Australians 312 for 9 (Cummins 82*, Marsh 68, Crook 3-38) drew with Northamptonshire 396 (Crook 142*, Coetzer 86, Duckett 50, Marsh 4-56)
It's just as well for Australia that day one of this fixture was completely curtailed by rain. Had Northamptonshire been permitted a full allotment of time, they may well have been able to force a quite ludicrous victory over a baggy green XI performing listlessly against a second-string team from the lower tier of the County Championship.
There is every chance that Chris Rogers will play his final Test match at The Oval next week. If so, events at Wantage Road gave some indication of exactly how much he will be missed by the remainder of the batting order. The display put on by the top order conveyed a near total lack of confidence about how to cope with even a mediocre bowling attack using the Dukes ball serviceably in overcast conditions.
On the same strip that Steven Crook had occupied to clatter their bowlers for a brazen 142 from 96 balls the day before, Australia's batsmen failed comprehensively to function as a unit. It took a lower-order stand by Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon to ward off the momentary threat of an outright defeat in the two available days, and the last pair of Cummins and Fawad Ahmed to avoid the follow-on.
Cummins played well for his undefeated 82, but it spoke volumes for the shambles further up the order that he was required to more than double his tally of first-class runs to see out the day.
This has been a most unsatisfactory week for the tourists as they try to regather themselves for the Oval Test. Internal troubles, articulated as the loss of trust in the coach Darren Lehmann after the Brad Haddin affair in at least one report, appeared to be thrashed out in a terse meeting between players and selectors on the outfield before the game, while further discontent with selection was voiced by Nathan Lyon after his latest ODI team omission.
Meanwhile, the retiring captain Michael Clarke, Mitchell Johnson and Chris Rogers all spent time away from the team in London, leaving the new captain and deputy, Steven Smith and David Warner, to commence their time as a leadership duo in the most inauspicious surroundings. Whatever is said about the unity of this group, the performances at Edgbaston, Trent Bridge and now Wantage Road have been anything but cohesive.
The trouble had started early, when Smith failed to cover a fraction of new ball movement for Maurice Chambers and edged behind for a duck. Shaun Marsh, who had looked momentarily solid, was then unable to ride some extra bounce extracted by Richard Gleeson and parried an edge to third slip. The Marsh brothers appear likely to again be trading places in the team for The Oval, while Cummins may find himself included for Josh Hazlewood.
A few overs later and Crook was introduced to the attack. Afflicted by all manner of injuries over the years, he was road-testing his bustling fast-medium for other late-season assignments, and was greeted most generously by Adam Voges, who offered a vague waft at Crook's first ball and was taken in the slips. The innings entered the realm of parody when Shane Watson planted his front foot and fell lbw to the economical Ben Sanderson for 20 - all that was missing from the usual script was an unsuccessful referral.
From there Mitchell Marsh and Peter Nevill recovered some ground with a stand of 69 that featured as many runs snicked as stroked, but they were to be separated when Crook returned to pluck out the wicketkeeper's off stump. Marsh and Peter Siddle were out within the next eight overs, and at 180 for 8 just past the day's midpoint an uncomfortable number of overs still remained.
Cummins and Lyon proceeded to show rather more application than some of those who had preceded them, and saw the innings beyond tea in the absence of Crook, who left the field soon after pouching his third wicket and did not reappear. Northamptonshire will hope he is fit for their Royal London Cup match against Gloucestershire at this ground on Monday.
Their last chance of getting any further in this match was spurned when George Munsey dropped the most straightforward of chances at backward point when Lyon sliced Chambers square of the wicket. Chambers kicked at the turf in dismay, but it was really the Australians who had more reason to be angry with themselves.