Monday 18 December 2017

Dismal England slide towards defeat

Australia's Steve Smith is bowled out by England's Steven Finn during day two of the Ashes
Australia's Steve Smith is bowled out by England's Steven Finn during day two of the Ashes

Only the great scorer in the sky knows how England would have performed yesterday if the Ashes had been at stake.

For mortals, free to conjecture, the best bet is that England would have done better in the final Test, because they could hardly have done worse, but not enough to defeat Australia.

Having missed the boat by not taking a wicket in the opening session after sending Australia in, England unravelled during the second day to the point where their last two wickets have to make 175 more runs to avoid the follow-on.

England's only realistic hope of defeat now is bucket-loads of rain.

The Australians have brought two teams to England this summer: the weak one who lost in Wales and capitulated in the Midlands, and the strong one who have bossed England at Lord's and the Oval, with Steve Smith scoring big hundreds and their bowlers world-class.

Day Two began with Smith extending his overnight 78 to 143, helped by Steven Finn overstepping when Smith edged a cut on 92. The tourists finished on 481, with No 9 Mitchell Starc smashing a breezy 58.

England's reply quickly subsided to 107-8, with three wickets for Mitchell Marsh, and two apiece for Nathan Lyon and Peter Siddle.

For once Australia might enforce the follow-on, because the pitch is now doing plenty for all of their bowlers, and they can hardly be tired after a long break since the fourth Test. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

England v Australia, Live, Sky Sports 2, 11.00am

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