The mood is grim in Australia. After the euphoria of day three, day four proved what Englishmen hoped and Australians feared: the home attack will struggle to bowl England out this summer without the aid of freakish good luck or sloppiness from the visitors. If only the Aussies had a gun-fast bowler to call on who could turn England over.
Oh wait a minute, they do. Anyone remember Shaun Tait? Bowls 90mph, slingy action, was supposed to be the next Jeff Thomson? Played the last two matches of the 2005 Ashes (and dropped Kevin Pietersen on the boundary at The Oval)? What happened to him? Well, he's injured – but even if he wasn't, Englishmen could rest easy. He's not interested in the longer form of the game. He was at the Adelaide Oval earlier this month as England took on his native South Australia but only as a spectator. Tait should be fit again in the new year but there's no chance of seeing him in a potentially crucial fifth Test at Sydney. "The longer form is well and truly gone now for me," he said.
And Tait's not the only Australian to have turned his back on the five-day game. Yesterday's crowd at The Gabba was remarkably skimpy after the sell-outs of the first three days – even the official attendance of 21,677 looked a touch on the high side. Aussies, of course, have never been keen on watching their boys get beaten – so these might not be the last empty seats we see this series.
Strauss on the bounce
Mitchell Johnson has not had the best of Test matches – to put it kindly – so Andrew Strauss could easily have twisted the knife when asked about the Aussie paceman's rash pre-series comments about targeting the England captain with bouncers. But he didn't. "I always think it's not something you want to talk about, the opposition, too much. It's important we respect all their bowlers and we'll continue to do that," Strauss said. Walking the walk but not talking the talk; taking notes, Mitch?
Totally freaked out @TheAshes
Not everyone is quite so thrilled about the Ashes. Take one young lady in Westfield, Massachusetts, whose Twitter address is @TheAshes and who has been bombarded with cricket-related tweets over the past few days. Well, her patience has run out: "I AM NOT A FREAKING CRICKET MATCH!!! That means you @matywilson @zandertrego @thesummats @ atonyboffey @faz1988 and MORE," she tweet-bellowed over the weekend. A later request for her "to put the kettle on" during a drinks break is unlikely to have improved her mood.
Army drives Watson just 'a bit' barmy
No wonder the England boys like the Barmy Army. Not only do they provide constant support no matter how badly England are playing, but they appear to have succeeded in winding up Shane Watson, the England team's least favourite Australian. After a long day toiling in the field as Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook piled on the runs, Watson was asked if the English supporters' group had added to Australia's frustrations. "I don't really think it has an impact," he said, before adding: "It's a bit annoying, to be honest." That'll be music to Jimmy Anderson's ears.
Gower's 'squealing' recalls a gut feeling
If Sunday was agony for Australia, David Gower can sympathise. Those hardy cricket lovers who stayed up to watch the action on Sky will have heard the former England captain yelping in pain at the end of one of his commentary stints. The reason? Nasser Hussain had put a chair on his foot. "Gower hobbles away," Mike Atherton laughed, and the fun wasn't over. Ian Botham later accused his former team-mate of "squealing like a pig". Beefy would know, since it was at this ground during the 1982-83 Ashes that some cheeky Aussie fans released a pig with "Botham" scribbled on its gut.