Are dubious England just hungover? Does Australia’s dominance reflect their “infallible” emancipation of the mind? Or does this game reveal the real dynamic between the teams? It’s a mix of all three factors — especially the third.

England are taking this game seriously. Look at the score. If this continues, the award ceremony will be a bit embarrassing.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, we often won consoling Test wins after series decisions – but usually by a narrow margin after a big fight. We never threatened to keep Australia close or reduce them to 107-8 in the first innings.

I have argued here before that the Ashes were not won by England through an overwhelming and complete team effort, but because of (a) Joe Root; (b) Stuart Broad’s excellent bowling and the rest of the Seamen’s superb bowling; (c) disaster Sexual Australian batting.

The first two days of the game only underscored the truth of that claim – one can add England’s fragility on a pitch that doesn’t help.

Today England’s heavy hitters tore away the facade to reveal the cracks in their construction. Say what you will about them, they don’t have a strong or resilient roster.

Adam Lyth’s testing career may be over. Joss Butler is in jeopardy. Ian Bell gives the impression that Edgbaston is a phantom dawn.

Alastair Cook was hit by a peach but made a slight contribution to batting overall – 245, 30.6 – with just one inning left to hit his first home in 30 attempts Ashes Century , which is 15 games and 6 years.

Ian Sweet pointed out on Twitter that apart from Joe Root’s centuries, England batsmen have scored just 100 in their past 11 Ashes Tests.

More important today was England’s general discontent – a series of flippant punches and a kamikaze attitude – which is hard to explain in the context of dead glue, especially when the pitch is a featherbed. As Jonathan Agnew said on TMS:

When the pinch came, they ran up the hill.

For Australia, this is a nasty case. What if Siddle had acted earlier in the series? What if they bowled all the time? What if they fought with such patience and determination at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge?

Overall, the easy answer is that this series is contested by two mediocre and coy teams, neither of which has the resources to fight back under pressure. It’s also probably the easiest way to explain the wild swings in luck and why the score is never even close.

This is another topic I want you to discuss. How do we define and recognize a good captain?

Yesterday, a BBC OBO commentator suggested that Cook should be the show’s main character, as his “Captain Fantastic” seemed a bit too much. Cook has been a competent captain in this series, but that’s what most captains do when their bowlers are so dominant. This is not to discredit him.

Australia’s performance in that game was a real test of the captain’s abilities: breaking partnerships and maintaining control against confident strokes on a flat field and not having a good spin or fast paced player at your disposal . Cook must have faced such challenges more than once in the UAE.

Today and yesterday, Cook did just about everything most captains would. No captain has a magic wand. The best players sometimes use tactical tricks but more often use their personality to boost an outfielder’s energy, or use charm and psychology to coax a pitcher into doing something special. That’s the level of captain Cook needs to target right now.

It’s easy to exaggerate when it comes to captaincy. Nathan Lyon shut down Alastair Cook this afternoon and the BBC’s OBO reporter hailed Michael Clarke as an “inspired captain”. When sailors fail to break partnerships, is it really inspired to try a spinner before tea? Or just basic cricket?

today’s champagne moment

Ed Smith, speaking (slightly paraphrased) on Radio Five Live Breakfast.

“It’s unprecedented for England to go into a Test at the Oval with the Ashes they’ve already won.”

In fact, it hasn’t happened since 2013.

By x59ok

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