Coming into day three, all but the most optimistic of England fans had already written off a victory. The deficit was at 362, with the Aussies still yet to lose a wicket. All the hosts could hope for was to bat out for a draw, and keep the series at 1-1.
The day began with Rogers and Warner at the crease, looking almost from the first ball to set up a declaration. All was running according to Australia’s script, until Rogers was forced to retire due to dizziness. He had taken a short ball from Anderson to the head, and was advised to sit down between overs while the team doctor came to have a look at him. I am sure I join the rest of the sporting world in wishing him all the best, and hoping that this is not something which affects him beyond today.
With the departure of Rogers, in came Steve Smith. Following his double hundred in the first innings, he will undoubtedly have been the last person the English bowlers wanted to see. Picking up pretty much where he left off, Smith made another 50 before being bowled to give England their first second innings wicket. By this time, David Warner had also been dismissed for 83, and Moeen Ali had taken both wickets. Mitchell Marsh came out to join Michael Clarke, and the two hit some lusty blows before deciding enough was enough, and that they’d have a bowl.
Only five teams have ever safely negotiated five whole sessions of test match blocking, and it would take a monumental effort for England to become the sixth here. Losing a wicket before lunch would almost certainly have been too much for some of the players to handle, but it did not come to that. The score was 7-0 when the sides went in for lunch, but to have a realistic chance of saving the game England could hardly afford to lose any more than three wickets by the close of play.
The first of those three came quite soon after the break. Starc had Lyth caught behind again, to another back of a length delivery just outside off stump. One has to adapt and learn very quickly in test cricket, and Lyth’s technique outside the off stump is sure being tested at the moment. Should he keep his place for the Edgbaston test (something that is by no means a given), he will have to prove that his corridor of uncertainty can provide a bit more certainty than many will currently be thinking.
After missing out on a hundred in the first innings, captain Cook will have looked to go bigger this time out. Unfortunately for him, he chased a wide ball from Mitchell Johnson and England were two down. Ballance followed him back, and then Bell came and went. England were 48-4 and staring down the barrel of a crushing defeat within four days. The farcical dismissal of Ben Stokes really epitomised the home side’s performance all test. He was run out after jumping to avoid the ball: his bat and feet were in the air as the ball cannoned into the stumps, before Australia celebrated their fifth victim.
At this stage, the headlines were as good as printed and the series as good as level. Wouldn’t it have been lovely if that lot in the press had to wait another day to publish their assessments? Alas, no such waiting was necessary, as Australia wrapped things up shortly after tea. Root made 17, Broad 25, as England lost by 405. Australia were superb in all departments, while England were poor across the board. Quite how the hosts have gone from Cardiff to this is slightly beyond me, but at least the recent history of the ashes points to a lack of continuity from test to test. Edgbaston’s a new situation, and we can but hope that England tackle that one in a slightly different, and let’s face it better manner.
For Australia, Steve Smith was outstanding. Not a lot needs to be said about the number 1 test batsman’s performance, as one only has to look at the scorecard. Mitchell Johnson was also fantastic (cue shivers down the spines of all those who love to hate the pantomime villain). He bowled nasty, aggressive spurts of fast bowling that did more than enough to unsettle the English batsmen. Chris Rogers should certainly get a mention too, as he carried on seemingly where he left off in Cardiff. Finally, Mitchell marsh has proved that his selection was worth its weight in gold, after taking vital wickets in both innings and providing a few runs with the bat.
For England, it was poor all through really. Broad bowled well in the first innings, and Cook and Stokes batted well first time of asking as well. Nothing matched the performances of the tourists’ XI though, as the pommies were given a good hiding.
I’m done with talking about this now. Hopefully the England boys can do what I do in putting it as far back in the mind as possible, and looking forward to test number three. Maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow and we’ll be 160-0, this all being a bad dream. Wouldn’t that be nice?