Australia 326 and 4 for 140 (Rogers 73*, Bailey 20*) lead England 155 (Stokes 47, Siddle 3-23, Johnson 3-33, Harris 3-36) by 311 runs
Sydney: Just as Alastair Cookie presents Sesame Street’s regular Monsterpiece Theatre segment, his near namesake Alastair Cook provided the introduction for another horror show of England batting on the second day in Sydney. Right from the moment that Cook padded up to the second ball of the morning and was lbw to Ryan Harris, this was a disastrous day for England. It was the day on which an Australian 5-0 clean sweep became all but inevitable.
The morning began with Harris, Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle all bowling brilliant spells that exploited the seam-friendly conditions, and England’s batsmen were flustered, flummoxed and 5 for 23. Not since 1887 have England been five for so few and gone on to win a Test; don’t expect the record books to be rewritten. The day closed with Australia extending their lead to 311 runs with six wickets in hand. There is no hurry; three days remain for Australia to finish off England a fifth time.
Chris Rogers was doing his bit and by stumps had moved on to 73, eyeing off a possible third Test hundred. While Johnson, Brad Haddin, David Warner and Steven Smith have gained much of the attention Rogers has, in his understated way, become the highest scorer from either team in these back-to-back Ashes campaigns. Not bad for a 36-year-old who nearly lost his state contract 18 months ago.
Rogers accumulated his runs in brisk fashion, showing the same intent he had during his Melbourne century. He struck nine boundaries and even joined the rare club of players to score a seven, when his edge through the cordon was saved on the boundary and returned to the wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow, who needlessly hurled the ball at the non-striker’s end to add four overthrows to the three Rogers and Michael Clarke had already run. It was that sort of day for England.
At stumps, Rogers had helped push Australia’s total on to 4 for 140 and George Bailey, perhaps playing for his Test career, was on 20. Earlier, James Anderson had pitched the ball full enough to trouble the batsmen, having David Warner lbw around the wicket for 16 and Shane Watson brilliantly caught by a diving Bairstow. Stuart Broad also drew an edge behind off Michael Clarke for 6 and Ben Stokes had Smith caught at slip for 7.
In isolation, it seemed a decent period for England. But, to butcher John Donne, no session is an island. By the time tea arrived with the loss of England’s last wicket, they had lost 9 for 147 from their overnight position. They were lucky to even make that many. All that could be said for their batting was that they avoided the follow on – just. Their 155 was their lowest total since their first innings of the series.
None of their top five batsmen reached double figures and while the pitch offered some seam movement it was not extravagant; Australia’s bowlers just exploited it far better than England’s attack had on the first day. Bowl full, let it swing and if it doesn’t it might seam. Draw the batsman forward. It was textbook stuff. From the moment Cook padded up England were in disarray.
The ball angled across Cook and straightened, but at no point did Cook appear interested in using his bat, and Aleem Dar’s finger was up almost before Harris had even turned around to ask the question. England’s 2 for 8 should have become 3 for 8 when Ian Bell edged his first ball to slip off Harris but was reprieved by Watson, who spilled a chance he should comfortably have taken. It barely mattered, for Australia were creating so many opportunities that it was only a matter of time.
The nightwatchman Anderson was worked over by Johnson. Bouncers lobbed off the bat into gaps, another one jammed his right hand onto the handle of the bat and when Anderson edged a regulation catch to second slip off Johnson he must have been glad to get out of there.
Three for 14 became 4 for 17 when Kevin Pietersen was drawn forward by the impeccable length of Harris. On 3, Pietersen drove hard and edged Harris to slip, where Watson held on this time. His drop of Bell wasn’t costly in any way either, for on 2 from 32 balls Bell edged behind off a lovely delivery from Siddle that moved away just enough.
There had been other close calls – a couple of reviews, a few balls that didn’t go to hand for the fielders – but at 5 for 23 England’s all-time lowest Test total of 45 looked in danger regardless. It took two of England’s newest Test cricketers, Stokes and the debutant Gary Ballance, to fight and steer the team to lunch without further loss, although a Johnson bouncer to the helmet left Ballance uneasy just before the break.
Soon after it he was outdone by Nathan Lyon, who had Ballance prodding forward and edging behind to Haddin for 18. At 6 for 62, England weren’t even halfway to avoiding the follow-on. Bairstow tamely drove Siddle straight to the catching man at short mid-on for 18 and later in the same over Stokes was bowled shouldering arms to Siddle.
At least Stokes had really shown something, driving confidently and ticking the scoreboard over on his way to 47. He has been the stand-out player for England since his debut in Perth, but he cannot carry the team on his own. Scott Borthwick tamely edged Harris to third slip for 1 and it was only through the last pair, Broad and Boyd Rankin, that England moved past the follow-on target.
It was largely academic, for Clarke would surely have batted again anyway. Broad whacked a few late boundaries in his 30 not out before Johnson bowled Rankin for 13. Johnson, Siddle and Harris finished with three wickets each, and finished any hopes England had of avoiding a clean sweep. Alastair Cook – or Cookie – has rarely presided over a more monstrous day.