It’s been a wild ride watching England in the second Ashes Test these last few days, but not in an exciting “we might do it” kind of way. The disappointment has been palpable, but not surprising, and on day four England began the task of chasing more than 450 runs.
At the end of play, they had 368 to go with six wickets remaining and were staring down the barrel of a 2-0 series deficit. Here are our talking points.
Learning Ashes lessons
Australia won by 120 runs the last time the two sides faced off in Adelaide. Though the ground may be one of the most stunning examples of cricket stadia, England’s memories of playing there in 2017 are ugly.
A stark reminder of how little England have progressed since the last Ashes tour Down Under was written all over the scoreboard.
Both last time and this one, the Aussies put more than 400 runs on the board in the first innings, instantly putting the tourists up against it. England, meanwhile, haven’t learned from their mistakes, repeating their errors this time around.
Banking on late night swing may work on a cold night at Old Trafford but in the heat of the Australian summer, you need a 90mph bowler and a seriously good spinner.
Duck duck lose
Haseeb Hameed’s score of zero was England’s 49th duck of 2021, a woeful stat to lug around. It may have been Hameed’s third of the year but there are six players ahead of him in the list – topped by Rory Burns’s six dismissals.
It’s completely legitimate to say Australia have been the better bowling and batting team this series, but this many ducks in a calendar year is simply embarrassing.
It also revives the question of whether the English domestic game truly prepares players for Test match cricket.
You’d have been forgiven for thinking you were hallucinating when you tuned on Sunday morning to see Dawid Malan bowling and Ollie Robinson delivering spin.
England’s desperation showed on day four. In one sense it felt like a shot to nothing, testing out the squad’s ability ahead of the latter three matches.
But trailing these changes in-game when you’re 400 runs down doesn’t indicate curiosity; it screams desperation.
It’s clear that what England have produced is nowhere near good enough, and in stumbling upon wickets from Malan and spin spells from Robinson, the touring side have only told the Aussies that they’re down and out and looking for new ideas.
Valiant efforts not enough
When Burns was caught for 34, it was described by one commentator as a valiant effort. How embarrassing. This is Test match cricket, where members of the opposition reach 40 or more, even on an off day.
It’s not valiant to open and survive two hours; that’s bog standard opening. Former England skipper Alastair Cook in the BT studio wouldn’t have been content with 34 if he’d had two days to chase 400 plus.
It’s a sign of how far England have fallen this year. They struggled against India and New Zealand at times, and so far in Australia they have posed little threat to the Baggy Greens.
Despite copping a few shots in the unmentionables on day four, there is at least one thing for the England captain to shout about. The Yorkshireman has passed Cook to become England’s leading run scorer as captain.
It’s an astounding achievement for Root, whose average of nearly 48 is bettered only by Ted Dexter, Graham Gooch and Peter May in England’s top 10 run scorers. He went for 24 right at the end of day four after nicking one off Mitchell Starc – but he’ll be looking for more runs come the third Test in Melbourne.