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Bloody Groundhogs: Day One at Sydney

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. England win the toss, Vince and Stoneman get starts but can’t go on, Cook can’t make it to 50 either, and neither (obviously) can Joe Root. England therefore look like they’re going to do well, but ultimately screw it up. The only slight surprise was that it took until the final two overs to screw the pooch this time. Normally the futility of our efforts becomes apparent much sooner.

Unfortunately I think we know how the next chapter reads too: England’s lower order collapses – so we go from the relativel strength of 228-3 to a pitiful 280 all out – and then Australia amass 500, with Steve Smith making 450 of them. Nathan Lyon then bowls Australia to an innings victory on day 4. In doing so he takes more wickets in one spell than Moeen Ali has all series.

Despite losing the series 0-4 – with a whitewash only avoided due to a poor MCG pitch that enabled Cook to score runs for once – Tom Harrison declares that everything is well and no review is needed because we might win the upcoming ODIs. He then disbands the county championship entirely in favour of a new T10 ‘champions cup’ involving the top eight teams from the new city based T20.

Sorry … I got a little ahead of myself then. Much like England’s batsmen seem to do on a regular basis. What on earth was Root thinking when he chipped the ball to square leg with five minutes left? Did anyone else spontaneously combust at this moment? I didn’t so much kick the cat as incinerate it.

And then there was Jonny Bairstow’s decision to turn down a nightwatchman. Yes it’s all very well man-ing up and taking responsibility JB, but have you not been paying attention this series? If you give fate an opportunity to kick you in the gonads it will clearly do so. Arrrgghhh.

Anyway, it’s not all doom and gloom just yet. We’re only almost certainly doomed rather than definitely doomed. The reasons for my slight optimism are twofold: (a) the pitch should be reasonable for Batting tomorrow and Starc clearly isn’t 100% fit (therefore the tail might not get bounced out so decisively), and (b) I had a dream last night that Moeen Ali scored a century!

Although I fully appreciate that cricket bloggers’ dreams aren’t always reliable harbingers of success – the test was being played in the middle of the Vietnam War and the rest of the England team were old schoolmates of mine – reasons for optimism have been thin on the ground this winter. Therefore I see this dream as a viable straw. And I’m going to clutch at it like an alcoholic clutching the last bottle of absinthe in the shop.

The other talking points from day one were Root’s decision to bat first – which was probably a 50/50 call considering that Jimmy Anderson might have got the ball to swing a lot in the first session – and Dawid Malan’s continued success.

Given that we’ve picked two spinners, I think batting first was probably the right move. However, if Mo and Malan can’t get a partnership going tomorrow, then we’re facing the prospect of Australia batting big on days 2 & 3 when the pitch will probably be at its truest. I guess Joe was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t after the Adelaide debacle.

What a shame that Stokes is unavailable and Woakes is injured. England’s strength over the last four years has been our middle-lower order batting. The team we’ve fielded in this game reminds me of the dark days of Fraser, Giddins, Tufnell and Malcolm. One imagines the series result (0-4) will be very similar too.

James Morgan

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Bloody Groundhogs: Day One at Sydney


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