The penalty for encroaching on the field at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, according to David Lloyd, is a fine of Aus$8,661. If it sounds like a PIN number, that may not be far from the truth: some burly steward mugs you on the outfield, takes your bank card and helps himself from the nearest cashpoint. But there are plenty of England batsmen who would seemingly hand over any amount of money to avoid taking the field on this tour, they are so scared of Mitchell Johnson and all the other nasty Aussies.
Apparently the amount of the fine is so seemingly arbitrary because it is based on how much any hold-up in play has an impact on retail sales around the ground. In England’s case you might think that the entertainment value was pretty poor at the moment. But the current extreme act of vengeance by the Baggy Greens has been a long time coming and the public are relishing the prospect of English humiliation.
There was a world-record crowd for a Test match on the first day at the MCG (Sky Sports 2, Thursday) and they were hanging from the rafters like vultures ready to carve up the carcass. The only trouble was that sales of beer and hotdogs might have been adversely affected by the fact England wickets fall so rapidly that no one has time to leave their seats.
In the long years of domination in the Nineties and early Noughties the Australian public became bored by the ritual abuse of the Poms and were inclined to think that the Ashes might not be worth their billing any more. You could say this estimable XI does not contain world-beaters like Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath and England’s batsmen should not be disgracing themselves quite as much as they are.
This is a throwback to the Seventies instead, to ocker beasts like Ian Chappell growling in your ear as the pace of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson pounds leather into pale flesh. Even the big moustaches are back.
Mitchell Johnson has England hopping around and squealing like stuck pigs (McGrath loved nothing more than to hunt wild pig but he was more restrained on the field). They are fleeing for Blighty, retiring with immediate effect, and no doubt hiding in the dressing-room toilets.
As Jimmy Anderson got out of the way of another bumper aimed at his ribcage, Lloyd remarked: “He doesn’t know how lucky he is, being hit by Peter Siddle. Try Jeff Thompson.” The tone was wry, as ever, but he had a point. Johnson was so mercilessly taunted by the Barmy Army a few years ago that he couldn’t bowl a hoop downhill; he bowls short spells so just play the percentages and get up the other end. The only problem is that both batsmen can’t be at the non-striker’s end.
“I just want someone to go out there and show some ticker, man up. It just looks weak,” grumbled the old warrior Sir Ian Botham, who may or may not have once chased Chappell around a car park. Unfortunately, though, they are showing too much ticker – displaying a large target just about where their ticker is ticking so rapidly that it might be about to burst out of their chests.
England subsided so rapidly on the second morning of the Fourth Test that it made Australia’s T20 Big Bash look turgid. We watched Mark Nicholas interview Mitch the Destroyer as he left the field. “Go and have a shower, mate,” simpered Nicholas. The paceman might have been inclined to say that he hadn’t had time to work up a sweat.
By day three the tourists were running scared of Nathan Lyon’s spin and he is definitely not king of the jungle. If it’s a shower you want, look no further than this England team.