Calamity, chaos, collapse. The words that sum up England’s tour of Australia this winter were briefly replaced by recovery, resurgence and hope on Day Two, but by close on Day Three, it was business as usual with Australia 1/6 on to win the fourth Test.
Beginning the day with a first innings lead of 91 and only one Australian wicket to knock off, the lingering nuisance of Brad Haddin (eventually caught on 65) once again stuck around longer than he was welcome as he and Aussie number 11 Nathan Lyon added another 40 runs to ensure the deficit was only 51.
But as captain Alistair Cook and Michael Carberry came out to bat looking to post a total their bowlers could be capable of defending for the first time this series, the fact that England ended the day facing yet another defeat – with Australia needing just another 201 to win with ten wickets intact – proved that the promise of Day Two had been more fluke than a sign of future hope.
Once again England’s top order batsmen got themselves to scores that in years gone by would have seen them convert to centuries.
Cook made a confident 51 before being trapped lbw by that man Mitchell Johnson, while Carberry, Joe Root, Ben Stokes Jonny Bairstow all made double figure scores before succumbing.
Kevin Pietersen was at last showing the sort of experienced batting expected of a man of his years when he and Bairstow took the visitors to 173/5, a lead of 224.
Unfortunately for England, by the time the much-maligned KP was caught at mid-off by Ryan Harris, from the bowling of the impressive Lyon, tail-enders James Anderson and Monty Panesar would be left in an all-too-familiar position – the final wickets had gone for a paltry six runs.
With Lyon finishing with a deserved five-for, this England batting line-up is one evidently devoid of confidence or morale, a condition that can’t help but spread to the bowling attack as they look to defend another miserly total.
At the close Australia were 30/0, with Michael Clarke’s confident side unlikely to need until Day Five to knock off the remaining 201.
Barring any bowling miracles, or a batting collapse worthy of the touring party, England will be heading to Sydney 4-0 down, with the odds on an Aussie 5-0 whitewash now 10/11.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.