Ashes 2015, the Aussie angle: False hope is dashed by latest capitulation

Teams have won from here before, right?

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The Independent Online

There’s nothing so corrosive as false hope. Coupling together the least reliable of human emotions, anxiety and irrationality, it blinds reality. Yet this is all the savaged Australians had when showing up, to somehow find a way to short circuit the dreary inevitability of this modest contest. In Australia’s most important Test of a generation – their ‘Grand Final’ as Michael Clarke called it – this is what they had been reduced to. But instead of meaningful gains it would be the indignity of the latest capitulation that would define the second day of this nightmare as it had the first, returning like the dodgiest of curries.

Early on, Mitchell Starc reinforced that while he can appear like a bit of a one trick pony with his trademark in-swinging yorker, it’s a pretty handy trick. Netting three wickets in twelve balls, with full rockets twice cannoning into stumps, he elicited the briefest pause for thought. Sums were done, questions quietly asked. 260 behind with three to get? With Starc hooping it around like this? Teams have won from here before, right? This is the tortured inner dialogue of the cricket partisan at work. Still, with Stuart Broad walking out, a batsmen Australia notoriously have no respect for on account of the fact that they are certain he’s scared of the ball, the madness percolated. 

Naturally enough, England consolidated (if you can call it that when that far ahead) where Australia have seldom been able to in this series. The lead passed 300, appropriately via a wide, which signaled the beginning of a second new ball feast, serving to rub the visitors’ noses in it yet further.

A pair of stunning Moeen Ali drives on the up preceded a slash from Broad over extra cover and a thump beyond the fence at deep backward square leg. In this one Josh Hazlewood over faint dreams had been once again relegated to fantasy. As Mitchell Johnson went for his hundredth wicketless run, the crowd roared as loudly as they had in Cardiff or Birmingham.

 

When Broad and Moeen’s 46 ball stand of 58 came to a close, a half-serious joke did the rounds that Alastair Cook may as well call them in; they had plenty after all. However, after Steve Finn took the piss by leaving balls on length in a fashion that’s looked utterly beyond the Australian top order, that’s exactly what the English skipper did. Twitter then told us that England scored more boundaries in their innings, 61, than Australia had scored runs in total. It’s handy like that.

After lunch, it happened again. Of course it did. False hope is like that, requiring so little in order to return to view. David Warner and Chris Rogers found a way not only to survive, but pass 100 without loss, even after the former was dropped twice and the latter was called back after an overstep. Maybe this was this turn of luck that Clarke keeps talking about? Perhaps Warner, the second innings specialist, combined with Rogers, the in-form Australian batsman, could bat out the day? Or more?

Why do we do that to ourselves? The inevitable Australian collapse tallied 4/23 in 27 balls; marginally less dramatic than the one the day before, but no less chaotic as far as shot selection was concerned. While Rogers once again got a beauty, Warner did not, his trunk of a bat unable to save him from an ugly top-edged pull. He scolded himself, all but throwing the bat as he realised his fate; and may well he should.

If Shaun Marsh’s dismissal on Thursday was the most Shaun Marsh dismissal of all time, then what can you say when he does it again? Maybe only that it’s impossible to see how he’ll ever truly make it at this level. By the time Steve Smith sliced a reckless drive to point two balls later the very real possibility of a two day Test was on the cards, the captain’s own catching practice shortly after no less culpable. Ultimately that was a historical peculiarity successfully avoided, thanks in part to bad light, and we’ll be back for a third day - however briefly. The smallest of mercies. But no hope.

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