When England’s openers, Alistair Cook and Adam Lyth, came to the wicket at 12.45pm local time at Lord’s on Sunday to start their second innings, they faced the intimidating prospect of having to bat for more than five sessions to save the second Test against Australia.
England did not even make it to 5pm as they collapsed in limp fashion to 103 all out to lose the match to Australia by 405 runs, the fourth biggest defeat in the team’s history.
In many ways you learn more about a side in adversity than in victory and the Australians have demonstrated over the past four days just why they have been so impressive over the past 24 months.
Only eight days ago it was they who were sat in the dressing room digesting a defeat, deservedly beaten by England in Cardiff with a day to spare.
Yet, thanks to some excellent individual displays with bat and ball, they rebounded superbly.
It has them back on level terms in the five-match series and they have wrested the momentum away from the hosts.
The most crushing thing for Cook and England’s back room to digest is how easily the side folded in their rearguard action.
The pitch was still in good shape for batting, with little assistance being offered to the bowlers, either with pace or spin.
Australia had batted untroubled in the morning session as they added 146 to their overnight score to reach 254 for two before Michael Clarke made the declaration.
The two wickets to fall had come from Australia going after the spin of Moeen Ali, not any demons in the wicket.
Saving the match, given the length of time remaining and at least 150 overs – was always going to be nigh on impossible.
But that batting-friendly wicket gave England a chance to at least make the Australians work hard for it, frustrate them and make them come back today to finish off the job.
Losing this Test is not the end of the world – it is 1-1 with three Tests to go – but this was a chance to match the fight and spirit of the Australians.
Instead they achieved the opposite. They could only muster 37 overs at the crease in a shambolic effort, which was best summed up by Ben Stokes’s embarrassing run out as he failed to ground his bat, despite being in his ground, when Mitchell Johnson’s throw from mid-on hit the wicket.
It was sloppy cricket that had no right to be anywhere near a Test cricket match and it was a symbol of England effectively waving the white flag.
It is easy to put all the blame on poor England batting – and it certainly was – but that does a disservice to a superb effort with the ball from Australia’s attack.
On a flat track they dismissed England twice for an overall score of 415, compared to Australia’s total from their two innings of 820 for 10.
The pitch offered little in the way of pace, but Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Marsh all stuck at it, with Nathan Lyon supporting well as the spin option.
All four fast bowlers pitched the ball up and kept a consistent line, which built pressure on the England batsmen and led to mistakes.
Many of England’s batsmen threw away their wickets with poor shot selection yesterday, but the Australian pressure created the circumstances for them to do that and it was fitting that all the tourists’ bowlers were rewarded with wickets because this was a team effort.
The Australian team has shown its response to defeat, now England has to regroup and respond in the third Test at Edgbaston, which starts on July 29.
There is much for Cook to ponder. Too many of the top order are out of form and the bowling attack, Stuart Broad apart, looked toothless.
Lord’s does not have to define this series for England. They are still in control of their fate, but to use that they must show they can do what Australia have done by retaining their belief and bouncing back.
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