And welcome to coverage of day three of the fourth Ashes Test which, clutching one particular straw, will at least last longer than the third Tests’s seven sessions. I finished this morning’s stint at tea with Australia on 321 for six after England lost control in the final three overs before the break having bowled so well to dismiss Steve Smith, Cameron Green and Alex Carey. Alas England, a bowler down, allowed Australia to romp over the hill and far away – to 416 for eight declared but survived, by virtue of a milimetre when Mitchell Starc nicked off Zak Crawley only for the England opener to be reprieved by the no-ball call.
England resume, therefore, on 13 for no wicket and should you want an indication of why England have not won a Test in Australia in their previous 13 attempts stretching back to the Gabba in 2013, this opening stand is their second highest of the series and, of their 26 completed first-wicket partnerships in their previous 13 Tests in Australia, it’s their 11th highest. You can’t build anything substantial on such shallow footings or travel very far flying by the seat of your pants.
It’s easy to succumb to pessimism but in the spirit of today’s mardi gras day at the Pink Test benefiting the McGrath Foundation and all its transformational work in support of those families living with breast cancer, I’ll try to stay positive. England’s batting has failed throughout the series apart from two decent partnerships between Dawid Malan and Joe Root. Four hundred and sixteen is an Everest and they should banish the scale of their task from their minds, focusing instead on small achievable objects. Try to get to 25 for the first wicket and then beyond, aim for an attainable but respectable base camp of 100 for two. See if you can double it to 200 for four. Can anyone other than the No3 and No4 get to a half-century? Can the two in-form batsman kick on. from their 80s to three figures. How many overs can they put in the bowlers’ legs before Hobart? Can an umpire’s call lbw verdict when Australia are bowling go England’s way for once? (OK, pushing it with that one, I admit).
There’s still plenty to play for even if defeat seems inevitable on this Janus-faced pitch. It’s not about raging against the dying of the light but showing that they can play. There are all manner of mitigating reasons for their poor performance on this tour, but i know some of them are good enough. What a boon to this long day’s journey into night if a couple of them could show a generation of the Australian public that they’re not numpties.
And rain can be their friend too if they can dig in. The forecast from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology gives us a 90 per cent chance of showers, saying: “Cloudy. Very high chance of showers. The chance of a thunderstorm, possibly severe. Winds northeasterly 30 to 45 km/h.”