Australian cricket of modern times has lived through some pretty dirty days. The Cape Town 47 and the Boxing Day 98 need no further explanation to trained eyes. But this was dirtier. The dirtiest. The Trent Bridge 60 joins that wretched list, to be remembered for ever as 94 undignified minutes that trashed an Ashes campaign. A bloody, crushing, generation-defining debacle.
Sixty all out sits so lonely and naked at the bottom of a scorecard, baffling each way you look at it. Maybe at a juniors game, or perhaps a lopsided village hit out on a nightmare track. Not at the game’s highest level, and certainly not in an era where the scales have never been more tilted in favour of bat over ball.
During the last half-century – broadly speaking the covered wickets era – inferior scores have been recorded just 15 times in roughly 1,500 Tests. None of those in Ashes contests. Here, the capitulation came from a team who until three weeks ago thought they were on a trajectory to the top of the world. Now they would be shamed for so much as whispering such a thing.
In the name of therapy, we have to review the carnage. First up, what a time for Chris Rogers to lodge a maiden Test duck. Granted, he got a beauty from Stuart Broad, a worthy ball to claim a 300th victim. He’s on the brief list of those excused.
Next, Steve Smith. The last time the vice-captain came out to bat in the first over of a Test he left two days later with 199 to his name. Here, he lasted two minutes. Lurching well beyond the off-stump in a movement more at home on a dance floor than a popping crease, he left himself little other option than to play, and edge.
With that, the Ashes were as good as gone by the end of that first over. Yet it got so much worse.
David Warner’s inside edge represented the dislodgement of Australia’s most roadworthy batting stocks within eight balls. So much for Michael Clarke’s attempt to buy some more time at No 5: he faced a ball before his No 4, Shaun Marsh, who came into the XI on the basis of bolstering the batting. When out of form, the older Marsh fends with the best of them. Evidently he does when in good shape as well, nicking off within four balls.
With the chaos of that dismissal, we had officially entered a statisticians’ dream sequence: four wickets falling (in 16 balls) quicker than any of the 2,174 Tests that came before. Soon that record would be reset for the fifth and sixth wickets too, courtesy of fleeting stays from Adam Voges and Clarke.
Voges’ perennially hard hands drew into focus whether his retention was warranted to begin with, while Clarke’s resistance proved non-existent. The captain’s nightmarish brain explosion, a footloose slash to his 15th ball, ended an unconvincing stay. Bill Lawry has long held the mantle as the last Australian Test captain to be dropped. The case for Clarke to become the next is nearing conclusive.
After 6.1 overs, with the score 29 for 6, and Broad already tallying five wickets, the dreams of those aforementioned statisticians were starting to get a bit sensual.
When Peter Nevill copped a screaming Steve Finn off-cutter through the gate, it barely earned a celebration, for this was now a procession. As the score crept past 36 a 113-year record was avoided for Australia’s worst Test score. Cape Town’s 47 came and went, as did 50, much to the amusement of the home fans, as well it should; we’d be no different.
Our stats mates got one final moment of joy: extras topping the scorecard for the first time in all Ashes Tests. Broad finished with 8 for 15, a ground record, at the place where he smashed it two years ago and refused to walk. As if it were destined to be so. At least it was over.