Ashes 2013-14: England crushed as Australia take 1-0 series lead

Australia v England, First Test, , fourth day: Few crumbs of comfort for Cook’s shattered side as they look to turn round another Test series after a disastrous start

The Gabba

England have returned before from disastrous depths to sunlit uplands. Only the memory of those happy expeditions will sustain them in the days to come as they lick their heavy wounds and then seek desperately to repair them.

The size of their defeat to Australia in the First Test, by 381 runs, was unexpected enough. That it came after England reduced their opponents to 132 for 6 on the opening day indicates a dramatic shift in fortune and conviction.

There was a lack of resolve, determination and skill against fast, extremely fast, short-pitched bowling that was designed to terrify and succeeded. That was exacerbated by the overwhelming evidence that these teams appear positively to loath each other.

The players can (and do) talk all they like about mutual respect but on the field there is a snarling, bickering stream of sledging cum abuse, which they prefer to couch as banter. “Get ready for a broken thumb,” said Michael Clarke, Australia’s captain, to England’s number 11, Jimmy Anderson, yesterday as his team closed in on an overwhelming win.

Perhaps David Warner, Australia’s perpetually contentious opening batsman, was reaching for needless extremes on Saturday evening when he accused the opposition of having “scared eyes” and Jonathan Trott of being “pretty poor and weak” but he may also have presented some of them with food for thought, of the type not contained in the tourists’ fancy dietary regime.

This was not so much a loss as a dismantling. Plenty of England teams, nay most of them have lost at the Gabba before. But this looked and felt worse than some of its predecessors because of the manner in which they subsided.

To be dismissed for 136 in the first innings was a grave disappointment but to succeed that with another limp effort yesterday bordered on the inexcusable. On Friday they lost six wickets for nine runs, yesterday they lost four for nine, their last seven for 49. The last time England scored fewer than 315 runs in their two innings combined was at Perth three years ago when Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris were again their nemeses.

Johnson was once more irresistible when he sensed blood but the supporting cast was equally imposing. Harris was almost as venomous, Peter Siddle summoned up his usual reserves of accuracy and commitment to the cause and the much-derided off-spinner Nathan Lyon elicited bounce from the pitch which eluded his English rival, Graeme Swann.

From midway through the first day, England struggled. They could not finish Australia off when they had the chance, were almost immediately under Johnson’s cosh in their first innings, powerless to stop two immaculately attacking centuries in Australia’s second innings and went quietly on the fourth day, again all but petrified in the face of the whirlwind.

There are two straws that England may cling to with reason to believe that they may yet transport them to a better place. It is only a matter of weeks since they completed a 3-0 series victory against these opponents in England.

Thus they know that Australia are not the omniscient force that they sometimes appeared at the Gabba. The force of that argument is reduced a little because in England last summer, Australia did not have Johnson, a man now returned to the height of his powers. But then Johnson has rarely sustained his peak form throughout a series. He is a fragile soul.

The other reason to think that England can back is that they have managed it in the past. In the next few days some of their minds will turn to India last winter when after losing the first Test by nine wickets in Ahmedabad, they turned the series round with two of their greatest wins, in Mumbai and Kolkata.

Somehow, they must summon up that spirit again. It was absent yesterday, however, whereas in Ahmedabad at this time last year they at least fought a commendable second innings rearguard action which appeared to make them buoyant again.

The form of three of their senior and most trusted players must be of particular concern. Trott was wretchedly exposed by Johnson in both innings, his incessant work against the short ball in the nets nullified. His method simply is not working and if Warner was being disrespectful to a man who has scored nine Test centuries and is a former ICC world cricketer of the year the harsh truth is that Trott did not cover himself in glory.

Trott has performed with distinction at the highest level but his Test average has been declining for most of this year. He was not in prime form and now he has Johnson on his case.

Mitchell Johnson of Australia celebrates after taking the wicket of Stuart Broad Mitchell Johnson of Australia celebrates after taking the wicket of Stuart Broad

Then there was Matt Prior. England moved heaven and earth to make sure Prior was fit for this Test after he sustained a torn calf in the second warm up game in Hobart. He made it just but was out first ball in the first innings and yesterday was naive and careless in turning to the hands of leg slip a ball outside leg stump that he might have kicked away.

Since he saved the third Test for England in Auckland last March with a doughty century, when he kept out 182 balls, he has scored 180 runs in 15 innings and faced 365 balls. Prior has plenty of credit but it is not limitless.

Swann was ineffectual. Perhaps he was short of bowling coming into the match and since he has now taken 250 Test wickets he should not be lightly disregarded. But on Saturday when Warner and Michael Clarke were scoring accomplished, aggressive centuries they had Swann for breakfast. On his Twitter feed last night, Swann conceded that England had been outplayed but added “rest assured will be back.”

What work there is to do. Only Alastair Cook made a half century in the second innings and his defiance was ended immediately after a rain break when Lyon’s bounce beat his cut shot.

Too many of the rest were obliterated by pace. Kevin Pietersen hooked Johnson early in the piece (to a substitute fielder who had never played a first-class match), Ian Bell resisted nobly awhile but was done for by pace and lift. Stuart Broad and Swann virtually submitted, Joe Root was unbeaten and presented a straight bat and sharp movement round the crease. It was not much but it was something and yesterday for England anything did.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
life
Property
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Life and Style
tech
News
The Commonwealth flag flies outside Westminster Abbey in central London
news
Arts and Entertainment
Struggling actors who scrape a living working in repertory theatres should get paid a 'living wage', Sir Ian McKellen has claimed
theatre
Extras
indybest
News
Skye McCole Bartusiak's mother said she didn't use drink or drugs
peopleActress was known for role in Mel Gibson film The Patriot
Arts and Entertainment
tvWebsite will allow you to watch all 522 shows on-demand
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor