England Eats Australia For Lunch

Absolute pandemonium. Chaos. A ship that sunk faster than a drug cheat in Malaysia. Utter destruction. Murder in the morning. A team of suicide bombers. Or perhaps not.

Trent Bridge, the venue for the fourth Ashes Test between England and Australia, became a crime scene. But the crime wasn’t flashy and psychotic. It was quiet, almost inevitable – even though it was against the run of history, form, logic and reputation. There was an eerie calm about one team out there, and a sad eventuality about the other.  

England, a team that has been in ashes way too often in the last three years, bowled without Anderson. As it turned out, he’d have perhaps bowled only half a spell if he had played. Australia, a team looking to come back from 2-1 down to retain the Ashes, were shot out in 111 balls. They made 60 runs. 14 of them were extras. Their top scorer was Johnson, who made 13. They were put in to bat by Cook, and by the end of Broad’s 7th over, he had 7 wickets – all of them caught by one of the three slips and a gully. He kept making them play, they kept wafting at the ball, and provided the English team one of their cleanest slip catching sessions in recent times. The other two wickets were shared by Woods and Finn – one caught-behind and the other bowled. Perhaps Nevill, who was clean-bowled by Finn, will feel heroic. Or perhaps he will feel embarrassed. At least the others got bat to ball. He didn’t touch it. 
 
Never has an Australian Ashes team been snuffed out before lunch in modern test history. This was the same team that destroyed England by more than 400 runs at Lords. That was a false dawn, because collapses have been the way with this series. Two fragile teams, both vulnerable and subject to large phases of mediocrity, are battling it out to see who is worse. It’s not about the best. It won’t be. 
 
Stuart Broad, the young bowler who was once smashed for 6 sixes in a T20 over by Yuvraj Singh, took 8 wickets for 15 runs. He couldn’t believe it himself after a while. To be fair, he is now part of a select club of English bowlers who have taken more than 300 test wickets. He is quality – but I suspect that the Aussies have made him look far more menacing than he is, the way Southee was made to look unplayable by the English in the World Cup earlier this year.  
 
  
Australia’s concerns can be seen etched in every crease and dark circle on captain Clarke’s face. Not too long ago, he was lifting the World Cup, 1.5 years after whitewashing England 5-0 at home. Now, he is at the twilight of a career that has seen everything. He reached double figures, but played a reckless counter-attacking shot that only drove home how woefully out of form he is. He must now know how Ponting felt at the end of his career, though Ponting’s dip came much later. Clarke may put up one last fight, like Ponting did against India in 2011, but even that may not be enough. His time is almost up. And Steve Smith, who will replace him as captain in all formats, has been found out too. His pre-shot shuffling has been decoded by England’s bowling attack, and he hasn’t scored a century in four innings. That’s an eternity in his career. 
 
Just when one thought that the Aussies would hit back hard, they’ve been hit so hard that recovery is a distant dream. This series could do to their players what the 2013 Ashes did to England – where Trott and Swann went home,  and Prior and KP were dropped. Haddin’s career is over, Clarke is on the brink, Rogers is retiring, Voges will definitely be dropped for good and Watson may not find a way back. It cannot get worse for Australia. This, only months after it couldn’t get any better for them. 
 
Meanwhile, Joe Root has already outscored the 60 they scored in the first innings. Defeat is imminent. Humiliation is inevitable. They can’t run and they can’t hide. Don’t be surprised if there’s a mass exit of Aussie players after this series. 
 
It will be 3-1, and England will take the Ashes. It could soon be 4-1, the way things are going. 
 

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