Well what did you expect? Day four at the MCG

cook again

Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear. Say hi-di-hi to the worst England tour of all time.

In 2007 an injury ravaged team, robbed of their inspirational captain and three key bowlers, lost 0-5 to one of the best teams ever to play the game.

This time, a seemingly healthy team recently ranked number one in the world – a team with several players averaging nearly fifty with the bat – will lose 0-5 to an Australian team cobbled together four months ago; a team packed full of inconsistent cricketers with average records who had previously failed to nail down spots in a side ranked fifth in the world (which had lost seven of its previous nine tests).

It’s quite deplorable really.

Credit is due to Australia, and Darren Lehmann in particular, for galvanising a side recently described by its own media as ‘the worst to leave Australia’, but the truth is it’s really hard to gauge the progress of Michael Clarke’s team because England have been so lamentable. You sense we’d lose to Bangladesh on current form.

So what did you expect would happen last night?

The only surprise is that England took two wickets rather than none. It was as painful as cricket gets – dropped catches, inexplicably bad captaincy, poor bowling – and of course, in my case a final poke in the eye: in a moment of pessimism (or should that be clarity) I’d backed Australia to win by nine wickets before the start of play … so obviously Chris Rogers had to get out just before the end, didn’t he.

The psychology of disaster is fascinating one. Why is it that when things go wrong, they go from bad to worse? Luck cannot be random in this context.

An example: in the first over of day three, Haddin played and missed at his first two balls, and nicked his fifth ball through the slips for four. Soon after this he mistimed a bizarre looking shot, but the ball dropped agonisingly into a gap.

Enter Ian Bell later in the day. Having nicked an absolute snorter most batsmen would’ve missed by inches in the first innings, he strode to the crease confident in the knowledge that if he played well England would soon be in an unassailable position.

The first ball he received drifted a little more than he anticipated (the result of a strong cross breeze); he was caught slightly off balance as a result and played a bizarre mistimed stroke (a bit like Haddin) to mid-off. The ball looped straight to the man with the moustache and Bell was out for a golden duck.

Bell was vilified by all and sundry for his ugly misjudgement. Haddin, meanwhile, is the man who almost singlehandedly rescued Australia’s top order in the first four tests. He’s an Ashes hero. Funny, isn’t it.

In every sliding doors moment this series, England have got on the wrong carriage.

I’m not saying Australia have been lucky – they clearly deserve to win, and to a large extent you make your own luck – it’s just interesting how when the chips are down, they never metamorphose into delicious crispy fries; they go soggy, mouldy, and make the relevant protagonist (usually an England batsman) sick.

To pick another metaphor, it never rains, it pours. Everything went our way in 2011 because the Australians were on the floor vomiting. This time the Australian team, weaker on paper than the one in 2011, can’t do anything wrong and England can’t do anything right.

I bet Simon Katich, a much better player than Chris Rogers with a much better record, wishes he was the journeyman plucked from obscurity to play in this year’s back-to-back series – rather than seeing his distinguished international career sawn off during the last Ashes down under.

Fate is a funny thing. When you’re hot, you’re hot, and you play the best innings of your life. When you’re not, you get fired.

James Morgan

1 comment

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