This will be harder than it looks: day two at Lord’s

Why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, did we have to lose those three wickets yesterday evening? I have a bad feeling about this.

And for whatever reason, I always felt fearful during that session – it seemed inevitable that something would go wrong – that it wouldn’t be straightforward.

What exactly are our batsmen trying to do to us? Twice now on two days our first three wickets have fallen very cheaply. Twice now in two days we’ve lost three wickets – softly, and in a rush – just before the close.

If only we could have ended the day 50-0, or even for the loss of one. If we had, the series would now effectively be over. And again, twice now in two days our batsmen have squandered the chance to put the Ashes beyond Australia’s reach. But as it stands, the visitors are back in this match – despite how badly they’ve batted , and in the main, how they’ve bowled.

Today should have been an indulgent, low stress day, in which our batsmen calmly accumulated an impenetrable edifice of runs. Instead, it will be nervy and fraught.

When play begins, we have a number eight at the crease, alongside in Joe Root a batsman who looks – for the first time – unsure of himself. He could already have been out twice by now. Next in is Ian Bell, who after three consecutive Ashes centuries must be due a failure. We could easily be 60-6 by midday.

A nightmare scenario is hoving into view. We could end up setting Australia only 350 to win – and that would mean a near-repeat of Trent Bridge – an agonising, nerve-shredding attempt to dismiss Australia before they get over the line. And this time, it’s on a near-perfect pitch.

It can’t be too long until Shane Watson finally makes an Ashes century, and until Michael Clarke makes the runs he is due. What if both those things happen in the fourth innings?

Yesterday evening should belonged to Alastair Cook. On paper, it was the classic situation in which he takes control and exerts quiet authority, building the foundations of an imposing England total. If only that had happened.

Something is definitely not right with our top order, but it’s hard to put a finger on quite what. Cook and Pietersen have now each failed in three innings out of four this series. For Trott, the ratio is two/two. He himself is scoring far too many fifties which he fails to convert – turning into England’s version of Shane Watson.

Yesterday’s mini-collapse is very difficult to explain. The wickets were mainly due to the limp, nervy, half-hearted shots – but at the time, we were under no pressure whatsoever.

You might think I’m being overly pessimistic here: we still lead by 260. But even if you think we still only need another 150 to make the game safe, ask yourself whom exactly is going to score those runs? Of our four seasoned batting pros, three of them are now out.

This morning I should have been writing about the joys of humiliating Australia, by bowling them out for only 128. We ought to have been rejoicing in their disastrous ineptitude. But none of that will mean anything if we do not go on to win this match – and that outcome is now very far from guaranteed.

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