4th Test, Day 3 at Melbourne Cricket Ground
England 255 and 179. Australia 204 and 30-0 requiring 201 runs to win,10 wickets remaining.
Poor bowling by England in morning session
Deciphering England's self destruction on Day 3 should begin with an analysis of their bowling efforts in the morning session. Requiring just one wicket many expected England to swiftly take that last scalp and start building a healthy lead. It didn't happen. The bowlers bowled far too short as the Australians managed to add a valuable 40 runs for the final wicket. Something which could yet prove to be the difference between he two sides tomorrow.
Mitchell Johnson provides Key moment of the day
Before the middle order collapse later on in the day, England's batting display had started well enough. Alastair Cook was in positive mood, leading the charge with a half century. At 65-0, 116 runs ahead and ten wickets in hand England were in a commanding position. Enter Mitchel Johnson once again, England's leading tormentor in the series. The left arm speedster broke the partnership with a viciously fast inswinging delivery which trapped Cook LBW on the front foot. It was an emphatic intervention against the run of play. Cook had looked solid up until then, set to go on to a big score. But for Johnson's intervention the Chef's contribution may have been far more telling. As it was Carberry's resistence ended soon afterwards with a similar inswinging delivery, this time from Peter Siddle. It left England faltering at 86-2 from a commanding position. It was about to get a whole lot worse.
Root of Implosion
With the Australian bowlers disciplined once again and the threat of Mitchell Johnson ever lingering, gifting wickets to the opposition was a luxury England didn't have. Yet that's exactly what Joe Root did. Robert Key in his post match analysis called it criminal, but the manner of Root's runout was anything but smooth. In a single moment of madness England's makeshift number 3 drove the ball firmly to Johnson's left hand and called for a single. The direct hit, the athleticism was commendable but the suicidal nature of the run gained the deserved result. Root averages 27 in the series with just 191 runs from 8 innings. England's decision to have him as a replacement for Trott ahead of Ian Bell has backfired.
Not so awesome foursome.
As an offspinner it's not often you pick up cheap 5 wicket hauls on unresponsive wickets against decent Test sides. Yet Nathan Lyon managed just that thanks to numerous errors varying in degrees of incompetence by the England batsmen.
Having just watched Joe Root run himself out, Bell facing his first ball and given the circumstances, played arguably one of the worst shots of his 96 Test match career. A length ball outside his off stump, he came forward and needlessly pushed at the ball in a manner that was extremely premature in nature. The ball looped harmlessly to a baffled Mitchell Johnson at mid off who stood motionless giggling at the softest of dismissals. It was an embarrasing moment prompting an appropriate "oh dear oh dear" response from David Gower in the Sky commentary box. It left England in dire straits at 87-4.
Lead by Kevin Pietersen, young Ben Stokes battled for over an hour to help put on a partnership of 44 before he too was out miscuing a drive off Lyon to Steven Smith's at mid off. At 133-5 all was still not lost with KP still in and England 154 runs ahead. However their lower middle order have been poor in the series and the doom and gloom narrative by fans on twitter had merit.
Flaws in Bairstow's batting technique when facing genuinely quick Test match bowlers like Mitchel Johnson are too glaringly obvious for england selectors to ignore. Despite a decent showing with the glovs he hasn't grabbed his chance with the bat in Matt Prior's absence who could potentially return for the next Test. Having arrived at the crease whilst Johnson was taking his customary breather, Bairstow rightly went about attacking Lyon with "while the cat's away the mice will play" like urgency. The cat did return and playtime was over instantly. Johnson has left an impression on all of England's batsmen with his pace but none have technically looked as helpless as Bairstow. Stuck in the crease a half hearted push at a ball outside off stump resulted in a simple edge to Haddin. England now 173-6.
Tim Bresnan & Stuart Broad
If there was any doubt the all rounder tags for Bresnan and Broad were out of date, their recent performances confirm it. Neither showed anything resembling the temperament required to keep Kevin Pietersen company at the other end. Bresnan has made some handy contributions with the bat for England in the past but a lack of confidence and application resulted in him trying to pull a length ball from Lyon. The middle pole was disturbed and England were 174-7. That quickly became 174-8 as Broad was England's 3rd duck of the day alongside Bell & Bresnan. It was another uneccesary and half hearted drive at a ball outside off stump, edged to first slip. Broad's stay was short and very sweet if you were an Australia fan. Broad has a Test ton to his name, but that doesn't make him any more of a Test All rounder than Jason Gillespie who boasts a double century. He's scored 608 runs in the last two years averaging 17. The whole Freddie Flintoff left in the side four years ago remains.
This game is not over by any stretch of the imagination however Andy Flower must take stock of and analyse the nature of England's self inflicted batting demise today. The "bad day at the office" excuse is becoming tiresome and England need to begin preparations for redeeming the Ashes immediately. Ironically inspite the obvious shortcomings in the batting department it's the 40 runs conceded in the morning session that could prove costly for England. Quite who orchestrated that particular plan is unclear. Whoever it was it appears they might have a lot to answer for tomorrow given the Aussies finished the day on 30-0 needing just 201 for victory.
Rana Malook is a sports writer for HITC. Tweet him @rararana or join in the conversation on twitter @hitccricket
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