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Aussies cruise to eight-wicket win and take four-nil series lead good odds now for a whitewash

Posted on December 29, 2013 by Selby There have been 0 comments


Full scorecard here

Australia’s fourth thumping win from as many Tests this summer has left England a broken, dispirited remnant of the team that arrived here two months ago with a swagger in their step and the Ashes in their keeping.

What was supposed to be a challenging fourth-innings run chase on an MCG pitch that had proved tough to score at any sort of clip through the course of the match was achieved in a canter amid bright sunshine midway through a day dominated by Australia’s batting in general, and Chris Rogers’ in particular.

Rogers became the sixth member of Australia’s top seven to post a century in this series, a feat managed by only one English batsman thus far – that being rookie all-rounder Ben Stokes who posted his in a lost cause en route to the surrender of the urn two weeks ago in Perth.

Quick single: Rogers' post-match interview

As it turned out, history presented a far greater obstacle to Australia’s aspiration for a five-nil whitewash than England’s lacklustre bowling, muddled tactics and inept fielding.

After Rogers (116) and Shane Watson (85no) put together a match-defining second-wicket partnership of 136 from just 168 balls, Australia reached their target of 231 with eight wickets and four-and-a-half sessions in hand.

The most remarkable element of a day that was effectively over after a lamentable opening hour from England was that Australia was able to score the fastest rate of the match – more than four runs per over – at a time when conditions and the game situation should have dictated it was tough.

Watson, who played an assured hand in contrast to the belligerent century he blasted in Perth, secured the win when he flicked Monty Panesar to the square leg boundary an hour and a bit after lunch, by which stage the Melbourne Cricket Club had thrown open the gates to the public.

Quick single: Watson highlights

It was the highest successful fourth-innings chase at the historic ground since England managed 237 for the loss of just three wickets to win the 1962 Ashes Test.

On that day, opener David Sheppard – who was to become an ordained minister and eventually Bishop of Liverpool – provided the Chris Rogers template by scoring 113.

How England could have used some sort of divine providence today, as their hellish tour plumbed depths that will surely lead to a major revision of their playing stocks before their next Test engagement at home against Sri Lanka next June.

Or even for the next Test on their calendar, against their current tormentors in Sydney starting next Friday.

At the close of the third day’s play, both camps spoke about the need to show "intent" when the game was to be decided the following morning.

If England intended to show intent, it didn’t take long for it to be translated into nothing more tangible than a hollow ‘best intention’

And, shortly after that, a laughable ambition.

There was clearly no intent when, with 10 wickets needed and two batsmen re-starting their innings against a ball just eight overs old, captain Alastair Cook opened with just a pair of slips and a gully fielder set so deep the Australians were assured a single when they dabbed behind point.

The fact that Rogers and his partner David Warner were prepared to make good their threat of intent meant if the newish ball was to find the edge there was every chance their full-blooded strokes would carry to the sparsely populated slips cordon.

Or to the wicketkeeper, as was the case in the fourth over of the morning when Rogers (on 19) was surprised by a ball from Stuart Broad that bounced higher than he expected and his reflexive prod yielded a discernible edge that flew shoulder-high to the left of new gloveman Jonny Bairstow.

The very man who had revealed at the previous evening’s media conference that England was intent on showing intent.

Sadly, that resolve did not extend to making every effort – or indeed any effort – to snaffle even the most difficult chance and Bairstow remained statue-like and watched the catch fly past him, leaving Cook to make a belated and ultimately futile attempt to arrest its journey.

The captain could blame only himself two overs later when Warner presented him with an even more straightforward gift when he was on 22.

There exists an enduring truism in cricket that if you want to gauge a player’s confidence and alertness levels, you only need observe them in the field.

Using that prognosis, Cook should immediately book himself into one of those new-age wellness retreats for a mental detox and a course in spiritual rebirth.

Watching his reaction as the regulation chance hit high on his hands even though he scarcely had to move from his preparatory crouch position and then spilled to the turf was to see a man at the lowest ebb of his professional life.

He snatched at the ball as it lay mocking near his feet, jammed down his England cap as if trying to disappear beneath it and exhaled a curse as he battled to find somewhere to fix his gaze that wasn’t the bewildered bowler Ben Stokes.

Or the giant video screens that played the moment over and over, to the delight of large sections of the crowd which had already grown to more than 38,000.

Cook’s very public deflation then spread like a pandemic through his demoralised teammates.

Heads dropped, hands arms were folded tightly across chests, small committees formed across the field and hosted whispered conversations that, even if they were benign, took on a conspiratorial appearance.

The captain turned to his part-time spinner Joe Root ahead of the man purpose-chosen to fill that role, seemingly because he had the notional ability to turn the ball away from Australia’s pair of left-handed openers.

But he persisted with Root even after Warner was dismissed for 25, feathering an attempted upper-cut so that Bairstow was left with no choice but to catch lest it thud into his breadbasket.

Indeed, it was less than half an hour before the lunch break before Panesar was thrown the ball when the idea that he might somehow slow his team’s gallop towards a fourth straight defeat was clearly nonsense even allowing for a batting collapse of England-esque proportions.

match report

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