Okay, let’s take stock. England can’t bat and Australia can’t bat. Generalising masks specific truths, but this is actually a fair summary of where we stand.
Mo’tchell Johnson has gathered headlines, but England also failed to score off Ryan Harris (forgivable) and shed middle order wickets against Nathan Lyon (probably not forgivable). Peter Siddle did okay too. That pretty much amounts to not batting well in all kinds of different ways. There’s a suggestion they didn’t cope well with the crowd either. There’s a lot to correct.
With the exception of Michael Clarke, Australia just can’t bat. Most of them are capable of scoring runs, but you don’t really need to get them out; you just need to avoid doing anything stupid and eventually they’ll get themselves out.
However, this is easier said than done for England, whose bowling currently looks thinner than Michael Rasmussen. There used to be a fight to be third seamer. Now it’s a fight to evade the position. Steven Finn and Boyd Rankin are taking every opportunity to press for exclusion and so Chris Tremlett might retain his place simply through spurning incompetence.
Then there is the intriguing Graeme Swann subplot, where some sort of diktat has gone out to every Australian that they should take a bat and try and launch him over the top. They want rid. But how committed are they to this? Suicidally committed? It’ll be interesting to see how this one pans out.
If England are to get anything from this series, they need to start batting well in Adelaide – no later. With just a few days’ gap between the second and third Tests, long innings this week will be doubly valuable and a draw in which you’ve done most of the batting could pumice the edge off fast bowlers looking forward to the bounce of the Waca.
Darren Lehmann says that Australia don’t rotate any more and it doesn’t look like England even have the option. The second Test isn’t a must-win game; it’s a must-not-lose game with a view to dulling fast bowlers for the following game through time-consuming attrition.
Put that on a T-shirt.