Not so bad after all: day three at Lord’s

Well thank you very much, Joe Root, for making me look such a fool.

In my post about Friday’s play I was extremely pessimistic – in hindsight, maybe unduly so – about our prospects. Resuming on 32-3, I gloomily anticipated an early collapse and a target for Australia of under 400.

And then our batsmen – led by Root – only go and deliver England’s finest batting performance since Melbourne in 2010.

My, what a bloody brilliant day – one to cherish and remember down the years. And we sorely needed it – not only a properly dominant batting performance, but an unalloyed day of full dominance over Australia.

Disastrous though their innings was on Friday, Australia could still draw succour from their three quick late wickets. But on Saturday, we gave them not one shred of consolation during the entire three sessions. Even the two wickets they took were fortunate.

This was a wonderfully humiliating day for Australia, the kind which raises the prospect that we can inflict long-term psychological damage on their squad. We shouldn’t be premature about that – but even Michael Clarke now has only dim memories of what it’s actually like to beat England.

That said, there has been nonsense of two kinds spoken today, in commentary and social media. First, that five-nil is on the cards. Hang on. We have not even won this match yet. Although even I wouldn’t say we can lose, the pitch is very flat for the seamers – and so many times in recent years we have struggled to close out victory at Lord’s for that reason. We’ll be setting Australia a similar target to that of the 2009 Lord’s test – and although we eventually won that match, it was hard work.

Only an idiot would talk about a whitewash at this point. In fact, that word is henceforth banned on this blog. Let’s just take it a session at a time, please.

The second form of nonsense concerns those – and there’s been a lot of this on BBC Online’s coverage – who are bemoaning the lack of a close contest. Such people are disappointed Australia are not pushing us harder.

They should shut up until such a point as we win the series. Until then, things can still go wrong for us.

But more importantly – why would any England supporter care about anything apart from winning the Ashes? The urn is all. I don’t know about you, but I’m here to see our side keep the terracotta, not enjoy cricket for its intrinsic merits.

What’s more, if we do win this match by a large margin, and then continue to dominate in the rest of the series, wouldn’t that be wonderful in itself? I mean, did people with those attitudes hate 2010/11 because it wasn’t close enough?

Between 1989 and 2007, Australia won nine out of ten Ashes series, all by huge margins. There is still a vast amount of pain and humiliation due for payback.

But I’ll say it again: we haven’t won this match yet. All we have to our name so far is one win and a big lead.

One thing I can be confident of, though, is that Joe Root will score 8,000 test runs for England. He is brilliant, and maybe the best new batsman England have unearthed for twenty years. His composure, his completeness, and his hunger for runs, mark him out as a potential superstar.

This match has in some ways been a tale of two youngsters. While England made the right call with Root, the folly of Australia’s decision to pick Ashton Agar has now been exposed.When we first heard he’d been selected, at Trent Bridge, it looked like a choice made through desperation and panic. Then when Agar made 98 in the first innings, Clarke and Lehmann were hailed for their genius. But now, we realise it was really was a desperate, foolish idea: Agar’s knock was a fluke and he was actually picked for his bowling, which is useless.

And finally, when should Cook declare this morning? After no more than half an hour, I would venture. Even the gravest pessimist knows we won’t lose from here – but we need enough time to get all ten wickets.




After he made 98 at Trent Bridge, Clarke and Lehmann were hailed


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