Seven days into the series and the Ashes are all but gone for England. Just seven days. The tourists need a miracle to avoid defeat in the second Test at Adelaide, which would leave them a mountain to climb to win the last three Tests and take the urn home.
It was another lengthening tale of woe for England’s lacklustre batting line up. The fact the 16-run tenth-wicket stand between No.10 Stuart Broad and No.11 James Anderson highlights just how bad the third day at the Adelaide Oval was for Chris Silverwood’s shot side.
Things started brightly in the Adelaide heat as they tried to haul down the Aussie’s mammoth first-innings 473. Dawid Malan and captain Joe Root once again blunted the hosts’ bowlers and amassed 123/0 in the first session of play.
The only time England have looked in the contest this series has been when Malan and Root have batted together. But all their hard work was undone within 12 minutes after the lunch break. Cameron Green once again accounted for Root, this time for 62, as he fended to stand-in skipper Steve Smith at slip. Malan followed suit 20 runs shy of a deserved hundred with a loose cut stroke to Mitchell Starc.
Root has papered over England’s batting cracks for far too long and they can’t expect their captain to continuously dig them out of huge holes. The Yorkshire batter passed 1600 runs for 2021 – only four players have scored that many runs in a calendar year. But the fact Root has scored over 1,000 runs more than any on his team-mates is indicative of his side’s persistent problems with the bat.
Ollie Pope’s dismissal showed just how comical this tour has become for the tiring visitors. The Surrey youngster was reprieved after being caught at short leg before running down the pitch to offer a sharp chance to Marcus Labuschange at, you guessed it, short leg the very next ball. And when Jos Buttler wafted at a wide one for a 15-ball duck they had gone from 150/2 to 169/6.
Stubborn Stokes offered some resistance but was hobbling between balls to make matters worse for the English. At the end of the day you can't collapse like a cheap tent, especially on a flat pitch against an inexperienced bowling attack.
Starc spearheaded the attack with 4/37, but with Josh Hazlewood out injured and Pat Cummins, the No.1 ranked Test bowler in the world, out after being a close contact with a Covid-19 case there are no excuses for losing your last eight wickets for 86 runs. England just simply aren’t good enough.
Australia looked destined to end the day unscathed before a miscommunication between openers Marcus Harris and David Warner saw the latter run out. An embarrassing mix up is the only thing missing from England’s torrid tour so far.
But Justin Langer’s side already have a big lead of 282 and counting. England’s highest score of the tour so far is 297 with a couple of long sessions in the field in store tomorrow for their, so far, ineffective medium pacers.
Smith holds all the cards and his plan is clear. Bat until sunset and put England back in under lights with a brand spanking new pink ball. It will take something special to stop Australia heading to Melbourne for the Boxing Day Test 2-0 up.