For a team whose coach mocks England for having a boring approach to the game, Australia are hypocritically wedded to maidens. As the series wears on, it’s clear that Mitchell Johnson is just a go-faster stripe on an Astramax van. He distracts us, gains our attention, but this bowling attack is essentially a functional thing. They aim for the top of off stump; they give you nowt.
There are worse strategies.
England simply can’t do anything about it. There seems to be a run-rate threshold beyond which they cannot venture safely and that threshold is dropping the longer the series goes on. When they play within their means, they’re safe, but can’t get anywhere. It’s now reached a point where no batsman can manage more than two runs an over without appearing to lose control.
Why is this? Good bowling is 50 per cent of the equation certainly, but the batsmen are involved too – they aren’t bystanders, despite how it seems. It’s like the team is suddenly stacked with Shane Watsons, unable to find singles.
This is what Paul Collingwood could do. Alastair Cook once spoke admiringly of his skill in this regard when Cook himself, batting at the other end, had been unable to get the ball off the square. Four singles equals one boundary, but you’ll get far less credit for being skilled, even though you’re probably contributing more to the partnership.
Sometimes fours aren’t on the menu. This England batting line-up seems increasingly incapable of finding an alternative form of sustenance.