‘THE PARTICIPATION Test’ is the official theme of this match between England and Australia, a partnership between Sky television and the England and Wales Cricket Board designed to boost the sport’s profile.
When it comes to the respective team’s batting, however, ‘The Non-Participation Test’ might be more appropriate, given that no one seems particularly keen on taking part for very long.
If you thought that Australia’s batting was bad on the first day, the tourists losing 8-43 in their first innings to collapse from 136-2 to 179 all-out, wait until you saw England’s yesterday.
In being bowled out for 67 in reply, their lowest Test score against Australia since they made 52 at the Oval in 1948, England went a long way towards losing this match and, with it, the Ashes, which Australia would retain with victory here and just two Tests to play.
At the end of a harem-scarem, crazy sort of day, one when to risk going for a comfort break was to risk missing at least half-a-dozen wickets, Australia were 171-6 in their second innings, a lead of 283, with Marnus Labuschagne unbeaten on 53.
At the end of a harem-scarem, crazy sort of day, one when to risk going for a comfort break was to risk missing at least half-a-dozen wickets,Chris Waters
Just about everything that could have gone wrong for England did go wrong: Jofra Archer, their new star bowler, limped off with cramp; Joe Root, the captain, badly dropped Labuschagne at first slip off Ben Stokes when he had 14 and the score was 88-3 (200 ahead); Stokes had Labuschagne caught behind by Jonny Bairstow on 35 off a no-ball, and Bairstow spilled Labuschagne on 42 off Stokes, a difficult opportunity, diving to his right.
If only the fire alarm that went off in the Carnegie Pavilion shortly after 6pm had lasted for more than 60 seconds or so, briefly sending social media into meltdown.
How England would have loved the escape route of “Match Abandoned”, even if that was straw-clutching of the highest degree.
Perversely, conditions had seemed perfect for batting when the second day dawned in glorious sunshine.
Gone was the murk and mizzle of the first day, when only 52.1 overs were possible due to rain and bad light, to be replaced by something more fitting for the last throes of August.
When Jason Roy punched Josh Hazlewood to the offside boundary in front of the West Stand early in the piece, an authoritative stroke of power and promise, it betokened no hint of the bedlam to come.
Within minutes, Roy was gone, driving Hazlewood hard to David Warner at first slip, to be quickly followed by Root, arguably the only one to be “got out”, as it were, when he was undone by just enough movement from Hazlewood at the Emerald Stand end to draw an edge through to wicketkeeper Tim Paine.
After Hazlewood’s double strike, the right-armer maintaining an outstanding length and line throughout, Pat Cummins had Rory Burns gloving a pull down the leg-side to Paine.
England crashed to 34-4 when Ben Stokes flashed at James Pattinson’s third delivery after replacing Cummins at the Kirkstall Lane end, Warner pulling off another smart catch in the first slip position.
It took Denly 24 balls to get off the mark, which he did with a delightful cover-driven boundary off Hazlewood, but he was one of two more wickets just before lunch, caught behind aiming an extravagant front foot drive off Pattinson.
When Jonny Bairstow then pushed Hazlewood to first slip, where Warner accepted his fourth catch of the innings, England were 46-6 and a provisional reservation for the Ashes urn was no doubt being made for a Qantas flight some time in September.
After lunching on 54-6 (humble pie and custard, no doubt), England lost their last four wickets in 3.5 overs.
Chris Woakes fell to the first delivery after the break when he gloved a short ball from Cummins down the leg-side, Jos Buttler following when he drove Hazlewood to cover. Jofra Archer drew loud cheers when he pulled Cummins for four and then loud groans when he left his bat sticking up like a periscope and was caught behind off the same bowler trying to duck a bouncer.
Two balls after last man Jack Leach was dropped by Matthew Wade at short-leg off Hazlewood, the same bowler completed a five-wicket haul when Leach was bowled around his legs, England’s innings coming and going in the space of 27.5 overs.
The theme of tumbling wickets continued at the start of Australia’s second innings. Warner was lbw to Stuart Broad on review for a second-ball duck, and Leach struck with his first ball from the Kirkstall Lane end when Marcus Harris was bowled aiming an ambitious drive.
Australia slid to 52-3 when Usman Khawaja chased a wide one from Woakes and was caught at second slip before ironic applause greeted Australia’s surpassing of England’s 67.
There followed a fourth-wicket stand of 45 between Labuschagne and Travis Head, ended when Head was yorked by Stokes.
Labuschagne added 66 for the fifth-wicket with Matthew Wade, who was caught behind off Stokes trying to sway out of the way.
Paine perished in the next over when he was caught in the gully off Broad, replays showing that he got a faint inside-edge as he tried to turn to leg.