This is a crisis. A large crisis. In fact, if you’ve got a moment, it’s a twelve-storey crisis with a magnificent entrance hall, carpeted throughout, twenty-four hour porterage and an enormous sign on the roof saying ‘This is a Large Crisis’.
At least, that’s what we’re being told to believe. Yes, it’s probably fair to suggest that England’s tour so far has not gone entirely to plan. Not only are they 2-0 down, they’ve had their collective bottoms roundly thwacked for the best part of a month, lost one of their senior players, ensured that their most emotionally fragile opponent is now so confident he’s sporting a comedy moustache without a hint of self-awareness, and been told, with varying degrees of tact, where to go by a record breaking number of people across the world. Stuart Broad, in one of the great surprises of the modern era, had been standing tall as the last man on tour to not yet be utterly despised by his own supporters until he heroically succumbed on the final morning in Adelaide to a hook shot which will go down in legend.
Yet we aren’t throwing in the towel just yet (just to be clear, at this point I mean I’m not throwing in the towel. The rest of the 51allout crew have spent the last couple of days bawling uncontrollably in the corner). We had a quick chat with the philosopher Marley after the second Test and he had some wise words for grief-stricken Englishmen amongst you:
This is a five match series and we aren’t even half-way through. Over the last few years there has been no end of complaints about the lack of long series and how two or three Tests are simply not enough. All of the arguments made then – that you shouldn’t be dead and buried in a series after a couple of games, that there needs to be time for mini-battles to develop between players and that the result of a longer series gives a fairer reflection on the quality of the sides – were all perfectly valid, but they ring a little hollow when the same people then panic, start drafting career obituaries and handing out man of the series awards after a couple of games.
England will probably not salvage the Ashes from this position but there’s still plenty of time to recover some pride and to make the Australians work for their win. Michael Clarke, of all people, made a point of reminding everyone after their latest win that it is only his side’s second all year (which completely overlooks the Sri Lankan side beaten in Sydney in January). It is also only England’s second defeat of 2013. That is more reflective of the two sides than the last fortnight. The difference between them so far on this tour has been that, unlike the last few encounters, Australia have won the big moments rather than England. Twice the tourists have lost the toss (notably, England haven’t lost this calendar year after winning the toss, nor have they won a Test having lost it), twice they had their opponents in trouble but failed to finish them off and in Adelaide they faced more than 100 overs in the fourth innings (making England’s 21st highest 4th innings score ever in the process), despite half the side throwing their wickets away in comedy fashion.
If Australia bat superbly for five Tests in a row and if Mitchell Johnson continues to blow England away every week then they will have certainly earned their thumping win. Recent history, though, would suggest neither of those scenarios is particularly certain. England will continue to have chances, as they have done in the first two Tests despite not being very good at all for the most part, to halt the Aussie tide. They just need to panic a bit less than almost all of their supporters, who are currently in a nostalgic frenzy and demanding a whole new team for the next game. They need to stick to the formula that has proved successful over a long period of time, remember the Australians are almost the exact opposite of invincible and, for the love of all that is holy, learn to hook a bit better. There’s three Tests to go; it isn’t over until Nathan Lyon is dressed up like a bush kangaroo and gleefully belting the team song across the Sydney Cricket Ground.