A batting order as spectacular as the Sydney Harbour and the most talented assembled for a Test has turned a Super Series into a disappointment. On a day when the World XI were expected to shed their holiday batting image, they collapsed limply as the waiting for an outstanding performance continued.
Five days into the Super Series concoction only the Australians have neared world-class standard and the concept is coughing. A close contest is essential to keep the idea on a four-year calendar but after the World XI folded for 190 the possibility of the match lasting six days depends on a blanket of heavy clouds and a second-innings miracle.
If any of the seven countries represented by this outfit delivered such an ill-disciplined display their supporters would be furious. The World XI players have had trouble clicking as a unit but this was a team performance brought down by a lack of individual application. There were no run-outs, poor communication could not be blamed for their batting and Graeme Smith had told his players to take responsibility for their significantly analysed actions.
Smith called his cohort into a huddle before starting the second innings but it needed to be more than a public relations exercise following a batting exhibition where the captain set the tone, falling for 12 to a hook shot from Brett Lee. Rahul Dravid nibbled and Brian Lara shuffled at Glenn McGrath to push him past Courtney Walsh's fast-bowling record of 519 wickets.
McGrath was superb and the main fast-bowling danger as his partners Brett Lee and Shane Watson went at more than a run a ball. Virender Sehwag's brutal 76 came closest to an innings of brilliance as he pounded the fence either side of point, and he received something approaching substance from Jacques Kallis. But when Stuart MacGill joined Shane Warne Australia's bowling went from stop-start to full-on as the World lost 7 for 56.
The mood changed immediately as MacGill almost power-walked between deliveries, even when belted for two sixes in an over by Andrew Flintoff. The crowd lifted from a buzz to a burst and the batsmen, who were aware that even the slightest mistakes were headed for more analysis in the video umpire's room, were under pressure from both ends. Sehwag was unlucky to find Simon Katich's stomach at short-leg off Warne and the momentum increased when Inzamam-ul-Haq played a dozy innings that included a close lbw appeal off Warne turned away by the third umpire before MacGill had him stumped.
Tentative prods also defeated Kallis and Mark Boucher before Flintoff, who wrapped up Australia's innings with the swinging spell of a wily county pro, sped out of control in the same over he took to MacGill. Seven of the globe's best batsmen had gone with a whisper and a banner in the crowd asked: "Do the winners play England?"
On the Australian side MacGill was yelling in delight at his four dismissals, one more than Warne who had given away less than two runs an over and accepted three wickets. The pair provided a magical example of attacking legspin in a slow-bowling amphitheatre against a batting order that knew better.
Before the match Malcolm Speed, the ICC chief executive, said this game would decide whether the Rest of the World side would survive. After two days of the Test the idea is in tatters and with Australia leading by 221 runs a Super Series has become another uncompetitive one.