Australia lead by 331 runs with 3 second innings wickets remaining
On a day dominated by lots of anger toward umpires and confusion at the mysterious brain-eating affliction striking them down, those looking for a narrative have been searching in the wrong place. When the surprisingly bright darkness brought an early close to proceedings, Australia were 172/7 with their captain unbeaten on 30 and the key question is this: has Michael Clarke cost his team the Ashes?
Australia’s second innings has been a bit of a return to form; lots of starts, lots of silly wickets, one of their batsmen being allowed to play on after getting out and not that many runs. And, of course, a comedy run out. A comedy run out which may have blown their last chance of salvaging the series, no less. A run out of Steven Peter Devereux Smith is unforgivable at the best of times, at 2-0 down with three to play and both time and the weather against you, it is completely beyond the pale. At the time, poor Devereux was adding some real impetus to an innings which was struggling to gain momentum despite the scoring rate being fairly healthy – predominantly because England were totally taking the piss with their over-rates and wandering back to their mark via the North Pole in-between deliveries – and the home side were reeling in the face of his onslaught. Then Clarke intervened.
Perhaps he’s frightened Devereux’s triumphant all-round series performance so far will see him overthrow the current Mr Boldy and installed as leader on a wave of popularity not seen since the last time Robert Mugabe won an election. Or perhaps his spine simply fell off half way down the wicket again. Either way, by sacrificing young Steven to save himself he killed Australia’s momentum so stone dead even Shane Watson’s LBWs at Lord’s blanched. Together, Clarke and Devereux could have continued to cart England to all parts, set up a quick-fire declaration and set their fast bowlers loose in the gathering gloom. Instead, one of their fast bowlers is not out overnight with Clarke as the Australian captain continues to forget to declare.
There are many things Clarke should learn from this series: don’t let other people pick the team or you’ll get swamped with an absolute lorry load of shit; beating the crap out of Shane Watson when the dressing room doors are closed does, in fact, prevent him from constantly wasting reviews, and relying on Manchester to give you five days of glorious sunshine is about as sensible as letting Dave Warner loose on half a cider. But the most important should be this: never run Devereux out. The cricketing Gods shan’t have it.