Falling to well-set fields, wide long-hops and ill-advised bravura pull shots, only one possible conclusion can be drawn about the second day’s play at Lord’s: Australia are the new England.
For there was a wholesale dereliction of duty in the tourists’ batting ranks on a par with what England supporters have grown used to in recent years. Or could it be that they had all just come out in sympathy with the hapless Mitchell Johnson so he didn’t consider himself the only one to be doing a poorly disguised impersonation of a Test cricketer?
Even when Brad Haddin seemed to be brashly and confidently compensating for his team-mates’ shortcomings, he succumbed to the English disease. Stuart Broad has been compared to Glenn McGrath in some quarters. But that is nonsense. McGrath has never looked as pretty – or as pretty ordinary – and he would tend to get his wickets in the proper manner, caught behind, lbw, uprooting the stumps. Broad, dispiritingly disappointing with the ball in the first Test, had to rely on poorly executed attempts to thrash his short balls for the boundaries they deserved.
England have a habit of making opposition bowling attacks appear more threatening than they really are, but this time it was Australia’s turn to do that.
Besides Broad’s brace, Jimmy “in the form of his life” Anderson picked up four for 36, but one was to a long hop – a delivery that Jimmy has never been a stranger to – and one wasn’t out.
Nevertheless, nothing was going to stop England’s bipolar media from displaying their most manic tendenciess.
The Saturday reports are fullsome in their praise for the Burnley boy – Anderson has finally arrived, trumpets Cricinfo; Anderson finally arrives as a cricketer of substance, lauds The Guardian; Anderson is the main man, the go-to-guy, claims The Times.
But, hang on, hadn’t he already arrived? Wasn’t he one of Wisden’s five Cricketers of the Year?
Truth be told, that was a bizarre selection by Scyld Berry, even if the bare statistics of 46 wickets in 2008 look impressive. For 27 of them came against one of the weakest New Zealand batting line-ups in living memory, four more came in four Indian innings and of the remaining 15, against South Africa, he never picked up more than three in one outing.
And when Michael Vaughan would have swapped Freddie Flintoff’s right arm for the dismissal of Graeme Smith as South Africa chased 281 for victory in the third Test at Edgbaston, when an England victory would have squared the series, how did he respond? With figures of 13-0-60-1.
Where, of course, Jimmy has found the form of his life, though, is in his batting: his four most recent Test innings have brought him 90 runs at an average of 30 – by contrast his fellow Lancastrian Flintoff has 67 at 16 – and he has scored those under a great deal of pressure.
Don’t get me wrong: nobody will be happier than me if Jimmy goes on to take his first ten-wicket Test haul at Lord’s this weekend, but I will not be bracketing him with the greats until he has swung the ball both ways on such a regular basis that Australia are begging for mercy before we get to the Oval.