England v Australia, 4th Investec Test, Durham, 4th day August 12, 2013

Australia's roadrunner out of reach

Australia have got close to England a few times in the series only to be unable to quite catch them and when they have let chances slip they have done so in style
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Wile E. Coyote spent his entire cartoon life thinking he would catch the roadrunner. On so many occasions he thought he had his dinner, only to end up falling off a cliff, getting caught in his own trap, being outsmarted or just blowing himself up.

Australia put England in an innings-long chokehold to gain the momentum. And then give it away with a bad collapse in their innings. Snap. Australia take three quick wickets to take charge of the match. And then can't stop Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell. Beep, beep. Australia take Bell and Matt Prior in two balls to keep the total chasable. And then England's tail mock them. Thud. Australia start their innings like the total of 299 is easy. And then they lose one wicket. Bam.

Other than routinely giving away good positions, Australia have done nothing consistently. Even their two collapses in this Test weren't consistent. One was half hearted after trying very hard to get a lead. The other was whole and complete. They stepped into the doom entirely, even before the clouds came over.

There are things they cannot be blamed for. Bell is better than them. Stuart Broad has those Tests. England are more professional. England have better players. England have a coach they're used to. England are playing at home. England are the better side.

But Australia are now 3-0 down from four Tests. In three of those Tests they have had chances. One was denied by weather, and KP. The other two they combined their worst with some of England's best. As far as losers go, they've been good ones. But losers just the same.

Ryan Harris probably doesn't deserve to be thought of as a loser. When in two years time he can't walk without wincing, it'll be because of days like today when he had to do the entirety of the world. As Tim Bresnan slogged him you could hear the fluid in his knee joints boil.

Peter Siddle was the batsman who offered the final catch as the dark clouds hovered above Lumley castle. In Ashes cricket he's taken hat tricks, large hauls, and put every single vital organ on the line Test after Test. For his trouble he's lost three Ashes series. Nathan Lyon, the spinner that nobody wanted, took seven wickets. Shane Watson came in at No. 6, a position he would have found unpalatable a few weeks ago, and played his best Test innings since he was at the Wanderers in 2011.

Even the accidental opening partnership did well. A player that Australia ignored because they always assumed they could find someone better, and the other who almost missed the entire tour for being an idiot. They batted in such a way that Australia believed they could finally catch England. David Warner proved again that when his head is still, and he wants to use it, he can score runs at important times. Chris Rogers hang on to the side of the boat for both innings, but no matter how many times England tried to force him off, he clung on.

But that's all Australia have been this Test, this series and of recent times, a team that can cling onto the edge and wait for the other team to break their fingers so they fall off. And when Australia fall, they fall. Today they fell so quickly it was impossible to distinguish each body from the next.

Had they been beaten by a truly great team, or even a team playing at their very best, they could draw something from that. This is not the case. England can only get better. Australia are two injuries to Harris and Clarke away from being a club side with grand ambitions. If Tony Hill and Aleem Dar could see Australia's future, they'd take them off the field for being too dark.

They will continue to fight, win the odd moral battle, have some great individual performances, and even steal the odd Test.

They can see the roadrunner, but he's just better than them, and despite the odd good sign, they might not catch it for a long time.

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on August 14, 2013, 8:03 GMT

    In 2005 England beat a very good Australian side in a really tight series, but we knew many of their best players would retire in the next couple of years.

    This time England have beaten an average Australian side 3-0 and again their best players will be heading towards retirement over the next couple of years.

    Australia really need to unearth some major talent. The talent pool has already shrunk, been tainted by good quality batsmen being drawn to the short game, and looks to be shrinking further in the next 2-3 years.

  • Rowayton on August 14, 2013, 4:45 GMT

    The thing is, if you look at career averages, the current Australian team probably are the best batsmen in the country, excluding the old age pensioners like Katch and David Hussey (whether they should be excluded is another thing). Some people have been pressing the claims of such as - Shaun Marsh, average after 79 games 35, Ferguson about the same number of games (half in Adelaide) 36, Forrest 31, Finch 29. Compare this to the good old days when over a career Jamie Cox averaged 42, Siddons 45, Love and Law about 50 each, and those 4 gentlemen played a total of 6 tests between them. Not sure why this has happened, but I have no expectation that the players outside the Australian team are any better than those in it. Maddinson might be OK, but I'd like to see him score big consistently, not just occasionally. Same with Burns. Oh, and Cosgrove maybe.

  • dummy4fb on August 14, 2013, 1:54 GMT

    England has what Australia had in its dominant years-hunger.As a fan of Australia you had the hope that Australia will turn this game on its.Same can be done for England today.Matches are won by hunger,fight and skill.

  • Barnesy4444 on August 13, 2013, 23:18 GMT

    Henrik Loven hit the nail on the head. We are expecting every player to come into the side and straight away replace Hayden, Ponting and Gilchrist and average 45. This is not going to happen.

    We have to develop what we have and then we might actually end up with a decent team.

    Hughes is case-in-point. Scored lots of runs in lead up games and fought hard under pressure to play an excellent match changing innings. But because he didn't dominate the next test too, he got dropped! If we stuck with him he may well have played more fighting innings like that one which is exactly what the team needs! So why was he dropped?

  • dummy4fb on August 13, 2013, 22:41 GMT

    @SamRoy " if you take out Bell's performance Australia have done better than them in every test except the 2nd test." did you think what you were typing there or is putting random words together a hobby of yours? It's 3 - 0 mate. If Bell hadn't have done this and if Australia had've done that blah blah blah. If England weren't so much better than Australia then Australia would have won comfortably fairdinkum.

  • Barnesy4444 on August 13, 2013, 22:31 GMT

    Young players on the fringes of the test team need to be given central contracts. They need the security of a regular income if they are to tough it out in the Sheffield Shield and not move over to t20.

    Say what you like about him but when Phil Hughes was dropped from the test team he abandoned t20 to go and work on his test game. But how many young players are willing to do that? Maddinson?

    T20 players do not need any more financial support than they already get and should not be given central contracts. Until this is changed then our test team will continue to struggle, our best talent will go to t20.

  • avinashpawan on August 13, 2013, 16:59 GMT

    first of all, get rid of shane watson. If you need a batsman who can bowl at fair speed. then try moises henriques. he is young, talented. Watson has a clear lack of temprament needed for test. Have lyon for evey test from now on. Bring back pat cummins. he has abillity and we have seen that against india and south africa. give lehmann more time. he is passionate and skillful cricketer who would be a good coach. Haddin has not live up to the chances he has been offered. I don't know what wrong was with Wade's batting. I think Khwaja is unlucky the way he gets out.

  • Jagdish3k on August 13, 2013, 15:17 GMT

    Winning is a habit, so is loosing. Australia is going through identity crisis. Their captain does not believe players i.e. openers, Spinner & bowlers. They keep on experimenting with their playing eleven.The players don't believe their captain. They have just lost the belief to win. If you see this Ashes , England have not been splendid. But they have shown the fight when down. Australia, on the other hand have always wilted when put under pressure.Australia need calm approach and steady selection and they should think in direction of building the team rather than being unrealistic and make hasty decisions.

  • RichardG on August 13, 2013, 13:28 GMT

    "Australia are two injuries to Harris and Clarke away from being a club side with grand ambitions."

    This is a very pertinent point and the most worrying for Australia. For my money, Australia's best five players in this series have been Clarke (back made out of balsa wood), Harris (knees held together with Gloy gum), Rogers (aged 35), Haddin (ditto) and Siddle. All five may be about for the next Ashes battle in England in two years' time, but it would take a brave man to put any money on that. England, of course, have question marks over the successors of Swann and Pietersen, but the former has just had an operation which he thinks will prolong his career, and the latter has only just turned 33 and wants records. Both will no doubt be eyeing 2015.

    As for this winter, I think the wickets in Australia will suit England's batsmen. Trott, KP, Bairstow and Prior tend to like fast, bouncy wickets. We haven't seen many in England. If England win an early test, it could be ugly for Australia

  • CricketingStargazer on August 13, 2013, 13:17 GMT

    @popcorn You mean "lucky" as in dismissing Steve Smith three times before he had reached 24 at Old Trafford and seeing him go on to make a big score, when Australia were one wicket away from another potential collapse? Luck always evens out in the end and Australia have had their fair share of fortunate decisions and umpiring errors. Of course, we mostly remember the ones that went against our own side.

    Admitted that the umpirng has not been up to scratch at times and the use of DRS by the 3rd umpire has, at times, been baffling and inconsistent (ask Jonathon Trott) but, in the end, it is the same for both sides.