2. August 2009 22:59
At the start of the second day of this test match, last Friday, Australia were 126-1. It took just 40 overs for the England bowlers, led by James Anderson and Graham Onions and assisted by the moving ball, to reduce them to 263 all out. England received 36 overs and reached 116-2. If that were to happen again tomorrow, England could be facing a target in the region of 120 by mid-afternoon. But could it happen again?
You bet it could. Australia are, in fact, in a substantially worse position than they were on Friday morning. Here are four good reasons why. First, on Friday morning they were expected by most observers, including Dan, to crack on and post a big total. They were hardly under pressure to survive; on Monday morning, they jolly well will be. Second, they have already lost Ricky Ponting. The fall of the captain's castle is a critical psychological setback for the visitors and it will have hurt them. Third, not only can we expect the ball do do exactly the same favours for Anderson and Onions as it did on Friday morning, since it is almost exactly as old, but also we have seen impressive turn for Graeme Swann, something which the Aussie batsmen did not have to contend with in the first innings. Fourth, the Australia team has learned to fear the final day of matches in this series. At Cardiff, they failed to win a match which was theirs for the taking. At Lord's, they were undone by Andrew Flintoff, a man who sends shivers down Australian spines like no player since Ian Botham.
The Australia team is in disarray. Test Match Sofa has already exclusively revealed, thanks to Manny at Edgbaston, that the Australian players were not speaking to, or even sitting with, each other at breakfast on Friday; on Saturday they stayed in their separate rooms. Mitchell Johnson has been wound up by his mother, Shane Watson openly questioned the reliability of the opening batsmen, Phillip Hughes broke with selection protocol: it has all been going wrong. If Australia lose today then it may not even be Ponting who calls the coin toss at the Oval.