Will MacPherson’s Diary from Down Under – Dispatch 4

Well the second Test didn’t go to plan did it? England’s meagre resistance lasted just short of an hour on Monday as their lower order, many of them accomplished batsmen, inexplicably came out hooking and flailing when, surely, the situation called for them to bat time and attempt to tire their rampant opponents out.

Alas, for a second successive match, they capitulated to a massive defeat at the hands an elated Australia.

Whilst they did this, as pathetic as the performance was, the Barmy Army were in fine voice. ‘Oohhh we’re halfway there’, they sang, as England reached 270, bisecting their gargantuan target in two. The familiar sound of Billy Cooper blasting out ‘The Great Escape’ appeared every time England struck a boundary, but perhaps most pertinent was the Barmies’ blaring rendition of ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’.

These really were the grimmest of scenes for England fans, but this rowdy bunch on the hill, probably still nursing heavy heads that told tales of the night before, were able to keep their spirits up.

So, in keeping with this, I thought this week’s diary entry should attempt to remain positive.

You all know that the scoreline is 2-0. You all know that we haven’t scored a century yet, have been bowled out for less than 200 three times and are yet to reach 350.

You know that 21 of the 40 wickets to fall have gone to leg-side catches and that we lost four (yes, four!) men hooking when we were trying to save the game in Adelaide.

You are aware that Australia have declared three times, we’ve managed just 29 of their blasted wickets and that we’ve been comprehensively out-fielded and out-caught. You don’t need some bloke in Australia to tell you all that.

Didn’t Joe Root bat well? Coming in in the second over of the fourth day, needing to a bat for what must have seemed a lifetime, he looked a bona fide Test match number three.

At 22, he already has two Test match centuries but this was, without doubt, his finest knock for England.

When he fell, in desperately unlucky fashion to Nathan Lyon, the whole crowd looked disappointed, which said as much about the knowledgeable Adelaide Oval faithful, who provided an atmosphere a far cry from the raucous Gabba, as it did about the youngster’s knock.

No one looked as disappointed as Root himself, though, who had to drag himself back to the Sir Donald Bradman Pavilion. It is telling that Root has not played an attacking stroke to any of the 45 short balls (the most anyone has copped) he has received so far in this series.

Unsurprisingly, he’s yet to score a run off the short stuff but, even less surprisingly, he’s yet to get out to it either. Top order colleagues, take note.

Matt Prior made something of a return to form and struck the ball better than he has for some time when scoring 69 in the second innings, even if he did get out playing a rash shot as defeat beckoned. Michael Carberry and Ian Bell batted superbly in the first innings before giving their wickets away softly in the second, while Ben Stokes bowled with genuine pace, occupied the crease during the second innings and was sharp in the field.

His returns weren’t great, but he looks a Test match cricketer and should retain his place in Perth, where the stifling heat will require a fifth bowling option.

I also believe that the second innings in Adelaide went some way to silencing the Mitchell Johnson myth. He was electric, nigh on unplayable, after lunch on Saturday but after dismissing Cook first thing on Sunday, he went missing and remained wicketless for 17 overs across six spells.

Only one of England’s top five (Cook, twice) fell to him during the second Test, showing that with sensible batsmanship, his pace can be countered.

Those who have not performed have not become bad players overnight. The Australian press have been desperate to write off Jimmy and Swanny, but I’ve no doubt they’ll deliver the goods again. These two guys have bowled more balls than anybody else in Test cricket since the start of 2011, so it is hardly a surprise that they look weary.

Equally, even if Peter Siddle does appear to have KP’s number and Alastair Cook looks knackered at the moment, they’ll be back. You can’t keep class acts like these down.

I’ve been impressed with the noises England have made since the Adelaide Test. While Cook looked utterly exhausted at the post-match presentations, he was bullish by the time he faced the media and Prior impressed today (Wednesday). “You can sit there and sulk, moan, whinge and make excuses – but you will just get beaten,” he said. “One thing I do know about this team is that when we get to this place we come out fighting. You have no option.”

They really do have no option now. It may sound overly-optimistic, but I don’t believe that it’s all over just yet.

It is well-documented that England have form in terms of coming from behind in series away from home, while the locals still aren’t sold on their team.

The shrewd Australian still talks of a soft underbelly to his side’s batting and being one injury away from a very average bowling line-up.

There will be a result on Perth’s fast, bouncy track. Experts say it’s all about surviving the first 30 or 40 deliveries at the WACA, at which point life becomes easier and stroke-play more fluent.

If Cook can win the toss and bat for long enough, England will go a long way to ensuring they cannot lose. With just one win in 12 matches at the WACA (as well as six defeats on the bounce), the odds are stacked against the tourist but my faith remains!

In Adelaide, the weakness of England’s performance was matched only by another tame performance from umpires Dharmasena and Erasmus.

Not only are they unable to calm cantankerous relations between the sides, but they appear unprepared to give an LBW decision, while the sight of the right arm aloft for a front-foot no ball is a thing of the past.

As the Aussies celebrated Monty Panesar’s wicket, they checked, for the fifth time in England’s innings, for Ryan Harris’ front foot.

Unsurprisingly, it was behind the line and the moment, one of true theatre and one which the Aussies deserved to celebrate in style, was ruined.

Unlike many locals, I thought the new Adelaide Oval was fantastic. When the next Ashes come around and the stadium is finished, it will be a truly spectacular sporting arena. The crowd were knowledgeable and respectful.

The whole town was buzzing for the cricket and the Barmy Army were welcomed warmly, although some Aussies couldn’t understand how they were still singing so loudly come Monday morning! Let’s hope the boys can give them something to cheer at the WACA.

I’m staying in Melbourne for the Perth Test, which feels strange. Hopefully, I’m England’s unlucky charm and the lifting of the “curse of Will Macpherson” will bring England a much-needed victory!

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