England finished the second day of the dead-rubber final test of this Ashes series looking likely to face the follow-on.
They comprehensively lost each session of the day, reaching 107-8 by the close of play, after bowling lethargically to finally oust Australia for 481 runs.
As England’s Steven Finn stated, we “had a very, very poor day. Australia batted well then showed us how to bowl."
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Having struggled to bowl out the Australian tail-end, with the final four wickets coming for 105 runs, England seemed to make a decent start, with Cook and Lyth appearing to have played themselves in.
There were no complaints with the manner of Cook’s dismissal- a brilliant off-spin delivery from Nathan Lyon turned past Cook’s defensive stroke and struck off-stump.
But the dismissals of Lyth, Bairstow and Stokes were symptomatic of England’s current inability to remain disciplined and gauge when to play to defensively and when to attack. All three played hyper-aggressive strokes and were easily caught.
Jos Buttler, whose solid wicket-keeping has meant his batting struggles have been mentioned less than Lyth’s, also lost his wicket embarrassingly. He was beaten by the flight of Lyon’s delivery and was bowled through the gate for a single run.
The responsibility has once again been dumped on the underappreciated Moeen Ali, whose average of 39.33 makes him England’s third highest scorer this series, to rescue the situation and avoid the follow-on. Although that is a very steep order. Having as good a batsman as Ali at number eight is a luxury that could in fact breed complacency into those batsmen above him in the order.
But England’s indiscipline must not mask Australia’s outstanding bowling performance.
Peter Siddle took Josh Hazelwood’s place in the bowling attack, and justified his selection immediately, with the wickets of Lyth and Bell. Darren Lehman’s decision to not include Siddle earlier in the series was therefore placed under more scrutiny, as Australia have missed the economy and consistency of Siddle, with each wicket taken at nine runs apiece.
Whilst England’s upturn in form has undoubtedly been initiated by Paul Farbrace’s calls for a more attacking and liberated style of cricket, England must start to understand when to attack and when to defend. Following-on in this match might at least give England some practice at thinking more defensively.
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