If you saw the above headline, and hadn’t yet seen the score, you might think that England had lost already. It looks like we’ll have to wait until day 4 or 5 for that.
What I’m referring to is how our hopes of establishing a dominant position in this game were Crushed today. And therefore, after feeling so positive yesterday, I feel emotionally crushed.
Why do we bother getting our hopes up?
At 368-4 England were in an absolutely commanding position. Losing seemed impossible. And winning seemed entirely possible. All the momentum was in our favour. Yes the pitch looked good for batting, but scoreboard pressure is a valuable ally. If England had posted 500 then Australia would’ve been under the cosh.
And then came perhaps the most depressing hour of cricket I’ve watched for some time (and that’s saying something). Was it even an hour? We collapsed pitifully in the blink of an eye. Momentum was lost and it felt like we’d been kicked in the balls.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Because Australia’s attack boasts genuine pace, they can blow away our tail with ease. When we’re seven down we’re basically all out. Australia’s tail, on the other hand, can handle our popgun attack without fear. They can add valuable runs and grasp the initiative. It gives them a Massive advantage.
However, not even a pessimistic misery guts like me expected us to lose six wickets for 35 runs. It was a complete surrender. A crushing moment. And, if I’m being honest, it could be the moment that sealed a 0-5 whitewash.
Obviously this seems a tad melodramatic. England are still in this game if one looks at the scorecard. But do we really have a prayer? Really? Cricket isn’t played on paper. Much of it is played in the mind. And England have some massive mental demons to overcome simply to escape with a draw now.
Steve Smith made batting look so ridiculously easy in the evening session that I wouldn’t be surprised if Australia go well past our 403 – a total I felt was fifty runs short of par, and one hundred runs short of being good.
What’s more, even if England have a good morning tomorrow and bowl Australia out in the afternoon session for something near 350, at some point our batsmen will have to face the music again. And they’re going to be under massive pressure whether the team has a slender lead or a hefty deficit to contend with.
The key question, of course, is whether we can weather this approaching hurricane. And I’m afraid to say that I don’t think we will. After taking 6-35 today, the Australian quicks will be cock-a-hoop. And they might have a convenient little session at the end of the day in which they can run in hard and bowl as quickly as possible.
With Cook completely out of form, Stoneman shellshocked after being hit on the helmet, Vince out of his depth, Root under enormous pressure, and Malan and Bairstow weary and unlikely to repeat their first innings heroics, I can only see one result: England being skittled in a humiliating and brutal fashion.
And don’t go thinking we might be able to defend a small total in the fourth innings either. This Perth pitch is a belter and looks highly unlikely to break up. South Africa chased over 400 here not long ago.
Now it’s very possible that I’m completely wrong about the all the above. England might well show some backbone in the second dig. That’s the beauty of sport: nobody ever knows what’s going to happen for sure.
However, if the players are anywhere near as traumatised as us supporters – and we’re not the ones who have to pad up and face Australia’s 90mph quicks – then England are completely screwed.
Today was our chance to get back into the Ashes series and avoid another potential whitewash. But we blew it. It was a desperately disappointing day.
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