England lead by 264 runs with seven wickets remaining.
Australia were a shambles.
The day was bookended by Tim Bresnan. He was dismissed to the first ball of the day and also batted as nightwatchman as the shadows lengthened. Despite the inconvenience of his early wicket – and that of Jimmy Anderson – Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann swung their bats to add 48 runs for the final wicket. No-one was completely sure if this represented a decent total or not, but the fine all-round bowling performance – combined with some hysterical batting – secured a colossal lead. It was Swann who took the most wickets, racing up the England wicket-takers list in the process, and though he got several balls to spin sharply, it was not a vintage performance from him. The quick bowlers did their job too, generally building pressure and never letting the batsmen settle.
As England began their second innings, they were completely in control. However the batsmen struggled to get the score ticking over and faced with decent bowling both Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott played on to their stumps. The most disappointing wicket though was that of Kevin Pietersen, who looked like a man allergic to leaving the ball. With a handful of overs to go, the decision to bring Bresnan in to protect Ian Bell and Co felt rather negative, but with the score not going anywhere and the threat of losing another batsman clearly on England’s mind, it may turn out to be a sensible move. England are miles ahead of Australia, but they will want to control the play rather than be bowled out – a big total and declaration would be a killer psychological blow.
Holy shitstains, they were bad. There have been lower totals, sometimes much lower. There have been more rapid collapses. But rarely have teams been so hilarious in their ineptitude. Let’s start at the top: Shane Watson played his usual gambit of smashing a few fours through the offside, but inevitably he then planted his big front pad, played horribly askew and got trapped LBW. Almost as inevitably as the mode of dismissal, he decided to refer the decision. In a series that is already partly-defined by DRS, this was selfish, ignorant and at the risk of tautology on our part, obnoxious.
Cue the funniest thing to happen on a cricket pitch since Samit Patel lost his footing whilst nipping off for a quick hotdog. Readers won’t need us to describe what should already be viral around the world, but essentially Swann bowled a high full toss straight into Chris Rogers’ penis. This wasn’t the first time that a penis was judged before wicket in this innings, but Rogers opted not to review – presumably because they had already lost one and he felt they needed to keep the other in the bag. Replays showed the path of the ball was going nowhere near the stumps. Seriously, if this wicket doesn’t get more repeat viewings than a cat sneezing and farting, there is something wrong with the world. Next in line was Phil Hughes, who flung his bat at a wide ball from Bresnan. England appealed, he was given out and he reviewed. It was not the most clear-cut of decisions – hotspot was not exactly conclusive – but the decision was upheld (and subsequently proven via the snickometer, unless Hughes farted at the precise moment the ball passed the bat). Three men down, two referrals used.
To top things off like a kernel of sweetcorn on a cake of turds, Brad Haddin refused a suicidal single, leaving Ashton Agar stranded and dead. The rest of the wickets were relatively normal, insofar as they weren’t amusing blunders, but they tended to be soft and characteristic of this Australian side. As fine as England bowled, it felt like they didn’t need to try. Once again one of the largest partnerships was for the final wicket, once again the reviews were wasted and once again the No. 3 batsman (Usman Khawaja) looked horribly scared and terribly, terribly crap. From our perspective, the innings could only have been better had we been able to listen to the Channel 9 gang try to spin this into a positive.
To be fair to them, the bowlers then did well to put England back under pressure: James Pattinson was better than in the first innings and Peter Siddle was excellent. But no matter how cheaply England get out for in the second innings, surely they’ll have enough in the bank when their opposition are this lame with the bat.
If you’ve a ticket for Monday, try and make some other plans. Whatever happens over the weekend, this day has set the match up for an early finish. Australia have next to no chance and they only have themselves to blame – though one person in particular ought to be more ashamed than the others.