England v Australia, 2nd Investec Test, Lord's, 2nd day July 19, 2013

Anatomy of an Australia humiliation

The circumstances of the match and the series demanded, beseeched and implored something of the batsmen but they collapsed in a messy heap

So this is what happens when Australia are not illogically bailed out by their tail. On a glorious day, a flat, dry pitch, against bowling of moderate standard, the tourists fell utterly and comically apart. At the moment of greatest possible importance in the series so far, they conjured the worst performance possible. Englishmen wondered aloud if they had ever been quite as bad as this during 16 years of Ashes embarrassments up to 2005. Australians looked sheepishly for somewhere to hide, or to drink.

Up on the balcony, the coach Darren Lehmann could offer only rueful smiles as a succession of his batsmen found increasingly idiotic ways of getting out. For all his qualities as a mentor and uniting-force, Lehmann can do little about such a woeful lack of application, now clearly established as the dominant pattern of Australian batsmanship in the era beyond Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey. There will surely be no coming back from this. Not in this match, nor this series, nor possibly the next one in Australia.

Of course the chances of the touring batsmen putting together a decent, coherent first innings response to England's quite middling 361 were always slim, based on all recent evidence. They had run the Trent Bridge Test so unforgettably close mainly due to the freak contributions of the Nos. 11, Ashton Agar in the first innings and James Pattinson in the second. They had been called to account for this by Lehmann in the aftermath of the Test, and the omission of Ed Cowan had provided a reminder to all that mediocrity was not to be tolerated.

Yet the circumstances of the match and the series demanded, beseeched and implored something of the batsmen. There was no better stage on which to perform than a sun-drenched second day at Lord's, the crowd packed into St John's Wood, the sky flecked with the merest clouds and the opposition's first innings far short of intimidating - propped up by England's last pair, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann, coshing a joyful 48 in half an hour. This was not a day to lose wickets, but Australia gifted them away. England's bowlers go home as well stocked as rich kids at Christmas.

No great signs of peril were initially evident. Shane Watson and Chris Rogers began soundly enough, surviving the typically probing early overs of James Anderson and then accelerating nicely towards the lunch interval. Tim Bresnan looked unthreatening, and Swann's first over decidedly tame, Watson nudging a single and Rogers cuffing him twice for two.

Alastair Cook swung Bresnan around to the Pavilion End for the final over of the morning session, hoping for a change of fortune. He was to get it in maddening circumstances for Australia.

In Nottingham, Australia's final pair had been the source of miracles. At Lord's it was simply a reminder of how horridly inadequate the rest had been.

Watson squanders a lot of starts, gets out lbw almost as often, and wastes precious decision referrals with similar profligacy. Now he was to do all three at once. Playing around his front pad at Bresnan's nip-backer, he immediately granted England an opening into the unstable and reshuffled batting beneath. Whatever the merits of Michael Clarke's alleged description of Watson as a cancer on the team, his dismissal on the stroke of lunch infected Australia's batsmen and their thinking.

Having lost a review, Rogers and the new No. 3 Usman Khawaja were conscious of not wasting the one they had remaining. So when Rogers contrived quite bizarrely to miss a high full toss from Swann, his shock was also accompanied by worry about burning the other referral. Khawaja had little to offer in the way of a second opinion, and Rogers wandered off in a daze that would only be enhanced by replays showing the ball drifting well past leg stump. Suddenly the Australians were not only two down but mortified at having double-crossed themselves in doing so.

The man walking out at No. 4 would not be Clarke but Phillip Hughes, the captain choosing to demote himself to his favoured spot in the order. As the only batsman who could be said to have completely succeeded in his chosen position during one innings at Trent Bridge, Hughes had reason to be miffed about his move. His state of mind would be exposed by a haywire slash at a Bresnan ball not there for the drive and a thin edge behind. Hughes was not sure he had hit the ball and so reviewed the decision. Moments later Australia had lost their final review.

Khawaja had waited more than 18 months for this chance but on the evidence of this innings he had not made sufficient use of that time. In a halting display that appeared wracked by nerves, he edged pace through the cordon, was dropped at slip when Swann extracted a nick, evaded a staunch lbw appeal and then perished to a panicked attempt to loft down the ground. Before the series Khawaja had spoken of his hunger to play Test matches again. In circumstances demanding patience, composure and desire, he did not appear particularly famished at all.

Steve Smith and Clarke were then to fall in ways that reflected some credit on the bowlers, but also demonstrated a limited capacity to thwart them. Noted as a good player of spin, Smith's hands wandered too low so a Swann delivery with some top spin kicked up and struck the gloves on the way to short leg. Clarke made a start of some promise, showing more energy and intent than he had managed at Trent Bridge, but fell to the simplest of bowling plans. Broad hurled down a few short balls to push Clarke back, then a full one to pin him in front of the stumps. England celebrated raucously but might have expected more of a fight for the most prized wicket of all.

Agar and Brad Haddin represented Australia's last real hope of significantly reducing the deficit. Their runs in Nottingham had pushed Australia to the brink. Their parting at Lord's would epitomise a day of infamy. A short ball directed at Haddin's hip bobbled away on the legside, but he was oblivious to Agar's call and sprint for a single. As Matt Prior collected the ball and threw neatly to the non-striker's end, Agar turned and hared back for the crease, but found himself well short.

If anguish had been the natural response to the dismissals of Watson, Rogers, Hughes and Khawaja, then Agar's departure was something like the final insult. From 42 for 0, Australia had dived to 96 for 7, ceding all control of the match and the series to their hosts. When Ryan Harris and James Pattinson cobbled 24 for the final wicket, they posted the second highest partnership of the innings. In Nottingham, Australia's final pair had been the source of miracles. At Lord's it was simply a reminder of how horridly inadequate the rest had been.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Steve on July 22, 2013, 4:52 GMT

    Agree with Oz. Why Hodge, Rogers and D Hussey were overlooked for so long is beyond me. We have been on a rollercoaster ride looking for the next whiz kid. We appear to expect him to emerge at test level despite not setting the Shield on fire. Average batsmen at shield level getting seemingly limitless oportunity at test level. George Bailey should be in this side, we need guys who bleed for Aust not themselves and that is the crux. Saying that though you can't take anything away from Eng. I honestly don't know if the Boons, Haydens, Langers, Pontings, Waughs and Husseys could have done much better against who I would consider the best fast bowler and best Off Spinner going around at the moment, in Anderson and Swann. Watching them is like watching McGrath and Warne, every ball is a potential wicket ball. The deliveries this current crop of Aust batsmen are missing the previous crop would have nicked anyway.

  • Animesh on July 20, 2013, 22:30 GMT

    I hope after this tour, CA takes a good look at the present and the future of the Australian cricket. The young breed of Australian cricketers need role models and leaders who can teach them to be a better sportsmen. Someone who can guide them to become a team which can take a win and a defeat with a smile. No doubt, Australian cricketers have a lot of talent but they need Leaders like Richie Benaud, Don Bradman, Cook or MS Dhoni. The current Leadership isn't doing any good to the players which are highly talented. I agree that no team likes to loose, but if they do, at least they should not make a mockery out of themselves by blaming the Umpires or the DRS. I think its time for a change. !!

  • Dummy4 on July 20, 2013, 16:13 GMT

    Worst (Aus) team I have ever seen in 40 years, worst captain I have seen in 40 years. Too much money, too much 20/20. That's all you need to know.

  • Dummy4 on July 20, 2013, 15:05 GMT

    My understanding of David Hussey is that he is not so clever vs short pitched bowling? Not a special trait for a Test Batsman, one you can hide in ODI 20/20 etc but will be punished in Tests.

  • David on July 20, 2013, 13:28 GMT

    @ Jeremy Cole, who wrote that "People blaming selection policy don't understand the problem. If any batsman was good enough he would be playing."

    Katich is good enough. Hussey is good enough…. the list that Clarke forced out/dislikes/discarded is long. The rot starts at the top. Sutherland, the selectors, the board … they bear the responsibility.

  • Dummy4 on July 20, 2013, 12:11 GMT

    I thought that the Aussies were closing the gap on the English and they would be much more confident after the 1st test with their long batting.Its been hard to fathom in reality.The bowling and fielding has been ok to good,the umpiring and luck has transpired against them generally but the batting has been poor-the poorest from an Aussie team in a long long time.

  • Dummy4 on July 20, 2013, 11:55 GMT

    @Greatest_Game, you are missing the point. Aus were just 'dismissed' on a very good batting track playing some of the most god awful shots you'd ever witness, we will probably be looking at chasing down 600, not going to happen. It's a funny old game to be sure, but for Aus to win from here it would have to be side splittingly hilarious.

    @Jeremy Cole, spot on, guys like Ussie are playing by default, they don't force their way in. Steve Smith is another really, we are just lucky in that he has put up some decent performances, but he didn't have to fight his way in to the team.

    I guess we all laughed when England kept going back to Hick and Ramprakash but we are most definitely now in the same box. We just have to hope that when the chances come for the likes of Burns, Maddinson, Silk and company that they are better!

  • Dummy4 on July 20, 2013, 11:06 GMT

    People blaming selection policy don't understand the problem. If any batsman was good enough he would be playing. The cupboard is bare, the ill disciplined screw ups that put on that Lords display are as good as any other batsman in the country. There's no selection magic that can produce a quality batting line up when the players aren't there. People like to moan about when some specific player they personally don't like was picked, and then pretend that's why the side is bad now. But the reality is that players were picked on marginal form because no-one else was doing any better. Khawaja is the classic example - he isn't there because he made runs or looks fantastic - he's there because Cowan's mediocre run opened a spot and no-one else put up a case that was any better. Picking some pet favourite won't change that there is simply a lack of batsman who are good enough.

  • Dummy4 on July 20, 2013, 11:05 GMT

    Getting rid of Hughes permanently must be the start of a complete rebuild of what is arguably the worst Australian team in the history of test cricket. Removing Clarke as captain because of his total lack of man management skills would have to be the next move but perhaps before any of that, our selectors, who have done an absolutely terrible job for almost the last 6 years, should be replaced with selectors who have some degree of cricketing nouse.

  • Martin on July 20, 2013, 10:11 GMT

    My God - if Clarke really did describe Watson as a "cancer" on the team, then Australia are in deep deep .... It was a day of infamy. Aus have done this to England enough times, so I for one don't mind taking some satisfaction now in seeing us doing it to them.