Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse.
What a wretched, agonising, excruciating tour this has been for us, as England supporters – quite probably, the worst of all time.
Dreadful as 2006/07 was, at least it was at the hands of a very fine Australian team. 2001 was also hugely gutting – after going in to the series with such confidence and form, only to find it was the same old story against Steve Waugh and co.
But none of that compares to the horrors we are currently witnessing.
At some point within the next forty-eight hours, we are going to surrender the Ashes to the weakest Australian team in living memory.
This is a time of great sorrow. Not only have we conceded possession of all we hold dear, but we have been humiliated by a rag-tag and makeshift team of hacks, journeymen, and Michael Clarke.
Worst of all, there has been no respite from our misery whatsoever – – not even a moment’s let-up. Ever since the Haddin-Johnson partnership at Brisbane, absolutely everything has gone wrong.
Even in the darkest days of the calamitous Ashes tours of the 1990s and 2000s, we always managed to scrape a handful of consolation prizes – a few morsels to salve the wounds to our pride and feel better about ourselves.
In 2002/3 we had Michael Vaughan’s glittering trio of centuries. Even in 2006/7 we had the Colly-KP partnership at Adelaide, and Monty’s Perth five-fer.
This time, nothing. At all. No English centuries. No counter-attacking partnerships. No demon bowling spells. De riens. Not a single glimmer of light to allay the relentlessly soul-destroying bleakness.
We have not won a single day of this series – and it’s hard to think of more than a couple of sessions in which we’ve had the upper hand.
Each night we go to bed – part dreading the morning’s scorecard, but part still hoping that – somehow – something will at last change, and for once, dawn will bring good news. Aren’t we at least allowed one good day?
And then when we wake, we are almost too scared to look at the score. We tell ourselves not to be so ridiculously pessimistic. And when we finally summon the courage to click on the webpage, the brutal truth leaves us poleaxed.
The scorecard is even worse than our worst case scenario. We have scored even fewer runs than we feared. Australia have an even bigger lead than we could have imagined.
It’s been like this night after night, morning after morning. And today’s play just put the lid on it.
In a way, it was all too predictable. We all knew that resuming at four wickets down meant that two wickets could easily fall soon after play – which they did – leaving the tail exposed to be swept away – which it was.
Notwithstanding the collapses at Brisbane and Adelaide, this was the most depressing day of all. Which is no mean statement. It’s one thing to be undone by a hostile and brilliant spell of fast-bowling, or a masterpiece century; quite another to just be methodically unravelled and stripped bare.
But I don’t share the anger which is being directed at the England players by some supporters. On the BBC online coverage, a Laurie Armitt e-mailed to say: “Time for KP, Prior and Swann to be dropped even if it is temporary. It might make them see that they have to perform regularly”.
What a load of nonsense. Do you actually think KP, Prior and Swann *want* to be under-performing? That they don’t care about their failures? That they’re not trying?
From what I can see, our players care very much, and are trying as hard as they can. But their loss of form is beyond their control. And, rightly or wrongly, they somehow cannot summon the levels of intensity and sustained, controlled, aggression which the Australians are.
I’ve suggested before that the back-to-back series, with us touring for the second half, has been a big factor. Some of you scoffed. But I stand by it. I’m surprised this factor hasn’t cropped up more in the analysis.
Losing all three tosses, losing Jonathan Trott, and now losing our best bowler – Stuart Broad – hasn’t helped.
What happened to Ryan Harris’s injuries? And Michael Clarke’s bad back?
Much of this will sound like sour grapes – and like I’m feeling sorry for myself. But if as England fans we’re not entitled to self-pity at the moment, when are we?
Supporting a sports team is not about fairness to the opposition, or a rational analysis. It’s about raw and base emotions. Right now we could hardly be hurting more – so don’t expect us to raise a glass of champagne to the Australians.
I hear your pain Maxie and some (me) will note that you have now showed some raw emotion as opposed to slagging off Australia, which can be deemed a balanced view. Which ever way you look at it, this Australian team is playing 1st class and cricket. Forget about what they were, their talent is coming through, and Clarke is tying it all together. Be interesting to see if they can back it up in South Africa next up.
Don’t agree with those players you mentioned being dropped, but there is a strong case to drop Prior, for his own sake if anything. Have we seen him play this badly before?
Oh dear………..Cook just got bowled first nut.
Any ideas anyone? I think there will be some selection bolters for Melbourne, as sure as champagne flowing in the Australian dressing room tonight!
I love reading your column, your excuses are so imaginative! I know it’s not the English way, but you might feel a little better if you just accept that so far in this series the better team has won. Whinging and defeatism will only give you wrinkles.
Maxie and James, as a British and Australian passport holder, I am in an unique position to see both sides. Doesn’t make me an expert, far from it but no one can question my passion for cricket. I read your views and think you sometimes need to look in as opposed to only out. But to be fair, your recent articles have simmered in your negativity towards this Australian team.
If I may, I’ll give you both my opinion on England and where its all at –
Cook – still a class bat but he has been a weak captain and day 1 showed that he lost control. As I said before, England needs some old school leadership. He will be back scoring runs again.
Carberry – ok for the short term, great fieldsman but appears a little spooked in Australia, in particular in each 2nd innings.
Trott – sadly went home but a top class batsmen nonetheless. He’s young enough to comeback, but whatever is going on between the ears will be the decider. Unlikely though, shame.
Root – quality, but he must be wondering WTF!!! He is the future, and will be a great player for England.
Pietersen – still has a short term future in the test team, but the riches of filthy lucre in India will be too hard to resist, especially after this mess.
Bell – quality player, who will have better tours, but not been anywhere near what his capabilities are. The dropped sitter off Watson this morning pretty much sums up his and the rest of the teams state of mind.
Stokes – not seen enough of him yet, but lucky to be in Australia after being booted out on an A tour. Defo future not moment. Besides, you can’t play two all-rounders, so he needs to sit out Melbourne.
Prior – he’s finished, nothing more to say.
Bresnan – I actually rate him as a good two wicket, 20-30 runs type of player. Perhaps more should come from him, but he gives more than most. Stick with him.
Broad – his injury is being masked by the management (as I write), which means its more serious then they are letting on. Why he was bowling in the nets afterwards when no body knew the extent of the injury is beyond me. Elevate, ice it, wait for the swelling to go down and then get it scanned – duh! Good irritating player though and will be around for quite some time yet.
Swann – has never really bowled well in Australia, but he is a class bowler and will be around, short term only.
Anderson – he does not cut it as a “world class bowler”. Slightly generous label for someone who can’t crack 30 runs a wicket. He became a good bowler when Swann appeared, now that Swann is struggling, Jimmy is to. Co-incidence? Looked shot post Lords actually. A very good bowler, a great one, no – great bowlers are sub 26 over a long career and he has been around long enough and still can’t get below 30. His over to Bailey this morning has all the signs of someone who has peaked and now the sun is starting to set. Probably got another year or two left, tops.
Monty – good bordering on comical. I like Monty as a bowler, but gives nothing else and in this day and age teams cannot carry someone with limited talent. Still a few years left in him though.
Finn – someone said or did something to Finn. How can someone fall from grace as quickly as him without outside influences. Too late for this tour as the suitable pitches were Brisbane and Perth. I don’t think he knows what his future is. Average to good bowler, but can be so much more.
Tremlett – medium to fast pace in Brisbane???? Again, poorly managed. His remit should of been in Brisbane “go and bust your gut, hit the deck hard and you will reap the rewards”. But instead slowed down, he’s done in an England shirt I’m afraid.
Rankin – liked what I saw in the one dayers in England, and I think they may give him a run in Melbourne or Sydney. The future awaits.
I’ll see what Australia has got in Melbourne and Sydney before I comment, but we have all seen enough of England.
cant believe how much you just don’t get how much the Australian bowling attack has improved in the last 6 months. Holes in batting still but Boof will fix that. credit where credit is due is your way forward to restoring some shreds of your lost credibility as a cricket blogger.
If you read this blog regularly, you’d know we rate the Australian bowling attack very highly.