Never go to bed during the tea interval.
If Old Trafford was the dampest of damp squibs, Durham saw a truly remarkable final session, Stuart Broad ripping through the ever-fragile Australian batting order to complete a series victory for the home side. Said final session was in massive contrast to the previous one, as Australia looked well set for a victory charge of their own, led by Dave Warner doing his occasional passable impression of a genuine Test cricketer. And yet it was the intervention of Tim Bresnan, a man best known for not being Steve Finn, at both ends of the day that turned the game in England’s favour.
If winning without playing well is the true sign of champions then England surely tick all the boxes having (a) won and (b) not played very well at all. They were indebted yet again to Lord Bell for digging them out of a hole and looked completely bereft of ideas as Warner and Chris Rogers raced out of the blocks. The top order is in shocking nick, Jonny Bairstow’s Test career looks like an elongated Noel’s House Party gotcha and Matt Prior has endured the worst series of his career. Plus Jimmy Anderson looks absolutely knackered.
And yet, despite all England’s problems, Australia’s are worse. There was a crushing inevitability to their collapse here, all the good work of the last nine days of Test cricket being undone in a flash. There’s an enormous hole at number three, while even Devereux appears to have been crushed by the repeated failures, dropping the world’s most straightforward catch before failing to reach 20 for the sixth time in his last seven innings. And as for Shane Watson, well that’s a whole other problem. The truth is that Australia would simply be better off without him. They’d have more spare reviews, for a start.
A more perverse problem is the splendid form of Ryan Harris. He bowled magnificently here, looking a genuine threat every time he had the ball in his hands, but it seems almost inevitable that his success will cause Australia to bowl him into the ground. No amount of 7/11 slushies can heal melted knees.
The ten day break before the next match will allow both sides much needed time to regroup. Unfortunately for Australia, it will also give them time to stew on the one that got away. It’s now seven defeats (and no wins) in the last eight Tests; theirs is a side accustomed to being bullied and beaten and generally looking shabby. Conditions at the Oval are unlikely to suit them and a second consecutive 4-0 Test series loss now looks inevitable.