It’s a sign of how the mighty have fallen this winter that England fans can take some positives from the fact that they have avoided a second successive defeat on day four of an Ashes test.
Of course, following another first innings batting collapse, Alistair Cook and England are aiming to simply come away from Adelaide with a draw, keeping not only the series score at 1-0 but also their hopes alive of retaining the urn they last lost to their old foes seven years ago.
But despite displaying some much-missed grit, fight and solidity from some of their out-of-form top order batsman, including an impressive 87 from Joe Root and a sensible 53 from Kevin Pietersen – with the pair putting on 111 after the visitors had once again lost openers cheaply – the fact remains that with Australia having made inroads into England’s tail and a full day to mop up the remaining four wickets, a 2-0 lead is inevitable.
And while England’s bowlers have been given the run around by the hosts on a road of a pitch, surely the blame will lie at the feet of their more experienced batsmen, who could and should have been able to put on a score much closer to Australia’s first innings given the predictable surface.
So while the return to form for some players is welcome, it has come one innings too late. England needed stability, patience and partnerships in the first innings. The truth now is that only inclement weather can save them.
Of course the old joke about players doing their best rain dances overnight has already been uttered by every pundit worth their salt, and the fact is that the clouds are due to throw a few favours England’s way during the day on Sunday.
But even with the promise of a few showers, it’ll take a monumental effort from England’s remaining recognised batsman, Matt Prior (31 not out), to bat with the tail in a manner that he hasn’t been able to do since his match-saving ton at Auckland in March of this year. Prior is 5/6 to get over 49.5 runs and score his first half century in 16 innings.
His principal batting partner that day was Stuart Broad, whose six runs back then came from 137 minutes and 77 balls. Broad, 22 not out, will need to show similar restraint and composure in between the showers – and the sledging – if England are to do the impossible again. The draw is available at 5/1.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.