. Sadly, Anderson and Broad are supported by Woakes and Ball, who have been really disappointing in this game. The intensity therefore drops and the batsman can have something of a breather – especially when your spinner has a cut finger and can’t bowl properly.
What’s frustrating, however, is that at times it looked like we might set Australia a reasonable 4th innings chase. When Moeen and Bairstow, and then Bairstow and Woakes, put on reasonable partnerships, I was beginning to think we had a sniff. And then, just as hopes were raised, poor batting put us right back in the mire.
I’m afraid I don’t buy this Wobblyline excuse. Moeen knew (or should have known) where the crease was all along. So what if the line wasn’t straight? He takes his guard in the middle, and he looks down at his feet (tapping the bat on his foot etc) regularly, so there’s no excuse. It’s not like he judges where the crease it based on peripheral vision. Lyon beat him and he carelessly dragged his foot out of his ground. End of.
I was also really disappointed with Root and Bairstow’s dismissals. The skipper simply has to start converting some of these 50s into big hundreds. Joe is a more talented player than Steve Smith but he’s not in the same class mentally. How typical that he was out the ball after reaching his half-century – the ball after smiling and taking in the applause around the ground.
Personally I think Root just relaxed and switched off for a second (and thus played slightly across the line). It was such a shame and a waste. He’d done all the hard work up to that point. Steve Smith never, ever, relaxes for an instant because he knows that it only takes one ball to get out.
Jonny Bairstow’s dismissal was also hugely annoying. They’d just set the field for that very shot. Yet he hit the ball straight down the fielder’s throat. However, I don’t blame Jonny entirely. England’s tail aren’t good enough to survive against Australia’s quicks so he has to take every scoring opportunity that he can. He’s currently wasted at 7 and must swap places with Moeen at least.
As for Australia’s chase I think we all knew 170 wasn’t going to be nearly challenging enough. We just don’t have the genuine pace, mystery spin, and strength in depth, to put the opposition under enough sustained pressure.
As I said yesterday, this game has turned on two things: Steve Smith and lower order runs. The latter makes an enormous difference. I’m surprised it has taken other observers this long to start talking about it.
The problem is that this inadequacy isn’t going to go away. Tail-enders can’t handle quick bowling – the never have and they never will – whereas they can occasionally look comfortable against four medium-fast right arm seamers. This problem is going to bog us all series.
And so, as most of us feared, we’ll be moving on to Adelaide 0-1 down. And this is where the series will probably be decided. England need to pray they’ll get the best of the conditions as it’s likely to be something of a toss up under lights.
Lose at Adelaide and we’ve got another tour from hell on our hands. But if we get the rub of the green and get to Perth at 1-1 (with the prospect of Ben Stokes returning at some point?) then perhaps the series might be competitive yet.