Saturday 16 December 2017

Cricket: Botham's '10-0' prediction not so fanciful anymore

Derek Pringle

Ian Botham's reputation as a tipster lags well behind the one he acquired with bat and ball, but his prediction of 10-0 double whitewash by England no longer looks like the ravings of a misguided patriot after another abject batting performance by Australia.

In front of another full house at Lord's on another sparkling summer's day, Australia capitulated to 128 all out. Then, when England decided to bat again rather than enforce the follow-on, they missed the chance of an early breakthrough when an edge by Joe Root off Shane Watson passed between first slip and the wicketkeeper.

It was a break England should have capitalised on to put the game beyond Australia, but as in the first Test, they struggled to summon the killer instinct. Instead, Peter Siddle found a bustling rhythm from the Pavilion End to dismiss Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen in the space of 16 balls to keep the tourists just about in the game, England's lead extended to 264 by the close.

It left Darren Lehmann, Australia's new coach, cutting a lone figure. Whatever the malaise he inherited with this team, the prospect of a cure seems a distant one.

The visitors' surrender was so tame that England's continued possession of the Ashes looks as if it will happen with the minimum of fuss.

For anyone wanting the semblance of a contest it was a depressing display and its meekness made a case for Cook enforcing the follow-on. Australia looked ripe for another rout.

England bowled as they mostly do, with discipline and skill, but this was no overwhelming force blowing away batsmen unable to cope with pace, swing or spin. The pitch is dusting in places, which allows the seam to grip occasionally for pace bowlers and spinners, but this is no minefield.

Having seen a rank full toss hit the jackpot and dismiss Chris Rogers, Swann wheeled away, getting some to grip off the pitch and others to leap from the footholes.

One theory why Mitchell Starc was left out of this match was that Australia's selectors feared the rough he might create from Swann.

With Tim Bresnan luring Phillip Hughes into a wild slash and another wasted review by Australia, Swann was left to work his way through the remainder of the order. He began with Usman Khawaja, who looks a walking wicket. Dropped off Swann at slip by Trott, Khawaja never looked comfortable and his demise, caught by Pietersen after miscueing a lofted drive, was entirely predictable.

Steve Smith followed next, his technique of playing defensively with bat well in front of pad undone when the ball bounced more than expected to rebound off the splice into the hands of Ian Bell at short leg.

Swann then deferred to Stuart Broad for the wicket of Michael Clarke, lbw to one that flirted with hitting leg-stump but which, with no reviews left, Clarke could not query.

Ashton Agar's pursuit of a quick leg bye was refused by Brad Haddin but made late enough to smell the burnt rubber as Prior's quick thinking and even quicker throw beat the teenager's hasty retreat to the bowler's end.

Although there did not appear to be much reverse-swing, James Anderson made out as if the ball might be moving by covering it as he ran in to bowl. Siddle seemed fooled and another wicket had gone.

Swann then mopped up the tail, though on a day when it was impossible to distinguish where Australia's top order ended and its lower one began, it was one of the more egalitarian five-wicket hauls on the famous Lord's boards. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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