Spills spell disaster for the butterfingers brigade

Fast forward to lunchtime yesterday. England trudged off the field having conceded a match-winning lead. We had witnessed a shambles. How to explain it? Better call on a shrink than a coach. The pressure meant something went 'phut' in the collective head of the England team.

The evidence was dropped catches. With Australia on 377 for 9, Glenn McGrath got a fairly thick edge on to a ball from Simon Jones, which flew routinely at waist height to Andrew Flintoff at second slip, and he dropped it.

Compare that with Brett Lee's athletic performance diving forward to pick up with his fingertips a slowly falling ball; he said later he was looking for skin from his elbows on the outfield. He went for it because he knew wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist could not reach it. The commitment was complete. That abruptly terminated a bold attempt by Andrew Strauss and Marcus Trescothick to come to terms with Australia's attack. For Flintoff the feeling was mortification. For Lee it was elation. For England, it might well come to be seen as the final surrender of a rare advantage they had gained on day one. Anticipation was first rewarded, and then spent. Asked what England might do about it, Trescothick was philosophical: "Just keep practising harder, relax in the field. I think it's an individual thing. We've improved our catching so much over the past two years. It's been brilliant so far. Hopefully this was just a slip, a bad day, and we'll move on from there, hopefully."

Of course, Flintoff was not the principal culprit. When the finger of blame is pointed it will be at Geraint Jones and Kevin Pietersen. The sight of Jones behind the stumps is not good for spectators of a nervous disposition. He is not a neat keeper; consistency for him is dropping the ball once every couple of overs, but after four innings in the Bangladesh Tests and Australia's first innings here, you could argue that he might not be pretty to look at, but he had not dropped a catch. After scoring 30 in a stand of 58 with Pietersen, the consensus was that Jones was the best bet as batsman/keeper. Not any more. With Australia on 338 for 8, the dogged Jason Gillespie edged a catch to Jones's right. He reached the ball easily with his gloved right hand; in it went and out it came. On 384 for 9, McGrath was undone by a short ball from Simon Jones, which flew up off the splice and was dropping sharply two yards behind the stumps. Jones had to run hard and dive, but when he got to the ball, it fell through his gloves. Jones the bowler's look turned from unsympathetic to dirty.

Friday had been a tale of two other catches. The first was a splendid diving performance by Damien Martyn on the midwicket boundary to dismiss Kevin Pietersen off Shane Warne's bowling. This catch would not win the match, but it did stop a batsman in his tracks when he was threatening Australia's first innings lead. The second was a dropped catch. The fielder was Pietersen at short extra cover and the batsman was Michael Clarke, scorer of 91 invaluable runs, who was then on 21. This catch might have been the moment at which England lost the match, and that was his third dropped catch in the game. Afterwards, Pietersen made light of the matter. "A dropped catch? That's part of cricket. I've dropped loads of catches in my career." The inference is that he will proceed to drop many more.

At the close on Friday England's mood was still infused with self-belief. ("We're in a good position to turn this game and change history," said Pietersen.) Yesterday morning that belief seemed to drain away into the Lord's turf. Shoulders sagged; facial expressions turned grim. As England's first five wickets fell for 39 runs after tea, the easy explanation was that they were suffering from the fashionable ailment known as mental disintegration. This was a favourite expression of Steve Waugh to describe the effect of constant pressure on the opposition. But for England yesterday, it seemed more a case of self-imposed mental disintegration.

For all Trescothick's talk last night about not giving up, the collective mind has been weakened. For a start, Duncan Fletcher might tell his remarkable new No 5 batsman and run-out wizard to stop being so cavalier about dropped catches. The Australians would not be, which is one reason why they are now odds-on to win a series that only last Thursday afternoon England's supporters believed - and hoped - would be close.

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas